Friday, May 10, 2013

Responses from the semester

#1 Response to Frankenstein 
Is ignorance really bliss?
            The unquenchable thirst for knowledge presented itself constantly in Frankenstein. Both the pursuit and discovery of knowledge is catalyst for destruction. In the form of pursuit Dr. Frankenstein devotes himself to his goal of creating life. He surges beyond human limits to access this secret and control of life. His god like complex causes him to go on a destructive path where nothing can sway him to end his quest, until he actually reaches his goal. The very moment his knowledge becomes real he dismisses it and aborts his actions.  The monster he created started off being naive and unaware of the true evils of the world. Being cast away by the Dr., he fends for himself gathering and learning about human nature on his own. With this, he gathers most of his information from his “protectors” who he sees as good natured people. With them he believes that “crime is a distant evil, benevolence and generosity was present”. However the Monster comes across books, knowledge, and begins to read them. Once introduced to these outside sources his previous perceptions are shattered. “The increase of my knowledge only discovered to me more clearly what a wretched outcast I was.” From reading these specific texts the Monster was able to realize that suffering and sadness were a reality. That maybe he should sympathize with the evils of the world because of how much he had been wronged. After being introduced to these readings he began to avoid his own shadow and dismiss his reflection in the water. Further in the novel these horrible notions were only confirmed when he was beaten by his protectors who he thought could be accepting. He finally comprehended what an atrocity he was and that he should act and side with evil. Both the Dr. and the Monster were affected by this dangerous pursuit of knowledge. If they both had been ignorant to this knowledge would everything have been avoided? It only seems that understanding only leads to destruction, but being unaware is just as dangerous. There must be a balance of the two. 
            In relation to Schopenhauer he claims that the world is driven by this continually dissatisfied “will”.  Humans were motivated by their own desires and those desires were futile, illogical, and directionless. By extension all human action is directionless. Suffering was a reality and is experienced by all.  Also in addition to compassion humans are also driven by egoism and malice. These ideas can be linked to Frankenstein. Dr. Frankenstein was driven by his own selfish pursuits and his will of knowledge. As a result this creation was driven by suffering and went on a self-seeking rampage of destruction.  The desire and appetite is the motivation of human action, which both  Frankenstein and the Monster both exemplify.

#2 Mill On The Floss Response 

               This novel generally infuriated me. As I was reading I constantly want to rant and rave to anyone who happened to be near me about unfair Maggie was treated. There were so many moments where I just wanted Maggie, even though she had quite the temper, to scream at her family and generally anyone who doubted her obvious intelligence or morals. I would get caught up in the smallest details of her mistreatment. The scene that always stuck out to me was when Maggie visited Tom while he was away at school. Tom had been having trouble with learning Latin and Euclid. Maggie was very booksmart and was confident in her ability to pick up on information quickly. However she still is only a young girl and her brother is an older more "capable" learner or at least he should be. Maggie goes to try and look at a few Latin words, which she had never seen before to help Tom study, even though she was able to comprehend most of it right away Tom gets jealous and corrects and scolds her for getting the slightest pronunciation wrong when he probably doesn't know it himself. Keeping in mind that this was very first time she had been exposed to this information and Tom had been studying this all semester. Maggie's thirst and confidence in knowledge would be something I would also want to pride myself on, it was infuriating to see such a young bright girl, who most other girls, stereotypically like Lucy would rather mindlessly sew patchwork and brush their hair than read or retain or have the pure enthusiasm as Maggie did for learning. Knowing too much, again another reoccurring them of 19th century literature seems to be the downfall of most characters.

             As well as when Stephan pursued her, Maggie knew it was wrong and couldn't violate her morals to go through with anything because even though she had resentment towards Lucy, she knew the consequences would terrible. With her new found attitude of putting others before her own happiness Maggie kept her self restraint and denied Stephen. Immediately after whole boat fiasco/ getting on the wrong ride back to her home occurred, Maggie had already been through enough but of course the towns people and relatives condemned her a whore for coming back after her accidental trip alone. It never made sense to me why everyone would consider becoming a homewrecker or destroying an engagement better than sticking to your morals and denying something that would satisfy your desires. And of course Maggie was the only one at fault. Stephen was not accused of anything wrong doing and could live guilt free and shame free from the incident, it is the female character who has to hold the burden and blame for being a slut when Stephen was the one who pursued her more aggressively. As much as I wanted a happy content ending for Maggie, that obviously did not happen and I felt so sorry and distraught for her character and the way everyone constantly berated her every movement. 

#3 Notes From The Underground Response 
Further Proof Ignorance Must Be Bliss....

             I think it was interesting to see the ideals of the Underground man being similar to that of the lessons learned in Frankenstein, the fact that knowledge is both power and a burden. He sees himself superior or more intelligent than most people that he knows but this cripples him in making or forming any relationships with anyone else because he is constantly analyzing and second guessing every feeling he has. He scoffs at the ignorance of the common or normal man who acts upon instinct and is able to move ahead in life or seek revenge or personal gain but contradicts himself by saying that he is too conscious of the effects of his actions to actually “act” upon anything so he can do nothing.  At the expense of being so self-aware the Underground Man is forced to become isolated, which also becomes the fate of Dr. and the Monster in Frankenstein. 

            The dangers of literature and holding up a standard to literature, there is also a theme with Frankenstein and Mill on the Floss. Just as the Monster and Maggie held up a standard to life based on the books they read, the Underground Man did the same. For example, with his relationship with Liza, the prostitute, he feels obligated to speak with her after a sexual encounter because he feels guilty. His initial failed social interaction with Liza caused him to begin the speech of redeeming a prostitute falling back on his literally influences. He uses common literally topic to compensate for the fact that he is socially inept and must use the only knowledge that he has.  When he invites her over to see him again, he again second guesses his decision and thinks about his ideals on love. He goes as far to say that he is incapable of love and to him it really only is based on the right of dominating someone else. It was painful to see that he couldn’t realize Liza came to see him out of genuine love or being a kind person because she could sense how much of a wretched broken down man he was. Her sympathy triggers something within the Underground Man and he realizes that he has lost that control and dominance over Liza. He proceeds to exert his power once more by handing her money to humiliate her. He justifies this action by saying it was an appropriate literary move. He was acting on the literary merit rather than the merit of his own thoughts or conscious. This brought up the question in my mind about how much we base our own experiences in reality off of literary or cinematic circumstances. Since the Underground Man’s mind was saturated with the ideals of literature and knowledge, he was no longer able to function in the real world. It’s an interesting thought to recognize how dangerous it is to submerge your mind so deep into references of literature that the burden of that expectation becomes too difficult to exist through. As with the Underground Man possessing knowledge makes one “conscious” but also ignorant. Again going along with the theme in a previous response about is it really better to just be ignorant and unaware.

#4 The Harlot's House Poetry Response 
Lack of Love, Lure of Lust 

First off The Harlot’s House by Oscar Wilde is a poem containing 12 stanzas with 3 lines in each stanza with a total of 36 lines. It is written in iambic tetrameter, the first two lines of each are a couplet while the third line of each stanza rhymes with the last line of the next stanza, creating an aab ccb dde ggh etc. rhyme scheme. This poem contrasts love and lust. Touching on the emotional/physical/physiological states of love and the facade created by the physical gratification of lust. Presenting a narrator that is introduced as being accompanied by his love, referring them as “we” and establishing a strong relationship with the woman he is with. However the narrator is looking upon this Harlot’s house in both a light of disgust but also fascination. He is being drawn in somehow.
I was really drawn to the vivid macabre imagery Wilde used. This particular poem used language and references that set it clearly in the 19th century which were particularly fun to read and identify. With lines such as “Like wire-pulled automatons, Slim silhouetted skeletons” and  “Like strange mechanical grotesques, Making fantastic arabesques” the reader can catch a feel of the mechanized or industrial aesthetic that was prominent during this era with the influence of the industrial revolution and constant new innovations and inventions. He uses this language to describe the actions of the dancers in the house as these lifeless shells of former humans. The dead dancing with the dead maybe referencing the fact that the clients and the dancers have no relationship other than a physical one, there is no love or life within the interaction it is purely based on lust and money. “Sometimes a clockwork puppet pressed A phantom lover to her breast, Sometimes they seemed to try to sing.” There is a feeble attempt at the inhabitants to show emotion or go through the prescribed emotions of being lovers but they never notice or fully realize these emotions. “Sometimes a horrible marionette Came out, and smoked its cigarette Upon the steps like a live thing.” Just as a machine has prescribed, set of tasks to perform, these women and clients are caught up in the custom. Where love is supposed to be a beautiful meaningful experience on the surface they may lightly grasp this concept, but are ultimately condemned to execute this manual detached act of lust. 

The song that is playing while the figures in the Harlot’s house are dancing is "Treues Liebes Herz" by Strauss which means “true loving heart.” This fact when thinking about the later description of the dancers is a falsity or another illusion. The song is a mask of the genuine idea of love but it is hollow gesture the harlots, driven by sexual desire. The poem complicates the narrators perception of the house even further when his own love becomes aware of the song and charm of the dancers. “But she--she heard the violin, And left my side, and entered in: Love passed into the house of lust.” Followed by “Then suddenly the tune went false, The dancers wearied of the waltz.” His lover is drawn in by the guise of love but is motivated by the desire of lust instead abandoning the narrator who was supposedly in “love” with her. Lust becomes, to the narrator, a failed attempted at love or an emotionless action. With his lover passing into the house she only hears the violin’s beautiful song of “true love” and is drawn into lust leaving love behind. When the song suddenly stops the moment she walks in the reality of this guise is realized. She had fallen to the temptation of desire. “Love passed into the house of lust.” The women seem to act as a manifestation of the decay of true love and the focus on lust. The deceptiveness of a relationship is aligned with the poor attempts at the dancers to emulate emotions resulting in a mechanical practice. This poem also made me consider Wilde’s own personal opinion on love and lust and social vices coming from a man who was persecuted and sent to jail for being homosexual.

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