All posts by Divya

Reflection on my writing 2020-2021

My writing has not drastically changed compared to the beginning of the year. My thoughts and beliefs align in many of my posts. One of the most prominent aspects I stand for in all my posts is women’s empowerment. I need to work on translating my thoughts into clear phrases and expand more on them.

At the beginning of the year, I focused on the plots of books and wrote my blogposts about the environment and situations the characters were in. Whereas recently, I started focussing more on the characters and how they feel, why they are the way they are. The way there are moulded into society, Etc.

I like most of my blog posts. Even though they might be unclear or lacking in some aspects, they helped me improve my writing throughout the year. To further develop my writing, I plan on reading and throughout the summer.

The Awakening: Personal Response

While discussing the book The Awakening by Kate Chopin with a few of my friends, I got many responses on how the book was boring and repetitive. I asked them what they thought about Edna’s character, and the only responses I received were that she is selfish. I, personally, thoroughly enjoyed reading the book. There is much more to the book than just a woman leaving her husband because she is in love with someone else. It is about a woman trying to find herself; it is about self-discovery and recognition. I do not see why Edna is selfish just because she is trying to be happy with herself.

Edna is not a mother-woman and has been classified as selfish because she chooses to do other things rather than look after her children. I solely oppose the point that she is selfish because she does not look after her kids like other mothers do. “She was fond of her children in an uneven, impulsive way. She would sometimes gather them passionately to her heart; she would sometimes forget them” (p. 21). Edna loved her children; the book only mentions the events over a year or two; it does not mention anything before that. We are not aware of how she treated her children before that; maybe she would have taken care of them all the time over the last few years. Edna was supposed to help Léonce with his business; she cannot possibly be present with her kids 24/7; she needs some time to herself, which does not make her selfish. Besides, Etienne and Raoul never complained of her absence; the kids were young and enjoying themselves.

Even though the book suggests that Léonce fell in love with Edna    (p. 21), it is evident that this was not the case. “Then her absolute disregard for her duties as a wife angered him” (p. 67).  It seems as if Edna was stuck in a box and was desperately trying to get out of it and be free. According to societal standards, Mr. Pontellier is the perfect husband, but he is courteous towards Edna only when she is submissive. There is a difference between her being selfish and her being confused. Now that Edna decides to do as she pleases, it is damaging to his business; Léonce lashes out and becomes angry and rude. She did not stick to her duties because she was trying to enrage Léonce, but she wanted to find her true identity. Everyone needs to know who they are. I do not see any evidence that suggests Léonce loved her, and he treats her like an employee rather than his wife.  “He was simply thinking of his financial integrity” (p. 110). Mr. Pontellier shows no affection towards Edna; he is inconsiderate and egoistic unless it regards his business.

I do not think Edna ever loved Mr. Pontellier, and so she sought love from Robert. “She could hear again the ripple of water, the flapping sail” (p. 68). Every time Edna thinks of Robert, the author changes the structure of words and makes it romantic, sensual, and calming. Thinking about him gives her a sense of freedom. She had romantic feelings for Robert, but these were never present with Léonce or Arobin. This is because Robert is everything she wants in a person, unlike Léonce and Arobin, who are self-centred. I hear many people saying that Edna cheated on Robert because she kissed Arobin. “It was the first kiss of her life to which her nature had really responded” (p. 98). This is not true because even though she had deep feelings for Robert, they were never in a committed relationship; they didn’t have to be faithful to each other. Although this does prove that she cheated on Léonce, she was not in love with him.

Edna never considered not having children because it was never an option when she got married. She wanted to have children, but she also needed time to herself. Even though Edna had to die in the end, I enjoyed the ending as well. Her suicide was not because she couldn’t handle her emotions anymore and wanted to be free from them, but because no matter how hard or for how long she fought against the ridiculous societal conventions, she would still be looked down upon and would have never gotten to be with Robert. Her love for Robert still did not change the fact that she did not want to get married or have children again; she wanted an affair. If Edna waited a while more to die, the ending would be a mess. Instead of the lovely person she was, everyone would view her as a cheater or a demented and unpleasant woman, similar to how people view Mademoiselle Reisz. Her death leaves all the characters in suspense as to why she chose to do it. The sudden ending makes it clear that no one would understand how she felt. I think the main focus of this is that Edna was not trying to achieve freedom by finding herself; she was simply trying to feel happy during the process of achieving something, and society would not allow that.

Pygmalion: Personal Response

Through George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion, we see a world represented by different English accents as a social barrier between the elite and society’s dregs. Eliza Doolittle is a poor flower-girl who wishes to behave like a lady to make her life somewhat better.  Henry Higgins thought this would be an excellent opportunity to train her to improve her grammar, gestures, and appearance. Just some work and effort would make her one of the elites in London.

Once Eliza was ready to change her appearance, it was surprising how shocked she was looking at herself; many others like her did not care about their accent or actions as long as they made enough money to support themselves. However, I don’t particularly appreciate how Higgins treats Eliza; she is a person with emotions; he should put aside his ego and be kind and behave like a gentleman, but instead treats the lower class like his objects. It is startling how he is trying to change Eliza to become a lady, but he is an arrogant bachelor instead of a kind gentleman. I found the play humourous, mainly when Higgins referred to Eliza with numerous names, specifically a “squashed cabbage leaf.” It was humourous yet quite disrespectful.

London’s citizens had established different social classes; everyone worldwide has different inflections and pronunciations, which is not bad. One of the reasons I felt what Eliza feels is because I am also someone from many other places with several accents, so I understand how difficult it is to speak in a different accent and try to fit into society. I found some parts of the play quite relatable to the Asian community. Such as when Higgins would make Eliza study until late at night, even though she was practically crying, saying she couldn’t do it anymore, he still didn’t let her give up. Higgins was not rude in this situation but simply trying to educate Eliza as she requested to become more ladylike.

I tried to connect this play to my daily life, and I realized, even though Higgins is portrayed as an arrogant bachelor, I like his character the most. He doesn’t beat around the bush, and I find my words quite similar to his. “Have a little cry, and say your prayers, and that’ll make you comfortable.” Eliza was ungrateful after all that Higgins has done for her; he said this phrase because most people cry or pray when they are upset or angry.  He did not appreciate her much; he treated her like a flower girl and not a lady. Mrs. Higgins and Mr. Pickering express that women need to be appreciated from time to time; every woman deserves to be treated like a lady regardless of socioeconomic class. Everyone must be treated kindly, regardless of gender, race, or social class.

I think what happens to Eliza after Higgins’ work is not his responsibility. She is an adult woman capable of making her own decisions and taking responsibility for her own life. I want to describe society as a mould, which requires everyone to behave a sure way to be accepted and fit in. It’s okay to be different; that’s what makes us unique; it is not wise to pressure ourselves to fit into a society filled with people judging us.

A Doll’s House: Personal Response

For me, “A Doll’s House,” by Henrik Ibsen, raised many questions about what it takes to work a marriage and why development is essential for every individual. The play focuses on patriarchal male figures and the oppression of women in the 1800s. It expresses how women weren’t capable of much other than housekeeping, mentioning their “duty” was to take care of their family before themselves.

My opinions and feelings towards the characters fluctuate throughout the play. At first, I was aware of Nora being a somewhat brave character, someone who took a risk to save her husband’s life, but as the play developed, she was portrayed as this naive and childish character. “Come here. Now I will show you that I too have something to be proud and glad of. It was I who saved Torvald’s life.” (A1. P13). It’s immature of Nora to prove herself to anyone or explain she has been through difficult times by telling them her most confidential secret. I think she might so desperately want to prove herself because she has been looked down upon for a long time. Reading through Nora’s character in the play, I realized that some of the things she says or does are infuriating. “You must be a very poor lawyer, Mr. Krogstad.” (A1. P26). She is not witty, confident in herself, or convincible; I say this because she often sobs or stutters as she presents her argument. My detestation towards Nora grew tremendously in Act 2; she overreacted to the most invaluable circumstances and became more stubborn as the play continued. “…but you could just as well dismiss some other clerk instead of Krogstad.” (A2. P36). It’s surprising that Nora only cares about herself and is ready to sacrifice anyone for the sake of her stability. Coming towards the end of Act 3, it was startling to find myself quite proud of Nora as she made a brave decision to leave Torvald. I completely agree with her because it is important to discover yourself before helping others, she finally stepped up for herself, and I am delighted with her conclusion. 

Opposite to Nora’s naive character is Torvald, an arrogant and oppressive male who cares about nothing but his reputation and career. He constantly referred to Nora as a helpless little girl, his dearest treasure (A3. P60), that shouldn’t do anything but look after the family.  “Miserable creature — what have you done?”(A3. P65). I think he tremendously overreacted when he became aware of Nora’s deeds; she was right to do what she did as she had good intentions. “a hypocrite, a liar– worse, worse — a criminal!” (A3. P66). Torvald cursed at her repeatedly but just a few minutes later had a change of heart and pretended to be the sweetest husband ever. I think he is helpless without Nora.

Nora and Torvald did not have a successful marriage as neither of them understood each other. People need to realize that women have passions too, everyone has a different way of living life, and some might choose to take other paths instead of being housewives. In the end, “A Doll’s House” is one of my most disliked plays; while reading it, I felt as if I were analyzing and solving a family dispute and playing the role of a therapist.

Letter to Langston Hughes:

Dear Mr. Hughes,

Upon reading a few poems of yours, an obvious thing I noticed was many of the lyrics were about African Americans, a dream of freedom, and black lives. During a discussion with my classmates, I understood many authors wish to write about other genres but have the need to write about world events during tough times like wars, and I wanted to know if this was a situation you went through as well?

One of my most enjoyed poetry was “The Negro Mother,” the poem was easy to understand and explained in detail; it had a clear indication of imagery and talked about carrying on the legacy of achieving freedom. “All you dark children in the world out there, / Remember my pain, my sweat, my despair. / Remember my years heavy with sorrow– / And make of those years a torch for tomorrow.” (35-38). If I ever fought for freedom, I would want everyone to remember my sacrifice and carry on the legacy of achieving the justice required, and always protect those who cannot defend themselves. Another factor I thought was influential in the poem was the belief in God. “But God put a song and prayer in my mouth, / God put a dream like steel in my soul.” (18-19). My question to you is, did everyone believe in God? and what happened if someone were an atheist?

“Life Is Fine” is one of the poems I enjoyed as it was a change from presenting the idea of the suffering of African Americans to conveying a thought about how love influences us to do stupid things. “I tried to think but couldn’t, / So I jumped in and sank.” (1. 3-4). “I though about my baby / And thought I would jump down.” (4. 3-4). The poem conveyed a profound message about the struggles gone through by all of humanity; depression. It is an excellent example of how many people view suicide as a permanent resolution of their problems than actually fighting through them.

In the end, I would like to appreciate the diverse range of poems you have written. They express the fight for freedom and justice, the injustice humanity suffers, and great strength and resilience. I wonder which poem you are proud of the most.

Sincerely,
Divya Rajpal.

Personal Response to Candide

The novel Candide by François-Marie Arouet, who is also well known as Voltaire, written in 1759, is a satirical and philosophical tale that debunks the popular belief of “the best in the best of all possible worlds.” The story was told from Candide’s perspective and initially targeted Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, a German mathematician and philosopher. The content is repetitive, and some of the themes frequently occurring are optimism and disillusion, social criticism, the hypocrisy of religion and philosophy, politics and power of justice, and love and women.  

A global issue brought up in Candide is politics, justice, and the corrupting power of money. There has been a hierarchy of powers; with money comes power, and thus, without money, the characters ought to be slaves. Candide being rich is a great irony in the novel; not only does his money help him along his journey, but it also holds him back. His riches make him a target for attentiveness and thievery. He was referred to as an ‘English lord’ because he was unbothered by his fortune loss. “Among those who did him the honours of the town was a little Abbé of Perigord.”(XX 156). His money regularly attracts false friends and helpers and is robbed several times during the novel. He listens to countless stories of miseries along his journey and awards money to the most despairing person. His behavior resembles the old woman’s to some extent, as they compare misfortunes. When we talk about how his riches helped him, it is referred to as bribery, “If the Governor makes any difficulty, give him a million.” (XIX 136). The power of money helps him rescue the love of his life, Cunegonde, from the Governor. Having money includes its benefits; for example, the noble Signor Pococurante owned a beautiful palace and lived his best life, although it did not buy him happiness. Candide was not always rich; during his poverty, he saw and caused bloodshed. After gaining wealth, the audience watches his optimism slowly turn more into pessimism. He was involved in the killings of the Baron and the Inquisitor, even though he caused bloodshed; it seemed as if he was sorrier to see his money disappear than witness bloodshed.

The global issue of politics also includes human rights and justice. People must be allowed the basic rights of freedom and speech. However, these often are neglected in the novel. Certain ethnic groups are tortured for the most stupid reasons, this occurs to a point where the audience is unable to distinguish between the reality and the comical side of the events.  “The burning of a few people alive by a slow fire…is an infallible secret to hinder the earth from quaking.” (VI 47). These are incredibly bizarre superstitions followed by the Portuguese. They established ways to torture visitors and their people for “speaking their mind” and “refusing to eat bacon.” Individuals are forbidden to speak their thoughts and tortured for refusing to eat something that could perhaps be against their religion. This point has been re-established in chapter 25, during Candide’s visit to Italy. “In all our Italy we write only what we do not think…the Antoninuses dare not acquire a single idea without the permission of a Dominican friar.” (197). Citizens are barred from having a different opinion than that of others, and if they must ⏤ they shall face the consequences.

A difference of opinions is shown throughout the novel, “Thou does not deserve to eat.” (III 32). This quotation was used by the orator while asking Candide about the Pope. As Candide was unbothered and had a different opinion than the orator, he was declared not to be served food. Our opinions are shaped through previous experiences and concrete evidence; although Candide’s was mostly constructed by Pangloss’ philosophy, it is unjust to criticise someone’s beliefs. This leads to Candide trying to classify himself as ‘just.’ “Candide asked to see the court of justice, the parliament.” (XVIII 127).  There has been no previous information for the existence of a ‘law court’ in the book. The entire world is shown to be in chaos, yet no reference has been made to a court of justice. An aspect that is confusing is, if the government refused to take action in other countries/cities, why would a parliament exist in a paradise such as El Dorado? Candide tries to initiate a just environment and tries to make amends after killing a significant number of people. “I have made ample amends by saving the lives of these girls.” (XVI 106). Candide is the type of character who would understand the consequences of his actions once he has caused the conflict. The killing of any sort has no relation with making amends of any kind. Cacambo, on the other hand, describes the chaos as “a masterpiece of reason and justice.” (XIV 93). The privileged becoming wealthier and the unprivileged becoming poorer is not a masterpiece. Individuals being tortured daily does not spark as justice to anyone. People are said to get what they deserve, but in the 18th century, this does not seem to be fair. “Why should the passengers be doomed also to destruction?” (XX 148). This represents inequality; individuals must not suffer due to someone else’s actions. Voltaire indicates this as God’s justice but the ‘devil’s mischief.’

A philosophical question raised by the novel was, is an optimistic view a practical perspective of the world? And to that my answer would be no. Not every event can be the best of all possible worlds. An individual’s life can never be the best or the worst of all possible worlds; there is always a neutral. Candide could be referred to as a ‘sympathetic hero.’ There are circumstances in the novel that impose a particular standard of power. For example, in chapter 26, six dethroned kings enjoyed supper together at an inn. It is a surprising coincidence for six dethroned kings to have a dinner together at an inn in Venice. This also proves the answer to the philosophical question. The kings were rich and powerful, but not for too long; once they were dethroned, they would live an ordinary life.

Oedipus & Antigone, Men VS Women.

Oedipus and Antigone written by Sophocles, are plays mostly about loyalty. One of the key conflicts brought up frequently is that both plays represent an unjust environment for women, this also means a state where men are considered as prevalent.  Women in the plays are treated unfairly, there is a lack of gender equality. Women’s empowerment, in the real world, has turned into a global issue for this generation.

The lack of fair treatment of women is portrayed clearly in both plays. “Remember we are women, we’re not born to contend with men.” Ismene, (II 74-75). Girls were taught not to argue, not to speak up, and be afraid of men. “If fall we must, at the hands of a man ⏤ never be rated inferior to a woman, never.” (II 759-61). This quote by Creon illustrates a male superiority and it aligns masculinity with dominance whereas it aligns femininity with subordination.  Referring to Oedipus, “But my two daughters, my poor helpless girls…” (I-1602). Oedipus makes it seem like women/girls are powerless, they should get married or have children to be ensured, they must be with a man to be protected, women without men are hopeless. I think everyone is their own individual, a lady does not need to be with a man to characterize herself.

This points to the inferior power position women hold in the society, and the pressure placed upon them from previous generations. Pressure referring to being unable to stand up for themselves and sustaining societal reforms. The issue of ‘women empowerment’  is steadily being brought more into light. Society needs to overcome their ignorant and chauvinistic ways, and accept and respect everyone for who they choose to be.