Personal Response on The Awakening

The Awakening by Kate Chopin illustrates Edna Pontellier’s “awakening” journey, going against social convention and doing whatever she enjoys. I will discuss how Kate Chopin raises different questions and my thoughts on the book in this response.

Edna’s journey of ‘awakening’ is Edna achieving freedom from social conventions from her friends, husband, and even children. I perceive Edna’s awakening journey as her trying to find true happiness and freedom. Chopin displays this by using the ocean to symbolize her freedom. “A feeling of exultation overtook her as if some power of significant import had been given her to control the working of her body and her soul. She grew daring and reckless, overestimating her strength. She wanted to swim far out, where no woman had swum before”(p. xxx). Not only is the ocean an escape for Edna, but it also has a long history of historical importance to women’s empowerment. The moon and ocean are connected with women’s menstrual cycle, and many women goddesses, such as Aphrodite, Amphitrite, and Sirens. She even gets naked before she enters the water. This suggests that she is getting reborn. It also symbolizes she is undressing from social convention and responsibility. 

The role of being a mother is something Kate Chopin questions through Edna’s journey. I think her children are the biggest obstacle for her to be free. Throughout the story, Madame Ratigonolle often influences her on the ideal role of a mother and Edna often questions herself. “Think of the children, Edna. Oh, think of the children! Remember them!” (P.131) “The children appeared before her like little antagonists who had overcome her; who had overpowered and sought to drag her into soul’s slavery for the rest of her days. But she knew a way to elude them.” (P.127) It suggests that Edna isn’t connected to her children like the stereotypical mother would be. Some people just aren’t supposed to have kids, and Edna is one of them.

In the beginning, I was not too fond of Edna and thought she is a horrible wife and mother. I felt that she did not know how to appreciate how blessed her life was, considering that she is a middle-class, white woman. After I learned more about Edna, I thought she is a brave woman and a badass woman for going against social convention and doing whatever she pleased, especially when women did not have any authority. The process of her achieving freedom from society and letting go of the stereotypical role of a wife and even a mother was very inspiring to me. For example, should we go against social convention and do whatever we please? How would society become if we all follow Edna?

Another character that I am strongly attached to when reading is Robert. I think Robert is selfless and a true gentleman. Even if he is in love with Edna and knows that she would leave Leonce for him, he still goes to Mexico and leaves Edna in the end, knowing that it is the right thing to do. I can imagine the pain he is going through for him not staying with the love of his life and having to follow social conventions. This also shows that Robert is a victim of society. He fails to “awake” like Edna and chooses to follow what society thinks is correct. 

I found the story fascinating; however, I think the story’s ending was unnecessary and forced. Edna is presented as a strong woman and mother who does not care or give up despite society’s telling. The reason that she was so upset was that Robert had left her that night. She gives up her children, her husband, her friends and Robert, and this made me think that killing herself was selfish and inhumane. This is because she gave up her role as a mother, and the children would have to grow up without a mother and a dad that is often absent. Robert would have to live on feeling guilty, thinking that he is the cause of Edna’s death. Though I do understand why Kate Chopin would do this, as killing herself shows the amount of suffering that Edna has to bear, and she would instead give up her life than continue the suffering/following social conventions. Or killing herself is the final way of achieving absolute freedom and cutting every attachment and responsibility.

 

Pygmalion Personal Response

Reading Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw gives me a contradictory feeling towards the main characters, Higgin and Eliza. I really enjoyed the form of a well-made play in Pygmalion; the rising action of Higgins creating his “Galatea” through Eliza was exciting, and the climax was unexpected. 

Higgins is a self-centred, narcissistic, cold-hearted man by the way he treats the people around him. He does not care about anyone but himself, and whenever people point out his mistakes, he would just make up excuses or even blame it on others. At the start of the play, he is portrayed as the notetaker; he observes people not as real human beings but as objects that help him with his studies; it suggests that everything to Higgins is nothing but an experiment, and he is unable to show compassion towards people. Of course, Eliza is also a victim of Higgins’ experiment, “It’s the most absorbing experiment I ever tackled. She regularly fills our lives up: doesn’t she, Pick?” (P.43) This indicates that Higgins is only helping Eliza to fulfill his boredom. 

Even though Higgins is presented as a cold-hearted monster, George Bernard Shaw creates Higgins in a way that makes audiences have conflicting emotions toward him by being generous towards Eliza. On the surface, Higgins did not do any wrong to Eliza, and he teaches her how to become a lady as she asked. He cultures her, buys her new clothes and even allows Eliza to stay at his place. Higgins has never asked for anything in return. It is not Higgins’ fault for Eliza being attached to him emotionally. Similar to Torvald in A Doll’s House by Henrik Ibsen, both characters are viewed as antagonists in the beginning, but as the story develops, we get to learn more about the characters and acknowledge that both characters are flawed like we are all and there isn’t a real ‘antagonist.’ 

People argue that this play displays male chauvinism through Higgins. However, I do not entirely agree. Higgins did not treat Eliza poorly just because she was a woman or in a lower class. Multiple pieces of evidence show that Higgins treats people the same regardless of their gender or social class; for example, he doesn’t seem to care about Mrs. Eysnford Hill on the at-homes day and even forgets about the gentleman at the party. He even says, “About you, not about me. If you come back, I shall treat you just as I have always treated you. I can’t change my nature, and I don’t change my manners. My manners are exactly the same as Colonel Pickering.”(p.66) It is Higgins’ rude and cruel personality that causes his behaviour. Male chauvinism does not seem to be displayed by Higgins.

Eliza is emotionally attached to Higgins, this can be seen in the stage directions and dialogue between characters. For example, after the conflict, she threw away the ring that Higgins gave her but picked it up after he left. After all the cruelty that Eliza has been through, why does she still feel the need to stay? Why does she pick up the ring after she threw it away? There are two possible reasons that she picked up the ring, she either thinks that the ring is valuable and shouldn’t be wasted, or the ring relates to Higgins, and it is a symbol of an emotional bond between them. Mrs. Higgins also states, Mrs. Higgins:

“The girl is naturally rather affectionate, I think. Isn’t she, Mr. Doolittle?” “Just so. She had become attached to you both. She worked very hard for you, Henry! I don’t think you quite realize what anything in the nature of brain work means to a girl like that. Well, it seems that when the great day of trial came, and she did this wonderful thing for you without making a single mistake, you two sat there and never said a word to her, but talked together of how glad you were that it was all over and how you had been bored with the whole thing. And then you were surprised because she threw your slippers at you! I should have thrown the fire-irons at you”(p.60) 

If Eliza is not emotionally attached to Higgins, why would she get so upset if Higgins says he is glad that it is over and does not applaud her after the party? It is heartbreaking for Eliza to know that she is not as important as she thinks she is to Higgins and that Higgins only treats her as his ‘lab rat’. 

 

Personal Response on A Doll’s House

A Doll’s House by Henrik Ibsen brought up different social issues, for example, the traditional roles of women and men and the expected responsibility in marriage through characters Nora and Torvald. I am intrigued by this story because I can gain a perspective from Nora, who was in a toxic relationship. Her husband controlled her life like a doll, and finally brave enough to stand up for herself and step out of the family and break free. Even though I pity Nora that she had to suffer from being controlled for eight years, I am proud of her growth and standing up for herself. But at the same time, I feel empathy towards Torvald and think it is unnecessary and selfish of Nora leaving the family. In this response, I will justice my reasons.

First of all, from Nora and Torvald’s marriage, we can see the importance of communication. Nora has never attempted to voice her own opinion through the eight years of marriage. Act one even indicates that Nora falls into society’s ideal expectation of men and women in a marriage, “And besides, just think how awkward and humiliating it would be for Torvald – to know he owed me something. It would upset the entire balance of our relationship; our beautiful, happy home would no longer be what it is.” (P.117). From that line, it suggests that her ideal home is Torvald being the dominant one in the family and that she does not want to change that at that moment, and that it was later on, she finally realized it was wrong, and she should be treated better. Therefore, I do not think it is fair to blame Torvald for controlling Nora because they are both blinded by society’s standards and do not think it was a problem.

Secondly, at the end of act 3, we can see the change of Torvald from being what society wants him to be to him realizing his problems and is willing to change for Nora and go against the typical men and women’s role in marriage.
Torvald before:
“I would gladly work night and day for you, Nora- bear pain and hardship for your sake. But nobody would sacrifice their honour for the one they love.” (P.186)
“You talk like a child. You don’t understand the society you live in.” (P.185)
Torvald after:
“I have the strength to be a different person.” (P.187)
Torvald is also a victim of falling into society’s norms, he never realized that he had a problem, but he has shown that he now realizes and is willing to change.

Furthermore, I think it is selfish for Nora to abandon her children. I understand that she has had enough of being trapped in the relationship, but if Torvald is willing to change, why wouldn’t she give him a chance and stay for her children. Imagine her children waking up in the morning and realizing their mother has abandoned them. I think that standing up for yourself is essential, but being a role as a mother is just as important as that. People may argue that she is unable to become a good mother because she will pass on her negative traits to her children, but I think she should have stayed and worked on improving herself and her marriage and taking care of her children at the same time.

To conclude, I do not think that Torvald’s fault leads to Nora leaving the family, and I don’t blame and even admire Nora’s courage in going against the social norms. In comparison, I believe that society’s expectation of men’s and women’s roles in marriage caused this and that Nora and Torvald are both victims of it.

Personal Response to Merchant of Venice

Is Shylock the real antagonist in this play?

After reading the play Merchant of Venice, many audiences perceive Antonio as the protagonist because of the act of generosity and kindness that he is willing to sacrifice his body to lend money to his friend, while Shylock is the evil antagonist that wants to murder the rightful hero. In this response, I will discuss why I disagree that Shylock is the antagonist in this play. 

First of all, throughout the play, there are multiple pieces of evidence that Antonio and his friends treat Shylock horribly; for example, the big speech that Shylock gave,

“He hath disgraced me and hindered me half a million; laughed at my losses, mocked at my gains, scorned my nation, thwarted my bargains, cooled my friends, heated mine enemies, and what’s his reason? I am a Jew.”

Just with this speech of Shylock, we can perceive Shylock’s anger and frustration towards Antonio and that he had enough of him often treated him poorly, just because he is a Jew. 

Furthermore, the act of kindness could be perceived from Shylock is much greater than Antonio’s. Shylock is willing to lend 3000 ducats to Antonio despite calling Shylock a dog and frequently mistreating him. This shows that Shylock is willing to forgive and forget the past and resolve their dispute. 

People argue that Shylock only lends 3000 ducats to Antonio because he wishes to take 1 pound of Antonio’s flesh to take his revenge. I can’t entirely agree with this argument because, at first, Shylock was willing to lend Antonio money free of interest, “Forget the shames that you have stain’d me with, Supply your present wants, and take no doit of usance for my monies, and you’ll not hear me. This is kind I offer.” Therefore, this shows that Shylock is forgiving and willing to offer Antonio kindness. 

Other than that, I consider Shylock as a man who stands by his beliefs. Shylock could have given up on Antonio’s flesh and taken double the money that Antonio owed him, but he refused and was destined to take revenge on him. Many people would easily hinder their goals and beliefs from gaining a profit or advantage, but Shylock did not.

To conclude everything that has been discussed, I think that Shylock does not deserve what happened to him, and he is definitely not the antagonist in this play. 

Personal Response on Langston Hughes’s Poems

After reading a list of Langston Hughes’ poems, I found that his poems are genuinely impactful in spreading the impact of social and racial injustice in America, going against African Americans’ beauty and racial stereotypes and taking pride in his skin colour. Although I could not imagine how Hughes and African Americans had to go through, I can relate to Hughes as a person of colour living in a white society. Among his work, one poem that stood out to me is ‘Goodbye Christ.’ I will analyze how ‘Goodbye Christ’ differs from Hughes’ other poems in this response. 

The content in ‘Goodbye Christ’ is exceptionally different from Hughes’s other poems. Hughes usually describes his views and values through a story or a character, for example, ‘Ruby Brown.’ In ‘Ruby Brown,’ he talks about the injustice and racial problem through the pretty ruby brown girl in her town of not choosing to be either a maid or a prostitute due to her skin colour. “What can a coloured girl do On the money from a white woman’s kitchen? And ain’t there any joy in this town?” On the other hand, in ‘Goodbye Christ,’ he directly states his political standpoint and religion. “Make way for a new guy with no religion at all – A real guy named Marx Communist Lenin Peasant Stalin Worker Me – I said, ME!” From this line, Huges states that he is an atheist and even compares himself with different people like Stalin and Karl Marx; we can know his political standpoint- a communist. 

Other poems he wrote generally express the hope and optimism of the writer. For example, ‘I, Too, Sing America.’, “Tomorrow, I’ll be at the table when company comes.” When readers read “Tomorrow,” they can comprehend that he does not mean tomorrow, but sometimes in the future. This represents that Hughes hopes he will sit at the same table as white people one day. It symbolizes Hughes’s optimism and means that he believes African Americans will finally be seen as the white man’s equal one day. While in ‘Goodbye Christ,’ we can detect that Hughes is no longer carrying optimism; instead, it shows his bitterness and tiredness towards the injustice in the world. “Go ahead on now, you’re getting in the way of things. Lord.” This line illustrates that Hughes himself thinks the lord has no use in this world and has given up on him and the world. From this, we can catch a glimpse of the anger and disappointment of Hughes on the injustice in the world. Therefore, the tone in ‘Goodbye Christ’ is approvingly different from his other poems that usually carry a positive and optimistic side. At the same time, in ‘Goodbye Christ,’ he only shows his resentment and anger. 

To conclude everything discussed above, ‘Goodbye Christ’ has a more significant impact on me than his other work because of the frustration and anger emotions that he displays in the poem, and it lets readers have a glimpse of his personal viewpoint. Besides that, I have enjoyed reading Hughes’ poems because it has given me a greater awareness of racial injustice and the importance of being proud of your skin colour. 

Personal Response on Candide by Voltaire

After reading Candide by Voltaire, I think the book is bittersweet, and it leads me to wonder about the difference between the two philosophies raised in the book and how it relates to Xunzi’s philosophy. 

I found myself entertained and confused throughout reading the book. For example, the book is very adventurous; multiple events and incidents happen in just a tiny chapter. Therefore, sometimes it gets out of hand and I lose track of what happens. Besides that, satire is used a lot by Voltaire. I enjoy how Voltaire raises serious problems and criticizes other religions, cultures and books. For example, the bible is often used as a reference, “for when man was placed in the Garden of Eden he was put there ut operaretur eum, so that he might work: which proves that man was not born for rest.” (P.170). Using other books, cultures and religions as a reference can make readers feel more comfortable; it helps raise questions and opinions from the readers. But I do not have a lot of background knowledge on a different culture, historical events, and books; thus, sometimes, I will get confused and not understand the problem raised using satire. 

In Candide, Voltaire brings up two different philosophies through the two characters, Pangloss and Martin. Martin is used as a foil to Pangloss, and his philosophy is entirely different from Pangloss’s. Pangloss’s philosophy is extreme optimism. He believes that we live in the best of all possible world, and “everything is for the best.” (P.58) On the other hand, Martin is the exact opposite of Pangloss. He believes that the world is evil, expects everything for the worse, and what appears to be happy is certainly not. For example, “Until now in all the inhabitable world, except for El Dorado, I have come across only unfortunates. But for this girl and monk, I will wager that they are truly happy creatures.” 

“I will wager that they are not.” (P.90)

Martin and Pangloss’s philosophy reminds me of Xunzi, an ancient Chinese philosopher. Xunzi argues that if human nature is good or bad, he believes human nature is evil, and they are born to care about their interests. This is similar to Martin’s philosophy. Still, Xunzi believes that people can be good and selfless with the proper nurturing and teachings from teachers and parents. 

For me, I absolutely disagree with Pangloss’s philosophy. Growing up, I have always been told that it is “God’s Plans” whenever something unfortunate happens, but it still does not change the fact that it happened, and there is nothing that is beneficial. Like Candide, Pangloss would say it is for the best whenever something terrible happens. I think one of the reasons people would say everything is for the best is that they refuse to accept that bad things are happening, and it would make them feel safe thinking that it has a good reason for terrible things to happen. In other words, they are in denial. Though I do not entirely agree with Martin, Xunzi’s philosophy is a better fit to describe people; I believe that human nature is flawed, and we are born to care about our own self-interest. I agree with Xunzi that we can be kind and selfless if we have a good influence or nurturing.

Person[al] Response of Antigone by Sophocles Men Vs women

In Antigone, Sophocles brought out the problem of immense inequality among men and women. Creon forbids anyone to bury Antigone’s brother Polynices in the play, but she goes against Creon’s wishes and does it anyway.

We know from the play that women in ancient Greece were not considered people and were often looked down upon by men. We can identify this by seeing Creon regularly degrading women in the play. “Never let some woman triumph over us. Better to fall from power; if we fall, we must, at the hands of a man – never be rated inferior to a woman, never.” (P.94). Another piece of evidence is that when Creon knew about the news of someone having buried Polynices, he immediately assumed the one who did it was a man “If you don’t find the man who buried that corpse, the very man…” (P.74).

Even with all the social conditioning, Antigone still manages to go against her society’s cultural beliefs by burying Polynices; how did Antigone become so bold? Besides that, with Ismene’s reaction, we know that women fell into this negative stereotype, and if anything happens, they will stay silent, “I’d do them no dishonour… but defy the city? I have no strength for that.” (P.63). The majority of the time Ismene did not want to go against men; however, she ended up being on Antigone’s side and stood up for herself. “I did it, yes if only she consents – I share the quit, the consequence too.” (P.86). Therefore, we can see that women agreed with Antigone, but most did not have the courage.

As evident in the play, Antigone is a brave woman who is willing to stand up against men even with the social condition in ancient Greece. An example of this happening in a real-life situation is Emily Murphy in The Persons Case. In the 1920s, Emily Murphy successfully persuaded the judges that women should be considered people under the British North America Act.

In conclusion, the conflict between men and women best describes Antigone. The play displays how women were always looked down upon by men, showing that Antigone dares to go against the social norms and raise the question if the society we live in has the same problem to readers.

OEDIPUS THE KING – PERSONAL RESPONSE


In Oedipus The King, Sophocles invites readers to question if we control our fate or does fate controls us using Oedipus’s life.
When Oedipus was a prince in Cornith, he was told by prophecies from the gods that he would kill his father and marry his mother one day. (P.216) “Apollo told me once – it is my fate – I must make love with my own mother, shed my father’s blood with my own hands.” Thus, Oedipus tries to avoid the prophecy by leaving Cornith to move to another city named Thebes. But on his way to Thebes, Oedipus suddenly raged and killed a herald and a bunch of men. (P.206) Oedipus – “I killed them all every mother’s son.” Oedipus ended up being the king of Thebes, and from the later part of the play, we know that all prophecies did happen.
After reading this play, I often question if it is Oedipus’ fault for causing these tragic events to him or it is his destiny. From the background story, we know Oedipus wanted to go to Thebes because of the prophecies. He solved the riddle and became the king (P.182) “With no help from the birds, the flight of my intelligence hit the mark.” so was Oedipus actually intelligent or was it just his fate? Besides that, it is Oedipus’ destiny because he still killed his father and married his mother despite his parents and trying to avoid the prophecies by killing him. (P.208) “my son, poor defenceless thing, he never had a chance to kill his father. They destroyed him first.”
I believe or would like to believe that we can control our own fate, but from the play, Oedipus has no control over his own life and destiny even though he tried to avoid it.