Author Archives: tedarcher16

Commercial Asset

Murakami conveys her opposition toward commercialism in After Dark with her portrayal of Eri Asai, and her fall into a dark, lonely, and entrapping alternative universe. The room Eri gets sucked into acts as a symbol for her own inner turmoil as an objectified young woman, victimized by the shallow institution of commercialism. The grim narrative elucidates Murakami’s disdain for the industry and its effect on women.

When Eri awakes in this alternate universe, she immediately “verifies that she is her usual self: a beautiful face and well-shaped breasts. I’m a lump of flesh, a commercial asset” (Murakami 110). This indicates how sadly conscious Eri is of what defines who she is: these transitory and superficial traits. One of the most indicative statements of Eri’s desolation comes from Meri when she says “Pills and fortune telling and dieting: nobody can stop her when it comes to any of those things” (Murakami 119). Her drug abuse and obsession with fortune-telling indicates how damaged Eri is, and how she is trying desperately to fill a void. How she seeks to fill this void is how countless young women try to, by becoming these glossy photographs that have the power to draw in masses, an obsession which serves as the foundation for commercialism. What commercialism cannot seem to sell to these young women is depth. When Eri is first seen in the novel, her room is described to have only a few things, including large magazines, and “as the room’s only decorative touch, five photographs in small frames are lined up on a shelf, all of them photos of Eri Asai. She is is alone in all of them” (Murakami 26). This immediately implies that she is superficial and self-centered. When Eri is sleeping, she is described to be completely beautiful and motionless, as if she were a mannequin. Eri’s vacuity is clear from the fact that she is never given a voice in the novel except for when she is in the alternative universe, and instead she is only talked about and talked for.

Just as how a television has sucked Eri in, media continuously sucks young girls into living a vacuous lifestyle for their capital gain. With her Prada bag, magazine shoots, and “natural radiance”, it is clear that Eri is beautiful, glamourous, and loved in this reality, but in the alternative reality that functions as her inner turmoil, she is alone in this inescapable realm of commercialism (Murakami 194). From this vindictive symbolism, Murakami presents her abhorrece for an industry that manipulates young women for financial gain, as well as its influence on society to alienate bright women like Meri.


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Separation is a Liberating Quality in The Tempest and The Island of Dr. Mereau

I plan to examine how separation can actually be a liberating and empowering quality. In many of the texts we’ve covered in class, separation from society, in one aspect or another, is constructed to be a crippling feature that the characters have to endure, but I feel this concept is not absolute. I want to write about this topic to present an alternative to a prevalent standard. Separation has continuously been depreciated, but the benefits and freedoms have not been greatly addressed. Isolation is what allowed Prospero in Shakespeare’s The Tempest to be free to perfect his craft, empowering him to be able to control an army of spirits. In Wells’ The Island of Dr. Mereau, Dr. Meareau is in a similar situation, where he is on his own island, free of the laws that prevented him from exercising his passion. To present and refute counterarguments, I plan to examine the film Far From Heaven directed by Todd Haynes. The film is set in the 1950’s, when segregation was socially and lawfully still very much intact. The film follows a white suburban housewife who, after a fall out from her homosexual husband, has fallen in love with an African-American man. However, in order to remain a respected white member of her town, she ends her relationship with him, which refutes the counterargument that normality and conformity is what is best, and it presents how restricting these qualities can be.

I already know that there is a prevalent assumption that separation is feared and subject to prejudice, and that social normality seems to be what is desired. I would like to further understand:
1. Is there a cost for such freedom, and if so, what?
2. What are the factors that keep people desiring to fit in?
3. Do the pros of conformity outweigh the cons?


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Empty Promises

Kincaid includes the permanent hiatus of the library, in “A Small Place”, to expose the corruption of the Antiguan government. The government’s neglect for the library’s restoration exhibits their insatiable greed, because even though they have had every opportunity for repair, they have instead invested in more profitable establishments. This abandonment could be perceived as mere apathy, however, the library’s termination is actually conducive to the Antiguan government’s manipulative authority. Kincaid’s essay presents how the Antiguan government exploits its media to preserve their unscrupulous social structure.

Needless to say, the library is, or in the context of the story, was an institution funded and regulated by the government. It is clear that it is the government’s responsibility for the library’s reconstruction after it was destroyed from an earthquake in 1974. Deprivation of funding is clearly not an issue, which is evident from the copious markets being founded by the government, including the two main car dealerships in Antigua that are “owned in part or outright by ministers in the government” (Kincaid 7). What distinguishes these properties from the library is that they serve for the government’s best interest, profit. Libraries provide opportunities for an educated community that has acquired literacy and critical thinking skills that would aid the citizens to make informed decisions, but these benefits, however invaluable, do not include monetary gain for the state. The debased obsession for money is exemplified by the false accolade of the natives to graduate from hotel service schools. These graduations are televised to deceive the natives to aspire to for such lowly servient vocations that cater to the foreign (particularly Caucasian), rather than aiming for more meritable and empowering occupations, all for the financial prosperity of their government which capitalizes on their tourist industry.

The broadcast of the hotel school graduation is just one of the several ways the government manipulates its media to serve their best interest and conserve Antigua’s social structure. There is a great deal of symbolism of the government of Antigua from the library’s abolishment. Since its destruction, “a sign was placed on the front of the building saying, ‘THIS BUILDING WAS DAMAGED IN THE EARTHQUAKE OF 1974. REPAIRS ARE PENDING” which parallels Antigua’s motto of independence, “A People to Mold, A Nation to Build” (Kincaid 9). Both official statements imply an assurance for restoration which, after many years, has yet to be seen. Instead they seem to act as mere devices implemented to stifle revulsion from the people for their authority. By being written for display, their promises seem to be more tangible.
Another example of the government’s propaganda is how the radio will never mention other political parties that are not in power, except for opportunities for slander. This presents how the government has no reservations for manipulating the natives for their benefit, and to stagnate their culture. By silencing alternatives from the natives, there is no need for them to contest, because the natives are oblivious as to what to even contest for. This incapacity is present by the natives inability to distinguish racism. In reaction to mistreatment, the natives only think, “the people at the Mill Reef Club were puzzling.. not racist”, when they are so blatantly racist (Kincaid 34). The Caucasian foreigners try their best to separate themselves from the native Antiguans, and find displeasure when the natives are at their club as equals, not as servants. Because of the greatly similiar conditions of Antigua under colonial rule and self-governing rule, this social principle has been so ingrained into their culture without any alternatives that the natives do not consider this racism because they have no ability to comprehend what racism is.

The library is a symbolic and objective device for Kincaid to expose the corruption and greed for the Antiguan government. Just as the building is decrepit, with no opportunity for progression, the integrity of the government has fallen, devoid of expansion.

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It could happen…

Humanity’s stress of history derives from the ramifications it has on the present, as well as model of what to avoid for the future. By including the “historical notes”, Atwood anchors a grim sense of realism to her story. These professors have names that are unfamiliar to the present, such as Crescent Moon and Piexioto. Piexioto establishes that the Republic of Gilead was demolished, and by doing so, Atwood dismantles any preconceived notion that civilization can remain static, no matter how perfect it may seem. This was dabbled in the book by the insinuation of Offred being a part of contemporary United States of America, which by a series of realistically possible events, get overthrown. Nationalism and social esteem cannot keep a country from changing. There is an instance where Professor Pieixoto elicits how the polygamy practices of Gilead derived from “early Old Testament times and in the former state of Utah in the nineteenth century” (Atwood 305). Here, Atwood presents how tangible this aberrant behavior can be, because it was something actually practiced in humanity for ages, instead of just being a work of Atwood’s imagination. The professor goes to to say that Gilead acquired racist policies that were “firmly rooted in the pre-Gilead period, and racist fears provided some of the emotional fuel that allowed the Gilead takeover to succeed” (Atwood 305). This racist quality was common, and was what advanced such detestable events in history, such as slavery and the Holocaust. Even though this is a work of fiction, Atwood manages to relate the disquieting story to that of non-fictional events to arouses a discomfort for how conceivable these events could occur, deriving from events of the past.


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Lay the Law

The Laws of Gilead, in Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, are well calculated to be as manipulative as possible. This particular passage establishes the rhetoric of these laws that consistently develop as the story progresses.

The syntax itself is conducive to the laws of Gilead. Aunt Lydia speaks in short, concise statements that offer no room for rebuttal or explanation, asserting the idea that reasoning for these laws are extraneous to the peons, and one must simply obey authority without question. Aunt Lydia also exploits misleadingly connotative language when she says “in the days of anarchy” (Atwood 24). The past existence was not an anarchy, yet Aunt Lydia still chooses to employ this term to arouse disdain for their former lives. This implication is conducive to the way Gilead propagates their laws and ideals. For instance, while watching the news with Serena Joy, Offred makes note of how “They only show us victories, never defeats” (Atwood 83). This news is misleading the viewers to believe how perfect the Gilead military is, yet if there have only been victories for this long, it does not seem likely that there should even still be a war. It demonstrates how the Republic of Gilead edits their projections to their benefit with no regard for integrity.

When Aunt Lydia vehemently says, “Don’t underrate it”, there is a commanding tone (Atwood 24). This instills a sense of duty to the women, and that they have to fulfill the demands of their authority. The severity of the statement also implies how there are dire consequences for transgression. It is clear how effective this domineering quality is from Offred’s mentality; she is often times presented opportunities to disobey the law, even in minute instances, like reading her “FAITH” pillow, yet she is always frantically conscious of the penalties (Atwood 57).

Aunt Lydia claims “Now you are being given freedom from”, as if their present existence was vouchsafed to them (Atwood 24). To be given something reaps gratitude, and implies that there is recompense to pay, which is how Gilead keeps the women from revolt. It is actually absurd that Gilead should be considered the benefactor: the republic has taken from these women their families, their identity, and their livelihood. Aunt Lydia’s “freedom from” idea is an oxymoron that presents the absurdity of these laws. “Freedom” is to be limitless, yet “from” implies that there are boundaries that is keeping something away. This presents just one of the numerous undermining discrepancy of Gilead, and foreshadows the impossibility to follow such absurdities.


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The Machine is Obsolete

Tradition can be unifying, sentimental and comfortable, but for Kafka’s “In The Penal Colony”, it is presented to be unreasonable, morose, and outdated. The apparatus of the colony is a symbol for tradition, and its destruction embodies the decrepit and catastrophic nature if not reviewed.

In the beginning of the story, The Officer of the colony, who was also the late Commandant’s assistant, zealously explains the logistics of this punishment machine that his Commandant invented. “Here in the penal colony I have been appointed judge. In spite of my youth. For I stood at the side of our previous Commandant in all matters of punishment, and I also know the most about the apparatus” (Kafka). This indicates that The Officer was appointed judge because he was trusted to uphold the values of his former Commandant, the founder of the colony. The late Commandant symbolizes the instability and dispensability of tradition. He is dead and buried, and even mocked by some. The former Commandant’s death exemplifies how feeble tradition can be and how irrelevant his ideals are to the contemporary society he is no longer a part of.

The apparatus itself is portentously complex, reminiscent of medieval torture, and boarding on ornate for such a gross function. Even more undermining is the cryptic framework of the machine, which the explorer finds completely illegible. The ramifications of the excessive materials and the archaic design indicates how esoteric and unreasonable this tradition is. What is keeping the late Commandant’s outdated machine going is the blind loyalty of the officer to tradition. The machine’s crumble elicits how unstable and detrimental upholding archaic tradition can be. The Officer’s decision to fallaciously embrace this unreasonable tradition by placing himself in, triggers the destruction, and asserts Kafka’s petition for social progress.


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Science Fiction can Augment the Horror

I read Wells’ The Island of Dr. Moreau as a piece of Gothic literature that applies science fiction for the horrific qualities characteristic of its genre. The harrowing tone and diction establishes the Gothic qualities of the story, supplemented by science fiction terrors to heighten the trepidation.

The Gothic influence is evident from the horrific tone and diction. For instance, after the death of Moreau, Prendick explores the setting for Dr. Moreau’s vivisections, and he begins to describe the pile of woods that hosted the surgeries: “They seemed to be gripping one another in one last revengeful grapple. His wounds gaped black as night, and the blood that had dripped lay in black patches upon the sand. Then I saw, without understanding, the cause of the phantom, a ruddy glow that came and danced and went upon the wall opposite” (Wells 85). The connotations of his diction and the dark tone, heightens the horror that is idiosyncratic of the Gothic genre. This disquieting construction of The Island of Dr. Moreau is supplemented by science fiction. The science fiction element expands the capabilities of terror with its ability to implicate new forms that, in the context of the story, are real and conducive to science’s limitless possibilties. The island is inhabited by subhuman beasts created by Dr. Moreau. They possess claws, teeth, speed, and strength capable of killing men. When Prendick first encounters these subhumans, he is aghast: “What on earth was he – man or animal? What did he want with me? I had no weapon, not even a stick. Flight would be madness” (Wells 30). His fear not only derives from the beasts’ physical capabilities to assault him, but also their complete foreignness. This not only adds dimension to the horror, for psychological terror is now implicated with physical terror, but it also situates the novel in the Gothic genre. The horror construct of the novel is not just augmented by science fiction, it also supplements the science fiction itself by exhibiting the corrupting power of scientific progress when it is void of ethical limitation. Dr. Moreau feels justified for his vivesections by claiming that “this store men and women set on pleasure and pain, Prendick, is the mark of the beast upon them…the thing before you is no longer an animal, a fellow-creature, but a problem… The study of Nature makes a man at last as remorseless as Nature” (Wells 56). Dr. Moreau is villainized for being jaded to mutilation and his lack of natural sensibilities. This allows the examination of the enthralling quality of progression, and the corruption and apathy that associates the quest for perfection.

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Corruption’s Domination of a Fallen Society

I found An Enemy of the People to be a piece that reproaches and examines corruption and how it impacts society. Peter Stockman, the mayor of the town, is morally debased for his opposition of cleaning the Baths, even though a great deal of people have and will continue to fall ill from it. The makers of The People’s Messenger are also subject to corruption, for even though they are a “liberal-minded independent” press, they cater to the general public and only print what the people want to hear for their company’s financial gain (Ibsen).

Peter Stockman is not only the mayor of the town, but Chairman of the polluted Baths, which allows the opportunity for favoritism. Ethically, Peter should have no partiality for the benefit of the Baths, yet, instead practicing his authority for the good of the people, he contests to have the Baths avoid the scandal and the expenses for repair, even if countless people fall ill. The play also suggests that even if the costs of repair were not so high, Peter would still allow the waters to remain polluted if it meant denying to his brother, Dr. Thomas Stockman, that he was in fact correct all along. In Act I, on the subject of his brother, Peter disparages him by saying “Oh, ideas yes! My brother has had plenty of them in his time–unfortunately. But when it is a question of putting an idea into practical shape, you have to apply to a man of different mettle,” which elicits the innate aggression between them (Ibsen). Later in the act, Thomas states “I wrote opposing the plans before the work was begun. But at that time no one would listen to me” (Ibsen). If Peter were to consent to his brother’s claims, it would be catastrophic for his esteem in the town.  For Peter Stockman to allow his company’s waters to remain poisoned for the sake of his pride and the wealth of the company exemplifies the level of corruption that can reside in a government, and it instigates a level of cynicism from the reader, as a citizen under authority.

The play does not just expose how political corruption can form, it also examines its relation to society. Peter goes to The People’s Messenger and influences the editor and the printer from releasing Thomas’s exposé. It did not take much for Peter to recruit them; The People’s Messenger is not unfamiliar with corruption. The People’s Messenger makes claims of being a “liberal-minded independent” press, however, they cultivate their issues for the sole purpose of commercial gain, even if it may be misleading or  common exploitation. For instance, Billing hires Petra to translate a book about “a supernatural power that looks after the so-called good people in this world and makes everything happen for the best in their case–while all the so-called bad people are punished”, which contradicts everything the staff of the paper believe in. To respond to Petra’s refusal, Hovstad sates “Well, but that is all right. That is just what our readers want” (Ibsen). The hypocrisy of The People’s Messenger exemplifies how ubiquitous and manipulative corruption can be. As a respected form of media, The People’s Messenger’s perversions can trickle down to the bourgeois.

With corruption present in the government as well as the media, the people of the town are easily swayed to allow countless people to fall ill for their own financial gain, all with a sound mind. That is why I feel Ibsen is presenting an examination of corruption’s presence and domination in society.

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The Assertion of Obedience

I have to disagree with Tatar’s suggestion that Beauty and the Beast contrasts Bluebeard. Both fairy tales are generally constructed with a beautiful young lady giving herself to a disfigured man that has a deep secret and lives in a castle. And aside from their analogous construction, both have profound assertions promoting spousal obedience, fortified by positive reinforcements or adverse punishments.

In De Beaumont’s Beauty and the Beast, Beauty not only saves her father’s life, but also her own life for her obedience to Beast, and inherits wealth, a palace, and a comely husband. Straparola’s The Pig King has Meldina, Straparola’s Beauty, who is also spared from death and given riches by being docile and reverent to the pig prince, despite his horrendous exterior and foul idiosyncrasies. The extravagant rewards for these subservient Beautys implore the importance of spousal obedience.

The Bluebeard tales may not carry as much positive reinforcement as Beauty and the Beast does (aside from the wives being deluged with riches simply for their hands in marriage), primarily  because each version of Bluebeard centers an infidelity. However, the emphasis of spousal obedience is still present. In Perrault’s Bluebeard, Bluebeard’s wife breaks her promise to her husband by opening the very room he instructed her not to, and for this she can only throw “herself at her husband’s feet, weeping and begging his pardon”,  but to no avail, Bluebeard has every intention to kill her (Tatar 146). Bluebeard’s wife does escape death only very miserly, however, the sisters of Grimms’ Fitcher’s Bird are not as fortunate, for their infidelity to their husband beckons their mutilations. Punishment for disobedience is not exclusive to Bluebeard; there are several versions of Beauty and the Beast that carries punishment for infidelity, which bolsters their similarity. Urashima, the anomalous Beauty for Urashima the Fisherman, is given a box from his Beast, Turtle, who specifically instructs him not to open it, and yet he oafishly does. Urashima is negatively punished for his disobedience by being forever separated from his love Turtle; all “he could do was gaze after her then pace weeping along the shore” (Tatar 68). Meldina’s sisters in The Pig King suffer even far worse for their infidelity: the pig prince strikes them with his sharp hoofs and drives them into their breasts so that he kills them (Tatar 44). Not only do these instances of punishment fortify the importance of spousal obedience, but their presence in both frameworks exemplifies the congruence between Beauty and the Beast with Bluebeard.

Beauty and the Beast and Bluebeard present different methods for conditioning the reader, however, both stories have the same judgment to reinforce. Bluebeard resorts to more adverse punishment, while Beauty and the Beast dons more positive reinforcement, however, is also know to involve punishment. Either way, both stories are vindicating the importance of spousal obedience, which therein lies the similarity that Tatar seems to disregard.



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Separation/Isolation causes a need for order

When there is no civilization, when there is no government, then order is in deficiency. William Shakespeare’s The Tempest and Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe greatly parallel, in that both stories center around separation, and the dismantling of order that ensues. The characters’ isolation on their islands means there is no longer a proper government for them; they are now without law for protection. This loss causes the characters to no longer harbor their innate sense of order, allowing a constant fear of the unknown to surface. Upon Robinson’s arrival to Trinidad, following his sudden gratitude for his survival, Robinson’s mind begins to fret over the possibility what he may encounter, so much so that he “saw nothing but death” with the constant fear that he should “be devour’d by wild beasts, muther’d by savages, or starved to death” (Defoe 51). Robinson’s fear from his unfamiliar surroundings begins to engross him, such as the instance where he finds a man’s footprint in the sand, to which he tirelessly spends days trying to fortify his adapted defenses, even with years of no other signs of savages (Defoe 112). Alonso’s crew develops a sense of fear, not so much of savages, but of the spirits and their machinations. The fear that these characters harbor are conducive to the lack of order that arises from separation. Separation has forced Robinson and Alonso’s crew into an existence that is unfamiliar, they are no longer under the provisions and safety of civilization and government, and their reactions to their similar tribulations are exemplary of man’s natural need for order.

The protagonists of the two stories react to their isolation in a correlative manner. Both Prospero and Robinson harness the supernatural for their needs, although, these needs greatly differ. Defoe writes that Robinson was never a very religious person, as he claims that he “rejected the voice of Providence”, and his actions preceding his isolation indicate that Robinson was a rather callow, stubborn young man (Defoe 66). In the midst of his afflictions, however, Robinson begins to read the Bible for his need of emotional solace: “I daily read the word of God, and apply’d all the comforts of it to my present state” (Defoe 82). Robinson’s isolation has left him lonely, hopeless, and disquieted, leading him to find order in a being that he cannot see and cannot hear, yet manages to instill a sense of reason and protection in him. Prospero’s exploitation of the supernatural is less amiable. His needs comes from his insatiable need for power and revenge, leading Prospero to acquire magic. Prospero’s manipulates his magic to enslave spirits and the uncivilized to do his bidding. The sense of order Propsero seeks from his separation is not that of being governed, like with Robinson, but being that who governs.

Robinson’s affliction renews his faith in Jesus Christ, and he adopts a new set of ethics. Prospero’s separation also gives rise to a new order for him, for in the end he leaves the island humble with a newly acquired capability for forgiveness. The island not only serves as a plot device for the two stories, but also establishes an realm for examination of separation and isolation’s effect on the human existence, in that, it can dismantle the man’s sense of order, and how this privation however, this destruction can lead to rebirth of order.


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