Although it is not very well known in the United States, BBC-produced Doctor Who is one of my absolute favorite television shows. The sci-fi program, which has been running on and off TV since the 1960s, centers on the Doctor and his time-travelling adventures through space. One of the reoccurring themes of the most recent series is alienation and loneliness, as the Doctor is the last surviving member of his species. The Doctor is also continually left alone due to his long life and amazing intelligence. As I finished the most recent series of the show, the Doctor reminded me of this course’s overall theme of alienation. In particular, the Doctor most reminded me of the first character we encountered in class: Prospero from The Tempest. Although these two characters are quite different, they are separated from everyone by their intelligence.
Prospero ‘s duties as duke were largely ignored because “I, thus neglecting worldly ends, all dedicated/
To closeness, and the bettering of my mind.” (Act I.ii) Prospero shirks his duties in order to learn, which leads to his exile. However, without his learnings, he would not have been able to earn his dukedom back. Nonetheless, he is still set apart from his subjects and his peers. The Doctor’s abilities also segregate him from everyone around him, as he describes that “I can feel it. The turn of the Earth. The ground beneath our feet is spinning at 1,000 miles an hour and the entire planet is hurtling around the sun at 67,000 miles an hour, and I can feel it. We’re falling through space, you and me, clinging to the skin of this tiny little world, and if we let go… That’s who I am.” (1.1, Rose). Although this isn’t book learning, the Doctor’s senses are constantly overloaded. Since he is the last of his species, there is no one he can rely on for comfort, or even conversation about the experience – he is on his own, just like Prospero.
Prospero and the Doctor have very wide fundamental differences – the Doctor is vehemently anti-slavery, for one – but they are still completely alienated. Luckily for Prospero, his intelligence is able to win him back is dukedom. As for the Doctor, we will hopefully have many more years to come to see how he turns out!
It was Jamaica Kincaid, in her essay A Small Place, who considered the problem of language and how it has the ability to control a society. She says the problem is that, “the language of the criminal can explain and express the deed only from the criminal’s point of view” (32). Changing one’s language can have the effect of removing one’s identity as a culture, giving false meaning to certain words, and ultimately leading to oppression. I plan on looking at Caliban in Shakespeare’s The Tempest and how the only language he knows is that of his oppressor, Prospero. Caliban is treated like a slave by Prospero and often uses foul language to express his unhappiness for his situation. He realizes that the only language he knows comes from Prospero; as a result Caliban becomes stubborn to improve his level of knowledge and does not progress intellectually. The main character in Margaret Atwood’s novel, The Handmaid’s Tale, faces oppression in almost everything she does. She is taught to consider her situation as a “freedom.” Also, Offred loses her real name; this last connection to her previous life vanishes as she is referred to as “of Fred,” the man whom she is sexually associated with.
To further investigate:
- What is the reasoning behind oppressing people? In the case of The Tempest and The Handmaid’s Tale, why are Caliban and Offred controlled in such a way?
- What are the psychological implications of the word control Caliban and Offred face? How do they react?
- Are there any instances in the novels where there are positive outcomes of a controlled language?
I chose this topic because the idea that the society one lives on can influence or even have complete control over the language of the people interests me. I never really considered it as a problem until I read A Small Place.
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?
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.
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.