Sunday, March 27, 2011

Slaughterhouse Five And the Big Question

This book is a hard one to analyze in relation to my big question. It has so many facets and interpretations. The point of the book is that no one really wins in a massacre. Its more of how not to be rather than what to do, which is very different from my first book, where the Greek hero was the ideal. The aliens only looked at the nice parts of life, skipping over the sad. Vonnegut does not want anyone to overlook the gruesome part of life, the massacre that was the "Children's Crusade" I suppose that Vonnegut would say that the way to overcome adversity is to face it. He did this in his life, writing numerous books on the bombing of Dresden, learning to face and explore what he had witnessed, then spreading it to the world. In "Slaughterhouse Five", Billy Pilgram escapes from the horror of what he witnessed by thoroughly believing in an imaginary planet, were he was mated with a beautiful women and only viewing the pretty side of life. Billy Pilgram did not overcome adversity. He ran from it, hid from it, and then it consumed his life and drove him crazy. Physically, yes he did overcome the massacre. Time dragged him through it, he was not a participant, only an unwilling and passive witness. His inability to face the tragedy led to his downward spiral. This is a book of what not to do. In order to overcome adversity, you must first face it.

Beloved and the Big Question

I've analyzed many books, vastly different from each other, each with widely different reasons for why the protaganist overcomes adversity. "Beloved" by Toni Morrison is a book that deserves to be in a catagory all its own. This has been my favorite book to read and analyze. There is one line from this book that sums up Toni Morrison's belief as to why some people overcome adversity. Paul D says to Sethe, "You are your own best thing." When a person internalizes this fact, like Denver and like Sethe, they will be able to overcome any adversity. As Denver is slowly forced out of the toxic relationship between Beloved and Sethe, she realizes that she has no one to protect or depend on except for herself. She goes out into the world and seeks help. She gets a job and becomes part of the community, overcoming the damage caused by her mother and by Beloved. She seeks the value in herself and that is what gives her freedom. Baby Suggs gives a powerful speech relating to self-love that directly relates. She tells her community, love your hands, your life-giving parts, your lungs, love your heart, because no one else is gonna love it for you. Once you love yourself, no one can overcome you. Sethe struggled to overcome the chains of the past, keeping herself in slavery of the mind. She did not consider herself her best thing. Her children alone had that honor and she would rather kill them than have them tanished by slavery. This horrible truth is what allows her to be open to the dreadfulness of Beloved, who feeds on Sethe's life. With no self -love, Sethe was trapped. This answer to my big question is the one that I believe in the most. I am in love with the idea of self -love and its power. Most human beings do not love their hands, lungs, heart. But I believe that this is something everyone must learn how to do.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Stranger by Albert Camus

This book is unique unto itself, I have never read another like it. And I intensely love it. Applying my question to this book is very difficult because it is hard to idenitify the adveristy and whether or not Mersault overcame it. On the surface, it would appear that Mersault was unable to overcome any adversity because the story ends with him awaiting his execution. However, it is my belief that he overcame adversity and the quality that allowed him to do so was his self-assuredness and his faith in life. Perhaps I am a little biased because I really do love this character. In the last few chapters of the book, Mersault is assaulted with fear and desperation to escape. He cannot accept his impending death. I am defining this as the adversity he needs to overcome. Mersault lived his life day by day, never looking backwards, complacently accepting each event as it came his way. Now his freedom to live his life his way has been snatched away from him and his easy acceptance is gone. This fear and loss of freedom is personified in the form of a chaplain and this interaction triggers an emotional explosion of understanding from Mersault. As his private thoughts, agonies, and desires are shouted out loud, he overcomes his fear and is able to accept his impending death. "As if that blind rage had washed me clean, rid me of hope; for the first time, in that night alive with the signs and stars, I opened myself to the gentle indifference of the world. Finding it so much like myself - so like a brother really- I felt that I had been happy and that I was happy again. For everything to be consummated, for me to feel less alone, I had only to wish that there be a large crowd of spectators the day of my execution and that they greet me with cries of hate." (122-123) I love this book so much, it's hard not to get distracted from my original intent. this quote is after his angry flood of understanding, he is cleansed from that adversity and is able to face the world with indifference. Instead of wishing for an escape to ease his lonliness, he has accepted his death and is instead able to wish for a crowd of spectators to bear witness to his death. Morbid yes, but adversity takes on many faces and it can take hundreds of qualities or events that allow some to overcome it and others to fail

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Crime and Punishment

Crime and Punishment, as fascinating as the book was, is difficult to apply to my question. On the surface it looks like no one overcame adversity. Svidrigailov commits suicide, Raskolinkov is sent to jail in Siberia, Sonia became a prostitute to save her family. Svidrigailov was unable to overcome adversity because of his wealth. His riches had turned him cold and greedy. He was a lecherous man, who thought that money and manipulation would allow him any pleasure that he wanted. But when he came up against Dounia who was a truly good character, she would not give in to him. Faced with this unbearable reality, he was not able to live on and he failed. Wealth does not always guarantee a person success and in the end it was his riches and his greed that kept him from overcoming adversity. In all literature, characters that manipulate, have greed, are selfish, basically poor characteristics are always unable to overcome adversity.

Henry IV; Part 1

I love reading Shakespeare. I have to read at a much slower pace but I still love his writing because there is so much packed into every paragraph. Applying my question "Why do others overcome adversity while others fail" to this play brings forth a completely different answer than my previous entries. Why does Hal succeed and Hotspur falls? In the beginning of the play, it would seem the story would have an entirely different ending. Hotspur is the valiant, young soldier, while Hal is a pub crawler, playing tricks and thieving. Considering English tradition in Elizabethan times and Hal's rise from a pub crawler to a prince, I believe that according to Shakespeare, Hal succeeded because he was the heir to the throne and he possessed "kingly qualities" Hal transformed from a pub crawler into a leader, with grace and good speaking skills and he was driven to prove his worth to his father and it was all of these combined that allowed him to defeat Hotspur. Although at first Hotspur seemed kingly, it was later revealed how coarse he truly was. In order to be a champion, you must have the qualities of a champion.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Oedipus Rex

Oedipus Rex is the father of all tragedies and rightly so. This poem is depressing! The "Big Question" deals with what allows some people to overcome obstacles and others to fail. In this case, the obstacle was fate and Oedipus Rex was not able to overcome his sick fate. This story adds an interesting twist to my question. According to the Greek culture, humans are victims of fate. Fate cannot be overcome, it is a force that deals out complete control over a human life. So are there some things that cannot be overcome, no matter the character of the person? In the Greek mind, that is a definite yes. A common part of all tragedies is the tragic flaw of the hero and this leads to the eventual downfall of the hero. Fate may be unconquerable, but Oedipus was flawed, therefore keeping him from rising to Fate's challenge. Oedipus was metaphorically blind to the truth and this led to his terrible ending. So if Sophocles were to answer my question, I imagine he would say that the refusal to see the truth keeps people from even rising to meet the challenge.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Atonement and the Question

Atonement is an interesting book to apply to this question. adversity is thrown at every single main character in the book and none of them escape it unscathed. Briony falsely accuses Robbie of raping her cousin Lola and this act send him to jail. But he keeps in contact with his love Cecilia and this is what helps him survive through jail and then the war. What helps Robbie overcome his adversity is the love between him and Cecilia. It's an interesting concept that is very different from the Odyssey. It's the idea that an outside force, love, can assist in overcoming adversity. Something outside of your own being can give you the strength to over come obstacles. The people without this force backing them, fail. Like Lola. She was raped but she allowed her cousin to take control and in the end she did not overcome her adversity, but rather she ended up marrying her rapist. So in this book, the idea is that you cannot overcome adversity alone and that love will always pull you through. Love is a powerful emotion and literature has often portrayed it as a savior.