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
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.