Author Archives: gpwestland

Opposing Effects of Darkness in After Dark by Haruki Murakami

When reading Murakami’s After Dark I was intrigued by how he plays with light and dark and estrangement. It seems that both the darkness and the daylight have contradicting effects on the characters in the book. On the one hand we see that the lives of very different characters (college girl, trombone player, former wrestler en hotel manager, Chinese prostitute and computer expert) get intertwined during the dark hours of the night. However, when the daylight dawns Murakami through his helicopter view also stresses how patterns of human beings become the same.

When zooming in on the main character we see at first a very ordinary 19-year old college girl sitting in a Denny’s; nothing special or noteworthy about her. Her clothes and appearance are ordinary, maybe even to be called dull and plain. However, Murakami puts her at the center of the attention makes her an intriguing character to the reader going through intense experiences. While her gorgeous sister is a sleep, Mari is awake and goes through her own nightmare – that of being the ugly little sister of of Eri, the model- and of others – the beat up Chinese prostitute who she’s translating-. But it seems to be a healing experience for her. As Murakami closes of with “Could she be dreaming? or is the hint of a smile on her lips the trace of a memory? […] Mari has made her way through the long hours of darkness, traded many words with the night people she encountered there, and come back to where she belongs”. Murakami seems to say that going through the darkness has changed her, has helped her dealing with her problems.

This story made me think of the Biblical parable of the prodigal son. Mari just as the prodigal son went away from home to face the world by her self. And finally they both come back and in both cases the experienced has changed them.

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Optimism in Heart of Darkness: an analysis of the Harlequin

1: Conrad’s Heart of darkness, startled me a couple of years ago when I first read it. At that time I did not have a lot of back ground knowledge to the topics adressed in the book. I wanted to read it again is because in this course we talked a lot about colonialism, about westerners being subject to influence of unknown territories, about natives being victimized by the colonialists and so on. These themes are also present in Heart of Darkness and since we read The island of Doctor Moreaux, Robinson Crusoe but also A Small Place and Blu’s Hanging I feel that I have a better understanding of (post) colonial texts.

As I will be focusing on the Harlequin, I will need to close-read Marlow’s encounter with him carefully. Also Marlow’s encounter with Kurtz and the role of The Company in the story will be of importance to my writings about the function of the Harlequin in Conrad’s Heart of Darkness.

2: However, at this point there are many things that I still don’t fully grasp. If a complex book as Heart of Darkness can ever be fully grasped. The following questions are important to my analysis:

1) How is the seemingly light character of the Harlequin to be seen in such a heavy and dark story?

2) How come that the wilderness and the darkness of the Congo have such a different impact on the Harlequin compared to the other characters?

3) Why did Conrad include this character in the story?

4) What does this character symbolize in the story?

5) What is according to previous research the general idea of the book?

3: The reason why I want to write about this book is because it seems to me the best example of estrangement. Not only in terms of the plot but perhaps even more so because of Conrad’s writing style. He totally estranges me as a reader from what happens in the story by his elaborate descriptions of the impenetrable wilderness. I’m also intrigued by Conrad’s tendency to mystify and abstract both his characters and their surroundings. Also,iIt is not at all a clear-cut idea that he puts forward. This book leaves me pondering. I hope through writing about it to enlarge my understanding of it tad more.

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A Dictator’s Victim

When reading Kafka’s In the Penal Colony, the officer carrying out the death sentences on the apparatus appeared to me to be victimized by a dictator, the previous commandant. This is reflected in three notions in the story. First of all, the officer states the authority of the commandant by mentioning that ”the organization of the entire penal colony is [the commandant’s] work”(par. 4. And nobody would “be able to alter the old plan” (par. 4). In these words the reader senses how the officer had put the previous commandant on a pedestal. At the end of the story this is underlined by the fact that they buried the previous commandant and erected a stone for him.  Second, the officer has adopted the idea that decision should be made by the individual rather than by the collective. It says: “Guilt is always beyond doubt. Other courts could not follow this principle, for they are made up of many heads” (par. 12). Here it becomes clear that the ability to judge is individualized rather than spread among a group of people. This is typical to a dictatorial society in which one person only is able to judge. The third notion that points towards a victimization of the officer is the way he speaks about the apparatus. At a certain moment the officer describes the working of the harrow as “artistic” (par.5). The fact that he uses such idioms for a machine that is supposed to kill somebody, to me shows that the officer does not know what he is doing. He has learned to admire the ingenious working of the apparatus and the ingeniousness of the inventor. He seems to be brainwashed.

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Let nature be nature

The island of Dr. Moreau, tome, belongs in the genre of dystopian literature. Meriam Webster’s dictionary defines ‘dystopian’ as “An imaginary place where people lead dehumanized and often fearful lives”. Other definition also include that dystopian literature often includes a strong warning to humanity about its state and behaviorisms.

In The Island of Dr. Moreau, the reader is presented with such an unrealistic world in which human being tries to make humans out of animals. Wells seems to warn against this human interference with the law of nature. This is seen his depiction of Dr. Moreau who remains throughout the story a very cold and emotionally unattached figure who wants to dominate nature. It says: “Each time I dip a living creature into the bath of burning pain, I say: this time I will burn out all the animal” (59), Here Dr. Monreau is clearly depicted as violent and his will to dominate becomes apparent.

However at the end of the book, Pendrick comes to the conclusion that human being will never understand itself and life fully. He himself is having a hard time to get his life together after he returns to civilization, since everybody seems to question his sanity. However upon looking at the stars het meditates that somehow the truth lies in “ the vast eternal laws of matter rather than in the daily cares and sins and troubles of men” (104) Since the later are only bestial.

It is hard to come to a thorough understanding of what Wells wants to say but to me it seems that he is saying: let nature be nature and let men be men. Men can not rule over animal since men in itself is only limited.

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Determinson and Dispero: a comparison of Robinson Crusoe and Prospero

Daniel Defoe constructs in “Robinson Crusoe” a character that shows great determination to live. This can be observed through the fact that he runs away from home. He runs away from his father who had in mind to make him into a mediocre middle class lawyer who would not be bothered by any extreme poverty or any extreme pride caused by luxury or riches. At sea he goes through several serious storms both internally and on the actual sea. Despite his religiousness and his suing conscience he still proceeds with his adventures. Also when he strands on the island without anything he refuses to despair but starts building up his life in order to survive both physically and mentally. When he reflects on his life, he writes down all the good and the evil that he observes. However he writes that, “from the most miserable conditions in this world, [there is] always [to be found] something to comfort from” (48). In all of this a Hands-on approach to life can be observed in the Character Robinson Crusoe. He is determined to live life as he wants it and is willing to bear the consequences and to work hard for it.

When reading The Tempest , Shakespeare presents a character to his audience who is also very determined. This character, Prospero, pursues knowledge, power and revenge to his brother. However, it is hard to find any sympathy in how he achieves this. He uses is knowledge of magic to cast spells and to command evil spirits to establish his power. It seems that there’s nothing that can withhold him from getting what he wants.

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