Author Archives: hholcomb92

The Library: A Symbol for the Organization and Education of the Island

While Kincaid was growing up, the library was a place where she felt comfortable and it gave her an opportunity to expand her knowledge. When she goes back to Antigua she notes that the children seem less educated, and the absence of a proper library could be contributing to this. Although the library was there during colonial times, it still provided a sense of organization and structure to the island. The colonists worked to keep a certain sense of structure to the town and brought the library because that is what English cities had. However, once the colonists leave, the island has a hard time giving itself a stable government. Antigua does not know how to form a government that is not corrupt and build a good city because they are not used to functioning independently. The library is one of the many things that fall apart when Antigua becomes independent. Without the library, the chance for citizens to become education and learn about other worldly matters fades. Their inability to learn more about other places in the world keeps them stuck in their corrupted government. Since they know nothing different and have no chance to do learn about other places in the world, they are trapped with what they know. Even when speaking of the tourist, Kincaid speaks of how the people on the island envy the tourist for being able to travel. Being trapped in such a small place doesn’t allow for the people to become educated and make major changes to the government on their island.

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Historical Notes: Giving The Handmaid’s Tale Historical Context

The Historical Notes at the end of “The Handmaid’s Tale” give us  historical context of the story and give us clues of what could have possibly happened to Offred at the end of the story. Since they are part of an Anthropology department, they don’t necessarily focus on just the historical details, they also delve into why the Gilead period happened. They even go into observing similar trends in other nations such as Romania. There is also a focus on the pre-Gilead period that gives good insight into why the Gilead period and periods that followed it happened. Many Caucasians were becoming infertile and this created a fear. The legalization of birth control and abortion stirred this fear up even more. So even though the dystopia presented seems really extreme, the history gives it an explanation. They are not defending the Gilead period, but simply presenting explanations and historical context, thus making the story seem more real.

Also the historical notes give us a hint of what may have happened to Offred. When Professor Pieixoto speaks of Offred’s tone, he says this: “Also, there is a certain reflective quality about the narrative that would to my mind rule out synchronicity” (Atwood 277). Professor Pieixoto suggests that the tapes they find of Offred telling her story sound more like they are looking back than in the moment. Plus, he also notes she would have no place to record or keep these tapes if she had made them while she was at her Commander’s house. This suggests that Offred made it to the Underground Femaleroad and not with the Eyes. So in  a way, the historical notes give us an idea of Offred’s fate after the story ends.

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The Effects of Torture

This here is a short film based of Kafka’s “In The Penal Colony” that visualizes the effect that such harsh torture would have on the Condemned persons in the short story. The short film even directly quotes the story: “For the first six hours the condemned man goes on living almost as before.” (Kafka 8)  The short film adds: “Except for the pain.” (The Condemned) Here we see how inhumane the torture that the machine brings really is. The escaped prisoner in the short film has many underlying psychological issues due to the torture that was experienced. She is constantly seeing the Officer in the woods with her and has many hallucinations of the torture that she experienced. Basically, she is suffering from a severe case of post traumatic stress syndrome.

We don’t see the effects that the torture has on the condemned man in the story, however, we see how being blind to what their punishment is effects the condemned:  “One could see how with a confused gaze he was also looking for what the two gentlemen had just observed, but he didn’t succeed because he lacked explanation. He leaned forward this way and that. He kept running his eyes over the glass again and again” (Kafka 7) Being chained up and having no idea what is going on is already having a traumatizing effect on the condemned man. This short film based off of the story shows that torture is in fact very inhumane for more than one reason. It is not just the physical pain that torture has on a person that makes it so terrible, but it is also the psychological effects that it has on individuals that makes it such an atrocious act.

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The Officer: A Good Man Following the Wrong Leader

The Officer in the story is neither the good guy or bad guy. He may be doing inhumane things such as torturing prisoners, but he honestly believes he is doing the right thing. We see this in many instances when he is explaining the apparatus to the traveler: “The basic principle I use for my decisions is this: Guilt is always beyond a doubt.” (Kafka 4) He does not give the accused a chance to defend themselves because he does not believe that is the right thing to do. From his experience in working with the Old Commandant, he has learned that the accused will always lie. We see this in the text when the Officer says: “He would have lied, and if I had been successful in refuting his lies, he would have replaced them with new lies, and so forth.” (Kafka 5) Simply put, he sees this as the proper way to judge the accused and in a sense he is reflecting a statement of truth. If humans are accused of something, they will often try to lie their way out of it due to fear. This is typical human nature.

Also, the Officer, unlike everyone else, has stuck to what the Old Commandant has taught him. Since he worked so closely with the Old Commandant it was probably very difficult for him to turn away from the morals that had been instilled in him for so long. The Machine and punishing the Condemned seems like the normal and proper thing to do in the Officer’s mind. Therefore, you cannot really say he is a bad man. He is doing terrible things with the best of intentions, and intentions say a lot about a person. Therefore since he is neither the bad guy or the good guy, but simply a man led astray by a bad leader.

 

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Elements of Science Fiction and Defining Humanity in The Island of Dr. Moreau

Even though the genre of The Island of Dr. Moreau can be debated, as  I read the story I interpreted as science fiction. This is due to the many scientific elements in the novel that are stretched farther than they actually go in real life. With the scientific context of the book, the reader gets the impression that these humanized animals can actually be created in the lab. During the time the book was written, this was an actual fear of many people since vivisection was just started to become present in experiments. However, today this may seem a lot more far fetched than it did at the time and would be seen as highly immoral. When explaining what is happening on the island to Prendick, Dr. Moreau mentions how it is a science that has been delved into before, thus giving the science in the story credibility. “You forget all that a skilled vivisector can do with living things…alterations in the secretion of fatty tissue. I have no doubt that you have heard of these things? ” (pg 45) Most science fiction furthers innovations and discoveries that have already been made and exaggerates them, this is exactly what H.G. Wells does in this novel. With this novel, Wells even leads the reader to question what defines humanity. The animals that Moreau has humanized in the story look enough like men, however he can never get rid of their animalistic tendencies completely. The Beast Men are in a constant battle to maintain what makes them men as opposed to beasts. Prendick makes this realization in Chapter 16, “Before, they had been beasts, their instinct fitly adapted to their surroundings, and happy as living as things may be. Now they stumbled in the shackle of humanity…” (pg 65) This also brings the question of morality at hand, not only do they undergo an immense amount of pain during the changing of their body, they also have to live in denial of their basic instincts for the rest of their life.

This novel also relates to quite a few of the other stories that we have read for class. It makes connections with The Tempest, Robinson Crusoe, An Enemy of the People, and Bluebeard. The Island of Dr. Moreau like The Tempest and Robinson Crusoe brings the theme of the Island out. Dr. Moreau’s island does differ greatly from Prospero’s and Crusoe’s island, but it has the element that Crusoe is ruling his own island. Moreau creates laws and rules over his beast men, which mirrors how Prospero and Crusoe rule their respective islands. What really sets them apart though is that Moreau creates a law system and the people on the island, whereas Prospero and Crusoe claim an already occupied island and never create laws, they just assume power. Also, Moreau lacks the colonial aspects of The Tempest and Robinson Crusoe. The Island of Dr. Moreau also draws connections with An Enemy of the People since Dr. Moreau was hated by the public when some of his lab experiments were exposed. This is very similar to how Dr. Stockmann became an enemy of the people for trying to expose the polluted water of the baths in his town. However, Moreau goes away and continues to experiment in peace while Thomas stays and tries to spread his discoveries, but clearly both are men of science and innovation. Another story we’ve read that The Island of Dr. Moreau connects with is Bluebeard, it is even mentioned in the story, “Our little island establishment here contains a secret or so, is kind of a Blue-Beard’s chamber, in fact.” Although Prendick not being allowed in the lab at first is not a defining characteristic of the novel, it still draws a very clear comparison to the fairy tale Bluebeard.

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Morality versus Corruption in Politics

An Enemy of the People is a prime example of how corrupt politics can be. You have Dr. Stockmann who sees allowing people to bath in the polluted baths that are poisoning them as undoubtedly wrong while Peter Stockmann, the mayor, is more concerned about the economics behind the baths. It is very difficult for Dr. Stockmann to understand why the economics behind the baths is even a concern when he can clearly see that the baths are poisoning the citizens of his native town. This is because unlike his brother, Dr. Stockmann has not been corrupted by politics. Even today, many people go into politics with the best of intentions; however the party usually ends up running them. This is even evident amongst the people of the town. When Peter takes his story to the paper to be published instead of his brother and explains the economic consequences, Hovstad and Aslaksen no longer want to print Dr. Stockmann’s article since they do not want the baths to be closed for two years or more. This brings the entire town on to Peter’s side.

The reason it is so hard for Dr. Stockmann to understand how the town is siding with his brother is the fact that his morals have not been corrupted by politics. The people wanting to let the polluted water sit and poison their town disgusts Thomas. It seems so ridiculous to him and he takes it very personally since he has invested a lot of himself into those baths. Even though sticking to his morals causes him to lose his position and be declared “an enemy of the people,” Thomas stays strong and ultimately realizes at the end that “the strongest man in the world is he who stands most alone.”

 

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Beauty and the Beast and Bluebeard: Opposites

In Tatar’s The Classic Fairy Tales, Tatar makes the point that Beauty and the Beast and Bluebeard are opposites, and this is true for a number of reasons. The marriages in the two tales have two very different ideals of marriage and the relationships between the husband and wife flow in opposite directions.

In Beauty and the Beast, the relationship between Beauty and Beast starts off as an unhappy relationship where Beauty is simply there as a sacrifice to save her father, but then they fall in love and have their “happily ever after.” However, in Bluebeard, the relationship between Bluebeard and his wife starts off well, but in ends his attempt to murder his wife for betraying his trust and going against his wishes. Although in Beauty and the Beast, Beast never tries or intends to kill Beauty, they still do not start off on the happy front that Bluebeard and his wife do. So essentially, even the relationships of the character in the two fairy tales take opposing turns.

Beauty and the Beast brings out more of the happiness and romance that can occur in marriage since their marriage begins with friendship and love, however, Bluebeard brings out the anxieties in marriage. In most recollections of Bluebeard, he did not know his wife very well and assumed her to be like the others. The room serves as a test for how loyal his wife is. This is seen clearly in the Brothers Grimm Fitcher’s Bird where the sorcerer says, “You have passed the test, and you shall be my bride.” (page 150)  Finding out her disloyalty gives Bluebeard a reason to kill her. Bluebeard focuses on the distrust, anxieties, and trials that occur in marriage. Bluebeard goes into his marriage expecting his wife to fail the test that he has laid out for her. This makes even the marriages themselves opposite. Beauty and Beast already have a deep love and trust for each other, thus tests of trust are completely unnecessary. They have a deep respect for each other and their love for each other is present before their marriage. In De Beaumont’s version of this fairy tale their love is clear when they make it clear they do not want to cause each other pain. This is seen on the interaction between Beast and Beauty on page 39. So by the time that they finally get married, they know and trust each other so they just focus on being blissfully happy and in love. Since Bluebeard’s marriages have lacked these qualities, he has found his test necessary to see whether or not he has a loyal wife.

 

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The Island in The Tempest and Robinson Crusoe

In both Robinson Crusoe and The Tempest, the islands that the characters are stranded on or native to create a very interesting dynamic that includes slavery, colonialism, striving for order, a thirst to rule the island, and an overall superiority complex.

 

In the Tempest, Prospero takes over the island despite the fact the Caliban was already there. Prospero views Caliban as an inferior savage which is common in many real life conquests of already occupied lands. Robinson Crusoe has this same idea about the cannibalistic natives that are on the island he is marooned on. Robinson is not as cruel to his slave Friday as Prospero is to Caliban, but Robinson works on assimilating Friday and completely disregards Friday’s previous name, language, and religion. Crusoe is slightly more ethnocentric, but overall he treats Friday as a companion which differs greatly from how Prospero treats Caliban.

 

Another theme that involves the island in both stories is that both Prospero and Crusoe want to rule the island and create a sense of hierarchy and order that was not originally present. In both the Tempest and Robinson Crusoe, there are already people living on the island, yet both Crusoe and Prospero feel entitled to rule the island. This shows the attitude of European colonists at the time. They felt they had more rights to rule than the native people because the natives of these lands were not as “human.” In the Tempest, even Stephano wants to completely take over the island and be the “king” of the island. Even when the captain comes to the island that Crusoe is on, he refers to Crusoe as the governor of the island as opposed to the natives. These examples of European men feeling entitled to rule the island they are stranded on is very ethnocentric and this complex is very evident in both The Tempest and Robinson Crusoe.

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