Author Archives: amsmithson

Alienation of Mari in “After Dark”

Very similar to the literature that we have been reading all semester long, one very evident theme present in “After Dark” is alienation. I think that alienation is present in all characters that have so far been introduced, but especially in the main character, Mari. Mari is introduced in the novel by sitting in a Denny’s by herself late at night, reading a book. She is concentrating very hard on reading her book, completely ignoring the environment around her. I think there is something to Mari’s character, as to why she seems to prefer to be alone. It seems that any time she gets other people through the course of the story, she looks for a way to get away as soon as possible. An example of this is when Mari and Kaoru are looking for some time to pass, and Kaoru takes Mari to a bar. Kaoru says “I could really use a nice cold beer. How about you?” Mari replies, “I can’t drink.” Kaoru then says, “So have some juice or something. What the hell, you’ve gotta be someplace killing time till morning” (Murakami, 65). When the two are on their way to the bar, Mari seems a little reluctant to go, but she eventually warms up to Kaoru and starts talking once they order their drinks. I do not completely know why Mari has the tendency to prefer to be alone, but I think that answer will come once we have read the book in its entirety.

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The Influence of Fairy Tales Throughout the History of Opera

Since I am a music major, I know a great deal about the topic I have chosen.  I found it very interesting that when reading the fairy tales earlier in the semester that I remembered that the same stories were the basis for quite a few operas throughout music history.  These operas actually stayed quite true to the original story lines.  This is a bulk of what I am going to focus on in my paper by doing a comparative analysis of the texts used in three separate fairy tales with their related opera.  Even though there was a lot of freedom in choosing our topic for this paper, this topic is very interesting to me, and I am very excited to write about it.

 

Something about the text that I will have to do more research to understand is the language aspect of the operas.  Each of the operas are in a different language than their respective fairy tales (French), which is a little puzzling to me.  I am interested in why the different composers chose a French text to base their operas off of, and I am also interested in when the fairy tales and the operas were written in history.  These stories can mean different things to different generations, so I am going to look into this question a little more as well.

Some questions I will answer in my paper are:

1)      Just how closely related are the fairy tales and operas?  How much (if at all) do the operas deviate from the original storylines?

2)      Being that the operas are from different time periods, how can this affect the way that an audience reacts to the story?  How is this reaction different than the way the fairy tales might have been originally heard?

3)      How did the composers decide to assign the roles to certain types of voices?  Is this different than the way the characters were perceived in the original fairy tales?

 

Once again, I chose this topic because I am more familiar with it.  I actually had the most fun reading through the fairy tales, and when I made the connection of fairy tales and opera, I thought it would be a really exciting paper to write.

 

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The Library as a Symbol for a Better Antigua

The library in Jamaica Kincaid’s A Small Place serves as a symbol for a time when Antigua was a better and more enjoyable place to live.  The way the author first talks about the library seems to have a sentimentality attached to it.  “I stole many books from the library.  I didn’t mean to steal the books, really; it’s just that once I had read a book I couldn’t bear to part with it” (Kincaid, 45).  This quote illustrates a time for the author when paying a visit to the library was fun, and certainly a highlight of her day.  The author has a love for books, so much that she would take the risk of stealing them when she didn’t want to part with them once it came time to return them to the library.  When the circumstances in a persons’ life are maybe not as they wish it were, they recall memories of times that they enjoyed very much.  I think this is exactly what the author is doing here.

The tone of the essay changed a little in this section; recalling when times were less complicated and when the shape of the library was much better.  She talks about “the earthquake” and how the library was essentially destroyed from its former glory.  “Repairs are pending, not repaired and the library put back where it used to be?” (Kincaid, 42).  Obviously, Kincaid is very upset at the fact that she does not have a suitable library she can visit anymore in Antigua.  Again, I believe she is remembering a better time when Antigua was a better and happier place to live (or a time when she was so young that she did not realize that the government was so corrupt) as it is when she was writing the essay.

 

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Historical Notes: Making the Handmaid’s Tale Real

I think the Historical Notes section in The Handmaid’s Tale is a very “interesting” conclusion of the book, to say the least.  I feel as if this ending is a little anti-climactic to the previous 300 pages of the book.  Before this epilogue, Atwood leaves the reader on the edge of their seat(s); for we do not know what happens to Offred.  I am however a little “torn” with my opinion on this closing section of the book.  While I think it detracts a little from the suspense of not knowing what happens to Offred, I also think it provides a little bit of closure with giving extensive background information on the origins of the story.

I believe the function of the prologue of the book is to make the story seem more believable.  Reading the book from Offred’s point of view makes the story a little bit more real (as opposed to hearing it from a narrator’s point of view), although there is certainly some doubt that the story could ever be real since life is so different in the story than ours.  Hearing the (bulk) of the epilogue from Professor Pieixoto makes the story much more believable (for he could very easily be a real person), and in my mind it makes Offred sound like she actually lived, and it helps her story become even more realistic.  One example that I rather like of the prologue making the story seem realistic is the very last sentence of the book.  “Are there any questions” (Atwood, 311) shows that Professor Pieixoto is addressing a specific audience.  I rather like this ending because of its sense of finality, also because I felt like he was addressing the audience, straight from the book.

 

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Freedom From is No Freedom

I think that “freedom to and freedom from” in The Handmaid’s Tale is a nicer way of saying that the women in this dystopic society actually have no freedoms at all.  Whatever life they were living before they were handmaids, the women are now entirely “free” from them.

It is very difficult for the reader to understand what Aunt Lydia means by “freedom”.  Life for the handmaids is obviously anything but “free”.  The handmaids are not allowed to read, they are not to address people unless spoken to, and they cannot even walk around town alone- they must be accompanied by another handmaid!  I think that what Aunt Lydia is referring to when she says “freedom” is that the handmaids have been liberated from all the “obligations” of their former lives.  When Aunt Lydia says “Ordinary, is not what you are used to.  This may not seem ordinary to you now, but after a time it will.  It will become ordinary” (Atwood, 33).  It sounds to me as if Aunt Lydia is telling the women they have been liberated from their former lives, which were not at all unlike the Japanese tourists that Offred encountered during her shopping trip.  After a time, the handmaids will not even miss their former lives.  The womens’ new lives will become ordinary, and normal for them.

I think the passage at hand opens the book wide open to the horror that the book is expressing.  Yes, in this “new life”, the women don’t have to walk alone at night, or go into a laundromat by themselves, but they also do not have basic rights.  The Republic of Gilead is taking many steps backward, which is certainly opposite than a future society would hope to be doing.  Women are not meant to be just a uterus.  They can benefit society in so many ways, which is not at all true in this story.

 

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The Poor, Corrupt Officer

When I was reading In the Penal Colony, I had two different opinions about the officer.  One of these opinions was formulated at the very beginning of the story, and the second was changed at the conclusion.

 

Starting from the beginning of In the Penal Colony, I was not fond of the officer.  I certainly thought he was the “bad guy” in this story.  Some specific things the officer said, especially near the beginning of the story convinced me of this.  One of these instances is:  “…Here in the penal colony I have been appointed judge…  Guilt is always beyond a doubt…” (Kafka).

A rough definition of a penal colony is a place that is far removed from society (lots of times it is an island) where prisoners are kept until their punishment/sentence is given to them.  Usually, a single person is given total control over what goes on in the penal colony, including sentencing the prisoners.  It is scary to me that one person could have such control over a person’s life, especially when they have the opinion that “guilt is always beyond a doubt”.  To me, this is the officer saying that anyone can be proven guilty, and he seems out to prove just that.  Another instance is when the officer hurries over the fact that the prisoner doesn’t know what his sentence is, or even why he is being held prisoner!  This idea is foreign to our culture, where rights are still given to people who are in prison.

 

The other opinion of the officer that I had while reading In the Penal Colony was at the end.  I was surprised when I realized that the officer was taking the condemned man’s place!  I thought it interesting that the machine took on a different “look” when the officer was being murdered.  It suddenly turned into a vicious and terrible thing; not at all providing justice of any sort!  My thought of this is that no one deserves to die such a terrible and painful death.  I certainly believe the officer is a pitiable character, for this actually made me feel sorry for him, despite what I thought of him even just sentences earlier in the story.

 

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Science Fiction and Fairy Tales

I think it is quite difficult to place The Island of Dr. Moreau into one specific genre.  H.G. Wells wrote this book at a time before science fiction was really considered a genre of literature.  With this being so, I do believe the genre that most fits this book is science fiction.  I also believe that some aspects of fairy tales are present in this book.

I think this book does fit into the genre of science fiction for a few reasons.  First of all, the subject of this story involves scientists!  Vivisection, the main subject of this book is very much a science fiction idea.  The fact that some of the characters in the book were vivisecting animals to make them into humans is absolutely absurd, and quite horrifying.  Especially with European scientists having a big debate about the ethics involved with animal vivisection at the time this book was written; makes the book and its subject even more scary.

One way The Island of Dr. Moreau connects to other things, (specifically fairy tales) that we have read so far, happens near the beginning of the book.  An old man, who we later find out is Dr. Moreau tells Prendick, “Our little establishment here contains a secret or so, is a kind of Bluebeard’s Chamber, in fact” (Wells 21).  I was so shocked when I read this in the book!  This is a blatant connection to fairy tales, for “Bluebeard’s Chamber” contained the bodies of the past wives he had.  If anyone reading this book knew anything about Bluebeard, they would know if a secret “kind of like Bluebeard’s Chamber” was on that island, it would have to be a huge and horrifying secret.

The fairy tale of Bluebeard served as a lesson (when it was told orally and especially once it had been written down) to be learned and a forewarning to wives about how terrible marriage can be.  I believe The Island of Dr. Moreau teaches the same kind of lesson; being that advances in science and attempting to control nature will not work.  Nature will most always run its course.

 

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Minority is Right

There is so much in this play, and I think there are many ideas that Ibsen was expressing when he wrote this play.  One of these things government in general, specifically with the “minority” being right.

I find it interesting that Dr. Stockmann did not really think through how his accusations of the baths would come across to the other members of the town.  He thought that by presenting the truth about what was going on, everyone would be in complete shock and would be in support of the doctor.  This obviously did not happen, the townspeople thought he was insane!

When the town meeting was held and Dr. Stockmann addressed the townspeople about what was going on with the baths, he did more than just talk about the baths.  He talked a lot about the government and how corrupt it is.  All through this scene, Dr. Stockmann is cut off and not able to completely say what he wants to about the matters at hand.  At one point, he puts it rather simply:  “The majority has might on its side- unfortunately; but right it has not. I am in the right- I and a few other scattered individuals.  The minority is always in the right.”  (Ibsen, 59)

This quote shows how Dr. Stockmann views the government of his town:  that they may be a powerful force going against him, but they might not necessarily be correct.  He is confident that the minority will always be morally sound and correct, no matter how powerful the majority is.

In ACT V, we see how difficult it is for Dr. Stockmann and his family while they are nearly removed from the community.  Dr. Stockmann has lost his job, the town is going to refuse getting and treatment from him so he would not be able to practice medicine, Petra was also dismissed from her school, and Ejlif and Morten were told to take a break from their school for a few days.  Seeing this, Dr. Stockmann resolves to move his family to the “new world,” for he thinks they need to completely move out of their country and start fresh.

After having numerous visitors visit Dr. Stockmann at his home, he learns the reason for the pollution of the baths is from Morton Kiils tannery.  After this, he gets an idea that comes with sudden confidence that the Stockmann’s are not going to move.    “No,  I’ll be hanged if we are going away!…”  (Ibsen, 80)

Dr. Stockmann intends for his family to stay in their town, and he is going to start a school and teach his sons and some “street urchins” how to become “liberal-minded and high-minded men.”  (Ibsen, 82)

Since Dr. Stockmann is up against the entire town with the matter of the baths and politics, he is going to use to his benefit the impressionable boys of the town so that they might one day have a very great impact in the town and be able to make some big changes.  At the end of the play, Dr. Stockmann seems to be not as ostracized and defeated as he was even earlier in the same scene.  He is using the resources he has to one day make sure that right prevails in his town.

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Opposites with Fairy Tales

I most certainly agree with Tatar when she says that Bluebeard and Beauty and the Beast are opposite.

I believe that Bluebeard (referring to the Perrault story) is a harsh and scary look at what marriage is, or was thought of at the time to be like.  I believe, more for women, that marriage was considered to be scary and very much dreaded.  It would have to be scary just marrying someone who might as well have been a complete stranger!  I for one would be very concerned to be told that there was one certain room in the house that I was not allowed to go enter, especially if I was going to be severely punished for it!  The idea I think this presents is that once women are married, their husbands may do with them as they please.  I can imagine this would be rather horrifying for a woman.

Beauty and the Beast, on the other hand (referring to the Beaumont story) starts out dreary and a little scary; with Beauty’s father losing all his money, and the other two sisters being absolutely hateful towards her.  Unlike in Bluebeard, Beauty selflessly offers to go and live at the Beast’s castle in place of her father.  Instead of feeling trapped in the castle, Beauty has a rather lovely time during her stay, and grows to like and eventually love the Beast.

The most obvious difference between these two stories is that Beauty and the Beast ends well.  Beauty and the Beast (turned Prince) end up living together and happy at the end of their story, while the heroine in Bluebeard is left to try and recover from the horror of the experience of her first marriage.  Beauty and the Beast also shows of how love can change a person, and how it can obviously affect the way you see that person.  There was certainly no mention of anything to do with love in Bluebeard.

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“The Island” as a Means for Separation and Reflection

The Tempest and Robinson Crusoe share the idea that “the island” is a means of separation; whether by choice or by force.  In The Tempest, Sycorax is an obvious result of being brought to the island by force.  She committed adultery which (to say the least) was looked down upon, and was brought to the island to be completely removed from society, in hopes of repentance for her obvious sin.  In Robinson Crusoe, he is brought to the island by a “divine providence” so Crusoe can and will perhaps repent of the sinful life he has led so far.  The deserted island in both situations serves the purpose (among many others) for inner reflection and changing for the better.

 

At first, Robinson Crusoe is confused and upset as to why he was brought to the island.  Upon further thought about what he possibly could have done to deserve being put on such an awful place, he suddenly comes to the realization that God had placed him on that island for a reason.  At a specific moment in the book, soon after Crusoe has overcome a terrible sickness, he realizes and says, “So void was I of every thing that was good, or of the least sense of what I was, or was to be, that in the greatest deliverances I enjoy’d, such as…” (Defoe 96).  Crusoe goes on to say in the rest of this quote that there were many instances in his life that God helped him out of alive such as his escaping from Sallee.  In the quote above, Crusoe is dumbfounded that no matter how many times God saved his life, Crusoe never once thanked or praised God which was very upsetting to Crusoe.  Another quote of Crusoe’s says how his life was “…perfectly destitute of the knowledge and fear of God.”  (Defoe, 95).  Crusoe is again confirming of how much his life was in disrepair and that being placed on the (seemingly) deserted island is what he needed to realize just how much he had to thank God for.

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