All posts by Megan

Personal Response to The Awakening

The Awakening by Kate Chopin was a ground breaking work of fiction at the time, and heroine Edna Pontellier was a controversial character. She shattered a lot of nineteenth-century gender stereotypes and standards. Her rejection of her status as a mother and wife was one of her most surprising behavior. Kate Chopin eventually reveals her rejection, but motherhood is a key theme throughout the book.

Chopin gives Edna two foils to be focused on and compared to, Adele Ratignolle and Mademoiselle Reisz. Adele Ratignolle and Mademoiselle Reisz are what the men in Edna’s life compare her to and from whom they derive their hopes for her. Edna, on the other hand, sees all role models missing and realizes that the existence of independence and autonomy she desires is incompatible with society. Rather than idenifying herself independantly, she is identified by her role as Leonce Pontellier’s wife and mother of Raoul and Etienne Pontellier which cause her to struggle against the social and natural constructs of motherhood. The inevitability of her destiny as a male-defined being drives her to desperation, and she decides to end her life the only way she knows how.

Edna’s awareness of her natural role as a mother and woman, along with the social role she is supposed to play, causes her to commit suicide. “Think of the children, Edna. Oh think of the children! Remember them” (p. 131), Adele says to Edna before leaving the Ratignolle’s the night of the birth. Edna’s conscience is invaded by Adele’s appeal, which becomes the deciding factor in her decision to leave her new life behind. The idea of sharing her body with another person, of becoming genuinely a part of something other than her individual self, is fundamentally opposed to anything Edna has been seeking. Raoul and Etienne will be a persistent presence in her life, she realizes, and her innate position as a mother keeps her from living without them. After all, a woman’s primary responsibility is to raise her children to adulthood, and they, in essence, give meaning to her life. Edna refuses to spend the rest of her life as Raoul and Etienne’s mother, as well as Leonce’s wife.

She understands that doing so would mean sacrificing herself, which she vowed she would never do. “The children appeared before her like antagonists who had overcome her; who had overpowered and sought to drag her soul’s slavery for the rest of her days” (p. 136). Edna refuses to be bound by its natural and social labels, and she commits suicide in order to save it from these constraints. Edna’s embrace of death is a regeneration in itself. Edna’s enlightening summer in Grand Isle has reached nine months, and her fetus-self is about to be delivered. “…and for the time she stood naked in the open air, at the mercy of the sun, the breeze that beat upon her, and the waves that invited her” (p. 136).

Edna accepts her rebirth as a way to relieve the burdens of adulthood. Edna pines for the innocence of children, who are blissfully unaware of the pressures of producing children and their fixed social positions. By encouraging herself to forget her life and immerse herself in death, Edna lets go of the concerns that nature and society put on a woman. Society were the two most powerful forces trying to shape Edna Pontellier into the woman they desired, but Edna is eventually able to break their grip by her suicide. Raoul and Etienne had power over her soul, reminding her endlessly of the torture of childbirth that nature demands of her. Leonce and society owned her soul, telling her to be submissive, to keep home, adore her children, and keep up appearances, but it was Raoul and Etienne who imprisoned her soul. Edna’s passion for identity and self-definition stopped her loving her children and announcing that she would give up nearly anything for them, but her desire for individuality and self-definition led her to her deathly rebirth.

Personal Response to Pygmalion

Pygmalion is a modern retelling of a classic story by George Bernard Shaw. His protagonists struggle for freedom and justice for women, and his plot points are anti-classist. George Bernard Shaw’s play Pygmalion deconstructs and re-contextualizes the original Greek myth of creating the ideal figure, placing it in the social and political context of 19th century England. Eliza’s transformation represents Pygmalion sculpting Galatea out of ivory, and Shaw’s commentary is already present in this action. Mr. Higgins proposes this project as a gamble, with no clear hope of carrying it forward. When Eliza arrives at his house the following day, he only accepts the job if money is guaranteed. Mr. Higgins’ knowledge of phonetics replaces Pygmalion’s sculpting capacity, and Mr. Higgins ostensibly triggers a transition in Eliza as a result of this knowledge. Eliza’s transformation, on the other hand, is very different from Galatea’s sculpting.

Pygmalion alone is responsible for the development of Galatea. From the ivory block, she emerges completely developed. Eliza’s transition is dynamic and multilayered, in contrast to her simplistic conception. She must not only adjust the way she talks, but also the way she appears and dresses. Of course, Mr. Higgins is too busy to help Eliza with her bathing and dressing, but he does share his understanding of grammar with her. Also, Eliza’s abrupt shift in voice isn’t completely down to Mr. Higgins’ work, as a careful reading can reveal. Eliza is transformed by her own experience and dedication, as well as Mr. Higgins’ knowledge and instruction. Another contrast in the development is that, while Eliza appears and sounds noble, she does not speak as one. Her vocabulary is always a little rough, and the subjects she addresses are a little inappropriate. Her transformation is warped, and she never completely comprehends the beauty represented in Carlos Parada’s story. Eliza’s dismissal of Mr. Higgins leads to society’s current feminist understanding of women. Of course, this plot point differs dramatically from that of this novel, in which Pygmalion and Galatea fall in love and have a child together. Mr. Higgins is dismissed by Eliza because of the various ways he mistreated her in the play. The scenes after the ball, where Eliza passes for a lady of the upper class, have a significant influence on Eliza’s character. Eliza is anxious about the future. She no longer knows where she belongs and wants more, and she is terrified of losing everything she has achieved as a result of her transition. Mr. Higgins dismisses her fears, believing that her issues will be fixed by marriage. Eliza leaves a life with Mr. Higgins in the play’s final scene because of his inability to regard her with kindness or dignity. This is a simple feminist understanding of Carlos Parada’s “happily ever after” story.

Why does Galatea think for Pygmalion and want to be with him? Since it was not the point of the play, this issue is unlikely to have occurred to the ancient Greeks. The modern reader, on the other hand, may wonder who Galatea wishes to be and whether Pygmalion is a good fit for her. In his novel, Shaw attempts to answer these questions. Pygmalion, he concludes, does not genuinely love Galatea; rather, he loves himself, his work, and his abilities, and thus is undeserving of Galatea’s love. How could a man who hated womankind to the point of inventing his own love be able to love even that woman? And then there’s the matter of how any woman might be doomed to the destiny of living with a man who despises women? He can’t love her, and no woman should be treated this way. Eliza’s abandoning of Mr. Higgins concludes the deconstruction, claiming that Galatea’s character is an impossibility; since every woman has power over her fate, she must leave the man who will only destroy her life.

Carlos Parada’s plot is totally reframed in George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion. He employs a modern setting of 19th century England to critique the notion of making the ideal woman, putting it under the scrutiny of feminist criticism. He analyzes the various interpretations and consequences of each plot point as he deconstructs it. He deconstructs the narrative and then reassembles it using critical feminist philosophy as a guide. Pygmalion examines a text that only embraces the dominant male view on certain issues in order to answer questions of male-female relationships and the female right to choose.

Personal Response to A Doll’s House

Role play appears to be the norm of the in A Doll’s House. Rather than being their own selves, the play’s protagonists pretend to be someone that others wish them to be. Nora is the one who stands out the most as a character whose acting is almost perfect, to the point that she seems to have two lives. Nora gives the impression of an obedient, money-hungry, immature wife to the viewer. Nora seems to only want money from Torvald in the first act. She does not waste much time in asking for money after telling Torvald what she just got for their kids in their first meeting. Even when asked what she wants for Christmas, she says money. Torvald treats Nora as though she were a child or even a horse, which is revolting, “my little songbird shan’t go trailing her wings now. Hmm? Is my squirrel standing there sulking?” (Page. 111). He seems to be conversing with a little girl. And he says it while handing her money, making their exchange feel like a grown grandfather handing money to his precious, beloved young granddaughter. Nora seems to be more of a cherished possession than an equal partner in marriage as a result of all of this. Nora is introduced to the reader as a simple-minded, faithful trophy-wife in this way by Ibsen. The audience is unaware, however, that this is just Nora’s position in the household.

Nora seems to finally grasp what she has seen and what needs to be done at this stage when Torvald is furious at her for what she has done when he discovers the debt he ows and Nora’s forgery. She now recognizes that she has not been herself since they have been married. She claims, “When I look at it now… I’ve lived by doing tricks for you, Torvald. But that was how you wanted it.” (Page. 182). She realizes now that she has become nothing more than a source of amusement for her husband, who will make her dance for him. And, as much as Torvald may have chastised her for her immature actions in the end, Nora points out that it was for doing the tricks and acting like a doll was what he admired in her.

Nora justifies her decision to leave the house by claiming that she has to think more about herself “But now I intend to look into it. I must find out who is right, society or me.” (Page. 185). Nora is now portrayed as a calm, conscious human being who understands that not everything one is told must be followed. She recognizes that there are aspects of culture and its traditional beliefs with which she may disagree, and which may be incorrect. Torvald then offers to teach her, but she declines because she realizes she must educate herself, or at the very least away from him. She also mentions that they never spoke serious things, which she thinks is why she believes he isn’t qualified to teach her, as well as the fact that he has looked down on her since they met.

Nora appears as a self-assured, strong-willed woman who knows just what she wants. Nora is not only Ibsen’s way of showing women’s strength of character, but she also helps to show women as human beings on par with men. Nora also mentions that, aside from the misconception of women as the lesser sex, some aspects of society. Nora’s presence in a double life demonstrates much of this. On the surface, she appears to be a sweet, fun doll to her husband, father, and even her friend Mrs. Linde, but it is only after they hear about her secret life that they begin to admire her for more than just a pretty girl. Nora can use her second life to show that she can work, that she can deal with a lot of pressures, and that she can do whatever she puts her mind to. This secret life is what eventually leads to her being saved from the doll house, as she refers to it, and encouraging her to research and think freely about herself and society.

Personal response to The Merchant of Venice

The Merchant of Venice is an enthralling Shakespearean play with a cast of compelling characters. Shylock, it must be noted, has the audience’s concentration from beginning to finish. The reality that Shylock is a Jew living in a Christian-run city is the most important aspect of his personality. These Christians despise everything Shylock adores and cherishes. They despise the fact that he is a money lender, and his religion holds him in low regard. When Shylock is defending himself, he delivers the play’s most prominent monologue. Any Christian character in the play has a negative attitude toward him. A “misbeliever, [a] cut-throat dog and spit on[his] Jewish gabardine,” they call him (1.3.106-107). Shakespeare, on the other hand, does not portray Shylock as just a survivor. In reality, Shylock’s defense of his predicament is one of the most stirring and thought-provoking speeches in literature. “I am a Jew. Hath not a Jew eyes? Hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions? Fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases, healed by the same means, warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer, as a Christian is?” (3.1.52-57).

Nevertheless, he can be a profoundly nasty character with all his admirable humanism. His own daughter resents him, takes advantage of others’ economic hardships, and mistreated his servant, Lancelot. He is concerned about the missing money as his daughter runs away, takes money and jewels with her, hoping that she was “dead at [his] foot and the jewels in her ear,” (3.2.79-80). What makes Shylock so interesting is that learning how to respond to him is very challenging. As one closely studies the play, one learns that Shylock has several important motivations to act as he does. While he treats Antonio despicably, without reason, he is not as we have seen. The latter has “spat on” him, “spurned” him, and “called [him] dog.” by his own admission. In comparison, Antonio is completely dismissive of the complaints made by Shylock. “In fact, he even goes as far as promising to do the same again, “I am as like to call thee so again, to spit on thee again, to spurn thee too” (1.3125-126). The idea that he accepts an all-consuming hate fueled by a need to gain revenge at any cost is what makes Shylock’s character so interesting, “If I can catch him once upon the hip, I will feed fat the ancient grudge I bear him” (1.3.41-42).

As a result, in order to beat Antonio, he devises a heinous scheme. Since Shylock’s plots are exposed, Shakespeare disturbs the reader once again, and he is brought to justice. The play spends a lot of time discussing the philosophy of justice and the quality of grace. When Shylock, on the other hand, puts himself at the hands of the judge, Christian justice is revealed for what it is. “Be assur’d, thou shalt have justice more than thou desirest” (4.1.313-314). In the heartbreaking courtroom scene, we see a serious abuse of judicial power. Shylock is forced to abandon his faith and give Antonio half of his wealth, with the other half going to the daughter who betrayed him. Despite his crimes, the sight of a broken and almost destitute Shylock remains difficult to bear. Shylock is an interesting character for me because he evokes so many contradictory emotions in me. I was disgusted by his botched assassination of Antonio, as well as outrage and pity at the scene of the crime. Despite the fact that the play is titled The Merchant of Venice, it is mostly about Shylock, the Jewish moneylender.

Letter to Langston Hughes

Dear Langston Hughes,

Towards the end of May in 2020, a police officer’s video of an African-American being choked to death in May prompted riots to flare up across America. When demonstrations started in the US after George Floyd’s death, the Black Lives Matter movement gripped the world.

Many differences exist between the topic of your poem As I Grew Older and the Declaration of Independence. The injustice against colored people born in America today remains one of the most important aspects. The Declaration of Independence guarantees such unalienable and God-given rights of all Americans. Your poem, on the other hand, expresses the exact opposite. It contains reality. You can clearly read between the lines in the second and third stanzas that all of these personal rights, such as “life,” “liberty,” and “pursuit of happiness,” are not true for all people living in America, the so-called “land of limitless possibilities.” The Declaration of Independence also states that not all Americans follow the constitution. It is as if you were subjected to true discrimination and racism. Many of your hopes and aspirations were overshadowed by these issues, and you were unable to really experience the American Dream. Martin Luther King mirrored this central theme used in the Declaration of Independence. In the final stanza, there is a historical reference to Martin Luther King.

“My hands!

My dark hands

Break through the wall!” (6.24-26)

I see that you are attempting to break free from this system, that you are trying to solve all of your problems, as well as the nation’s problems, in the same way that Martin Luther King tried to do. As a result, the promised rights of liberty and life do not apply to all Americans. Similarly, the “desire” is unfulfilled. This right is guaranteed by the Declaration of Independence, but how can anyone live a happier life if they are discriminated against by citizens of their own country? The “can-do” spirit disappears as well; one of the most critical aspects of the American Dream is possessing a pioneering spirit, a deep desire to achieve all of one’s goals. Unfortunately, much as you had to suffer, this “can-do” mentality disappears as someone is unable to live up to his own nature.

“I lie down in the shadow.

No longer the light of my dream before me,

Above me.

Only the thick wall.” (4.19-22)

These are the reasons I can see why you denounce the United States of America and therefore the American Dream so strongly in your poems. You want to be “free at last,” as anyone should, and as Martin Luther King put it in his “I Have a Dream” speech.

Owing to the killing of Breonna Taylor, a medical worker, rage and indignation were already brewing. On March 13, Taylor was murdered in a police raid that got out of control. Police said they had a warrant to search Taylor’s apartment for two suspects who were going to sell cocaine from her apartment to prosecute. Kenneth Walker, Taylor’s boyfriend, fired a cop in the leg after the police broke the door off his hinges. The police replied by firing five times at Taylor. Detective Brett Hankison, one of the cops who has been shot since then, is alleged to have blindly fired ten bullets into the apartment.

The campaign saw an uptick in interest in 2020 with the revival of Black Lives Matter in global headlines in the midst of global protests.

The world is revolving for the better. I am thankful to have had your poetry to further understand how it is and how is shouldn’t be.

Thank you,

Megan Siu

Antigone: Modernism, Law vs. Individual

Modernism? We prefer to create public order as a political tool, a philosophy that helps us to control the brutal forces of nature that threaten us. In this sense, a reductive instrument that helps prevent us from being overcome by the overwhelming complexities of human social life. Such demarcations are much less simple than all characters imagine. Creon suppresses the requests of the nether gods, one-sidedly stressing his devotion to the town and rejecting his duty as a dead member of his kin to Polynices. Not only does Antigone reject Creon ‘s public rule as the only way out of confusion and suffering, but also the private role of Creon as the head of the integrity she wants to protect. For both, the distinction of public and private is the basis for more separations of friend and adversary, spiritual and mortal, just and unjust; as it turns out, however, their one-sided solution to these problems tends to be at least partially defective, when both Creon and Antigone close their eyes to substantial details and situations that escape their schematic ways of thought.

With that being said, the defeat of the main characters of the play does not decide that it is with wrong to ‘separate rule.’ The imaginary divisions and demarcations of law are, for the Greeks as for us, the only manner in which law can expect to bring order to the anarchy of nature. The goal set by the Chorus is to look for the virtues of separative law while remembering that the art of division of law itself is a natural force. Separative law may be an invention of man, but it does not mean it is not a natural occurrence. In his valiant attempts to transcend nature and better the human condition, we undoubtedly say women too, man and as moderns. These contrivances have given us immense advantages but can also result in our demise. As artificial law takes on an unnecessarily rationalist nature, the dangers of our greatness loom big, not only drawing more or less artificial lines and categories but absolutizing its artificiality and fully ignoring its own identity as a natural power.

One-sided resort to separative law’s artificial divisions and generalisations ruins human existence even when it attempts to protect it from other powers’ devastation. No feasible solution is offered by an unbalanced focus on contextual particularity; a legal structure that depends unilaterally on unreflected personal morality is required to collapse in its coordinating role. It would eventually be important to negotiate with the remains of justice. The play leads us ever less to any unheroic ‘middle path’ in which human grandeur is rejected in lieu of a life in the shadows that is wretched and insignificant, preserved by the gods but unseen by posterity. Instead, the Antigone of Sophocles makes us mindful of our precarious state in which we are bound to make use of law and politics as rationalistic instruments that elevate us at once but threaten us in that elevation. To support us in our human lives, managing and nurturing wild nature and shielding us from its harsh powers, we founded our legal orders and cities. We are continually and ultimately at risk of losing ourselves in our hurried efforts to become the rulers and possessors of nature, now guided by the complex legal and political systems we built to assist us in the first place.