Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Masks We Wear

I know this may sound strange but in a way I can relate to the narrator of the story.  He talks about wearing a mask of what he is supposed to be and how he is supposed to act which hides his true self.  I think that, in a way, this is something everyone does.  We may not do it to the extent that this author does but at some point we all wear masks.  We wear masks to hide our true feelings and pretend that things are okay when they are really not.  We know how people expect us to act in certain situations and we conform to those roles.  Family can be the biggest area where masks are portrayed.  Our families expect certain things of us and require us to act in certain ways in certain situations.  Whether we feel like it or not, we confom to those roles at the specified times and locations, neglecting our true feelings.  The masks we wear can be multiple or one giant one to mask depression or stress but at some point, we all wear one.
Another area I felt a relation to the narrator was when he talked about life being one giant stage.  I remember when I was little and I hated my family.  I would imagine that the world was as giant stage and when the curtain fell I would go on to a different life.  I actually pictured a stage and all the actors (who were my family), and would fantasize about what my real life was like.  I don't know if anyone else ever thought these things or if I am just really strange but I really did have fantasies about my life and family just being a stage act.  Although my reasons were different from the narrator's I could still relate.  He just wants to be able to be himself and not act how his family and society thinks he should act.  I just wanted to escape my family.

Monday, October 24, 2011

An Interesting Threesome

While reading White Teeth I could not help but notice the difference between the three female character, Alsana, Neena, and Clara.  They are not native Britons and are trying to fit into a new world.  What I find so very interesting is the ways in which they are trying to fit in.  During the scene on the park bench it becomes more obvious about their different characters and how they view the world.  They all grew up in very religious houses were "God appeared at every meal, infiltrated every childhood game" yet they all behave very differently (Smith 65).  Clara has chosen to shed herself of her mother's undying faith but has not given up faith altogether.  She is sort of at an in between moment in her life where she is deciding who she is and what she believes in.  Alsana has chosen to stick strictly to her faith and this carries over into her marriage.  She tells the other women that while her marriage may have been arranged that is the way she prefers it.  She is simply a wife and does not need to be anything more nor know anything more about her husband.  Alsana wants to stick to the traditions of her culture and not explore the world around her.  She will not even watch scenes in movies where there is a suggestion of nudity.  People do not need to know these things about other people, especially husbands and wives.  Her husband does not even come to her doctor appointments with her because "a husband needn't be involved in body business, in a lady's…parts" (Smith 63).  Even though, as Neena points out, he had to be involved in some respect for her to be pregnant.  Neena, on the other hand, seems to be embracing the modern life openly.  Upon our first introduction to Neena we get a glimpse of her modern personality by her "dyed blond bangs" that she had to move out of her eyes (Smith 53).  We also see this in her choice of books that she lends Clara as she tries to "rid Clara of her 'false consciousness'" (Smith 66).  All three women are around the same age yet act very different from each other.  I am curious to see how these characters develop throughout the course of the novel.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Individuality or Group Membership

While reading Midnight’s Children I actually found myself thinking of the essay question that some of us answered in class on Thursday.  When Saleem is talking about how he makes this conference with all the children of Midnight he talks about being a member of a group and taking pleasure in the fact that he belongs somewhere.  But he also states that it is difficult to distinguish all the voices from each either.  They sort of become a collective identity to him, “a sort of many headed monster” (Rushdie 262).  HE himself holds himself as an individual separate from the Conference but while he understands the other children are also individuals he does not distinguish them as individuals.  This poses an interesting question about being a member of a group, a society, or retaining individuality.  Saleem seems to feel that since he is the one who put the Conference together that he should remain an individual, the “mascot” of the group yet everyone else is simply “the group.”  Individuality is okay for him and the other children as long as they are not conferencing in the midnight hour.  Once they reach that midnight hour everyone else ceases to be individuals and becomes a collective entity.  In a way, I cannot blame him; it would be hard to give individual identities to over 500 voices.  But at the same time, he is the one who always retains individuality in these sessions so it does not seem entirely fair. 

Monday, October 3, 2011

The Forces of Nature

Two passages in the books struck me as very symbolic.  The first is after Rochester reads the letter from Daniel and witnesses a scene between Christophine and Antoinette.  He decides to take a walk and ends up in the forest.  He makes a comment to himself that he "had reached the forest and you cannot mistake the forest.  It is hostile." (Rhys 62).  The forest had tall tress that were very imposing and a feel of something that was not quite right.  He makes many references to watching over his shoulder sure that someone is watching or following him.  I think that this is reference to his recent discovery about Antoinette's illness.  While he had suspected and was not completely surprised by the revelations of the letter he was more upset that it seemed like everyone else knew but him.  The forest represents both Antoinette's illness and the deception by everyone involved in the marriage.  It was a hostile action they took against him and Antoinette's behavior (ripping the sheet) is getting increasingly worse.  He feels like everything is closing in on him and his path is not clear anymore.  This can be represented by the path slowly disappearing but still being able to recognize that a path once existed.  Perhaps this is also a foreshadowing of him following the same steps as Mr. Mason.  Mr. Mason had his wife locked away while he went off to explore the world and live his life.  Rochester ends up doing the same thing, following the path the Mr. Mason had already laid out before him.

The second scene is when Rochester is getting ready to leave and he is thinking about the coming hurricane season.  He notices how the trees seem to be planting their roots deeper to prepare for the violent weather to come.  He notes how some are stripped of their leaves and branches only to be left barren.  Others have bent to the will of the storm and lay "creaking, moaning, crying for mercy" (Rhys 98).  However, the wind comes without regard for anything living.  I think that the trees represent Rochester as he prepares for what he knows will be a long, hard life with Antoinette.  Antoinette, of course, is the hurricane winds, "howling, shrieking, laughing the wild blast passes" (Rhys 98).  I don’t think he is sure if he is going to be the strong palm tress that get stripped of everything or the bamboos that cry for mercy.  Either way he is left a barren man.  He knows that taking care of Antoinette will drain him of life and he will either become a hard stiff man (like the palms) or a weak, groveling man (like the bamboos).  No matter how much he prepares for the coming storm he knows there will be no escape.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Cult of True Womanhood

The Cult of True Womanhood

During the discussion today about the values which Jane tries to live by and epitomize a true women was very reminiscent of another class I took last semester.  In this class the idea of The Cult of True Womanhood was discussed.  This very much follows the ideas of the time period of Jane Eyre.  The Cult basically sets standards for "true" woman to adhere to.  Any woman who does not adhere by these standards is not considered a true woman.  These ideals are purity, piety, domesticity, and submissiveness.  Jane definitely strives for purity which is evident in the way she keeps Rochester at bay during their engagement.  I think that even without Mrs. Fairfax's words of caution Jane would have stuck to this ideal and not betrayed it.  This is because she also possesses the next ideal: piety.  She has a very strong Christian mind.  She trusts in God and chooses to follow Him wherever He may lead her.  She makes multiple references to her faith and belief in God throughout the novel.  One of the strongest examples of this is when she is praying to God after fleeing Thornfield.  She is alone, in a place she has never been to before, stranded in an empty field but her thoughts turn to Rochester and she prays for his soul.  Her overall faith is represented when she states, "We know that God is everywhere, but certainly we feel His presence most when His works are on the grandest scale…His infinitude, His omnipotence, His omnipresence" (Bronte 416).  While praying for Rochester she states, "Mtr. Rochester was safe; he was God's, and by God he would be guarded" (Bronte 416).  She has such tremendous faith that in this aspect she exemplifies The Cult of True Womanhood.  Domesticity is another aspect which Jane also accomplishes.  She demonstrates her abilities to help with the household as Mrs. Fairfax prepares for the grand party to arrive.  She cleans rooms, helps in the kitchen and does whatever other tasks need to be accomplished to make the house presentable.  She can sew with adequacy to make her own clothes and repair clothing.  The one aspect that she may not entirely possess, however, is submissiveness.  While she is completely submissive to Mr. Rochester in the beginning and understands her place in the household she refuses to give in to him during the engagement and afterwards with the subsequent failing of the marriage ceremony.   She stands her ground and refuses to be tricked or manipulated into a decision that goes against her morals and values.  In this aspect she is not submissive.  This also goes along with her not wanting to be seen as an object and taking control of her own life.  Someone who is completely submissive has no control over the decision they make for themselves.  They are always at the whim of their master.  Jane refuses to be someone subject in this respect.  It is one thing to have a boss and obey your boss within the confines of the job but to go against morals, values and Christian ideals is not something Jane is ready to give up.  She refuses to be submissive and in this aspect does not represent a true woman in accordance to The Cult of True Womanhood.