All posts by Trevor

A human, on a planet, who is alive.

The Awakening: Releasing from Middle-Class Mediocracy and its Restriction on Desire

The Awakening by Kate Chopin published 1899 is a dramatic novel which elicits various topics concerning the societal obligations which many of us are confronted with. An obligation in the context of the society of the people in this essay is a requirement which seems completely obligatory from the view of the public, however, is indifferent towards whether it applies to the person themself. It could be constrictive, or deconstructive for the person, as they either align with or misalign with certain conformities. To demonstrate this, is the example of the lead character of this book, Edna Pontellier, who exhibits the struggles, and the blessings, of middle-class life. She pushes against the barriers imposed upon her way of life, forming new ideals and uncovering new lifestyles, ones that fill the void of her suppressed passion. Then the integrity and stability provided by society falls away, and Edna finds herself breached and despondent, now confronting a new set of problems within her moral self, the uncertainty of who she wants to be. Therefore, we see how societal standards provide, yet take away, from our psychological proficiency.

Edna, due to her role as wife of her family, has her duties to maintain the structure and image her family holds. “If it was not a mother’s place to look after children, whose on earth was it?”, (Ch. III) Edna is expected to cater to the satisfactions and demands of her children. “’Why, my dear, I should think you’d understand by this time that people don’t do such things; we’ve got to observe les convenances…’”, (Ch. XVII) where Edna is told she cannot be absent for her in-home day, where neighbours and friends stop by to visit: “do such things”, and that she must follow the regulations of propriety: “observe les convenances”. Her peers do not attempt to interpret how such expectations would not be fair to her, her husband Mr. Pontellier expects her to upkeep the form and function of their family, society would require her to maintain prim and proper relations, to be consistent in her behaviour, to show ‘class’. “’Why?’ asked her companion. ‘Why do you love him when you ought not to?’” (Ch. XXVI) The social expectations afflicted upon Edna are evidently without her input, therefore apply pressure to restrict her character and sense of being.

Such inhibitions to her sense of being, disallowance of her own expression affected Edna on a psychological level. “She could not have told why she was crying. Such experiences as the foregoing were not uncommon in her married life. They seemed never before to have weighed much against the abundance of her husband’s kindness and a uniform devotion which had come to be tacit and self-understood,” (Ch. III). Edna realizes that she severely lacks self-satisfaction and begins seeking spiritual outlets away from her monotonous life, building a new sense of being, “…Mrs. Pontellier was beginning to realize her position in the universe as a human being, and to recognize her relations as an individual to the world within and about her,” (Ch. IV). Things of freedom, wandering, free of constraint, “The voice of the sea is seductive; never ceasing, whispering, clamoring, murmuring, inviting the soul to wander…” (Ch. IV). Edna was finding she was opposed against all social constructions, segregations and structures on how to behave. She despises elements of the middle-class life like marriage, “The acme of bliss, which would have been a marriage with the tragedian, was not for her in this world.” (Ch. XXVII) An interesting exposition of Edna’s changes come from chapter seven, showing for one of the few times throughout the novel, the interior thought patterns of Edna, “Mrs. Pontellier was not a woman given to confidences, a characteristic hitherto contrary to her nature. Even as a child she had lived her own small life all within herself,” and “she felt she would take her place with a certain dignity in the world of reality, closing the portals forever behind her upon the realm of romance and dreams.” These quotes are significant, for they tell us in which specifically the changes in personality Edna undergoes. Even as a child, she experienced both sides of her conflict in personality, inhibiting her desires and passions, while holding fantasies of “romance and dreams”. It is possible that Edna truly desired her dreams at a younger age, however she may have been influenced by opinions of figures of society, to want a married “romance”, and dreams “money and respectability”. She would have stymied her true desires for fake longings, and it is arguable of that being responsible for her sense of confinement. Evident is how society causes a deficit in mental health of its subjects, causing internalization of feelings, and loss of sense of meaning.

Edna begins feeling passion again, finding things that speak to her person, doing wonders for her attractiveness, “…from the listless woman he had known into a being who, for the moment, seemed palpitant with the forces of life. Her speech was warm and energetic,” (Ch. XXIII). It would seem with following her passions, contradicting society, Edna’s vibrancy of character and appeal to be around grows, showing how being the way she wants worked amazingly for her, and for her health. Unfortunately, where happiness may come from flouting the law, reality still comes crashing down to ruin it. We begin to see how Edna begins feeling the oppression of society, “There was with her a feeling of having descended in the social scale, with a corresponding sense of having risen in the spiritual,” (Ch. XXXII). While having risen in the spiritual sense includes higher senses of happiness, it also involves deeper senses of sadness, of and regret. “It was not despair; but it seemed to her as if life were passing by, leaving its promise broken and unfulfilled,” (Ch. XV). “The present alone was significant; was hers, to torture her as it was doing then with the biting conviction that she had lost that which she had held,” (Ch. XIV) Edna regrets losing the stability, security provided by society, for when following passion, it requires strength, as there are no barriers preventing from being lost, or run over, or veering off in one direction, so to speak. Mme. Reisz, a friend, speaking to Edna said, “’The bird that would soar above the level plain of tradition and prejudice must have strong wings. It is a sad spectacle to see the weaklings bruised, exhausted, fluttering back to earth,’” (Ch. XXVII). Although interpretable in multiple ways, this quote coincides with what afflicts Edna, for with following her lust, she came upon the difficulties imposed by being independent from a society that imposes an alternate lifestyle. Edna soars “above” tradition, which is a formidable thing to do, as it involves avoiding being “bruised, exhausted, fluttering back to earth.”

It is eventually society which ended Edna, for while benefitting from breaking free of her chains, she found that there was naught in her world which she still desired. “There was no one thing in the world that she desired. There was no human being whom she wanted near her except Robert; and she even realized that the day would come when he, too, and the thought of him would melt out of her existence, leaving her alone.” (Ch. XXXIX) She lost her passion, personified by Robert, her long love throughout the novel. A void replaced her passion when she lost her potential of being with Robert, and that I would argue is what strove her to end her life. I am bewildered by how she would decide there is no passion elsewhere to discover, yet countless I regard her decision justified, for in the realm of emotion only figurative ideas can form decisions. The most logical conclusion is to say she found not enough in the world for which allowed her to be the way she desired, “’But I don’t want anything but my own way. That is wanting a good deal, of course, when you have to trample upon the lives, the hearts, the prejudices of others…’” (Ch. XXXVIII). The irony is that before, coinciding with social standards, Edna had felt she was missing an element in her sense of being, same thing after she changed, “Despondency had come upon her there in the wakeful night, and had never lifted,” (Ch. XXXIX). There are perils to both sides, and perhaps both sides lack an element the other side has. It might be, if Edna had persevered and continued to live, she would have pursued a more balanced lifestyle, one allowing expression of her passion while also giving her the foundation society provides.

The conflict of person vs. society is a common trope, not only in stories, but also among us in the real life. What The Awakening may have taught us is that there are benefits to being a stable and ‘respectable’ old-fashioned middle-class style personality, or a rebellious and free-spirited one. We all seek freshness, freedom of expression, yet we take up relationships with those we love, and follow routines. This is indeterminable by external factors, I would say, for the truth of what convenes best to us is found within, therefore makes little sense, and requires time and discovered understanding to eventually be able to answer. Often when we are young, we choose to break free from the society, to live free, without our parents, on the road. Then we return after a while, sit down, get a job, live stationary. This is a common observation, yet is the opposite in Edna’s case, who had spent much of her adulthood without the necessary step of already having explored her will for freedom. I would argue the massive shock of having all this longing to be free thrown at her may have been a bit much for her, for through understanding and following it, she went to the opposite extreme of where she was before, through the severity of her feeling. That is why I regret her death, and wish she would have seen through the extremity, to return perhaps to a place a better emotional stability.

The Awakening elicits many inquisitions on the nature of the human mind, making us wonder how we are influenced by the world we live in, and how that affects how we choose the way we wish to be. The novel gives one of the most in-depth expositions of the cognitive strife involved in breaking from an old way of being, for going ‘free’, like in many stories, showing in detail what type of incentives were required for Edna to break from society, and the influence that had on her. Edna enjoys no longer conforming to society’s expectations, yet by leaving the security of society, she faced the risk of losing her willpower and strength to be different, “’The bird that would soar above the level plain of tradition and prejudice must have strong wings.” Therefore, the benefits of living conservatively, or freely, have their opposites benefits, and it is forever debatable which side is best to follow for anyone, and how we should go about approaching our lives between the two sides.

Pygmalion: On Events Creating an Opposite Meaning than is to be Expected

In Pygmalion, what strikes me most is how the events of the play create an opposite ending than what would be expected. Professor Higgins constantly shows a lack of respect towards Elisa Doolittle, therefore giving the notion that by the end of the play, Doolittle would leave Higgins. However, how Doolittle reacts to Higgins at the end of the play is opposite to that, showing that instead the improper behaviour Higgins shows was actually liked by Doolittle.

When talking to Doolittle, Higgins says that she wold be better off living a rougher life and to leave him, “Can’t stand the coldness of my life and the strain, go back to the gutter! […] You find me cold, unfeeling, selfish, don’t you? Marry some sentimental hog…” (1938). Higgins is insensitive when talking to Doolittle, and uses rude language to push his point. He rudely points out to Doolittle that he rescued her from her tough life in the “gutter”. He shows a lack of care and compassion, which would make Doolittle want to leave him.

Higgins has empathy, yet shows it only when he must, and otherwise chooses to follow ethical goals in a rude way. Higgins’ long-term goal is to help Doolittle become confident and independent, and to do so treats her poorly, often getting angry at her. “Take one step…I’ll wring your neck! […] Eliza, I said I’d make a woman of you, and I have. I like you like this” (1938). In reality, Higgins likes Doolittle and wants her around. He acts roughly, for that is how he prefers to talk, and he wanted Elisa to be able to put up with that, and for her to return it too.

Bernard Shaw brings up the question of why Doolittle and Higgins end up liking each other through juxtaposing behaviour with intention and outcome. Shaw does this by characterizing Higgins as a perpetually disrespectful and incosiderate person, and Doolittle as a sensitive person. However, the true intentions of Higgins become clear to Doolittle, and she realizes that he is a person who cares for her. Therefore, by Higgins acting roughly, he meant to toughen her up, not to hurt her.

03/01/21, The Motivations of Krogstad

In A Doll’s House by Henrik Ibsen, the character Krogstad is supposed to be the main antagonist in the story. Superficially, this is true because what he does in the story works against in both action and incentive against what the main character, Nora, is trying to accomplish. When Nora’s husband Torvald was ill, she was forced to find a way to raise money to allow Torvald to vacation to warmer climates to regain his health. Out of lack of option, she was forced to borrow that money from Krogstad, however this was an unsavoury option since Krogstad and Torvald are strong enemies. Torvald and Krogstad had known each other since childhood, and as adults ended up working at the same bank business. Krogstad loathed Torvald’s high salary and his higher ranking job at the bank, while Torvald loathed Krogstad for his previous crime of forgery and disrespectful demeanor towards Torvald. This conflict worsened when Torvald became head of the bank, and decided to evict Krogstad from his job.

Krogstad, in Nora’s favour, decided to threaten to inform Torvald that Nora was indebted to him, and that Torvald can’t evict him. Torvald is severely opposed to any form of credit or debt taking, believing it shows an unethical use of money, something he is willing to enforce to extreme measures. Therefore, Krogstad is portrayed as the bad character, for trapping Nora in a very difficult position and exploiting their transaction in a way that most benefits himself, which would take away the stability of Nora and Torvald’s relationship once Torvald uncovers the plot. He seems not to care what happens with Nora and Torvald, showing no compassion or thinking about other perspectives rather than his own.

Is Krogstad a bad person? That is probably not true. Krogstad has suffered lots during his life. His true love, Kristine Linde, chose to marry a rich man instead of him, making him feel despaired. Somehow, supposedly Krogstad widowed a wife a while later, yet kept two children he had with her, inciting that it was probably his wife that left him instead, for he kept the children. Krogstad was then in financial difficulty and was likely forced to resort to forgery in order to produce the money he needed. He was however discovered by the law, and had to run away, probably moving with his children to the town where Torvald and Nora live. In the film rendition of the play, we even see Torvald’s house, a poor ramshackle flat with little decoration. Hardly comparable to Torvald’s home, a well-furnished, embroidered, and ornate multi-level large house. Even more, being in trouble with the law, Krogstad’s options for finding new jobs were few, and he would find difficulty climbing the social ladder to respectability, something he desperately wanted.

Therefore it is hard to condemn Krogstad, for he has been disenfranchised from love, wealth, comfort, and reputability. Torvald however, has all four. Torvald, as a stickler for the law, does not realize the law did not ensure equity, but only justice. Krogstad, stuck in a hard place, was inhibited by the law and its believers to regain his stance. Therefore, he felt justified to exploit his contract with Nora to secure his job, or else he would lose his flow of income.

The character Krogstad portrays a common theme throughout society: condemnation of the poor, and the hypocrisy of the rich. Rich people, although they may be equitable in how they get their money, are damaging to more unfortunate people through being blind to their suffering. Their ignorance to these people is something that has always been around throughout history, from feudal kingdoms to the Soviet Union. The rich live off the backs of the poor, who are not defended by laws to ensure how well off they are. So although at first glance Krogstad may seem as an inconsiderate and exploitive person, further inspection shows that he is simply struggling to survive like many people before and after him. The law is not going to help him, therefore he disrespects it and its believers and chooses to enforce the safety of his job through the contract with Nora, even if he must cause some damage to other people in order to get there.

Trevor Van Dyk English: PR to MoV 14/02/2021

The constituents of what provides us life satisfaction are complexed. In one position is the allocation of love, honesty, and sensation, while opposed to power and possession. What belief is applied variates with the person, who draws their decisions from experience. Experience is the driving factor of our characteristics, and I believe, is both conscious and unconscious. What defines experience is that which defines truth, although based substantially on the unconscious; the intangible, the impossible to conceptualize. The manifestations of this complexion display in our life activities. What drives us to love is unknown, neither to appreciate art. Contrarily, the drive for wealth is evident: it provides the means to exact more influence over one’s environment. Therefore, we inhabit a world where alternate incentives pull at our longing for improvement. These forces require different philosophies and fulfill opposite qualities in our sensation of experience.

Love is infinitely unique and is subject to influence by any other of the human qualities. A theme in The Merchant of Venice, is love versus trust. Lorenzo rescues Jessica from Shylock, so breaking Shylock’s trust for her love. Gratiano gets engaged with Nerissa spontaneously, in about one page worth of dialogue, giving no time for development of trust between the characters. When Bassanio loses Portia’s ring, the symbol of his commitment to her is lost. In each case, trust shows no prevailing purity, undermining what pure love should be like.

Is devotion to a person ever fully authentic, and stabilized? Certainly not. The power dynamic in the marriage between Portia and Bassanio comprehended all Portia’s wealth would go to her husband. “…her gentle spirit commits itself to yours to be directed as from her lord” (III, ii, 163-165). Portia dedicates herself to her husband. Take example how Shylock treated Jessica, how he would constrain and inhibit her liberties. Equality and complete altruism in love is likely impossible and cannot be found. Every romance has faults and discrepancies, limitations that make it not wholly in consensus.

Understanding love is very frequently corrupt, perhaps a balanced outlook on love vs. money would be the human requires both. If one has too much love, they experience the pressure of liquidating said love, or if one possesses too much money, as in Crassus, member of the Roman Triumvirate and richest man of the classical world, felt when he bought two legions and crossed the Euphrates to attempt conquering Parthia. Certain humans pursue the path of culture, art, love, while others pursue that of power, and wealth. Yo-yo Ma had business as a cello player, however found no love in just that.

The largest distinction between art and love, and power and wealth, is that the former investigates the meaning of truth, and the latter of harnessing that which is tangible. One invokes inquisition, the other of mastery. In essence, I would believe both are vital. Art is the realm of both. When one follows art, they employ meaning with resonance, and skill and practice. One can approach it as the mastery of a medium, and as a canvas on which to investigate. It even distributes the allure inquiring on aesthetic has to a wide audience, that they can respect individually and give power and money towards the creator: the celebrity.

In that understanding, art is as corrupt as money is. To try and elevate from the impure lust for prosperity, for the purity of investigation, is to give up on practicing, improving—beautiful exploitation. Perhaps the virtuous person is one who recognizes both concepts, the tangible and the uncharted, and employs them to reach resonance. To obsess on achieving pure love, then switch to having the ultimate wealth, and recycle, is not how to be, yet it is to embrace both simultaneously. Ambiguity is undeniable with where the equity is, how one should choose between power and explanation. Perhaps the reason why so many, if all people spend all their life striving for this goal shows how complexed, complex, and how variable our complexion is. If that is so, then no doubt is the reason why love is so fickle, rare, and unfortunate.

Dear Mr. Hughes,

I request of you an opinion on a matter dear to me, of which I find no resounding, nor over-arching, resolution. As one, whom one may say, is naturally inclined to tinker with the weight of words, persuing the most arbitrary word compilations, perusing meaning where there might be none. In actuality, countless if meaning was in fact intended by an author, what if meaning has no truth? no firm basis in resonance? Mr. Hughes, I shall allow you to interpret as you will what meaning there is in preceding sentences.

Now I am not here to bore you with fickle matters of no value, at least I hope, and hope you find too. You have received many letters, from my mutual classmates/peers. I hold no doubt certain among such have irked your interest, or instead your irritation. Perhaps some have conveyed a formal and literal message, while others a powerful, or emotional, and figurative message. I yet hold no doubt that said letters have swayed you alternately from I (for I have too read them). Furthermore, I hold no doubt how you have interpreted the qualities of said letters has congrued with your meaning of value in literature, if certain assertions within literature are more worthy in value than others, and if the form shows merit in conjunction. Although, I understand your analysis of literature is much developed and refined over years, full of sway and rhythm, power and sensation. And I know the style forming your literature is unique, fresh, inventive, it follows the identities you have developed in the literary world.

So I ask you to ponder: what makes “good” literature? What do you look for/what does it need? Are the requirements for literature different from piece-to-piece I wonder? If so, I wonder if the meaning behind literature is much larger than imaginable, if it really is the realm of possibility? Yet the confusion is pertinent, for I understand that lots of the power in your prose is based on your dream of better life of minority classes. Therefore, is literature a figment of the real world, forever tied to our experiences? Mr. Hughes, I would love to know what motivates you as a person to write literature, and to know what you seek as you write literature.

Sincerely,

Trevor

Candide by Voltaire: On the Meaning of Life

Time and time again, I, and certainly a large portion of people, confront the question of why we exist, and consequentially, what goals I should strive for to be happy in my life. And this is a theme which permeates throughout Voltaire’s book Candide, presenting itself as a form of irony which reinflicts itself upon the main protagonist Candide.

Candide is perpetually in a limbo of justification. He worries endlessly: am I acting morally? Especially, is this world morally positive, or anarchically tendencied towards indifference and suffering? These two opposing standpoints are reflected in Candide’s companions Pangloss and Martin, Pangloss advocating our ability to alter fate is benign and that destiny is not found, but predetermined, while Martin advocates an indifference about the world, where empathy is immaterial and suffering is the quality of life. Candide is always limbo between these two schools of thought, swaying from the belief of Pangloss’ “best possible world” when events proceed in benefit to him, while in times of suffering and remorse, he would resort to Martin’s beliefs.

However, and this I believe is where Voltaire’s opinion illuminates itself, is the irony underlining this whole dilemma. In Candide, no resolution is found in travel with Martin nor Pangloss, and events contradict both philosophers’ teachings. With Pangloss’ teaching at heart, Candide’s love Cunegonde is kidnapped from Thunder-ton-Tronckh, he encounters poverty in the Netherlands where he finds Pangloss withered and permanently blemished, and even Pangloss is hung following a misconceived condemnation via lynching of his party during the Spanish Inquisition in the book. Whereas for Martin, his cynicism falls short in determining what happiness really means for us, his advocation of life as being eternal misfortune is refuted by this statement, “‘Let us work without reasoning,’ Martin said. ‘It is the only way to make life bearable.’ (p.119)”

Additionally Voltaire’s own ethos may be used to affirm this resolution: “Doubt is not a pleasant condition, but certainty is an absurd one.” And this one: “Faith consists in believing what reason cannot.” Voltaire did not know why Pangloss nor Martin’s beliefs were wrong, yet his school of thought was that there is doubt in the world, and Candide’s questioning on what the world should mean is a situation of such.

I am unsure what to conclude from reading Candide, as the effect the book has upon me is unclear, however one thing is definite: whatever Candide was searching for in terms of resolution he did not find, and that this resembles the real world in how things have no inherent meaning and that truth is probably not what it seems. To address a certain perspective: some may argue Cunegonde was the resolution Candide was looking for, but can that really be true?  I don’t know if love is the answer to happiness, if happiness can easily be that simple; maybe even happiness is not the answer to life resolution. And this is what I mean when I say Voltaire’s irony. Therefore, the best conclusion I can have, along with Candide: “…we must cultivate our garden.”

The Odyssey: Notes on Fate and Suffering

Prevalent in The Odyssey are the topics of Fate and Suffering. Questions are raised about what forces control our fates, and what the origins of the events that cause our suffering are. The reader is given insights into the common ideologies of the time, and the motivations of the characters to behave in certain ways. Take as example their belief in morals, and how they affected what their fate, i.e., the gods’ opinion about them, were prevalent in the book: (Fitzgerald, 1961) “Young friends, no mortal man can vie with Zeus. His home and all his treasures are for ever. But as for men, it may well be that few have more than I. How painfully I wandered before I brought it home! Seven years at sea . . . But while I made my fortune on those travels a stranger killed my brother, in cold blood,—tricked blind, caught in the web of his deadly queen. What pleasure can I take, then being lord over these costly things? How gladly I should live one third as rich to have my friends back safe at home!” (p.55-56)

This is how Menelaos, richest of the kings at the time of the story responds to Telemakhos’ comment on his splendor rivaling that of Zeus’. He begins by rejecting that statement, then differentiates how he is merely a mortal, rather than Zeus who would live forever. He then states the obvious: he may be the richest man alive, however he contrasts that with the humble sufferings of his life, and how he is no different from any other person who suffers; his wealth comes from the common place of suffering. Instead of using it to widen the social difference between he and poor peasants, he talks about how it was events of the world which led him to being wealthy, and events of the world to which he is forever in debt for his wealth. Through this quote, it can be interpreted Menelaos believes the world is somewhere of unfair suffering, where we are all victims of a malicious culpable world that executes suffering unjustly. Then to ratify this statement, we can see how Odysseus, for no apparent reason except fate, ended up stuck on Kalypso’s island for seven years, or how Paris, son of king Priam, chose to take Helen back to Troy, igniting the Trojan War. Menelaos shows humility in how he understands himself to be part of a much larger and stronger world, of which he has no control. Then, a situation occurs where Menelaos is justified in showing contempt, rather than empathy:

(Fitzgerald, 1961) “Intolerable—that soft men, as those are, should think to lie in that great captain’s bed. Fawns in a lion’s lair! As if a doe put down her litter of sucklings there, while she quested a glen or cropped some grassy hollow. Ha! Then the lord returns to his own bed and deals out wretched doom on both alike. So will Odysseus deal out doom on these. O Father Zeus, Athena, and Apollo!” (p.63)

In his response to Telemakhos’ description of events at the great hall on Ithaka, Menelaos denounces the suitors and threatens them with suffering. Instead of generousity, he conveys anger and repulsion at the notion, and uses demeaning language by reference to as if they were courting a doe’s sucklings, implying that is all they can and are worth to court. Then he appeals to the gods of justice, Zeus, Athena, and Apollo, to be ratified of his own statement. This example of morals—how others should be treated—is very different from the previous example of Menelaos denouncing his own valour, empathizing with the common people. It represents how it seemed just worthy to bear commonality to people who seemed well-intentioned, whilst others deserved scorn. And, arguably, that is still the case in modern times, as we, as people, choose to befriend those who we deem morally similar rather than those who our principles conflict with. However, the stark difference from The Odyssey’s ancient Greece and our own world is how there exists a divine law of the admirable qualities in a person, rather than the unmonitored and unsolidified qualities we, in the modern world, possess.

In The Odyssey, fate and suffering are determined by the will of the gods, as expressed by random events, prophecies and omens, and direct or indirect appearances by the gods. People must conform by the acceptable social standards of politeness, or they are punishable by the gods. In The Odyssey, anyone who acted against moral principle went to the fields of Asphodel, while the good-natured others went to the heavens with the gods. What was determined to be good-natured was rigid and unrelenting. That way, fate was directly based on how people comported themselves in life. Whereas suffering happened even to the best of people, like Odysseus, however it was the response to suffering which could be determined admirable or unadmirable, which in turn determined the person’s fate. If one kept genuinity and humbleness through their life experiences, rather than becoming bitter and revengeful, like the suitors, would likely be rewarded later by the gods, as in Odysseus’ case. In our modern world, though, there is no fate. Our will to behave morally and admirably is instead based on social rules and interpersonal respect. It is less likely our decisions will have as dire consequences as they would in The Odyssey, nor will they condemn us after we die. However, we still suffer identically to characters in The Odyssey, and the only thing we can blame for causing it is the world. Likewise, our approach to overcoming suffering, profiting from our experiences, and sharing kindness to others through everyone’s commonality under this absurd world stays the same. Although the world of The Odyssey is drastically different, holding divine forces and concrete social laws, our world is fundamentally similar, and what issues afflict us, and the basis on which we live among each other, are still the same. Throughout time, even as beliefs change on the source of fate and suffering, these issues are still core to who we are as human beings. It shows how it is impossible to understand: Why do we suffer?, and what is good and what is bad?

DP English Literature 1 – Reflection on “Paradise and Death”

“Paradise and Death”, written by Eric MacKnight, expresses how the main character, Odysseus, pursues the goal of happiness in the book “The Odyssey” (by Homer). MacKnight brings up many points about how “The Odyssey” is a compelling series of books in how it makes you reflect on life and what its meaning is. All good literature contains big questions, and MacKnight’s essay talks about the big question “Who are we?” and provides evidence how this big question makes “The Odyssey” a compelling and insightful book, even to us, in the modern era.

MacKnight talks about how there were “…six opportunities to [for Odysseus] escape from his troubles: the land of the Lotos Eaters; Kirkê’s island; the Seirênês; Kalypso’s island; the three days swimming at sea after his raft is destroyed by Poseidon; and Phaiakìa.” (P.2) He then goes on to explain how each scenario offered a different way for Odysseus to spend the rest of his life. He explains how the Lotos Eaters offered a drug-induced euphoria, Kirke’s island offered a life of banquets and sleeping with Kirke, the Seirenes offered a life of living in the past, the three days at sea offered death, Kalypso’s island offered immortality, and Phaiakia offered a life of comfort and splendor. MacKnight then elaborates how each scenario offers a form of death, as a certain form of pain would be eliminated from Odysseus’ life and because we need pain to feel happiness, Odysseus would cease to be happy. A life without happiness, he argues, is a form of death.

My greatest takeaway from “Paradise and Death” is that underlying literature there are regularly big questions that you wouldn’t realize are there. I would never have thought that Kalypso’s island was a place of death until the class discussion we had talking about how all the plant life on the island was symbolic of death. It also would never have crossed my mind that Phaiakia would be a form of death, even though I understood Odysseus’ reasoning to go back to Ithaka (to see his home). I think MacKnight’s writing is excellent because, even though it uses simple vocabulary and sentence structure, it explores really compelling and resonant ideas that I would never have thought of before. These ideas are put plainly by him in his essay, and they benefit from that because they make you clearly understand what “The Odyssey” is really about.

Antigone: A Convergence of Exclusionary Righteous Opinions

No one, I am convinced, has ever been able to be totally correct in their opinion. Our entire lives, we strive to correct our existential perspective to align with whatever we consider the most ‘authentic’, however such ideology is always ill-founded: we revise what we previously considered affirmative, or yet what we perceived as the truth is refuted by most other people and their respective ideologies. No one can say, ‘it is best to try and achieve our highest potential, becoming the best person we can be,’ since such a statement might be ill-founded with the makeup of our existence/universe. Perhaps, we would achieve a higher flow state, where we receive higher enjoyment (for reasons unknown, some greater energetic force perhaps), by releasing our life aspirations and living with what is around us, seeking happiness not from achieving greatness, however from the everyday sights and simple tasks of a ‘free’ life. Who knows? But what is for certain, the human psyche is perpetually self-correcting, drastically or minutely. And that, I believe, is the underlying theme for Antigone.

As an opinionated person, I naturally sided against Creon, whom I deemed a ‘fool’. It is interesting, I admit, how easily one can write off another’s opinions. Creon was ever so rash as to place sturdy empirical evidence behind his own intentions, firstly accusing his sentry of treason, then to firmly wish his niece dead, and accuse the other niece likewise, or to disavow the gods, brush off Tiresius’ prophecies, to not sense the heart of his people the citizens of Thebes, or to be as satanic as throw away his son’s true love. Whereas I may use a word such as ‘satanic’ to describe his actions, it is impossible to contradict one’s sense of justice. Creon likely considered his law was best for running Thebes, as it benefitted his personal biases and that as he was the best man to rule his country, being all ‘selfless’ and ‘sympathetic’ as any king should, his personal biases were what was best for his state and anyone had ought to obey him. That is my best guess. How he arrived at such a conclusion, I would assume perhaps he had lost touch with his moral senses, and as being king with no colleagues to receive advice from, he had never learned how to run a kingdom and what kinds of actions were just/unjust. In any fashion he achieved his outlook on life, this proves people can form severely distorted views of reality from others.

In the essence of not writing too much, I will not explore Antigone’s personality (nor Ismene, even the Chorus), however assume her situation is similar to Creon’s. Just like Creon, I believe Antigone foolish, however knowing I am judging the characters’ opinions, I am unable to provide an explanation for my standpoint on the matter. Perhaps I would adopt certain ideas of equality from Antigone, yet retain other protectionist from Creon. One can’t always appeal to the common good, neither flaunt their own opinion in public. Regardless, Antigone is best described as a conflict of interest, where different ideas on the world with different laws to adhere to converge.