Author Archives: smboehm

Animals in After Dark and Blu’s Hanging

When reading After Dark, I found it interesting to consider the similarities between the perceptions of animals in this novel and the one we read last week, Blu’s Hanging. It’s interesting to consider how animals in Blu’s Hanging were viewed as good luck symbols to the Ogata children. Big Sis tells Ivah that “you put that black cat on your stomach and the bugga pull all your sadness into herself” (Yamanaka 83).  For the children and people of Hawaii animals were a symbol of comfort and happiness, but in After Dark, when animals are mentioned they instill fear. Takahashi tells Mari that, “any single human being, no matter what kind of a person he or she may be, is all caught up in the tentacles of this animal like a giant octopus, and is getting sucked into the darkness. You can put any kind of spin on it you like, but you end up with the same unbearable spectacle” (Murakami 99). Takahashi believes that behavior in humans is caused by this evil creature that lives at the bottom of the ocean, ultimately causing people to do things that are out of their control.  I think it’s interesting to consider the opposing viewpoint of animals in these two novels. Although they initially may be viewed as somewhat minor parts of both novels, I think that they bring up important cultural ideals and give insight to the reader as to how animals, most of the time, can carry ritualistic and magical symbolism—sometimes positive and sometimes negative.

 

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Poetry from A Small Place

Right now, I’m taking Beginning Poetry at UF. It’s a really fun elective– each week we right poems and share them in front of the class. This week, we didn’t have any guidelines except to write about something we’ve been “thinking about a lot”. After considering my topic choice, I decided to write a poem based on A Small Place.


A Small Place by Shelby Boehm

You’ve arrived at your new destination, ugly tourist.

Take in the sweet breezes and

Swim in the clear ocean which is visible from your

Inordinate inn—don’t forget the postcards!

While you window shop on cobblestone courts and

Tiny umbrellas are tossed into your drink,

Take a second look and talk to the residents

Who will tell you how another day in paradise really feels.

There’s decaying architecture outside your resort and

That turquoise ocean you came for is our sewer.

Antiguans languish for a vacation

But they can never leave Eden.

Greetings from Antigua—

Wish you were here!

When reading this essay, I always thought it was interesting to put yourself in the perspective of the “ugly tourists” and also in contrasting view of the residents there. Coming from a big tourist spot in Florida, I understand how the residents of Antigua get irritated with people vacationing when they’re trying to live their daily lives. I also think it’s interesting how Kincaid’s message, although she writes in an angry and condescending tone towards the reader, gets across and is conveyed more easily this way. I attempted this in my poem, but it didn’t really work out that way since it came across more sarcastically than anything. I encourage anyone who likes poetry to consider taking the class CRW1301– I’ve learned a lot about words and have read a lot of amazing poems along the way!

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Gender Roles in Blu’s Hanging

When reading Blu’s Hanging, I was immediately drawn to the changing gender roles as the children of the family dealt with the death of their mother. Ivah, who is still a child, is left to take care of her two siblings and even her father. She constantly refers back to how her mom left her without a clue and also how she “Never was a mama. Never will be.” (Kincaid 248). There are many aspects of the children’s gender roles in Blu’s Hanging, but more specifically I think that the most useful parts of the text will be to look into the gender roles used in the children’s coping devices after the death of their mother. Each of the children posses different ways of dealing with the death of their mother, and in these coping devices, gender roles are definitely apparent—and in some cases are constantly changing throughout the novel. Although I think this topic has a lot of possibilities, I’m still wondering if I need to narrow it down more in effort to have a more compact analyzes.

Some things I’d like to investigate further are:

1) Are there any other topics concerning gender role that I should touch on? Possibly the similarities between Blu and animals in the text? Maybe even what the animals are gendered as in the text?

2) Are there any other situations in the text where gender roles are clearly apparent (besides in coping devices)?

3) Does Maisie exhibit reversed gender roles? Where?

I chose the topic of gender roles because I think it is a very interesting component of the novel. Without the use of constantly changing gender roles in the novel, the roles of such characters as Blu and Ivah wouldn’t have been nearly as powerful.

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The Library as a Symbol of Decay for the People of Antigua

The library in A Small Place serves as a symbol of continued decay for the people of Antigua. At one time, Kincaid describes how the library was a beautiful place that she would visit often and how she admired the librarian very much; however, after the earthquake, the building housing the library was unable to function safely. Kincaid goes on to say, “…you would see why my heart would break at the dung heap that now passes for a library in Antigua” due to the fact that all of the books and state of the library are being kept in a ruined state.(Kincaid 42). The books are decaying in boxes, as well as the building that the library used to be in. It is interesting to see how the corrupt government of Antigua has not taken interest in repairing the old building that the library was in—this might have been another way they were censoring the types of information that the people of Antigua had access to. Just like the decaying building and books, the overall attitude of the people of Antigua is also slowly decaying as they lose a sense of hope for things to improve in their country. With a corrupt government, the people have a constantly dwindling sense of desires because they know that they are virtually helpless. Just like the decaying library, the people of Antigua see their lives decaying before them. Even in such a beautiful place, the grass isn’t always greener.

 

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The Tempest at the Acrosstown Reparatory Theatre

A few weekends ago, I went to see the production of The Tempest put on by the organization Shakespeare in the Swamp at the Acrosstown Reparatory Theatre. I know it’s been a few months since we dwelled on this story, but I thought it would be interesting to share how the story was adapted and created in a peculiar way by the director, Michael Cormier, when it was finally put together in to a final production.

In this production, the scene opened with a brother and sister playing on the beach with their dolls. As the children began to play with their dolls, the story of Prospero and the rest of the characters developed. Although the play was true to script, there was also a huge modern twist that was only visible during a live performance. Since the children were playing with dolls, the characters took on their wardrobe and personality, even though they were still portraying the roles of characters in The Tempest. These characters included everyone from the cast of Alice in Wonderland to lead singer of Kiss, Gene Simmons. This twist on the classic play added a fun detail for people who were familiar with the production and may have seen it produced elsewhere.

Although this modern twist did take away from what was probably Shakespeare’s original intent of the play, I thought that it added a unique and contemporary interpretation to the overall meaning of the plot by magnifying modern characteristics to traits that Shakespeare originally intended. For example, the character Stephano was portrayed on stage as Gene Simmons, which in my opinion added to his chaotic and insane attitude once shipwrecked on the island. I definitely recommend visiting the Acrosstown Reporatory Theatre in the near future if you haven’t already. Currently, they’re working on a performance of Much Ado About Nothing (which will begin in April) as well as a performance of Hamlet coming this Fall.

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Historical Notes and Questioning in The Handmaid’s Tale

The closing section of The Handmaid’s Tale gives important insight into the true context of the story, ultimately answering some details about Offred’s life. Although this is an important closure section of the book, I also feel like it causes the reader to feel slightly more curious in a way about other happenings in the rest of the book, in that it gives more information about the context of the story such as Offred and her life as well as the Republic of Gilead. Through important details in this section, the reader finds out key information, which adds to the overall background information and origin of the story. This information is important because since the story is from the narration of Offred, she may have not known key elements about her society and other aspects of life in the Republic of Gilead that were outside her perspective. It’s interesting to consider how the story was passed on as well. Offred recorded her version of the story on tapes which we find out in Professor Pieixoto’s keynote address were safely hidden in a safe house used in the Underground Femaleroad. The reader never finds out what happens to Offred, as Professor Piexoto addresses by saying “as for the ultimate fate of our narrator, it remains obscure” (Atwood 284). By looking at this quote as insight into the novel, it shows how although there is closure in the realization that Offred is gone, it also brings up more questions about obscure situations underlying in the story.

 

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The Meaning of Freedom in The Handmaid’s Tale

When looking at this passage, it’s interesting to consider the concept of freedom and how it plays out and is considered in the rest of the novel. Aunt Lydia claiming that Offred is “given freedom from” is an odd ideal when thought of it in the standards of her society. So far in the novel, Offred is restricted in many ways, making it hard for the reader to see her life as anything but free. Perhaps this type of “freedom to” that Aunt Lydia is talking about refers to the freedom for women to protect themselves from danger and question male figures. Offred describes a time in her past life when women could “keep the locks on and keep going” (Atwood 25). In her past life, she had control—“freedom to” control perhaps; however, now Aunt Lydia claims that she has “freedom from” the life of the past. The classification of her current life as freedom is difficult to understand for the reader because her life seems for confined than ever. Although she doesn’t have to worry about being attacked by men, she is merely a servant in the Republic of Gilead. The current controlled way of life that Offred faces may be considered freedom from worry by some people, but when read in present day, I thought that her current state was completely away from a state of freedom. This passage gives an opening to the rest of the novel in that it shows the oppressive viewpoints of the other women in the republic who are trying to make the best of their current situation, as it is the only option they are left with.

 

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Gender Roles in A Hunger Artist

Treatment based on gender in society can ultimately lead to the unequal treatment and discrimination on a certain gender. In Kafka’s A Hunger Artist, the hunger artist is portrayed as a male with rather disturbing physical features and the unbelievable willpower to continue to fast. When reading the story, I think it’s interesting to note how the hunger artist is treated as merely an object for entertainment purposes, whereas if the hunger artist was a female, the situational contempt for the entertainer may be exchanged to that of pity.

The hunger artist claims that he “captured the attention of the entire city” (Kafka). People view him as a form of presentation or rather a production of fasting at its worst. He’s described as “looking pale” (Kafka) with “his ribs sticking out prominently” (Kafka); however, if the hunger artist was female, I feel that the audience would express sorrow for her current situation. The hunger artist is viewed as a spectacle, yet the observers still aren’t entirely shocked by his physical state. It’s also mentioned that adults view him as merely a joke. When analyzing this statement, it is interesting to see how Kafka shows the hunger artist as being belittled although he is the one that is committed and affixed to a goal that he refuses to break. The observers are convinced he has cheated by eating, yet he states that he could fast far more than forty days if allowed. The treatment of the observers to the hunger artist would be different if he was depicted as women in that the observers would feel compassion for a female figure, whereas the male figure is treated as simply a joke.

In relating back to gender role stereotypes, males are viewed as being able to take care of themselves and be independent, yet women are depicted in contrasting ideals. Due to this nature, I believe that if the hunger artist was depicted as a woman, she would be viewed with sorrow and sympathy due to the fact that women are apparently helpless.

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The Island of Doctor Moreau: Science Fiction Novel

H. G. Wells’ The Island of Doctor Moreau depicts the experience of Prendick, who upon being rescued, is sent onto another island where he is faced with a new breed of citizens. The story is centered on animal vivisection performed by Dr. Moreau and how Prendick faces these “morbid growths.” (Wells 22) Because of the grotesque theme of animal vivisection and experimentation, The Island of Doctor Moreau fits the science fiction genre.

Upon his arrival on the island, Montgomery warns Prendick of the strange happenings on the island. Dr. Moreau goes on to say that “our little establishment here contains a secret or so, is a kind of Blue-Beard’s chamber.” (Wells 19) At first, Dr. Moreau and Montgomery leave Prendick in the dark about their experimentations with animals on the island. Obviously curious, Prendick goes exploring on the island where he see creatures described as “human beings with the strangest air about them of some familiar animal.” (Wells 28) Dr. Moreau eventually explains his creations to Prendick, who compares the human-animal creatures with having the “mark of the beast” (Wells 28)

Dr. Moreu’s imaginative innovations of these animals convey ideals similarly contained in science fiction novels. When viewing the novel as belonging to the sci fi genre, the rather absurd concept of animal vivisection is somewhat given justice. At a time when animal vivisection was a concern in Britain, H. G. Wells attempts to explain the reasoning and thoughts behind such abnormal behaviors by showing how the creation of this breed was a passion of Dr. Moreau’s. By reading this novel in relation to the scientific fiction genre, the theme of animal vivisection and experimentation is shown as a largely imaginative ideal that is being explored and not necessarily frowned upon, but rather accepted due to the creative process.

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Alienation as a Result of Family Loyalty vs. Morality

Although there are many themes in An Enemy of the People, the one that was most prevalent to me was the issue of family loyalty vs. morality and it’s role of alienation in a community.

Dr. Stockmann is left with a difficult choice of letting the people know about the contaminations of the baths or keeping it hidden in effort to protect his job, family, and reputation. At a time when the idea of bacteria wasn’t very accepted, Dr. Stockmann decides to stay loyal to his findings and tell the people that the baths are contaminated. After he tells the town, they declare him an enemy of the people.

Once declared an enemy, Dr. Stockmann is alienated from their town, as well as the rest of his family and Horster. The children get kicked out of school, Dr. Stockmann loses his job, and Horster is fired from his job as captain of a ship. Even though Dr. Stockmann did what was morally just in his point of view, the town sees that he is an enemy. His brother, Peter, only adds to the furry by siding with the public due to the fact that Dr. Stockmann has gone against family loyalty and the baths without evident “proof”. Dr. Stockmann is alienated from his community due to the fact that everyone around him has similar ideals to his brother in saying, “We dared not do otherwise on account of public opinion.” (Act 5).  To me, An Enemy of the People shows how the issue between family loyalty and doing what’s right don’t always lead to the same resolution. This play teaches a valuable lesson of standing up for what you believe in, regardless of circumstance.

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