Thursday, March 12, 2015

The Psychedelic Wallpaper

             Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s psychological horror tale, The Yellow Wallpaper, effectively uses an epistolary format and Jane’s progressing chaos and insanity in order to critique both nineteenth century marriage and Dr. Weir Mitchell’s “resting cure” for depression. The Yellow Wallpaper is a story that, hopefully, only makes sense in the context of the nineteenth century, mainly because both women’s rights and psychology in developed countries have advanced significantly over the past century. In the nineteenth century, some women were essentially held captive by their husbands in legal marriage contracts that gave husbands all the financial power. In the nineteenth century, women were expected to have strictly domestic functions, which forced women after the nineteenth century to stay subservient to men for around half a century. However, in developed countries today, women have the right to vote, hold office, start businesses, and do a whole load of activities encouraged by society, instead of being encouraged to become isolated at home by nineteenth century society. Furthermore, psychology and science have advanced so that scientists are forced to test their treatments before they are implemented, and such tests could have definitively saved tens of thousands of women from the horror of the "resting cure" if they were instituted in the nineteenth century. The main character in The Yellow Wallpaper, Jane, is expected to obey her husband at all times, and her socially enforced obedience is exactly what causes her to become a victim of Dr. Mitchell’s faulty psychological treatments. Although Jane was a free-thinking and competent individual in the beginning of the book, her husband’s dominance and insistence on using the “resting cure” treatment for her depression caused her to become mentally unstable and to eventually (as I believe) kill her husband.
            At the beginning of The Yellow Wallpaper, Jane expresses doubt in her treatment, but demonstrates that she is mentally capable and a normal individual. For instance, when describing her room in the book’s beginning, Jane says, “I don't like our room a bit. I wanted one downstairs that opened on the piazza and had roses over the window, and such pretty old-fashioned chintz hangings! But John would not hear of it" (Gilman 2). Jane’s description of her home demonstrates that she has normal thoughts and is not attached or obsessed with any particular component of the house, unlike the way that she describes her irrational hatred of the yellow wallpaper in the latter half of the book. Jane’s confinement in the room with the yellow wallpaper is not only literally represented, but Gilman also uses Jane’s confinement as a metaphorical representation of the effect that nineteenth century society and marriage had on women. Furthermore, Charlotte Gilman also details the lack of women’s independence and freedom that was characteristic of nineteenth century homes. As Jane debates the merit of her treatment, she says, “I sometimes fancy that in my condition if I had less opposition and more society and stimulus — but John says the very worst thing I can do is to think about my condition” (Gilman 2). Without even considering his wife’s perspective, Jane’s husband overrules her rationality and enforces his own decision, then forbids his wife to think about the appropriateness of her treatment. Gilman is clearly critiquing how John’s, and many other nineteenth century men’s, assumption of their own superior wisdom causes women to be misjudged and dominated while the truth is lost.
            As a result of Dr. Mitchell’s horribly flawed treatment and her husband’s dominance, Jane is forced to fuel her own obsessive fantasy. In her fantasy, Jane maintains some form of control over her thoughts, and these independent and free thoughts are the source of her pleasure and salvation. Jane becomes obsessed with creeping and the yellow wallpaper as the mental strains of her confinement drive her insane. Jane’s condition becomes clear when she begins thinking irrationally as she states, “I don’t like to look out of the windows even—there are so many of those creeping women, and they creep so fast. I wonder if they all come out of that wall-paper as I did” (Gilman 10). Since Jane is an unreliable narrator due to her mental condition, her writings and descriptions are difficult to take literally and are likely warped. This critique of Dr. Mitchell’s treatment and the metaphorical and physical confinement of women by their husbands is particularly damning because Gilman takes readers through Jane’s slow and terrible descent into insanity. I think that Gilman’s story and critique is particularly compelling because readers easily learn to hate the way that John treats Jane through the epistolary nature of the book.

Works Cited
Gilman, Charlotte Perkins. The Yellow Wallpaper. N.p., n.d. United States Library of Medicine. Web. 12 Mar. 2015.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Heart of Darkness or Heart of Lightness

            Joseph Conrad uses a multitude of elements of Gothic literature in Heart of Darkness to convey the problems associated with Imperialism and Colonialism. Through the extensive use of metaphors and vivid imagery, Conrad constructs Heart of Darkness with an atmosphere of mystery, horror, and gloom. By characterizing the African jungle as, “the heart of immense darkness,” Conrad utilizes dark imagery to create an atmosphere of mystery and gloom consistent with the atmosphere of most Gothic literature (Conrad 102). Furthermore, Conrad makes extensive use of metaphors and awkward imagery to construct Africa and the jungle as a nightmare, which is a standard theme of Gothic literature. In Heart of Darkness, Joseph uses conventions of Gothic literature to convey a feeling of uneasiness and horror as Marlow explores the depths of the African jungle, contributing to the suspense and mystery surrounding the journey to find Mr. Kurtz.

            Joseph Conrad’s use of dark and nightmarish imagery to describe the African jungle and its inhabitants is the clearest Gothic convention used in Heart of Darkness. In Heart of Darkness, vivid imagery of the natives’ features and the forest’s vastness create distinct Gothic feelings in readers’ minds:
Dark human shapes could be made out in the distance, flitting indistinctly against the gloomy border of the forest, and near the river two bronze figures, leaning on tall spears, stood in the sunlight under fantastic head-dresses of spotted skins, warlike and still in statuesque repose. And from right to left along the lighted shore moved a wild and gorgeous apparition of a woman. (Conrad 79)
By making use of the imagery of shadows and the darkness of the forest, Conrad instills a fear of the unknown in his readers, which also contribute to the atmosphere of mystery and suspense built up by the rumors surrounding Mr. Kurtz. Heart of Darkness uses Gothic conventions such as mysterious themes and dark imagery to build up the suspense to the introduction of Mr. Kurtz and enhance the mysterious rumors surrounding him. Jennifer Lipka explains that, “the thematic notion of the nightmare and the dream are standard themes of the Gothic…. While Marlow repeatedly says he is living the nightmare of his choice, living a waking horrific dream, Conrad structurally wrote the story in language that is very dreamlike” (Lipka). By constructing the atmosphere of Heart of Darkness around the feel of a dream, Joseph Conrad uses Gothic themes to enhance the character of Mr. Kurtz and convey his own view of Africa as the unknown and dangerous. At the end of Heart of Darkness, Marlow even states that Africa is the heart of darkness that swallows everything and remains a mystery. Lipka furthers to explain that, “real horrors do fill the pages of Heart of Darkness, be they heads on stakes or the grove of death. Yet the message of the work is that the real horror has been internalized and lies within the heart, the heart of darkness. Marlow himself makes a distinction between the outside threat of danger and terror to the most extreme terror, which is a product of the mind” (Lipka). Conrad uses the Gothic themes of horror and gloom to convey his feeling that Africa is the heart of darkness. Heart of Darkness is a clear example of Gothic Literature because it utilizes Gothic themes such as nightmarish and dark imagery as well as mystery and suspense to enhance its characters and the overall message of the work.

Works Cited
Conrad, Joseph. Heart of Darkness. Lexington: This Edition, 2013. Print.

Lipka, Jennifer. "The Horror! The Horror!: Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness as a Gothic Novel." Web. 8 March 2015.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Question 1:Bronte Fight

Emily Bronte’s book Wuthering Heights and Charlotte Bronte’s book Jane Eyre not only use similar subjects of feminism and marriage, but both books have also grown out of the same environment since the authors are sisters. However, although the tone of Wuthering Heights is oriented towards passionate and emotional love, the tone of Jane Eyre is more oriented towards the conflict between love and autonomy. While both Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre describe the coming of age stories for women looking to marry, Wuthering Heights uses a frame narrative with multiple unreliable narrators to create a unique Gothic theme with a Bildungsroman form. As a frame narrative, Wuthering Heights contains a main narrative that sets the stage for a more important second narrative, which allows Bronte to place emphasis on the past through a set of extended flashbacks that reveal the nature of the characters. Furthermore, by using flashbacks to examine and emphasize the past, Bronte allows the reader to construct their own interpretation of the story since each flashback relates a different and equally unreliable narrative on the events, causing the reader to choose between certain interpretations.
As sisters, Emily and Charlotte Bronte have shared many experiences that enriched their writing and their books. For instance, Jane Eyre’s plot at the Lowood School was most likely partially inspired by Charlotte’s experience with tuberculosis as the BBC states that, "All three sisters attended different schools at various times as well as being taught at home. The Brontë children were often left alone together in their isolated home and all began to write stories at an early age, [and] all three sisters were employed… as teachers and governesses. 1842, Charlotte and Emily went to Brussels to improve their French, but had to return home early after the death of their aunt Elizabeth [from tuberculosis]" (“The Bronte Sisters (1818-1855)”). The sisters’ shared experiences in school and as a family have led to similarities between Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights in both subject matter and the personality of characters such as Jane and Heathcliff or St. John and Joseph. For instance, while Charlotte Bronte explores the role of governess and social class, she constructs Jane as an orphan with ambiguous class standing with ambitious goals, which is similar to how Emily Bronte constructs Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights. The difference is that although Heathcliff achieves power through vague means without an education, Jane strives for aristocratic manners, sophistication, and education even though she is poor and powerless. Jane’s ambition in Jane Eyre matches how Charlotte Bronte was treated as a governess and expected to have the manners of the aristocracy despite her status as a poor servant. Despite the shared experiences of the Bronte sisters, there exist many differences in tone and structure between Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights.
Although Wuthering Heights has a very distinct Gothic theme that emphasizes the passion of love, Jane Eyre places greater emphasizes on the autonomy of women and the development of Jane. For instance, Jane is more preoccupied with maintaining her autonomy than experiencing the passion of love as she states that, “I care for myself. The more solitary, the more friendless, the more unsustained I am, the more I will respect myself. I will keep the law given by God; sanctioned by man. I will hold to the principles received by me when I was sane, and not mad—as I am now” (C. Bronte 321). On the other hand, Catherine is more concerned with her love for Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights and the experience of love than with her autonomy when she explains to Nelly that “It would degrade me to marry Heathcliff now; so he shall never know how I love him; and that, not because he’s handsome, Nelly, but because he’s more myself than I am. Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same, and [Edgar’s] is as different as a moonbeam from lightning, or frost from fire” (E. Bronte 80). Furthermore, unlike Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights uses multiple narrators to create a frame narrative. In Wuthering Heights, both Nelly and Lockwood are unreliable narrators; Nelly frequently lies to other characters in order to ease the pain of the truth, and Lockwood frequently misinterprets or misunderstands parts of the story. For example, in order to get Linton to stay with his abusive father, Nelly must lie to him by observing that, “[Linton] was finally got off with several delusive assurances that his absence should be short; that Mr. Edgar and Cathy would visit him; and other promises, equally ill-founded, which I invented and reiterated, at intervals throughout the way” (E. Bronte 205). Unlike Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre, Emily Bronte’s use of unreliable narrators allows her to draw readers in by involving them in the process of deciding on and cross-checking narrators’ stories.

Works Cited

“The Bronte Sisters (1818-1855).” BBC History. BBC. Web. 19 February 2015.

Bronte, Charlotte. Jane Eyre. Hazleton: Electronic Classics Series, 2003. Penn State University. Web. 19 February 2015.

Bronte, Emily. Wuthering Heights. New York: Dover, 1996. Print.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Paradise Lost and Found

Unlike the Lucifer in Dante’s Inferno, John Milton’s version of Lucifer in Paradise Lost is portrayed through actual dialogue that constructs the devil as a tragic character who is both cunning and deceptive. Since Lucifer is a dynamic character who struggles to overcome his own weaknesses as he tries to corrupt humankind in Paradise Lost, Milton’s Lucifer changed the depiction of the devil from a passive symbol of evil to a dynamic expression of evil through Lucifer’s sly and deceptive dialogue. Ironically, Satan’s quest could be considered admirable after Milton introduces Lucifer in Book I as a revolutionary who is rebelling against God by claiming that angels are independent beings that should not be subjects of God’s tyranny. By making Lucifer’s basic goal the rebellion against tyranny, Milton allows the character of the devil to resonate with readers instead of just being perceived as a vaguely evil figure. Lucifer’s quest resonates with readers because he shows that he values independence, a principle that many individuals are sympathetic to, by stating that, “we know no time when we were not as now; know none before us, self-begot, self-raised by our own quickening power, our puissance is our own, our own right hand shall teach us highest deeds” (Milton V. 859-61). Milton’s republican sentiments to overthrow the King of England and achieve better representation of the people through parliament also resonate with Satan’s goal of gaining respect and acknowledgment from God. By humanizing Lucifer, Milton changes the construction of the devil in literature from a static symbol of evil to a dynamic character who expresses deeply human principles and resonates with readers. Lucifer’s quest is simply to be free as he states that, “[In Hell] at least we shall be free; the Almighty hath not built here for his envy, will not drive us hence: here we may reign secure; and, in my choice, to reign is worth ambition, though Hell: better to reign in Hell than serve in Heaven” (Milton I. 258-63). In Paradise Lost, Lucifer’s personality, weaknesses, and goals make the devil a more valuable character that connects with and charms readers. Milton’s characterization of Lucifer paved the way for other interpretations of the devil as a cunning and deceptive being in books such as Goethe’s Faust, Mark Twain’s The Mysterious Stranger, and Stephen King’s The Stand.
Works Cited

Milton, John. Paradise Lost. New York: Norton, 1975. Print.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

The Tragic Tempest

            The debate over classifying Shakespeare’s The Tempest as a classical tragedy, medieval tragedy, renaissance tragedy, or a romance is often clouded by the many different tragic and romantic elements that are included in Shakespeare’s work. However, the tragic elements that pervade the structure of The Tempest and drive the plot of the play most clearly classify it as a classical tragedy. The play not only ends as most of the characters’ lives devolve into chaos, but some characters even contemplate the end of their lives on stage. The tragic flaw of the protagonist Prospero is the most prominent example of The Tempest’s elements of classical tragedy.

            Tragic flaws are the most recognizable characteristics of classical tragedies. A tragic flaw is an error caused by a fundamental human frailty or weakness that contributes to the protagonist’s fall from success and into depression. Debora Schwartz elaborates on the genre of tragedy by stating that, “tragedy involves irreversible choices made in a world where time leads inexorably to the tragic conclusion…. In tragedies, characters are destroyed as a result of their own actions and choices” (Schwartz). Prospero’s tragic flaw is selfishness and self-absorption. Prospero lost interest in his selfless responsibilities as a duke to pursue his own studies of magic, recounting to Miranda, “and Prospero the prime duke, being so reputed in dignity, and for the liberal arts without a parallel; those being all my study, the government I cast upon my brother and to my state grew stranger, being transported and rapt in secret studies” (Act I Scene II). Such selfishness by Prospero started the conflict with Antonio and Alonso and contributed significantly to the structure of The Tempest. Furthermore, Prospero craves fulfillment before he dies and dwells on his tragic death by stating, “let them be hunted soundly. At this hour lie at my mercy all mine enemies: shortly shall all my labors end, and thou shalt have the air at freedom: for a little follow, and do me service” (Act IV Scene I). Since Prospero’s tragic flaw is crucial to the development and structure of major characters in the play, The Tempest is more closely aligned with the genre of classical tragedy.

Works Cited
Schwartz, Debora B. "Romance (Tragi-comedy)." California Polytechnic State University, n.d. Web. 14 Jan. 2015.
Shakespeare, William. N.p.: n.p., n.d. The Tempest. Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Web. 7 Jan. 2015.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Hemingway Does Not Eat Bacon

             The three little pigs and their mother lived in a little cottage in downtown Paris. The cottage that they lived in barely had enough room for a stove and two beds and four pigs. So, one at a time the mother sent the pigs out into the world to make their fortunes. The pigs left home in the middle of a warm, fall day and the first pig met a farmer with a full cart of freshly harvested straw and asked if he could use some of the straw to build his house. The walls were built out of straw and the door was built out of straw and the chimney was built out of straw. After building his house, the first pig was sitting comfortably by his fireplace reading a book when a wolf knocked at the door. The wolf was hungry and his neck was as thin as the straw in the pig’s house and his old feet were tired from wandering around looking for pigs to eat.
            “Let me in, let me in, little pig,” the wolf said. “Or I will huff and I will puff and I will blow your house down.”
            “You cannot,” said the first pig. “Not as long as I have the hair on my chin that makes me a man, and you do not.”
            This made the wolf think about his manliness. The wolf blew the house down, and the first pig ran away to the forest. The wolf was tired and even hungrier now that he blew the house down.
            The second pig had just finished building his house out of sticks when the first pig ran into the house, out of breath.
            “Brother, a big bad wolf just blew my house of straw down and I barely escaped with my life,” explained the first pig.
            “Don’t worry brother, my house is surely strong enough to hold off that wolf,” replied the second pig.
            The wolf had followed the first pig to the stick house and he smelled the second pig and he was hungry.
            “Let me in, let me in, little pigs,” the wolf said. “Or I will huff and I will puff and I will blow your house down.”
            “You cannot,” said the first pig. “Not as long as we have hair on our chins, and you do not.”
            The wolf blew down the house of sticks and the two pigs ran to their third brother’s house. The wolf was tired. The wolf thought about what the pigs had said, and he thought about how his inability to grow a beard and become a man caused his friends to exile him. The wolf saw the third house and looked at the strong bricks that formed the walls of the house and he smelt the third pig.
            “This third pig is smart,” the wolf said. “His house is made of strong bricks that will surely protect him. I respect that third pig, even though I think that his brothers are idiots and untrustworthy. Perhaps I should not kill the pigs. They are like me but I must eat them either way.”
            “Let me in, let me in, little pigs,” the wolf said. “Or I will huff and I will puff and I will blow your house down.”
            “You cannot,” said the third pig. “Not as long as we have hair on our chins, and you do not.”
            The wolf tried to blow the brick house down but his lungs would not work. The bricks were too strong and he was too weak and tired. The wolf took one big, last breath and tried to blow the house down but the bricks remained strong. The wolf was still hungry and tired and he collapsed on the ground, exhausted.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Bernard's New World

Damn that John! Why will no one listen to me? I cannot get a savage to show up to a party that I planned, and even Epsilons disobey my orders. John got me into a lot of trouble by just deciding not to show up to the party that I planned for him. Whether I plan a party or a funeral for John, a savage should not just refuse to attend by locking himself behind a door. Whether I tell them to start engines or do back flips, Epsilons shouldn’t just stand in place and disobey my direct orders. I am an Alpha, and I should not be the subject of such degradation. Alphas are at the top of the caste system, and are conditioned to be faster and smarter than Epsilons and savages. Why can’t I be treated as an Alpha should be treated?
Maybe I am broken. I have heard the rumors that people spread. Some worker in the Hatchery thought that I was supposed to be an Epsilon, not an Alpha, and added more alcohol to my bottle to slow my physical growth. Fortunately, the worker realized his mistake and stopped adding alcohol before I became an Alpha in an Epsilon’s body. Because of this mistake, everyone talks behind my back. Foster and the Assistant Predestinator laugh at my resistance to take soma and poke fun at my unsavory reputation. I prefer being angry at the lesser beings that criticize me instead of taking those pills. I only take soma in dire situations that call for drastic action. I do not even discuss my sexual life publically like Lenina, Hoover, or Foster. The Arch-Community-Songster wants to lecture me on the divergence of my ways. He wants me to mend my ways. I do not belong in this brave new world.
But I showed all my critics. The Director tried to stop me from going to the Savage Reservation, but I disregarded his cautions. The Director thinks I am an antisocial rebel that threatens the stability of the World State. And when he felt like sharing those sentiments publically and announcing my divergence, I felt obliged to expose his treachery too. In front of everyone, I presented Linda and John to the Director, shaming the Director for having a family. At that moment, I was on track to become someone that the World State remembers. I would soon surpass all those who doubted me and laughed at my physical degradation.
John humiliated me. John’s refusal to see the guests that I invited for him that night ruined my chances of becoming great, and now I must live with my physical pains. However, I now have found a true friend and fellow rebel in Helmholtz. I told Helmholtz everything, including the miseries of my isolation in this world, and accepted his consolation. When I realized that, “Helmholtz had also come into conflict with Authority,” (Huxley 164) I saw that Helmholtz was my only true friend in this world. He explained to me the complexities of his encounter with Authority and his passion for rhymes. However, John decided that he wanted to ruin that too. Instead of paying attention to me and my miseries, Helmholtz became more interested in John’s Shakespeare and the dead man’s rhymes. Helmholtz even threatened to kick me out of meetings for interrupting John and poking fun at Shakespeare’s words. However, John had finally had enough of us when Helmholtz laughed at Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. Helmholtz could not resist laughing at the concept of a family forcing their daughter to have someone that she did not want. I was eventually separated from my friends when we had to rescue John from a fistfight with a couple of Deltas.
            I am ashamed of my decision to watch while Helmholtz helped John fight off the Deltas, but I just could not just risk my life to help. Finally, the police showed up and had to subdue John and Helmholtz, and I was caught before I could sneak out the back door. We were eventually taken to Mond’s office to be disciplined for our disobedience, but I had no idea that Mond’s decision would be to exile me. I have so much to live for in the World State. I love soma. I just want to be an accomplished citizen. However, Mond says that this sentence is not that bad. I can be among people similar to myself on the islands. At least I am not dead.

Works Cited

Huxley, Aldous. Brave New World. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2004. Print.