Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Beloved's Reality

Who is to say what is crazy and what is not? What is right and what is wrong? For Sethe, in Beloved, no one truly can shape her morals and views. She justifies, often correctly, things that others would never even dream of allowing. Her life, her past, for that matter, is so different from others' that her reality and her "true north" is definitely different than the reality others have. The murder of her baby alone allows her a different view to the harsh wonders of life. I can guarantee that you and I know that killing your own child is harsh and usually calls for a crazy person. But, Sethe, who often seems crazy, seems to make a judgment call in that decision- death or life in a worse-than-death situation. You could only imagine how much guilt, how much anger that you would and could harbor because of a life changing situation like that. Let alone having that baby come back and haunt and then it stops suddenly, only to return in the flesh. Essentially, the point that is made with Sethe's reality is that it is flawed because of her past. Many would even argue that because she has such distinct and trying circumstances that her reality has a whole different set of morals and guidelines. After reading many books, I would argue every different reality has its own "rule book." 

Not only does Sethe have a unique reality but most other characters in Beloved have odd realities. Take Beloved herself as an example. Her only reality is that her mother killed her. She has no context, has no real reason as to why she was brutally killed. So therefore, her reality is what she knows and what she knows alone. This reality translates into her seemingly sole belief of taking life from Sethe just like Sethe took life from her. And again, she is able to justify this because in her reality her murder was abrupt and senseless.

In the end, for the characters in Beloved, their realities are what keep them from coming to grips with their pasts. It is what keeps them from riding themselves of the unnecessary guilt they feel because of the past. However, one thing that these characters do that stand out from previous books that I have analyzed is that they seem to overcome their realities, at least for a bit, at the end of the novel. Their subversion of personal reality allows them to help something and someone they long forgot. They realize that regardless of what they say or do, they have no authority over what others believe is right and wrong, good and evil, or what is "true north."

Monday, January 28, 2013

The Stranger

For Mersault, the narrator in The Stranger, what his reality becomes is his choice and his choice

alone. However, what he doesn’t realize that others, like the jury and judge that decide his

execution, are really who control his life and reality. Each person’s reality is often what they want it

to be. They never seem to sacrifice their own realities for the benefit for others. For example when

in prison and thinking about Marie, Mersault believes that Marie means nothing to him and when

thinking about how his execution would effect her he reveals his selfish thoughts:

How was I to know, since apart from our two bodies, now separated, there wasn’t 
anything that kept us together or even to remind us of each other? Anyway, after that, 
remembering Marie meant nothing to me. I wasn’t interested in her dead. That seemed 
perfectly normal to me, since I understood very well that people would forget me when  
I was dead (Camus 115).

He has no ability to suspend this reality of being able to say no to questions and offers that give rise

to opportunities that could change his life because he is selfish. Marie clearly wants a future with

him— however twisted it may be and he is unable to lie to the chaplain even if it allows a glimmer

of hope for a life for Marie. He clearly believes that it is much harder to lie than to tell the truth.

However, it is interesting that while I often focus how a character’s reality is flawed, Mersault’s

reality seems to be perfect. He has a grip on what is going on in his life. But that may just be the

issue for Mersault; he is able to be logical and rational about everything in his life that he knows

whether or not evading execution is good for others or not. He wants to avoid becoming Sisyphus

in pushing the rock up the hill repeatedly. The question in the end is which is better: being able to

give meaning to others even if you don’t get any yourself or giving up because there is no meaning.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Invisible Man

The novel Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison deals with reality in many different ways. As for our narrator, there seems to be no true reality. As is the case in all of the previous books I have examined, the way in which reality is formed is almost always different for each character .What sets the narrator apart from the other major characters that deal with reality "issues" is that they usually make their own reality whereas the narrator's reality is determined by others. This mold the narrator is placed in causes a greater conflict to arise than the situations in other novels. The narrator seems to believe that the reality he has is true. However, unlike the other people with flawed realities, it seems that by the end of our journey with the narrator, heunderstands that it is not "his reality" and is determined to make his reality his own. The narrator's grandfather warns against having a reality chosen by others when he says, "I want you to overcome 'em with yeses, undermine 'em with grins, agree 'em to death and destruction, let 'em swoller you till they vomit or bust wide open" (Ellison 16). The narrator finds importance in pondering his grandfather's last words. He professes that he [the narrator] still does not understand what his grandfather means by "yessing" them however, the audience sees that the grandfather is insinuating that the blacks that are "stuck in a rut" because they are unable to define the reality of their own lives.

In this novel, reality seems to not be what the world is, but what authoritative entities want certain characters to think about the world. Every person's reality seems to be used by another person. The brotherhood uses the narrator's reality to his advantage in order to turn the blacks against each other. Dr. Bledsoe uses the reality of the narrator's situation to give the narrator a harsh view of what it means to be black. This use of reality as a means of battle advances Ellison's argument that the reality of life is in every revolution, even if it seems to be about the people, there is always a personal gain in the end. For the narrator, reality is truly and simply the view of the world through someone's own eyes.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Henry IV

In Henry IV, each characters' view of reality is somewhat different. Their realities do not differ in that they see the world differently, but in that their goals differ and they see their situations as advantageous when others cannot see how they are advantageous. In many parts of the play, people's perceptions of the advantages and disadvantages of others' situations are turned on their heads.

For example, Prince Hal runs with the Pub Crawlers and he seems to truly believe that the hooligans in the pub are the people who he needs to be hanging around. However, King Henry, Hal's father, believes the exact opposite. When talking to Hal about his tendencies to hang around around with the wrong people and how they affect his future, the King says, "The hope and expectation of thy time / Is ruin'd, and the soul of every man / Prophetically doth forethink thy fall" (Shakespeare, 3.2). With this we can definitely see how King Henry has disdain for the situation Hal has put himself in because Henry believes that he is shirking his responsibilities to his title. Henry also believes that Hal will be at a disadvantage when he needs to show himself in the public realm. Henry compares Hal's situation to that of the overthrown former King Richard. However, the reality of Hal's situation ends up being advantageous for Hal. No one believes in Hal, but when he comes to prove himself in battle, he doesn't waver and shows others just how real he can be. He outgrows the reality others have given him and now has a reality that seems to be looking up.

On the other side of the spectrum, however, we have Hotspur. Unlike Hal, Hotspur has a beaming reality to those around him. Hotspur is a driven, organized version of Hal. Because of their age similarities and the fact that they both are in positions of authority, Hal and Hotspur are often compared. King Henry (Hal's Father) even at one point wishes Hotspur was his son instead of Hal. However, in the end, it is Hal who gets the last laugh because while he was being doubted in the days leading up to the battle, Hotspur seems to start falling apart and his reality seems to be one of a power hungry, rude person. When Hal and Hotspur go hand to hand in battle, Hal valiantly kills Hotspur. Hal's situation and reality gives him the honor Hotspur only dreamed of because he is able to run with the highest of high and the lowest of low, and still rise to the occasion.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Oedipus Rex

Sophocles' Oedipus Rex is an exemplary story with which to argue that there is truly no set reality. Each and every one of the Thebians' realities are constructed differently than the next's. For example, when Jocasta first seems to realize that Oedipus is her son, she relents in his search to find the truth, because in her reality, ignorance is better than letting Oedipus know the truth. Oedipus' reality, on the other hand, is a total flip; it is of utmost importance to find the truth regardless of how much destruction it can bring. Jocasta and Oedipus, however, are not the only Thebians who have warring realities either. Even the chorus seems to have a reality that believes there is a curse on the town, but also believes that Oedipus goes too far in reaching his own personal reality. Due to this fragmentation between realities, Oedipus Rex demonstrates the idea that there is not true reality. Everything in life is seen differently through the eyes of countless others but the decisions we make and the actions we take are so different than the next person's.

In addition to serving a purpose to argue the impossibility of having a universal reality, Oedipus Rex does a wonderful job of depicting how a reality is constructed. As stated above, everyone has different views on the same events that happen in life. This disparity in views is often caused by differences in experiences or how we construct our realities. For example, Oedipus is able to pursue the truth of his birth and fate because of his experiences: being questioned by the drunk man, visiting the Oracle, killing unknown men at the junction of three highways and many other things that set him apart from, say, Jocasta. On the opposing side, Jocasta has given birth to a few boys, driven a spike through one of said boys' heels, and left him to die because of a fate so brutal and malevolent that death was a more fortunate option. For Oedipus, knowing the truth holds promise in putting the puzzle pieces of his life together, so to speak. For Jocasta, her construction of reality and her experiences reject the idea of bridging her past because it is just too painful. No mother is usually ever able to abandon their child, regardless of the circumstances. However, it is not only Jocasta and Oedipus who have opposing constructions of reality. Every single person in Thebes had different experiences and therefore had different realities.

In my opinion, because Oedipus Rex addresses both questions based in reality, it is a paramount example of the convoluted nature of reality. But it also begs the question. If they weren't able to have a universal reality, are we as modern humans able to? Or has reality and its fundamental aspects remained constant until today?

Monday, September 3, 2012

What is reality? How is it constructed?

What is your big question? Why does this question interest you? 
     What is reality and how is it constructed? This question is interesting because everyone assumes his reality is the correct one. The issue with this idea is that everyone’s ideas of reality are different than the next person’s. For me, I have had many misunderstandings with friends and strangers alike, however, it always seems like issues arise when realities clash. For example, I may think something is the best choice in the world because through my eyes, through my reality, I think it would be a fun adventure. However, through my parents’ eyes, through my parents’ reality, the same choice I thought was wholesome, will seem much less wholesome and probably will end up as a poor choice. The difference between our realities is not just composed of the differences in our hobbies and opinions but it also goes along with experience or the lack there of and how each of us was raised. I may think eating chocolate bacon is crazy because through my eyes, through my reality, that is a gross choice in food. But my best friend loves the idea and the taste of chocolate bacon. Setting chocolate bacon aside, the real question here is there a set reality for everyone? Not total reality but a principle set of guidelines that everyone includes in there own little reality? 

What have you read in other classes that relates to the big question? Explain.
     Some books, plays, and short stories I have previously came across in dealing with the definition of reality include The Crucible, Hamlet, 1984, Little Brother, and many other works of literature. While not all of these titles directly answer the question of defining reality, they offer insight into everything reality. They deal with illusion versus reality. What reality means in different societies and also the harshness of reality. In The Crucible, illusion versus reality takes center stage when everyone in the town takes the reality of a young girl for truth. This game between illusion and reality presents itself in almost every book and is sure to be present in the coming books on my to-read list.

What movies, songs, news stories, or magazine articles relate to your big question?
     The Village is a movie that deals with reality— one in which the reality of a whole town is so flawed, it is past the turn of the twenty-first century and the town is still living as if witches still roamed the earth. Any news stories that include differing stories and opinions include a glimpse into how people form a reality and how that reality is applied to the world as a whole.  Fairytales and reality TV shows are also important places to look to see flawed realities in action.