Author Archives: vrosengrant20

Spiderman vs. An Enemy of the People

After writing my essay on An Enemy of the People, I started taking offense to the notion that “the strongest man in the world is he who stands most alone” because while I understand that standing up for what you believe in, though you may be the minority, takes courage alienating yourself from everyone does not automatically make you strong (82).  For a counterexample I offer Spiderman, though I understand being startled at how I am using a comic book character in relation to an old play by Ibsen but bear with me.  Spiderman is known not only for his powers but also for his difficulties in his social and familial life that is exacerbated by being a superhero.  Yet, Spiderman continues to care about his family and friends even when they are exposed to danger by his presence, such as Mary Jane being held hostage in each movie and Aunt May being shot in the Back in Black comic book.  This shows Spiderman’s strengths since he is willing to risk the grief of losing his loved ones and is also willing to go through the extra work of saving them in order to maintain his relationships.  This leads to reciprocation with Spiderman’s friends lending their physical strength, this usually being the Fantastic Four, and emotional support.  These symbiotic relationships prove that Spiderman becomes stronger and healthier as he relies on the people around him and continues to care for them.  Ibsen’s quote comes off as narrow-minded in this sense with how the situation where this applied was when the character was obviously right and everyone around him was either a mindless follower or the enemy.  While I understand how it takes a great amount of strength to stand alone, I do not believe that it would make you the neither strongest nor most virtuous.

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Connection and Isolation of Individual Worlds

The novel After Dark puts a lot of emphasis on the individual worlds that each person lives in, in contrast to the expansive reality that they exist within.  The surreal elements in the novel, specifically the use of the television, allow for a direct view into the isolated worlds that each character has created for themselves.  The most obvious example is the room  on the other side of the television that Eri is transported to where she cannot escape.  This represents the deep sleep that plagues her as she isolates herself from the “flesh-and-blood world” which houses her problems, including her inability to connect with her sister (109).  Thus, Eri is only able to start to escape her own world and wake up once Mari tries to reconnect to her sister  which solves the problem that drove Eri  into her own isolated world to begin with.  Mari reconnects with her sister in the same way that they first connected when they were children trapped in an elevator where they clung to each other to the point that they shared the same heartbeat.  It is there when the darkness hid the flesh-and-blood world and allowed the sisters to connect on a more personal level.  The novel may highlight the loneliness and isolation of people as they are trapped in their own individual worlds, but shows hope of an ability to connect with one another beyond the plane of reality.

 

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The Use of Sexuality by the Female Characters and Government in 1984 and A Handmaid’s Tale

Atwood’s construction of A Handmaid’s Tale takes a lot of influences from the world of 1984 in order to construct that world from Julia’s perspective.  I wished to take into account my reading of 1984 to see just how this affects the portrayal of the characters and the government in both of the novels.  Due to the length of each of the novels, I will focus on the specific aspect of sexuality and how the women use it to either connect with society or be isolated from it.  Furthermore, there is the connection of the government, specifically how they control the people, through the use or limitation of the peoples’ sexuality.  The topic of this paper owes a lot to the construction of Julia in 1984, predominantly how she is a secondary character who has the majority of her scenes focused on her sexually connecting with the novel’s protagonist.  The difficulty of this paper will come from isolating the scenes in A Handmaid’s Tale that would best contribute to how the government uses sex to isolate the people; this is due to how the majority of the novel is focused on sexuality.  Though this problem is circumvented by focusing on the following questions:

1.)    Does the act of marriage contribute to a powerful connection between the two people involved or does the government have a negative effect on it?

2.)    How does the government in each novel differ in their procedure for controlling sexuality and how does that affect the mental and societal statuses of the people?

3.)    What connections do Julia and Offred form with the people around them and does the use of sex hinder or help these connections?

 

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A Connection to the Outside World

The library of Antigua represents the possibility and hope that Antigua may look beyond their little island and see the rest of the world, thus expanding their minds so that they may see the whole of their own nation.  Kincaid mentions how the people of Antigua “cannot give an exact account, a complete account, of themselves”, a quote which contains a structure that is repeated throughout the paragraph to highlight the repetition that the natives face in their lives as they live from event to event (53).  Kincaid also uses the diction in this quote, specifically “exact” and “complete”, to emphasize the limitations that the natives face within their perceptions since they cannot understand the full extent of the horror of their situation.  The people cannot understand that they can change the island for the better because they are so isolated with nothing to strive for and no role models, or even just another country to compare.  The library is the solution to this problem as it acts as a connection to the outside world, where its knowledge allows the populace to understand the corruption in the government that they must fix.  This is demonstrated by how Kincaid is the only one shown repeatedly attending the library and is the only one to understand the problems that the island faces.  The library allows the natives the opportunity to connect with and understand the outside world in order to better their own island, but its treatment as it is neglected underscores the continued level of poverty and ignorance.

 

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The Only Hope is in the Historical Notes

The historical notes acts to create a sense of hope for the dystopian society described by Offred through use of the freedom of the future setting to take note of the people that were able to escape and tell their story.  The historical notes mentions “various Save the Women societies, of which there were many in the British Isles at that time”, thus showing the reader that not the entire world was overtaken by the Gilead regime and there were still people working for women’s rights and freedoms (304).  The historical notes also prove that the society was unable to continue and faded into obscurity to the point that future historians are left with a few articles and diaries to piece together what happened.  The author uses the historical notes to frame the story in a way that best explains the use of the first person perspective that is telling the story in the past tense along with the protagonist’s despairing and frustrated tone.  The historical notes placed after the story allow for there to be an element of hope without detracting from the tension present in Offred’s story.  The two separate tones in the novel allow the author to add hope without detracting from the danger of the regime or adding any positive elements to the society.  Their presence also leaves Offred’s fate shrouded in mystery, allowing the reader to infer whether she escaped or even received anything close to a happy ending.  The historical notes with its less suspenseful tone are able to delve into the possibility of Offred’s escape and the decline of the regime while still preserving the previous segment’s atmosphere of hopelessness and danger.

 

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Security at the Price of Freedom

A fear plagues the women of the society and that fear has led them to cling to security over freedom.  The appreciation of security is furthered by citing everything that the women are to be given “freedom from” (24).  This is most evident in some of the old pornographic films that the women were shown during their time in training with the Aunts.  The films featured “women being raped, beaten up, killed” with sound included in order to create the greatest fear and trauma in the women watching (118).  Now the women are protected to the point that they are suffocated by the security and lack the “freedom to” which they held back before the collapse of the government and decline of the birth rate.  The protagonist often flashbacks to little moments of freedom that she never realized were so precious, such as having a job and having possession of her own property.  These freedoms were steadily traded for security as the people stopped the marches, due to the men with machine guns and poor attendance, then stopped trying to escape.  The quote from page 24 highlights the transition that the society has taken from freedom to security without allowing the characters to think about what they have sacrificed by defining both as a type of freedom.  The quote is given early on, before the audience receives details on how the society was constructed, and uses the early time to show the audience the dualism present in the novel and how it affects the mindset of the characters, allowing them to continue with the suffocating and oppressive regime.

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The Apparatus as a Symbol

The apparatus from “The Penal Colony” is a symbol of an old way of life that is not only obsolete, but is now despised by the community who wishes to forget the past.  The Commandment has cut off funding to the upkeep of the machine and the people have abandoned the executions.  The Officer looks upon the abandonment as a sign that the old supporters have gone into hiding, as opposed to them moving on.  He emphasizes this with the line “There are still a lot of them, but no one admits to it” which shows a sense of denial that comes with watching so many people move on to a different life.  The short and simple structure furthers the notion that the Officer is primitive and simple in his beliefs while the rest of the community has evolved.  With the people moving on, the apparatus, with its medieval cruelty and twisted sense of justice, becomes disused and a source of shame, as evidenced by the presence of the Traveler as they yearn for his opinion.  The apparatus can only continue to work with the support of multiple people behind it, as the support dwindled to a single person it started acting up with its squeaks and noises, though it is possible to chalk that up to a need of replacement parts.  Yet, the greatest evidence would be when the Officer subjects himself to the machine; the apparatus loses its last supporter and subsequently starts breaking down.  The apparatus is not just a physical machine, but an idea and way of life that needs the support of the populace in order to function.

 

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Science Fiction and Views on Humanity

The story The Island of Dr. Moreau plays about like an old version of science fiction, before it became better known for robots and space.  The text not only has monsters, whose origins were given a reasonably logical explanation, but also delves into the philosophical questions about humanity and playing God that come with that step.  The fourteenth chapter, Doctor Moreau Explains, gives plenty of scientific background for the creation of the creatures, calling it the “triumph of vivisection” (52).  Yet, along with the new knowledge comes the philosophical questions that accompany new possibilities.  For instance, Prendick, the protagonist, says that the only reason for the need of the horror of vivisection to come to pass should be “some application” for it (54).  As the doctor of the island goes on about his discoveries, the audience is left to wonder about the importance of these discoveries and its uses, and whether those uses are worth the pain and suffering that the victims must go through.  Reading the text as science fiction leads the audience into pondering these questions due to the allowance suspension of disbelief given by the lecture on how the creatures came to be.  As a science fiction text, the audience can still enjoy the action and suspense, but are given something to think about when faced with each of the creatures.  This way, the text prompts the audience to ask questions ranging from whether the humanized animals should be given the same rights and consideration as humans to is it ethical to how this new operation can be applied in order to benefit mankind.  Science fiction allows the audience to think about topics that do not come up in daily conversation, but still lead to questions that reflect the reader’s views on humanity.

 

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The Effect of Animosity

The problems that plague the city stem from a combination of Dr. Stockman’s naivety and inability to understand how much of the town’s economy relies of the bath and Peter Stockman’s willingness to use his brother as a scapegoat in order to allow for less work for himself.  Instead of compromising, each of the brothers makes it harder for the other to come to a better solution.  Dr. Stockman starts by spreading his information before first notifying his brother and thinking about the consequences of such information.  In response, the Mayor tries to stop him by going too far by agreeing that the pollution in the Baths is all Dr. Stockman’s “imagination” (43).  This lie turns the town against Dr. Stockman and even outright refuse to hear about the scientific evidence that started the whole debacle.  The Mayor may have been the one to use slander to get his way, but Dr. Stockman is equally responsible for the issues due to him going to the press as soon as his brother did not yield to his demands.  Dr. Stockman may have had good intentions, but soon became obsessed with his own ideals and lashes out at the populace.  Each of the brothers overreact and allow their own animosities to taint any solution they create so that it devalues the opinions and solutions of the other, thus creating a cycle of revenge that ultimately destroys the reputation of Dr. Stockman and the future health of the town.

 

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Graphic and Realistic Violence Used to Traumatize and Warn the Audience

The use of violence in fairy tales has morphed into a way to warn children against bad behavior by creating a “disciplinary regime”.  The violence stops being slapstick humor once the stories start adding morals along with a level of narrative that enforces imagery.  The imagery emphasizes the graphic violence and its consequences, most evident in the Bluebeard tales.  The Bluebeard tales, ranging from the Perrault to the Grimm version, contain graphic imagery that startles and unsettles the reader causing them to remember the “bodies of several dead women hung up on the walls” (145) and “bloody basin filled with dead people” (149).  The graphic nature of these scenes because more disturbing when compared to the other fairy tales where such violence is brought about by whimsical fantasy creatures who do not exist in the real world which makes their threat inconsequential.  The Bluebeard tales have the husband, a relatively ordinary man, as the antagonist which insinuates that such a man could exist thus making him a legitimate threat.  The fact that the existence of such a man is possible, though not as probable, makes the violence in the story a way to make sure that the audience, specifically the children, remember the message and threat presented.  The violence traumatizes the characters in order to represent how important and consequential the events were, as evidenced by the Perrault version where the final sentence is there to explain how the female protagonist can possibly live on after what she had been through.  The graphic and realistic violence in Bluebeard is there to convey the gravity of the problem to the child audience so they understand and remember the warning, even if they must remember it in their nightmares.

 

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