Between Two Worlds: Author’s Craft in Love Medicine

Often in literature, central themes are based around two or more opposing forces. Whether it be religion, socioeconomic class, or race, conflicts allow the author to challenge the audience’s beliefs and societal expectations of the past and present. This aspect of creativity is especially apparent in Louise Erdrich’s novel Love Medicine. As a biracial author, Erdrich has lived her entire life as a member of the two unique communities from which her parents came. She shares with the world some of the trials and tribulations she has and continues to endure as a mixed person in modern America throughout her novel. This story of two Native American families, the Kashpaws and the Lamartines, incorporates facets from both Western and Native American lifestyles as Erdrich blends together a community of multicultural people searching for authenticity. Throughout Love Medicine, Erdrich borrows from her own mixed identity in order to cast the modernized Western aspects against the more indigenous ones of multicultural heritages of millions of people around the world.

Erdrich pointedly critiques Western culture as she compares Native American “Love Medicine” to more modern medical practices (Erdrich 227). After undergoing a medical procedure that is intended to correct her partial blindness, Lulu Lamartine is subjected to the painful and restrictive side effects of Western medicine. Lulu complains frequently that “The operation had my eyes so dried out,” that she was unable to properly “mourn the death…of a true love,” (Erdrich 291-292). The side effects of her modern procedure not only hindered her ability to cope and heal spiritually with a traumatizing event in her life, but they also prohibited her from ever “…stooping down, screaming, or jigging again because the stitching in my eye might slip” (Erdrich 292). Lulu is severely limited by an operation that was intended to improve her life, a flaw of modern Western medical practices that Erdrich highlights as she compares Lulu’s painful, complicated procedure to Ojibwe “Love Medicine (Erdrich 227). Granted “the touch”, commonly referred to as “Love Medicine”, Lipsha Morrissey “…knew the tricks of the mind and body inside out without ever having trained for it, because…the touch… I got secrets in my hands… Take Grandma Kashpaw with her tired veins all knotted up in her legs like clumps of blue snails. I take my fingers and I snap them on the knots. The medicine flows out of me. The touch. I run my fingers very gentle above their hearts or I make a circling motion on their stomachs, and it helps them. They feel much better.” (Erdrich 227) Unlike Lulu’s surgery, Lipsha’s healing methods are noninvasive, natural procedures that cause no uncomfortable side effects. The results are instant, and his skill requires no training.

Through the comparison between Lulu’s Western optical surgery and Lipsha’s “Love Medicine,” Erdrich is addressing the potential danger and harm associated with modern medicine. This aspect of the narrative is in connection with Erdrich’s personal struggles. After marrying and having children with Michael Dorris, a man suffering from severe depression, Erdrich decided to sent her children a therapist in hopes of helping them deal with their own struggles. After their visits with their psychologist, allegations of sexual assault and abuse “…began. That therapist contacted the authorities, stating she suspected child abuse. Charges were filed against Dorris, and eventually dropped after an investigation… but the allegations… permanently damaged Dorris further…he would later commit suicide” (Luzajic 1). Erdrich brought Western psychology into her family to improve strained conditions, but it ended up only furthering the damage. Erdrich was also deeply impacted by the death of one of her adopted children, when “he was hit by a car,” and died, and the effects of fetal alcohol syndrome, a disease that afflicted all of her adopted children. American doctors were not able to save and cure her children, causing Erdrich great distress. Her distrust of modern medicine, stemming from her personal struggles, are portrayed through Lulu Lamartine and Lipsha Morrissey.

Erdrich then explores the contrasts between Catholicism and traditional Chippewa religion. She presents young Marie Lazarre, a mixed Caucasian and Native American girl who harbors a deep desire to become a nun. Marie strives tirelessly for the Catholic title, and “No reservation girl had ever prayed so hard” as she (Erdrich 43). Marie finds herself one day at the local convent, where she is mentored by a nun named Sister Leopolda. Sister Leopolda “…was different…” from many of the other nuns, she “…kept track of the devil and knew his habits, minds he burrowed in, deep spaces where he hid,” (Erdrich 45). Extremely devoted to her religion, Sister Leopolda takes Catholicism very seriously. She is so fixated with purging the Devil from Sacred Heart Convent that she resorts to beating and punishing children within whom she believes the devil to be dwelling. She “…used this deadly hook-pole for catching Satan by surprise. He could have entered without your knowing it…but she would see him. That pole would brain you from behind…she offered pain…” (Erdrich 46). As a “light skinned” Native American, Marie Lazarre is fascinated by both side of her bicultural heritage, and is curious about the religious opportunities each has to offer (Erdrich 40). After she visits Sister Leopolda, however, Marie realizes how sadistic the nun is, and decides to flee the convent–thus abandoning organized Catholicism forever. This is not unlike Erdrich herself, who “was once religious…at the age of magical thinking… After I went to school and started catechism I realized that religion was about rules. It all seemed so dull…I’ve come to love the traditional Ojibwe ceremonies…” (Halliday 1). This parallelism between Marie and Erdrich serves as a statement by the author, as she points out that Western religion is exorbitantly regulated and structured. By portraying Sister Leopolda and the Sacred Heart Convent as oppressive and abusive, Erdrich critiques the heavily mandated expectations of many Western Catholics; and as Marie hastily flees the convent in search of a more traditional Native American lifestyle, the author is exhibiting the desire for within all people to express their spirituality freely.

This parallelism continues as Erdrich traces Marie’s actions in connection to her religion throughout the rest of her life. Although she denounced Catholicism, an act that Sister Leopolda claimed would “…damn…the soul eternally!”, Marie matured into a responsible, respectful adult (Erdrich 40-42). She “…had taken in…babies…cared for everyone she met…raised her own children…married Nector…protected those she loved…” (Erdrich 120-123). Even a life without religion, Marie manages to embody a saintly entity for which many search for through worship– just as Erdrich leads a successful life without prayer. This is in direct contrast with Sister Leopolda, who, after a life of strict devotion, has “…shriveled to bones…her hair was white…thin from her skull…she was frail and dead as a plant…wrapped in dust…she cursed at me…” (Erdrich 148-149). The juxtaposition of these two characters serves to highlight Erdrich’s belief that Western religion is deadly and corrosive to the spirit, mind, and body. Although she achieved one of the most honorable titles in the Catholic religion, Sister Leopolda–once a formidable nun–is now nothing but a decaying old woman. Her religion failed to glorify her, even after she committed her entire life to her God. Erdrich utilizes the duality between the two prevalent religions in European-Native American culture to exhibit the dangers of oppressive, Western religious values.

Erdrich again challenges Western values as she compares American and Ojibwe educations. She shows the contrasts between the two through Eli and Nector Kashpaw, twin Native American brothers. Eli and Nector both received an education, but “…the government put Nector in school…Eli hidden in the root cellar…Nector came home from boarding school knowing white reading and writing, while Eli knew the woods” (Erdrich 19). Eli’s knowledge was based more on more traditional Native American values, while Nector’s was formulated by the Western government. When he comes back from school, Nector is praised by his community, said to be “…an astute political dealer,” on account of his “legitimate” education (Erdrich 18-19). Although he was given a modern, Americanized education, Nector slowly begins “…remembering dates with no events to go with them, names without faces, things that happened out of place and time,” while “Eli was still sharp” (Erdrich 19). Through displaying the long-term results of the two contrasting forms of education–Western and Native American–Erdrich is commenting on the shallowness and superficiality behind modernized schooling.

Similarities between the educational contrasts in Love Medicine is apparent in Erdrich’s life as well. In an interview for The Paris Review, she reveals information about her grandfather “…Patrick Gourneau. An Ojibwe man. He had only an eighth-grade education, but he was a fascinating storyteller, wrote in exquisite script, and was the tribal chairman during the treacherous fifties termination era (when the U.S. Congress decided to abrogate all Indian treaties and declare Indian Nations nonexistent). My grandfather was a persuasive man who made friends with people at every level of influence. In order to fight against our tribe’s termination, he went to newspapers and politicians and urged them to advocate for our tribe in Washington.” (Halliday 1). Although neither Eli nor Patrick Gourneau received an extensive, formal education, they are successful men who lead fulfilling lives. Nector may have attended a renowned government institution, but even he admits that “Eli has second sense and an aim even I cannot match…” (Erdrich 61). Ojibwe wisdom cannot be indoctrinated by a state school, and even after many years, Eli’s mind is well equipped with the knowledge he needs to lead a successful life–while Nector’s government-mandated brainwashing has left his mind in tatters, as he stumbles through a life for which his education has left him ill prepared.

Although she was raised around both modern American and Ojibwe customs, biracial author Louise Erdrich finds authenticity within her Native American heritage. It is through her comparisons of these two cultures that her audience is able to appreciate the immeasurable value of understanding one’s origins, as they play a significant role in shaping one’s life. Erdrich borrows from her own biracial background as she compares and contrasts the two unique communities in which she grew up in order to critique Western religion, education, and medicine in her novel Love Medicine.

Anagnoresis

The theme of recognition plays an important role in Homer’s The Odyssey and Sophocles’ Oedipus the King. Two key recognition scenes are that between Odysseus and Penelope and that between Oedipus and Jocasta. Many differences can be found between the two, and although they are less apparent ­ certain similarities can be drawn as well.The way in which identity is established in these two texts is different. From the beginning, Odysseus and Oedipus are in reversed situations: Odysseus has always known who he is, whereas Oedipus’s goal is to discover his own true identity. One of the last people who Odysseus reveals himself to is his wife, Penelope. After he has killed the suitors, he sends the nurse, Eurykleia, to summon Penelope. Penelope’s first reaction is disbelief even after Eurykleia mentions the scar on his leg. Penelope hesitates to accept the truth, telling her, “it would be hard for you to baffle the purposes of the everlasting gods” (XXIII.81-82). Penelope suspects that some clever god has disguised himself as the beggar and has slain the suitors. Only after she tests him with the knowledge of the marriage bed does she finally believe that this man is her husband. Aside from Eurykleia, Odysseus is the only person who knows that he himself had built the bed around a living olive tree and therefore the bed cannot be moved. The recognition scene between Odysseus and Penelope ends happily as she “burst[s] into tears and ran straight to him, throwing her arms around the neckŠand kissed his head” (XXIII.207-208).The recognition scene between Oedipus and Jocasta, however, ends with sadness. Everyone discovers Oedipus’ true identity before he realizes it. In fact, he receives numerous warnings from various people not to pursue the search for the murderer of Laius, the former King of Thebes. The blind prophet Teiresias begs Oedipus: “Let me go home. It will be easiestŠif you will follow my advice” (lines 320-322). His wife, Jocasta, upon realizing Oedipus’ true identity pleads with him: “I beg you ­ do not hunt this out ­ I beg you” (line 1060). Even the herdsman who Oedipus summons asks him to stop questioning him: “O master, please ­ I beg you, master, please don’t ask me more” (line 1165). However, Oedipus continues to ignore these warnings until he discovers that he has committed patricide and incest, and is the murderer whom he seeks ­ and thus is the source of Thebes’ plague. Jocasta makes this connection earlier when the messenger reveals significant information about Oedipus, especially the fact that he has pierced ankles. In strong contrast to the loving embrace which Odysseus and Penelope exchange, she cries, “O Oedipus, unhappy Oedipus!/that is all I can call you, and the last thing/that I shall ever call you” (lines 1071-1072) before she commits suicide. Likewise, when Oedipus realizes what he has done, he blinds and banishes himself from Thebes. Both texts defer the recognition again and again, for very different reasons. In Oedipus the King, everyone is trying to protect Oedipus from the horrible truth by begging him not to carry his investigation further. They know it will only bring unhappiness. However, Oedipus is driven by his duty and responsibility as King to find out who the murderer is in order to rid Thebes of the plague. For this reason, he ignores everyone’s warning. On the other hand, Odysseus is driven by his own mission to “judge the faith of the women,/and make trial of the serving men” (XVI.304-305). He has to purge the suitors’ plague on his home. Keeping his identity unknown is a crucial element for success since he plans to kill the suitors by surprise. This explains why he responds so violently to Eurykleia when she discovers his true identity, taking “her by the throatŠand [saying] to her: ŒNurse, why are you trying to kill me?” (XIX.480-482). To explain why he reveals himself to Penelope only after he has revealed himself to everyone else (except his father), Odysseus is testing his wife’s faithfulness and loyalty. When he visits Hades during his wanderings, he meets Agamemnon who relates the story of how his wife, Clytaemestra, plotted his death as a cautionary tale. Agamemnon tells him of his wife who “with thoughts surpassingly grisly/ splashed the shame on herself and the rest of her sex, on women/still to come, even on the one whose acts are virtuous” (XI.432-434). He advises Odysseus to “not be easy even with [his] wife” (XI.441) even though Agamemnon speaks highly of Penelope as “all too virtuous and her mind stored with good thoughts” (XI.446). Odysseus listens to Agamemnon’s advice and thus defers revealing his true identity to Penelope until the end. For the playwrights, the delay of the recognition scenes serves another purpose. The revelation of Odysseus’ identity brings about the resolution of The Odyssey. Homer knows all about suspense and how pleasure is heightened if it is delayed. Thus, Homer stalls the arrival of the climax, keeping the audience tantalized. On the other hand, the Oedipus story is well known to the audience. Sophocles takes advantage of this for dramatic irony. Since the audience knows what has happened to Oedipus in the past, much irony is attached to various statements he makes, such as: “If with my knowledge he lives at my hearth I pray that I myself may feel my curse” (lines 250-251). The audience knows that the person whom he seeks is himself and it is ironic that he is cursing himself. Aside from these differences, the two texts share the important similarity that recognition serves the same purpose. Odysseus and Oedipus are each recognized by a loved one, bridging the past with the future. With recognition comes the establishment of their roles. Odysseus assumes his true position as King of Ithaca again, after ten years of war and another ten years of wandering. He is finally home. Oedipus establishes his place in Thebes by shedding light on the past. Discovering his identity, he realizes he has been home the entire time. After anagnoresis, they both have new responsibilities that only their newfound or regained identities can accomplish. With recognition and the establishment of their roles, further action is then allowed and expected. During the recognition scene with Penelope, Odysseus says to her: “Dear wife, we have not yet come to the limit of all our/trials. There is unmeasured labor left for the future/both difficult and great, and all of it I must accomplish” (XXIII.248-250). Odysseus still has to do what Teiresias instructs him to. Similarly, Oedipus, upon recognition, tells Creon: “Šsend me out to live away from Thebes” (line 1518) in order to purge Thebes of the plague that he brings on his land. Responsibility and purpose is immediately given upon anagnoresis. The purpose of recognition in both texts, therefore, is to provide a catalyst for movement; each character, in his realization, is forced by his own past and duty to act. The identities of Odysseus and Oedipus are established in different ways and each recognition evokes extremely opposite actions and responses. Each text defers anagnoresis for different reasons. However, they are alike in that the role of recognition is not just an end but also a beginning.

A Matter of Perspective: Purposeful Variation in Style and Viewpoint in the American Renaissance

Throughout history, America has often been depicted as a land of many freedoms: freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, and freedom of petition, thanks to the First Amendment. Slowly but surely, these notions of constitutional rights trickled down into the American literary movement, transforming it into a new arena for social commentary and discourse through presenting fresh new perspectives on pertinent issues. Keeping a few specific literary works born into the American Renaissance—such as Henry David Thoreau’s Walden, Herman Melville’s Moby Dick, and Emily Dickinson’s poetry—in mind, understanding the liberal ideal of American society thus bursts forth in a vibrant array of opinions and perspectives. Even so, this phenomenon is not one without flaws of its own. Above all else, these authors are writing, either as themselves or their characters, through inarguably limited perspectives that are incapable of encapsulating all possible discrepancies and conflicts. Because of this, there is the ever-present risk of oversimplifying certain issues and creating confusion. Regardless, the many variations in literary form and style have opened doors to more potent modes of expression, leading to more impactful texts of better persuasive quality.

In Walden, Thoreau recounts his experiences of having spent approximately two years living by Walden Pond, seeking a self-sufficient, self-reliant life. All of such is presented as a first-person narrative, to which Thoreau responds in “Economy,” “I am confined to this theme by the narrowness of my experience. Moreover, I, on my side, require of every writer, first or last, a simple and sincere account of his own life, and not merely what he has heard of other men’s lives” (Thoreau 1986, 46). In this case, his limited scope stems from a pursuit of heartfelt, individualized truth, one that avoids the unfamiliar territory of “other men’s lives” and any attempt to render such authentically. It’s interesting to consider how Thoreau “require[s]” such an account from every writer, particularly through the lens of his later query, “Could a greater miracle take place than for us to look through each other’s eyes for an instant?” (Thoreau 1986, 53). Perhaps, in Thoreau’s opinion, a writer’s responsibility lies within depicting their own perspective as genuinely as possible, thus allowing for others to comprehend their specific frame of mind. However, this creates a domain in which each writer’s viewpoints exist in literary spheres independent of one another, as well as running the risk of leaving many voices unheard.

Yet, in “The Ponds,” Thoreau seemingly contradicts his initial statement of focusing purely on his personal views and experiences, as he briefly transitions from a general narrative scope to a second-person perspective. To illustrate the beauty of Walden Pond, Thoreau describes a method of observation as though the reader were physically present, “As you look over the pond westward you are obliged to employ both your hands to defend your eyes against the reflected as well as the true sun, for they are equally bright; and if, between the two, you survey its surface critically, it is literally as smooth as glass” (Thoreau 1986, 234). This passage seems to operate on two different notions: one, in which Thoreau is allowing the reader to step into his shoes and immerse themselves by seeing through his eyes, thus aligning with his earlier statement about only being able to portray his experiences best; and the other—in which the converse is occurring—where Thoreau is actually striving to incorporate a different viewpoint of Walden Pond by projecting his vision onto a separate party, inadvertently creating an inconsistency in the narration. Though greatly effective in stimulating the reader’s senses and submerging them in the depicted scene, the duality of this moment is quite confusing.

Moving on to “The Ponds in Winter,” Thoreau acknowledges a difference in perspective quite differently, as it is now woven into the overarching narrative of Walden. He first tells of the frozen surface of the pond, how the reflective clarity that was previously present has now been obscured. Seasonal changes as such then call forth fishermen, who adhere to the laws of nature, rather than those of civilization; “wild men, who instinctively follow other fashions and trust other authorities than their townsmen, and by their goings and comings stitch towns together in parts where else they would be ripped. … [They are] as wise in natural lore as the citizen is in artificial” (Thoreau 1986, 331). The use of the adjective “wild” seems, at first, to convey negative connotations and judgement, as it distinctively draws a line between that and being civilized. But, as the passage continues, Thoreau subverts this belief by praising the fishermen for the good they bring to the towns they visit, how they offer reparations to places that would have otherwise fallen apart. Similarly, he describes them as “wise” and concludes that their intelligence parallels that of the townspeople. By doing so, Thoreau smoothly introduces his perspective without undermining those that may differ, thus minimizing the overbearing tone of his narrative voice. Quite an admirable move, in my opinion.

Melville, on the other hand, very much sought to toy with the literary form throughout Moby Dick, adding a new layer to his methods of presenting differing perspectives. On Chapter 40, “Midnight, Forecastle,” for example, the entire chapter is arranged like a play, complete with dialogue, stage directions, and a closing soliloquy. On the night of a brewing storm, the many sailors aboard the Pequod decide that young Pip must entertain them by dancing and playing his tambourine. Upon seeing this motley crew of men bullying the little African-American boy into performing for them, the old manx sailor makes the following observation: “I wonder whether those jolly lads bethink them of what they are dancing over. I’ll dance over your grave, I will … Dance on, lads, you’re young; I was once” (Melville 2008, 154). This final statement took on a remorseful tone for me, as it not only highlighted the dramatic difference in perspective—especially when thinking about the ocean as a mass “grave”—between the young men seeking instant gratification and the older man who had since borne the consequences of his actions, but also in the idea that youth warrants ignorance and recklessness. The crew didn’t know any better because they had never been taught otherwise and, thus, could not have done anything else; in the most theatrically ironic way possible, poor Pip was but collateral damage.

Chapters 41, “Moby Dick,” and 42, “The Whiteness of the Whale,” must be discussed in conjunction in order to compare Ahab’s and Ishmael’s perceptions of the whale. In “Moby Dick,” Ishmael does not shy away from illustrating the full extent of Ahab’s hatred towards the eponymous mammal, after an encounter that cost Ahab his leg: “All that most maddens and torments; all that stirs up the lees of things; all truth with malice in it; all that cracks the sinews and cakes the brain; all the subtle demonisms of life and thought; all evil, to crazy Ahab, were visibly personified, and made practically assailable in Moby Dick” (Melville 2008, 165). Whereas Ahab’s detestation towards the whale came as a product of his pursuit of vengeance, Ishmael felt there was something inherently unnerving about its whiteness: “yet for all these accumulated associations, with whatever is sweet, and honorable, and sublime, there yet lurks an elusive something in the innermost idea of this hue, which strikes more of panic to the soul than that redness which affrights in blood” (Melville 2008, 169). Further explanations of this viewpoint are detailed through use of footnotes, which, to me, is reminiscent of an academic report or scientific journal, bringing in something quite objectively psychological and clinical in contrast to Ahab’s subjective perspective.

Progressing to Chapter 78, “Cistern and Buckets,” the chapter is narrated using the third-person perspective, as though the reader were directly witnessing everything on the ship. When Tashtego suddenly tumbles into the sperm whale’s head, the narration is briefly interrupted as Ishmael exclaims in shock, “on a sudden, as the eightieth or ninetieth bucket came suckingly up—my God! poor Tashtego—like the twin reciprocating bucket in a veritable well, dropped head-foremost down into this great Tun of Heidelburgh, and with a horrible oily gurgling, went clean out of sight!” (Melville 2008, 306). This ascribes a human quality to the narrative voice, capable of responding to events with emotion, rather than remaining detached and unfeeling. In addition to this, Ishmael later commends Queequeg for having successfully rescued Tashtego: “And thus, through the courage and great skill in obstetrics of Queequeg, the deliverance, or rather, delivery of Tashtego, was successfully accomplished” (Melville 2008, 308). Ishmael’s comparison of the typically feminine realm of domesticity with the typically masculine realm of physicality was admittedly compelling. But, the perspective of the rescue as a birth—or rebirth—for Tashtego both fascinates and horrifies me, as it seems to romanticize the events of this traumatic incident and overly-idealize its effects.

Journeying to an earlier chapter of the book, Chapter 74, “The Sperm Whale’s Head – Contrasted View,” the narrative style is evocative of a formal presentation or, perhaps, a sermon. There is a philosophical quality to Ishmael’s observation that “it is quite impossible for [man], attentively, and completely, to examine any two things—however large or however small—at one and the same instant of time” (Melville 2008, 297). With this, Ishmael invites his audience to wonder if a creature with an eye on either side of its head possesses the mental capacity to process “two distinct prospects” (Melville 2008, 297), two separate visions of the world. To allow the reader to comprehend the physically imposing nature of the whale, Ishmael then says, “Let us now with whatever levers and steam-engines we have at hand, cant over the sperm whale’s head … then, ascending by a ladder to the summit, have a peep down the mouth; and … with a lantern we might descend into the great Kentucky Mammoth Cave of his stomach” (Melville 2008, 298). Like the panning of a video camera in film, Ishmael outlines the systematic process of exploring the full breadth and depth of the whale’s corpse, fully steeping the reader in his question of whether such a gargantuan creature could be truly intelligent.

Contrary to the aforementioned male authors, Dickinson’s poetry was focused on the notions of irony and duality. Stylistically, her use of dashes and capitalization overturns the “standard” poetic structure and allows her to relish in a poetic form that is uniquely her own. In Poem 905, the speaker presents the reader with an invitation, “Split the Lark – and you’ll find the Music” (Dickinson 1999, 391), in a direct conveyance of the brutal act of mutilation. There is an ambiguity to the stanza’s tone, perhaps intended to be a challenge or satirical remark. The lark—a poetic motif—is contrasted against the modern scientific movement, whose achievements often mask the atrocities of its pursuits, “Gush after Gush [of blood], reserved for you – … Now, do you doubt that your Bird was true?” (Dickinson 1999, 391). Ultimately, this perverse search for truth all but eviscerates the source and subject of that curiosity, leading only to loss and regret. The conclusion of this poem serves as a harsh critique of science as a practice, forever devoted towards demanding an explanation for everything; some successes are hence made bittersweet, when one insists on destroying a thing of art and natural beauty for the sake of understanding it. It’s difficult for me to fully agree with Dickinson’s perspective, as it appears quite ignorant of the wealth of benefits modern science has given us, over-simplifying the debate at hand.

The narrator of Poem 706, on the other hand, seems to realize that her current predicament was of her own doing. For instance, the established “You” and “I” are consistently separated by dashes and line breaks in every stanza but the first and tenth, allowing the form of the poem to mirror the message being conveyed. I was struck by the ninth stanza, in particular, which goes as follows (Dickinson 1999, 315):

“Because You saturated sight -And I had no more eyesFor sordid excellenceAs Paradise.”

Firstly, only three words are capitalized in this stanza: “You,” “I,” and “Paradise,” which I interpreted as an indication of the ideal outcome the speaker so desperately yearned for. Though she could not directly address it, she could at least make reference of it. Moreover, the phrase “no more eyes” seemed to me like a moment of self-inflicted blame, in which the speaker felt she’d possessed a blindness that transcended the physical ability of sight, a perceived weakness that reflected her decision to deny herself of this happiness. The tragic quality of this poem originates from the lovers’ dual conflict of being unable to remain together and being unable to remain apart, showcasing two perspectives on the same volatile emotion.

Finally, in Poem 764, the speaker makes use of their first-person narration to become a personified loaded gun. Unlike the two prior poems, this one cements itself in the perspective of a traditionally masculine object, a weapon of mass desecration. The speaker revels in their ability to kill and inability to die, relishing in the pleasure of being the master of two dichotomous planes of existence. Even so, in the last stanza, the speaker dictates that (Dickinson 1999, 342):

“Though I than He – may longer liveHe longer must – than I -For I have but the power to kill,Without – the power to die -”

The capitalization of the word “He” elevates the status of the gun’s master to a God-like figure and emphasizing his role of influence. The confusing sentence structure and arrangement of this stanza correspond to the complex nature of the characters’ relationship, in which the master must strive to live as long as possible in order for the gun to continue fulfilling its purpose. To some degree, this is a highly co-dependent relationship. At the same time, it is not one without power—both to kill and to die—invoking the perspective that death is not a form of surrender but a capability, an act that carries strength. It frightens me to consider the implications of this poem after recent events in this country, but the relevance of its subject matter astounds me.

Indeed, the facet of American Renaissance literature that aims to achieve the liberal ideal of society by offering up differing perspectives acts as a double-edged sword, albeit one that is still fairly effective. With literary works like Henry David Thoreau’s Walden, to Herman Melville’s Moby Dick, to Emily Dickinson’s poetry, the notions of beauty, self-reliance, and individuality still thoroughly permeate the world of American literary nationalism. Through various stylistic and thematic variations, the fragmentation of perspectives is thus made simultaneously beautiful and terrifying. Whether attempting to temporarily depart from civilized society, or vengefully pursuing a giant white whale, or reframing elements of one’s life in more poetic terms, the American Renaissance marked an era in which the world of literature became an open forum for social discussion and debate. Consequently, this shift motivated people to pursue an authentic representation of human perspective, generating spheres of dialogue that still persist to this day.

An Unlikely Pair: The Comparative Consequences of Clarissa Dalloway and Septimus Smith in Mrs. Dalloway

In lieu of an action-packed or scandalous plot line, Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway takes a more subtle and psychological mode to ensnare its reader, one of course meant to depart from the strict Victorian and Edwardian novels that preceded it. This modernist form of narration, which pays much more attention to the inner-workings of character than to the construction of a typical plot, takes into account the inherent subjectivity of audience. To expand, Woolf, in her essay “Mr. Bennett and Mrs. Brown,” opposes Arnold Bennett’s belief, “that is only if the characters are real that the novel has any chance of surviving,” by asking her reader to consider, “what is reality?” (Woolf, 749). In her opinion, there is no one true reality, but rather infinite ones that are defined by the subjective interpretations of the individual: “A character may be real to Mr. Bennett and quite unreal to me. For instance, in this article he says that Dr. Watson in Sherlock Homes is real to him: to me, Dr. Watson is a sack stuffed with straw, a dummy, a figure of fun (749).” This emphasis on subjectivity—and its consequential inattention to objective reality—no doubt comes to fruition in Mrs. Dalloway, in which Woolf allots each character his or her own psychological nuances and personal histories that necessarily affect and influence his or her own perceptions of external stimuli, ultimately proffering the reader with no real reality and in so doing lionizing the anti-realism that underscores the novel at hand.

To this end, Woolf punctuates Mrs. Dalloway with constant and abrupt shifts in narrative perspective whereby passing moments are elongated for pages in which a seemingly inconsequential external stimulus triggers a thought or memory in a character that then triggers another thought and so on and so forth, until she has delivered her reader a thorough exposition of that character’s mind. Several years before publishing the novel, Woolf wrote in her journal, “Mrs. Dalloway has branched into a book; and I adumbrate here a study of insanity and suicide; the world seen by the sane and the insane side by side…” (Woolf, A Writer’s Diary). Given this binary, it would be easy to cast Clarissa Dalloway as the “sane” and Septimus Warren Smith as the “insane;” and indeed, such a perception is easily supported by context: Clarissa is a member of London high-society who, though plagued by regrets, has lead a relatively easy life, whereas Septimus is a WWI veteran suffering from shell-shock and its accompanying hallucinations and suicidal ideations. Stark as it may be, this contrast in background is by no means Woolf’s invitation to the reader to value one character over the other; such is to say, she is not setting the quotidian troubles of London high-society against the grander psychological and physical impacts of WWI in an attempt to deride the former, but rather she is opposing them in a delicate effort to communicate the equality of the human experience. In fact, one could argue that Woolf has positioned these two characters so far apart on the social spectrum to hyperbolically communicate the inconsequentiality of this very spectrum; indeed, madness, and ultimately death, do not discriminate based on status. To Woolf, it matters not whether one’s troubles stem from choosing flowers or attending parties, or from shell shock; all that matters is that one is troubled, that one is human, and through this does the comparison of Clarissa to Septimus yield its most salient consequence.

At the novel’s beginning, the disparities between Clarissa and Septimus—between the sane and the insane, as it were—are outstanding, rendered especially clear by their interactions with the outside world and their internal musings on the nature of death. Indeed, Woolf introduces Clarissa to the reader as she makes the infamous declaration to “buy the flowers herself” (Woolf, 3), a decision that leads her out of her house and into the busy streets of London, during which journey she seems externally placid and, by all accounts, normal: “’Good-morning to you, Clarissa!’ said Hugh, rather extravagantly, for they had known each other as children. ‘Where are you off to?’ ‘I love walking in London,’ said Mrs. Dalloway. ‘Really it’s better than walking in the country’” (5-6). Such an exchange, in which Clarissa demonstrates a capacity to assimilate and, at least for a moment, to shroud her internal instability in cordiality, is a far cry from her later ruminations, “She had a perpetual sense, as she watched the taxi cabs, of being out, out, far out to sea and alone; she always had the feeling that it was very, very dangerous to live even one day” (8). Here, the mention of “taxi cabs,” and of the omnibuses in Picadilly that galvanized these thoughts a few sentences prior, represents the public sphere in which Clarissa successfully exists, whereas her feelings of solitude represent the private sphere, in which her existence is plagued by constant self-doubt and regret. In spite of this ongoing battle between public and private, Clarissa absolutely possesses the ability to control her internal demons, repressing them when society requires it of her, but, external regularity notwithstanding, these demons still reign within.

By contrast, Septimus lacks Clarissa’s ability to master her external world and to seamlessly exist within it, as every visual or aural experience launches him further into the recesses of his delusive mind. Heeding the advice of her husband’s psychiatrist, Dr. Holmes, that Septimus “take an interest in things outside of himself” and “notice real things” (21-25), Lucrezia attempts to focus his attention elsewhere—in this instance, on Regent’s Park—so as to distract him from internal darkness with external beauty. For Septimus, though, concentration on the external achieves the opposite of Dr. Holmes’s desired effect, consistently pushing him further and further into himself until, “He would shut his eyes; he would see no more” (22). Pleasant as an image of trees flowing in the wind may be, Mrs. Dalloway knows no objective reality such as this, and so presents them through Septimus’s subjective perception of them, an overwhelming one that causes him to close his eyes and thereby to remove himself from the external world, ultimately leaving him even more vulnerable to the hallucinatory powers of his shell-shocked mind. With this, Septimus demonstrates his greater inability to exist outside of himself, for his madness poisons his perception and casts darkness over all that he sees.

While the two characters differ greatly in their interactions with the world around them, Woolf separates them further through their contrasting opinions on the nature of death. Insofar as it is contextualized in the novel, death had never been more prominent in England, the national death tolls of which were massive in WWI, and so it stands to reason that Woolf would tackle it here. To Clarissa, who lacks Septimus’s first-hand, visceral experience, death is a necessary reality that comes with life: Did it matter then, she asked herself, walking towards Bond Street, did it matter that she must inevitably cease completely; all of this must go on without her; did she resent it; or did it not become consoling to believe that death ended absolutely? but that somehow, in the streets of London, on the ebb and flow of things, here, there, she survived…she being part, she was positive, of the tress at home; of the house there… (9) Here, Clarissa values death not only because it is inevitable in the process of life, but also because it perpetuates one into a greater, unconfined existence. Death, then, becomes an omnipresent and looming specter that links all humans together, weaving in its wake an ever-growing and infinite web of human experience that offers refuge for both the living and the dead.

Still, it should be made clear that Clarissa’s musing here reflects nothing more than an acceptance of death and decidedly not an embrace of it. Slight as this distinction may be, it is a crucial one, especially when cast in the context of Septimus’s various declarations of suicide. If Clarissa’s passive cooperation in death is understood as sanity, then Septimus’s active participation in it must necessarily be understood as insanity, and, in turn, the two characters themselves understood as critical poles, the comparison of which yielding insight unto the greater human existence. For instance, whereas Clarissa’s outlook on death sees her as a part of a greater whole, Septimus’s shell shock and the feelings of social detachment it instills in him render his perspective much more self-centered: Look the unseen bade him, the voice which now communicated with him who was the greatest of mankind, Septimus, lately taken from life to death…. suffering for ever, the scapegoat, the eternal sufferer, but he did not want it… (25) Whereas Clarissa views her death as a means to unite herself with her world, Septimus views his own as an oddly sacrificial means to cleanse society of the burden that is himself, that is his inability to assimilate or to feel.

Further, the narrator’s depiction of him as an unwilling “scapegoat” expresses a disconnect between Septimus and the image of himself that he wishes to destroy; to clarify, his regular, conscious mind—Septimus man—seems to have merged inseparably and accidentally with the societal projection of him—Septimus soldier—a fusion that leaves him with no choice but to kill himself. As Septimus’s broader feelings of isolation have caused him to perceive himself as an enemy of his race, his suicide becomes a ritualized and necessary sacrifice for the greater good of mankind. And indeed, Woolf casts Septimus’s suicide as one without agency, having been influenced not from within, but from without. As Dr. Holmes’s visits persist and his diagnoses remain the same—“there was nothing whatever the matter” (90)—Septimus’s condition continues to deteriorate past the threshold of bearableness and he clings further and further onto the belief that he is an enemy of human nature, whom he identifies with Dr. Holmes as, “the repulsive brute, with the blood red nostrils” (92). Now totally convinced of his desertion, Septimus hears the whole world clamor, “Kill yourself, kill yourself, for our sakes,” to which he asks, “But why should he kill himself for their sakes?” (92). And so, he concedes victory to human nature, which has triumphed over its sacrificial victim: “He did not want to die. Life was good. The sun hot. Only human beings—what did they want?…Holmes was at the door. ‘I’ll give it to you!’ he cried, and flung himself vigorously, violently down on to Mrs. Filmer’s area railings (149).” As Dr. Holmes is coming to collect Septimus to send him to a home in the country for further treatment, Septimus literally “gives” up his physical body, preserving his self through his fateful defenestration in a final declaration of autonomy that actualizes Woolf’s concern with the soul over the body (Woolf, 740). Both a surrender and a victory, for he neither wants to be committed to a home nor to die, his suicide is here related as an unfortunate necessity of his circumstance, the only means through which he can maintain agency over his soul.

Powerful as the aforementioned differences in character are, Woolf subtly punctuates them with similarities, which foreshadows the ultimate connection that she will draw between them in the novel’s closing scenes. These similarities, it should be noted, can be observed from the novel’s onset, at which point they are largely superficial, confined to the two’s similarly avian appearances and fondness of Shakespeare (10-14). Soon thereafter, though, the similarities bleed into character, as each of them expresses their respective feelings of isolation and solitude in spite of companionship. Once he sees that Rezia’s wedding ring has fallen off, Septimus thinks, “Their marriage was over, he thought, with agony, with relief. The rope was cut; he mounted; he was free, as it was decreed that he, Septimus, the lord of men, should be free; alone…” (67). To Septimus, marriage represented the necessity to act normal, so with its perceived dissolution he is freed of that oppressive burden, finally able “to hear the truth, to learn the meaning…” (67), without worrying for Rezia. In the same vein, Richard’s general absence in Clarissa’s marriage to him allows her the freedom of “independence” and “self-respect” (120) that may not have been enjoyed had she married someone more involved, like Peter Walsh would have been (10). In addition to these, perhaps the most crucial similarity is that of sexual repression, for which both characters have a clear proclivity. With Clarissa, repressed sexuality comes in the form of nostalgia for a past lesbian relationship with Sally Seton, with whom she fell in love as a girl. Before divulging the details behind their relationship, Clarissa first admits that she cannot resist “sometimes yielding to the charm of a woman…,” which makes her feel, “a tinge like a blush which one tried to check and then, as it spread, one yielded to its expansion…which split its thin skin and gushed and poured with an extraordinary alleviation over the cracks and sores” (32). Here, the vaginal imagery is blatant, though never explicit, meant to express Clarissa’s lesbian tendencies, which are soon thereafter brought to a head in Clarissa’s description of her kiss with Sally as “most exquisite moment of her whole life” (35). But, given social constraints, Clarissa could never have really actualized her feelings for Sally or vis-a-versa, and so she remains a distant memory, a phantom of youth that has long been locked away.

Though less obvious than Clarissa and Sally’s relationship, Septimus may have had his own homosexual experiences during WWI with Evans, the officer and friend who now haunts his hallucinations. With his impressive time in the trenches, Septimus “drew the attention, indeed, the affection of [Evans],” and together they formed a relationship akin to “two dogs playing on a hearth-rug” (86). However, it was not to be and Evans dies just before the Armistice, with which Septimus’s true repression begins: “Septimus, far from showing any emotion or recognizing that here was the end of a friendship, congratulated himself upon feeling very little and very reasonably. The war had taught him. It was sublime” (86). In this display of masculine and soldierly composure, Septimus feigns the apathy that would soon thereafter come to undo him. Indeed, the War and its expectations of masculinity force Septimus to repress not only those homosexual feelings towards Evans, but also his capacity to feel at all, resulting in the unceasing hallucinations of Evans and his broader inability to assimilate. Having established these similarities, Woolf has laid herself a foundation from which to draw a final link between the two characters in question, achieving this by intersecting their plot lines as Septimus’s suicide is mentioned at Clarissa’s party.

At first, Clarissa is angered by the story, viewing the personified “death” as an intruder in her party who necessarily dampens the mood, but, as she begins to ponder it, she finds herself amidst a vision of her own death, “Always her body went through it first, when she was told, suddenly, of an accident; her dress flamed, her body burnt” (184). As Septimus’s death stands in for Clarissa’s, and in so doing allows her to experience death without dying, she reaches a clarity never before realized in her psyche: A thing there was that mattered; a thing, wreathed about with chatter, defaced, obscured in her own life, let drop every day in corruption, lies, chatter. This he had preserved. Death was defiance. Death was an attempt to communicate; people feeling the impossibility of reaching the centre which, mystically, evaded them; closeness drew apart; rapture faded, one was alone. There was an embrace in death. (184) Having spent her life repressing feelings for the sake of sociality, which necessitates “corruption, lies, chatter,” Clarissa now understands “the embrace” of death that is entirely incommunicable by the spoken word. This “thing” that Clarissa’s proclivity towards sociality has obscured, has been preserved by Septimus’s suicide, and for this Clarissa’s feels “glad” (184). As Clarissa views her parties as an “offering for the sake of an offering” (122), or a knowledgeably inconsequential gift, Septimus’s suicide is in turn viewed as the opposite, a gift from which the giver reaps no reward, an invaluable mode of silent communication. And so, Septimus’s death presents Clarissa with a means of catharsis that allows her, as Septimus had previously resolved, “to fear no more the heat of the sun” (186), a Shakespearian echo that symbolically seals their union.

At the close of her ruminations, Clarissa is grateful for Septimus’s suicide, not because of his death, but because of the strength she can derive from it: “He had made her feel the beauty; he had made her feel the fun.” Ending this sequence on such a positive note, Woolf realizes the value of Septimus’s sacrifice, for he did not die in vain. Ultimately, the unlikely connection Woolf draws between the upper-class British woman and the shell-shocked solider far exceeds character, meant, on a broader scale, to represent the interconnectivity of the human existence. As a vehicle for this message, Woolf elects death, which, in the novel’s final scene, she presents through Clarissa’s eyes as an illuminating and empowering force, not a morbid reality. En route to this conclusion, the novel grapples with the balance of the objective and subjective, making clear that the latter is supreme, a constant lens that filters the former. Death, however, transcends this dichotomy and exists as its own reality outside of the general realm of human existence, a message related through the bond it forms between Clarissa and Septimus. And so, in the end, the reader must understand Clarissa and Septimus’s relationship as a greater manifestation of the human experience; that is to say, different as we all may be, our fates are nonetheless identical, for we are all human.

Exploring History and Culture in Nalo Hopkinson’s Short Stories

In Gayatri Spivak article, “Can the Subaltern Speak?” she argues that there is danger in academics attempts to write about a people without actually letting the people speak for themselves. She says that this doesn’t give a voice or power to the people that a particular issue may concern. This way the subaltern cannot speak but instead are being spoken for (Spivak). This is an important concept to keep in mind when talking about Caribbean authors writing themselves into history. The Caribbean people, because of colonization and the multiple colonizer governments one island could have fallen under in its history, have had to learn to slowly carve out their own identity in literature. While trying to do this they also have to balance the multiple identities they inhabit. Caribbean authors have used their work to both discover more about their history and flesh out their own cultural identity. They have also used their work to explore the past and the complicate the legacy that colonization has left in its wake. It is apparent in most works by Caribbean authors that the effects of colonization still echo strongly in the experience of Caribbean people today.

Nalo Hopkinson is no exception to these ideas. Nalo Hopkinson was born in Jamaica in 1960 and raised in Jamaica, Guyana, Trinidad, and in 1977 moved to Toronto Canada with her father and mother. In 1993 began writing fiction (Rutledge “Nalo” 3). Like other Caribbean writers before her, Thomas Redcamp, Gordon Rohler, she is a multidisciplinary writer and mentor. She is a Caribbean-Canadian author attempting to come to terms with the past and her own identity with science fiction and fabulist writing. In Nalo Hopkinson three short stories, “The Easthound,” “The Glass Bottle Trick,” and “Shift,” literary devices and themes are used as Hopkinson writes herself into history by discussing postcolonial issues such as race and gender while rejecting debates and breaking rules about language and culture instead embracing hybridity. Hopkinson maintains oral tradition and breaks it’s rules in her stories “The Easthound” “The Glass Bottle Trick,” and “Shift.” Although Oral tradition is invoked in all three it is not in a typical way.

Oral tradition is “a system for preserving a group’s believes, customs, and history” (Definition). In Hopkinson’ story “The Easthound” we are introduced to a group of children who are fending for themselves and hoping not to “sprout” into ravenous monsters, werewolf like creatures, that all adults have become and children turn into around the age of puberty. In this story, the children play a game called Loup-de-Lou that Millie’s twin sister Jolly came up with, although it is a real game. The game invokes Caribbean history in that it maintains the oral tradition that comes from African slaves and native Caribbean people. In this story, the game is used for the children to distract themselves from the constant fear they live with, instead of to maintain a past although it does maintain the custom itself. This is very much like what Hassam and Medouze do when they play the game Crick Crack in the film Sugar Cane Ally(Palcy). In this way, Hopkinson writes herself into history by creating characters in a science fiction world that maintain a tradition that is still used even in the post-colonial world with the advent of Calypso and artists like Mighty Chalkdust. “She infuses the tropes of science fiction and fantasy with Caribbean folklore and culture” in this case the aspect of culture concerning oral tradition (Rutledge “Speaking”). This goes along with the hybridity in her work. She takes a word of science fiction and infuses it with Caribbean tradition and culture in this case to maintain a tradition. In her story “The Glass Bottle Trick” Hopkinson uses oral tradition when Beatrice’s father plays with her and tells her “an old-time story” (Hopkinson “The Glass”). Hopkinson uses oral tradition to foreshadow what happens later in the story. In “The Glass Bottle Trick” Beatrice discovers that her new husband Samuel has killed his last two wives when they became pregnant with his children like she is now. She finds out he’s been keeping their angry spirits in glass bottles hanging from a Guava tree in order to render them harmless. When she accidently breaks the bottles, and discovers their bodies she hopes that their spirits will help her to fight Samuel instead of blame her for their deaths. This is not a typical way that oral tradition is used although it is used to pass wisdom down to future generations Hopkinson’s use of foreshadowing in this instance shows the way she writes herself into history by breaking traditional rules. Oral tradition also appears in Hopkinson’s story “Shift” but it is in a way that highlights her willingness to break rules while still representing her culture as she writes herself into history. “Shift” uses oral tradition when Caliban’s sister, Ariel watches him and tells us the reader, about his escape from Algeir and the history of their mother Sycorax. It’s not technically oral tradition because we are reading it but the way Ariel talks directly to us like we are eavesdropping with her gives it an oral quality that seems to perpetuate Hopkinson’s wish to represent and explore oral tradition in her work. The way the story changes point of view from second when we are with Caliban to first when we are with Ariel just compounds the feeling that the audience is being spoken to directly. Hopkinson writes herself into history by representing and maintaining oral tradition while at the same time breaking conventions which makes her even more unique as a writer. More than her ability to use oral tradition to enthrall the reader, Hopkinson’s way of hybridizing traditional writing forms with Creole also makes her stand out.“The Caribbean, like all other post-colonial cultures, has several unique which can be erased in the larger conceptual framework; these include the absence of alter/native languages”(Donnell 438). Hopkinson disproves this statement by combining both Creole and English in her work. She uses Creole in her story “Shift” to separate the lines between Caliban, who is representative of a Caribbean who wants to live in the white center, also the little mermaid character, from his sister, who wants to drag him back home to Algier and their mother Sycorax. Caliban and Ariel’s mother is Sycorax but according to Ariel, their mother’s name is not actually Sycorax but “a name some Englishman giver her by scraping a feather quill on paper. White people magic”(Hopkinson “Shift”). Ariel tells us that white people, colonizer language may have given her mother the name but Ariel herself rejects their power by speaking in the way that she does. “Some early commentators on the literature of the region were progressive in suggesting the primary orality of creole and its capacity to express a range of emotions” (Donnell11). Hopkins also uses Creole when Ariel speaks in order to make her stand out from her brother who is desperately trying to leave his life behind and be with white women. In this way, Hopkinson rejects old debates on whether or not to use just Creole or just standard English and instead uses the hybridity to her advantage in the story to make a statement about Caliban’s state of mind in contrast to Ariel’s. Hopkinson herself, like most Caribbean’s is an example of a hybrid and this was when she is able to write pluralistically can represent herself and many other Caribbeans. The way Caliban is presented on the page is far different from his sister, “you could love one of them forever and a day. You just have to find the right one” (Hopkinson “Shift”). His wish to live with people (white people) is apparent through his speech. His wish to be accepted and loved calls for Hopkinson to write him as if he were already white even though later you discover that this is not the way he was brought up to speak. In anger with his sister he does “slip into the same rhythms as hers [Ariel]”(Hopkinson “Shift”). This reveals that Caliban has been putting on an act in order to please the white women he is with. It is a different story with his sister who sees this as a sickness, “Caliban have a sickness. Is a sickness any of you could get. In him it manifests as a weakness; a weakness for cream…. Him believe say it would make him pretty” (Hopkinson “Shift”). Hopkinson makes Ariel’s voice distinct and shows how she embraces her culture and is not sick by trying to be something that she is not. That seems to be the root of Hopkinson’s argument in this piece and it is highlighted in the infusion of language. Although it is an infusion the simple act of using Creole at all in her work she “effectively situates the stories in the Afro-Caribbean perspective, for it validates the culture and expands the pluralistic possibilities for all readers and undermines the privileged position other English language enjoys” (Rutledge “Nalo” 6). It lets Creole have its place in being just as important as English in the life of Caribbean people. So, her use of it in the case of “Shift” is dualistic. She is both suppliant English but doesn’t disregard or undermine the value in it. She shows that the postcolonial experience is pluralistic in itself including language. A rule broken but a truth revealed. Hopkinson also gives the reader more options to be enriched instead of staying with the statuesque of picking one form of writing over the other, “such hybridity challenges and disrupts inflexible and hierarchical notions of race and ethnicity, making possible cultural blends between traditional science fiction plots of post-apocalyptic struggles and Afro-Caribbean Theology and motifs” (Rutledge “Nalo” 10). The hybrid in this case is the literal shift in narrator as the story goes from second person Caliban who is being written in typical English to first person his sister who speaks with a Creole structure. Hopkinson combines both oral tradition and Creole language in her stories in order to enhance themes that reveal her attempts at piecing together and coming to terms with Caribbean history and culture.Themes of race, self-hatred, and the white ideal are apparent in her work especially the three works already mentioned. Hopkinson is pointing out the issues that arise with the legacy of colonial rule and the idea of “the western ideal.” She writes herself into history by using sci-fi and fabulism to confront these issues, “science fiction has always been subversive literature. It’s been used to critique social systems” (Rutledge “Speaking”). In the instance of “The Easthound” we see the post-colonial legacy of self-hatred revealed in many ways. The story is framed by the song “Oh Black Betty” a tune about a prostitute who has a child out of wedlock. One of the lyrics used to frame the story is “That child’s gone wild” (Hopkinson “The Easthound”). In the story the children “sprout” into monsters when they become too old. The implications of the framing of the song along with what happens to people in the story is that black women produce monsters because of their skin color. Hopkinson disguises racial hatred with her science fiction story in that she is talking about black children becoming monsters once they hit puberty. This is an idea that the general public might be resistant to but under the cloak of science fiction is palatable and even deeper because the reader has to analyze to find the meaning. She disguises the post-colonial legacy. This leads to our next two stories where characters seek to solve their conditioned problem, over many years and different governments, by becoming as white as possible. In her work “The Glass Bottle Trick” Beatrice’s husband Samuel is infatuated with her because she has light skin. He calls her his “pale beauty” and prefers it when she stays indoors out of the sun (Hopkinson “The Glass”). This obsession doesn’t go unnoticed by the main character “Beatrice sometimes wondered why Samuel hadn’t married a white woman. She thought she knew the reason, though. She had seen the way Samual behaved around white people” (Hopkinson “The Glass”). Samual wants to be white because he sees white as superior, part of the legacy of colonialism and slavery, he knows inside he can never achieve it which hurts his pride. He even rebukes his wife when she dares to call him a sweet name associated with his skin color. By having a character like Samual Hopkinson “ventures into the psychological depths of Whiteness as an objective desire” (Rutledge “Nalo” 15). For Samual the desire to be as white as possible drives him crazy leading him to murder his wives when they become pregnant with his babies who will be black, “this is how Samuel punished the ones who tried to bring his babies into the world, his beautiful black babies” (Hopkinson “The Glass”). “The Glass Bottle Trick” illustrates the absolute destruction of the desire to be white stemming from the conditioning of colonialism and slavery. Ultimately it is Samuel’s pride, which has been shaped by the colonial legacy, that is hurt which contribute to his madness. Samuel sees himself as valueless if he’s not white. We see a form of this carried over in Hopkinson’s other story “Shift.” We have the character Caliban, which Hopkinson has borrowed from William Shakespeare’s The Tempest, in this way breaking rules of English literature by hijacking a traditionally English character and reclaiming it for Caribbean Literature. In this little mermaid-esque story Caliban leaves behind his mother and sister to be with white people. He is infatuated with one woman he meets while making his escape and although he has reservations about her “the kisses of golden girls are chancy things” (Hopkinson “Shift”) Caliban is willing to put his culture behind him for her, because he desires “golden” girls. We see the way this desire tears a family apart “Hopkinson uses the liberation of speculative fiction to explore the personal and familial impact of self-hatred taken to an extreme” (Rutledge “Nalo”16). Caliban’s chase of white women has lead him to have cursed children that his mother has been left to take care of as he goes after one white woman after the other. It is almost an addiction for validation. Hopkins uses this allegory to point out the loss of Caliban’s identity in his pursuit of these women who only see him as a sexual object. Hopkinson defies expectation by having the white girl he was with point this out to him when she asks, “who do you think you are?” (Hopkinson “Shift”). Hopkinson uses the little mermaid as an allegory for the loss of self in the pursuit of an ideal left by the tragic events of slavery and colonization. In all of these stories Hopkinson writes herself into history when she emphasizes the different issues that arise when self-hatred is part of a people’s history masked behind the guise of a science fiction story. Hopkinson has made it clear that one of her goals as she writes herself into history is to create media that doesn’t assert the white ideal but broadens representation, “I am making the folkloric half-breeds that so much spec lit romanticizes while many of its writers and its audience simultaneously refuse to engage with the real-world politics of race and power”(Hopkinson “Maybe”). Hopkinson doesn’t just write herself into history when she tackles issues of race and shelf-hatred she also does when she tackles themes of gender.Hopkinson writes herself into Caribbean history when explores issues of gender in her science fiction and fabulist stories. Hopkinson gives girls and women agency in her stories. In “The Easthound” we see all gender stereotypes being put aside as all of the children’s concern is to survive and avoid “sprouting.” We see the girls taking the most initiative in the group. Jolly sets the terms for Max’s departure from the group because it is apparent that he is close to “sprouting.” Hopkinson also writes about a rule the group has in the case one of the members might be in danger that Millie enacts to get Citron to help her find Jolly, “Leader. One of us might be in danger, so I claim leader. So you have to be my follower” (Hopkinson “The Easthound”). Hopkinson crafts a world where girls have the chance to be leaders in this post-apocalyptic landscape. Hopkinson is claiming her own power as a Caribbean-Canadian woman when she writes stories with rules that give women power and agency. In “The Glass Bottle Trick” the audience might expect Beatrice to be happy that she doesn’t have to study hard for school now that she has met the love of her life and he and her mother don’t think it’s necessary anymore. However, this is not the case, “She tried to argue with them, but Samuel was very clear about his wishes, and she’d stopped not wanting anything to cause friction between them” (Hopkinson “The Glass”). Through this Hopkins makes a statement about how it is alright to like education and pursue it. In films like Sugar Cane Allyone of the female characters has a chance to attend the elite school in the capital but is held back case her family needs her (Palcy). We see Beatrice have to roll over on her higher education in order to please the man she’s married. She puts her own needs ahead of his. Hopkin’s points out the problem with this when later it is discovered that Samuel is a homicidal maniac. It is only Samuel’s murdered wives that have any direct power after they have been released from their bottles. Beatrice feels helpless when Samuel comes home and hopes that the ghosts of his murdered wives will help her fight him off. Even though she is the one alive it is as if she has no power. Hopkinson is commenting on the lack of power many Caribbean women have become of the social structures in the culture. This could almost be interpreted as a battle cry for Caribbean women to stand up and take power instead of waiting until they are dead. This would be in line with Hopkinson writing herself into literary history of the Caribbean. In “Shift” everything depends on the women even though half the story is narrated by Caliban. Although Caliban’s mother, Sycorax was banished after giving birth to two mixed raced children she still has power in the story in the way that Caliban describes how he and sister snap to attention at the sound of her voice and Caliban’s description of her, “Sycorax is sitting in a sticky puddle of water and melted popsicles, but a queen on her throne could not be more regal”(Hopkinson “Shift”). Hopkinson even gives power to the white woman to tell Caliban he doesn’t seem like he is anyone. It’s a generous gesture on her part but also a true one because if Caliban only saw white women as the givers of validation it would have taken one to tell him he didn’t seem like anyone, he couldn’t have heard if from his sister or mother because of the validation he desired. Hopkinson portrays women with power and agency in spite of their circumstances in her fiction and in this way, writes herself into history.

Nalo Hopkinson uses literary and devices and themes in order to explore her own cultural identity and history in her science fiction and fabulist work. literary devices and themes are used as Hopkinson writes herself into history by discussing postcolonial issues such as race and gender while rejecting debates and breaking rules about language and culture and instead embraces hybridity. She has a unique voice that subverts expectations and pulls together multiple identities. She crafts worlds that allow narratives to be driven by non-white characters in a way that science fiction never has before, “I am literally culture-jamming; forcing people to confront our brown skins overtly written back into the mass-marketed fantasy narratives in which they’ve been cloaked” (Hopkinson “Maybe”).

Work Cited

“Definition of “oral tradition” – English Dictionary.” Oral tradition Definition in the Cambridge English Dictionary, dictionary.cambridge.org/us/dictionary/English/oral-tradition. Donnell, Alison, and Lawson, Sarah. Welsh. The Routledge reader in Caribbean literature. Routledge, 1996. Hopkinson, Nalo. “The Easthound.”After Anthology.2012.Hopkinson, Nalo. “The Glass Bottle Trick.” Whispers from the Cotton Tree Root: Caribbean fabulist fiction. Invisible Cities Press, 2000.Hopkinson, Nalo. “Maybe They’re Phasing Us In: Re-Mapping Fantasy Tropes in the Face of Gender, Race, and Sexuality.” Journal of the Fantastic in the Arts, The International Association for the Fantastic in the Arts, 1 Jan. 2008.Hopkinson, Nalo. “Shift.” Nightmare Magazine, 29 July 2017.Palcy, Euzhan, Director. Sugar Cane Alley. Nouvelles Éditions de Films (NEF), 1983.Rutledge, Gregory E. “Nalo Hopkinson”University of Nebraska-Lincoln Faculty Publications Department of English, May 2002Rutledge, Gregory E., and Hopkinson, Nalo. “Speaking in Tongues: An Interview with Science Fiction Writer Nalo Hopkinson.”African American Review, vol. 33, no. 4, 1999, p. 589.Spivak, Gayatri Chakravorty. Can the Subaltern Speak?Macmillan, 1988.

Walled in Street

In Herman Melville’s “Bartleby, the Scrivener,” the setting contributes to the tone, the style, the theme and particularly the characterization of Bartleby, a scrivener working for the narrator. The parallelism between the setting and the attributes of Bartleby is suggested in the description of the prison yard, where Bartleby is confined. When Bartleby is imprisoned for vagrancy, the narrator visits him and is directed towards the yard. The description of the yard reflects both Bartleby’s desolate mental and social states as well as his passive resistance against the narrator and what he signifies. The story is about Bartleby’s encounter with the narrator, his employee. The narrator chooses to tolerate Bartleby’s preferences until they interfere with the narrator’s work; the narrator is then forced to dismiss Bartleby and relocate his office. This dismissal later results in Bartleby being arrested as a vagrant and initiates the scene in the prison yard, where the narrator goes to visit him.Bartleby’s isolation and desolate mental state is illustrated by the author’s depiction of the prison. The yard of the prison is surrounded by walls of “amazing thickness, keeping off all sounds behind them,” and the “masonry weighted upon me” (556). This description provides a powerful image of being isolated. The author also uses the image of a pyramid, known as an enclosed and isolated space for burials, to describe the prison and further enhance the effect. The images of enclosure and isolation in the prison yard echo earlier images in the story. When Bartleby first arrives at the office, the narrator erects a working space for him that had him facing a view of the wall from the building next door and uses a “high green folding screen…[to] isolate Bartleby…”(536). The setting in the office, which has Bartleby incrementally isolating himself from others by erecting a sense of walls, is taken to an extreme in the yard, where he reaches a form of complete isolation. It is a form of confinement that the narrator interprets as an indication of madness, “I [narrator] think he is a little deranged” (556). Thus there is a connection between setting and state of mind. The physical setting, which is characterized by isolating walls and gloom, echoes Bartleby’s mental state as the narrator perceives it, namely, as deranged. The setting not only reveals Bartleby’s mental state but also his social state. Bartleby’s position in the prison yard, isolated from other prisoners, as stated in the passage “the yard…was not accessible to the common prisoners,” suggests that he has reached the peak of social isolation (556). This is also reinforced by his refusal to converse with the narrator (544). Indeed, throughout the story, Bartleby has been systematically removing himself from society, an estrangement that is enacted in his treatment of space and setting. His cubicle becomes more isolated and he prefers to work alone. However, this movement away from society is not just a general estrangement from the people who surrounds him; Bartleby is also isolating himself from the values of that society, which are inherently capitalist and are upheld by the narrator. The narrator is a lawyer and wealthy man who believes in the US capitalist system. Jacob Astor, America’s first millionaire, is the narrator’s hero. When Bartleby isolates himself through strategic spatial development, he is in fact refusing to follow the norms of Wall Street in the same way he refuses to “copy” the documents (546). In effect, Bartleby’s spatial isolation in the prison yard begins to suggest differing implications, namely, that he is engaging in a form of resistance against these social norms and succeeded to some degree. The implications of his success are also encoded in the setting. Initially, the yard seems dank and dark and Bartleby encased in brick. However, a closer examination reveals that something productive can grow in that environment: “…imprisoned turf grew under foot” and “…by some strange magic…grass-seed, dropped by birds, had sprung” (556). Like the turf, Bartleby refuses to give in to the norms of the environment that he is in, which privileges wealth. The green of the turf and grass here echoes the “high green folding screen” of his cubicle walls (556). But, unlike the cubicle walls, where green is associated with money, here the green suggest the possibility of rebirth and change. Bartleby then, can be seen to engage in a form of passive resistance, encapsulated by the phrase “I would prefer….” (544); this resistance is encoded in the setting, particularly this green turf. Ultimately, the price of this resistance is too high, as it leads to Bartleby’s death. His death suggests that figures like Bartleby, who refuse to subscribe to capitalism, have no place in this society. Indeed, like the dead letters that he once monitored, Bartleby’s message falls on deaf ears, particularly those of the lawyer, who cannot see beyond his own self-interest. However, even though the narrator cannot see it, it is a message that underlies the entire text, even the setting. With a short story, the characteristics pertaining to a character can resonate with the setting of the story. In this case, Bartleby’s social and mental state is mirrored by the isolation of the prison yard, with its thick walls that resemble a pyramid. Bartleby’s passive resistance is also demonstrated through the depiction of the growth of the “imprisoned turf” and grass seeds (556). The characterization of Bartleby seems to seep into the entire text, even the setting.

Florence Nightingale in ‘Eminent Victorians’: A Study of Characteristics and Meaning

Strachey, in ‘Eminent Victorians’ reflects on the character of infamous historical heroine Florence Nightingale to cast the past lives of ordinary citizens, primarily women, as unsatisfactory and unfulfilling, and through this negative depiction of Victorian England, the author is able to uphold perceptions of the 20th century, through contrast, as a period of female liberation. Strachey’s presents the female form in Victorian England as one defined by social expectations, perhaps marking it as ‘high art’ for the influence others had in shaping the way in which it was perceived. Whilst the singular female protagonist- Florence Nightingale- may be used by the author to symbolise the upcoming 20th century female revolution of feminism, it could be argued that her desire to reject all social expectations of her characters perhaps acts as a warning of the dangers of radical female individualism.

Throughout the prose, Strachey presents the identity of the protagonist as utterly defined by both external social influences, and public perceptions of how she should behave. There is a semantic field of spirituality which filters through the verse, portraying religion, for the Victorians, as a guiding force throughout life, and this is made particularly evident through the rhetorical question ‘What was the secret voice in her ear if it was not a call?’: here, the author suggests a complete disruption of female identity, as her ‘secret’ mental thoughts are attributed to divine force rather than her own personality, and the series of exclamttives- ‘Ah! To do her duty in that state of life unto which it had pleased God to call her!’- further present the path of her life as chosen by forces other than herself, in contrast to the increasing force of feminism post-WW2 which saw many women begin to make more decisions in how they lived. In light of this context, Strachey’s presentation of Nightingale as confined not only by religious force, but by social influences, particularly portrays how ‘human character changed’ during the early 20th century through juxtaposing the later religious and social liberation of women.

Despite the primary topic of the analysis being Nightingale herself, Strachey begins the first two paragraphs in reference to other characters, to mirror the great extent to which public perceptions shaped our own view of Nightingale. The first paragraph opens through stating that ‘EVERY one’ knew the women as ‘saintly, self-sacrificing’, and the sibilance paired with the capitalisation of the first word is used to mirror the passivity of females in Victorian England, with the setting of ‘the horrors of the hospital’ further presenting the character as literally entrapped within the walls of the building, to mirror the limitations placed on Victorian females. Whilst that author continues to claim that ‘the truth was different’, the next paragraph similarly opens in reference to the social surroundings of the figure (‘Her family was extremely well to do’) and then progresses to name catalogue of locations, from the ‘New Forest’ to ‘London’: whilst the form of syndetic list here may work to portray the character as possessing more freedom than first presumed as able to move from location to location, reference to Florence herself within the list is absence, thus suggesting that these were choices made for her rather than decisions made by herself. Indeed, whilst the passage is concerned with the character of Florence Nightingale, the third-person narrative in addition to the date of the novel as years after her deaths further presses limits on the character’s own voice and perspective in how she is perceived, yet, nonetheless, emotive language used throughout the passage suggests a character struggling against social limitations: it is this multi-layered perspective of the female condition that perhaps deemed critics to label the novel a ‘high literary art’ through presenting both the oppression of victorian women and eventual escapism from this situation.

Nonetheless, the author foretells of a future in which females enjoy further liberation through characterising his protagonist as a proto-20th century feminist, and yet this excessive freedom is progressively portrayed in a negative light. Strachey states that ‘the dream of her life had been shattered’ which suggests Florence’s intellectual awareness of her fate as a Victorian women, and desire to not remain submissive to men, which might be seen as a warning to women and indeed all citizens of 20th century Britain to seize opportune and chance, and follow their dreams- a common motto of rising economics of capitalism. Indeed, this is again made evident in the declarative ‘But no! She would think of nothing but how to satis that singular craving of hers to be doing something’, in which the italicised verb paired with the opening exclamative might be read as an encouragement to modern readers to ‘change’ perceptions of the human condition through refusing to act on others terms. Nonetheless, the presentation of Nightingale as utterly adverse to the confinements of domestic life, from the ‘reading to her father; to the ‘china to look after’, may suggest a radical subversion from prior female submission to a complete rejection of household life: the erratic syntax and emotive language used by the author to describe this mindset might be read as a warning to 20th century women not to abandon their duties towards family and the household due to increased reliance of electrical appliances used to ease household chores, labelled by the author as ‘demon[ic]’, perhaps foretelling the chaos of a near future in which ‘Europe would [socially] go up in flames’.

Overall, in this extract of ‘Eminent Victorians’, Strachey explores the effect of social influence on the female identity, whilst also considers various consequences for future female liberation: whilst the prose might be read as a celebration of 20th century female freedom, it is made evident, through characterisation of ‘Florence Nightingale’, that the author is concerned with a future in which the absolute freedom of women is proven to be destructive through underpinning the very fabric of society and ‘chang[ing] human character’.

Matricide and Cross-Dressing: Gender Clash in Greek Justice

When two men confront similar situations and meet distinct fates, the perennial question emerges. Why does Orestes in Aeschylus’ The Eumenides win redemption, and Pentheus in Euripides’ The Bacchae die ignobly? Both address the same moral dilemma between condoning retributive justice and upholding social order. Both men witness women aggressing and doling out retributive justice, and, recognizing the burden of their sex, choose to uphold male social order. The son of Agamemnon succeeds in his quest because he remains true to his masculinity and proves rational, persuasive, and resolved; conversely, effeminate Pentheus perishes because he attempts to adopt an unnatural male identity. The Eumenides and The Bacchae demonstrate that triumph goes to those who remain true to their selves. In both plays, the abstract conflict of retributive justice versus social order becomes a concrete gender clash. The female forces of retributive justice include Clytaemnestra, the Furies, and the Maenads; the male opposition comprises Orestes, Apollo, and Pentheus, defending the testosterone-dominated status quo. As the female Chorus in The Bacchae declares, —O Justice, principle of order, spirit of custom, come! Be manifest; reveal yourself with a sword! Stab through the throat that godless man. (The Bacchae 1011-1013)Female justice of the Maenads, revealed with a sword, bursts with violent passion. Women rely on retributive justice, the “spirit of custom,” because they have no other means to realize order and rightness in their worlds. In contrast, the deliberative justice of the laws and courts are made for and by men. Asexual Athena, who sides with Orestes, tells the Furies, “Yes, I love Persuasion; / she watched my words, she met their wild refusals” (The Eumenides 981-982). Men have the ability to respond with words, to be rational and persuasive in their defense. Orestes asserts his male abilities when he enters Athena’s shrine as a suppliant. That he pleads to Athena, the divine guardian of rationality borne from Zeus’ head, showing his respect for not only reason, but also pure male reason untainted by female influence. In submitting to Athena, Orestes does not ignore his identity; he augments it. For when Athena establishes a tribunal with the “finest men of Athens” (The Eumenides 503), Orestes gains the opportunity to testify in his own defense and call upon a strong witness, Apollo. He can now reveal his powers of persuasion; he can now place the Furies, and the female cause they represent, out of their element. The Furies do not testify well because the gender they represent does not traditionally testify at all, and the principle they wish to defend, female retributive justice, cannot easily survive judging by its opposite, male deliberative justice. Finally, the jurors happen to be the best men of Athens. Orestes and Apollo almost win by default, because they embody male qualities of rationality and persuasion in a trial biased towards rewarding such qualities, a trial judged exclusively by men. Orestes gains the upper hand in the trial because of his masculinity. Although the Furies easily obtain an admission of matricide from Orestes, the fact of the murder itself becomes less relevant, superceded by a discussion of gender. Apollo presents arguments to show that “man is the source of life” (The Eumenides 669) and thus is deserving of more rights; killing a woman to avenge a man’s death is thus just, but not vice versa. The Furies decline to respond: “For us, we have shot our arrows, every one” (The Eumenides 687). These divinities shoot retributive arrows, but, in the deliberative court of Athens, rational words are far more potent. Because the Furies fail to show that women deserve equal rights, they lose the advantage. Due to his persuasive power, Orestes wins the trial. He shrewdly, in light of Apollo’s arguments, focuses his own testimony on associating Clytaemnestra with her most damning flaw, her female sex. Even his language universalizes his family tragedy as a battle of the sexes. Orestes, when testifying (The Eumenides 594-619), never once mentions his parents by name. Significantly, he states “my father” twice, but attaches no possessive pronoun to “mother’s blood” (The Eumenides, 612) in a deliberately impersonal reference. The Furies, in contrast, do employ possessive pronouns — “your mother” (The Eumenides 605), “your mother’s blood” (The Eumenides 614) — when questioning Orestes. Judging by his language, Orestes identifies with his father, but distances himself from the mother, casting her as a particularly malignant instance of a gender known for treachery. Because Orestes persuasively defends himself, Athena joins his side: “No mother gave me birth / I honour the male, in all things but marriage” (The Eumenides 264). Orestes then wins the case because of the rational powers that form his male identity and that identity itself, and his allies only add divine reinforcement to his triumphant masculinity. In The Bacchae, Pentheus fails to assert the powerful male identity necessary to overcome a female threat to Theban social order. Instead, Pentheus displays an irrationality more typical of women. He ignores the clear signs of Dionysus’ divine powers: the Maenads’ supernatural feats, Dionysus’ explosive escape from prison, the advice of Teiresias. Dionysus correctly describes Pentheus when he states, “You do not know what you do / You do not know who you are” (The Bacchae 506-507). Pentheus does not respect the limits of his strength and knowledge, integral to knowing himself. In other words, without a strong male identity or even a father figure, Pentheus tries to compensate with obstinate arrogance. He insults Dionysus with “stupid blasphemies” (The Bacchae 490), even though he may be a god. With his irrational behavior, he cannot possibly glorify his gender and save the Theban social order. Pentheus actually identifies more with his enemy than his adopted cause. He describes Dionysus as “effeminate” (The Bacchae 353), like himself. Dionysus, in contrast to Athena, comes from Zeus’ thigh, a body part connotative of female passion, not male rationality. Pentheus shows he possesses female sexual passion, though repressed: You are attractive, stranger, at least to women— … And what fair skin you have—you must take care of it— no daylight complexion; no, it comes from the night when you hunt Aphrodite with your beauty. (The Bacchae 453, 456-458)These suggestive comments reveal that Pentheus responds physically to Dionysus. His “at least to women” disclaimer does not avail him; inside, he is a woman. Ironically, he accuses the Maenads of unleashing sexual passions in the mountains (The Bacchae 222-223). His suspicions of others, later proven false, really show his inner disposition: his female nature and lust. Pentheus switches from threatening Dionysus with force of arms to conspiring with him; his lack of resolve seals the death of his male pretensions and reveals his true effeminate identity. In contrast, Orestes never wavers during cross-examination: “Yes, / and to this hour I have no regrets” (The Eumenides 601-602). Pentheus sinks low when he accepts Dionysus’ suggestion and agrees to “crouch beneath the fir trees” (The Bacchae 817) to spy on the women. He reaches his nadir when he decides to cross-dress. “I would die of shame,” he initially protests (The Bacchae 829), but moments later he asks for the type of costume. Subsequently, he emerges, coyly primping. His dramatic physical transformation shows his betrayal of the male cause. Because of his emasculation, Pentheus loses legitimacy in fighting his side of the battle, allowing retributive justice to triumph and expel the existing social order. He dies covered with the tattered linen cloth of femininity, not the durable, strong bronze of masculinity. Pentheus and Orestes both ultimately remain true to their identities. Orestes leaves a court system with exclusively male jurors; he institutionalizes male, deliberative justice. The Furies become The Eumenides, guardians of the hearth and tamed into domesticity. After Pentheus dies, Dionysian rites are also institutionalized, becoming part of the social order; society permits women certain times to leave the home and experience more freedom. The punishment of Thebes, individually destructive, brings societal catharsis and triggers reform. Orestes, through his male strength and life, deliberately ensures no true social upheaval or reform occurs. Pentheus, through his female weakness and death, unwittingly furthers truly progressive aims.

Lockean Ideals in the Declaration of Independence

In devising the Declaration of Independence, the founding fathers used the work of John Locke’s Second Treatise of Government as an ideological framework. The similarities are mainly notable in the claims against the King, but can also be found in other important respects. Locke’s concept of the state of nature is evident in the founders’ claims, while the influence of Locke’s ideals on political power and the function of government can be seen in the arguments presented in the Declaration. Yet the two texts diverge in important ways; the most significant difference between the two documents is that the Declaration lacks some of the extreme views that Locke takes in his discussion on the state of war. Nonetheless, it is clear that the Declaration of Independence was built on Locke’s concepts of government.

John Locke’s conception of the state of nature heavily influenced the writing of the Declaration. He devotes the second chapter of the Second Treatise of Government to discussing the state he believes men are naturally born into and the rights they deserve. Here, he presents the idea that men are created as equals when he says, “because it is simply obvious that creatures of the same species and status, all born to the same advantages of nature and to use of the same abilities, should also be equal” (Locke 3). This quote has such a strong influence on the Declaration because, through stating that the equality of men is obvious, Locke has made this idea appear to be indisputable. The founding fathers desired a strong, unequivocal statement for addressing the King, so they took inspiration from the passage when writing the famous line, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal” (Declaration). This line not only delivers a powerful message, but also sets up the ideals that both drive the rest of the text and become a major part in shaping the new United States of America.

The arguments made by Locke are often used to support the Declaration’s claims against the King. Beginning with the very first claim, Locke’s definition of political power is referenced. He defines political power as the right to make, regulate, and enforce laws, highlighting that political power is only meant to be used for the public good. The first claim uses this definition to support the contention that King George III has overstepped his power, as the authors state that “He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good” (Declaration). This statement is in reference to the King vetoing laws that the colonies made, laws which would improve their societies. To bolster this claim, the founding fathers provide examples of how the laws made by the King have harmed the colonies. These arguments lead into the claims which concern the importance of consent when dealing with government.

Two of the important ideals on government that Locke expresses are the significance of the consent of the governed and the problems inherent in monarchy. He ends his chapter on the state of nature by highlighting how consent is required by the people; as Locke says, “and I also affirm that all men are naturally in the state of nature, and remain so until they consent to make themselves members of some political society” (Locke 7). In the Declaration, the authors emphasize that the people of the colonies have not consented to the acts of the King, further supporting the notion that the king has abused his political power. This abuse is specifically noted in the claim that the King has kept troops in the colonies against the residents’ will. Locke would attribute this abuse of power to the problems created when one man controls the government of many. The claims provided in the Declaration exemplify the problems that Locke raises about such monarchies, as this document explicitly says, “He has made judges dependent on his will alone” (Declaration). Government with a single man in charge is subject to the bias and flaws of that single man, thus leading to the unfair and tyrannical rule of King George III over the colonies. The Declaration of Independence serves as the colonies’ proclamation of departure from the King’s rule; their citizens will enter into a new political society with ideals informed by Locke’s work.

Despite many similarities between the Second Treatise of Government and the Declaration of Independence, there are a few differences between the two documents. One of these involves the rights of men, which are designated as “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” in the Declaration (Declaration). The difference here is very subtle, as Locke states that the rights of man in the state of nature are “his life, health, liberty, or possessions” (Locke 4). Though the distinction between happiness and possessions seems insignificant, it highlights the difference in values between Locke and the authors of the Declaration. Locke puts emphasis on how property and wealth are the most valuable things one can gain. The authors of the Declaration did not share this ideal and broaden it to the pursuit of happiness to accommodate a wider range of beliefs. This perspective on the rights of man would later influence the formation of the United States government, specifically with the Bill of Rights of the US Constitution.

The second and more notable difference is that the Declaration avoids some of the extreme ideals that Locke expresses in his work. Within his chapter on the state of war, Locke discusses the punishments man has the right to enforce on others for violating the laws of nature. Several of these penalties can be viewed as extreme. For example, Locke raises the possibility that the penalty for theft is death when he says, “This makes it lawful for me to kill a thief who hasn’t done me any harm or declared any plan against my life, other than using force to get me in his power so as to take away my money or whatever else he wants” (Locke 8). As examined previously, King George III had infringed upon many of the laws of nature, and therefore the founding fathers had every right to demand the death of the King according to Locke’s ideals. No such demand is present in the Declaration, though, due to the political impact that such divisive and violent rhetoric would have exerted. Such a demand could have created an even greater uproar from those loyal to the King and could have compromised some of the support for the founders’ cause. Beyond trying to avoid any chaos that a demand for death would have caused, the founding fathers do not demand the king’s death in order to rise above King George III’s tyrannical rule. This departure from Locke’s influence elevates the Declaration of Independence by positioning the newly-formed government of the United States as more righteous than the rule of the King.

The Second Treatise of Government had a clear influence on the authors of the Declaration of Independence. Locke’s chapter on the state of nature inspired several points in the Declaration, including its introduction and many of the claims made against the King. The founding fathers used Locke’s work to support their arguments that King George III was unfit to rule them, and used Locke’s premises to set up the preliminary values of the new United States. Overall, there are several similarities between the two documents, but there are a few fundamental differences as well. Despite these variances, the Declaration of Independence makes apparent the influential role that John Locke’s ideas played in the formation of government in the United States of America.

The Manipulation of Western Tropes in All the Pretty Horses

Without a doubt, Cormac McCarthy’s All the Pretty Horses stays true to many common tropes within the Western genre. However; what makes this novel so unique is how McCarthy manipulates some of these important tropes. They are still present throughout the book, in fact, some of them are magnified through each part but as a whole, McCarthy openly manipulates some of the most popular ones in an attempt to highlight the development of the protagonist: John Grady Cole. Most importantly, McCarthy works the image of the cowboy, the importance of horses, a sense of lawlessness, and the gunslinger trope into All the Pretty Horses and alters the impact of them throughout the novel. As a whole, McCarthy implements these tropes to ensure that the novel stays true to the western genre but he manipulates them to highlight the psychological and physical journey of John Grady Cole.

In typical Western novels, the image of a cowboy is what drives the entire plot; a lawless, tough, gunslinger protagonist with a penchant for horses is the common archetype and it never changes throughout western novels. The common cowboy archetype is first exhibited by John Grady Cole when Rawlins asks him why he is leaving St. Angelo, Texas as he replied that he was “already gone.” (27) signifying the reason for John’s quest, which is also a common western trope as well. At that moment, the reader then assumes that John Grady’s journey by himself will occur since the idea of a lone traveler is often associated with westerns. However; that is not what occurs, which only makes John Grady’s growth much more significant. Instead of being a lone traveler, John Grady starts off his quest by being accompanied with two other people in the first part of the book: Rawlins and Blevins.

What makes this important is the fact that McCarthy manipulated the image of a cowboy by splitting one’s common traits between the three of them. For example, John’s role in the trio’s collective image of a cowboy is his love for horses since he is claimed to be “the best” (59) riders according to Rawlins. Rawlins’ role in their image of a cowboy is predominantly his lawlessness, or his ability to openly express his beliefs. Through dialogue, especially between John Grady Cole, Blevins, and Rawlins, the reader is aware of the fact that Rawlins is opinionated. For example, whenever Rawlins shares his opinion, it is relatively harsh like when he told Blevins that he’d, “Get shut dead for horse stealing” and that, “It don’t mean a damn thing to him. He expects it.” (80) Finally, Blevins’ role in McCarthy’s collective image of a cowboy is one of the most obvious: the gunslinger trope.

In fact, Blevins’ skills with guns is what helps John Grady Cole and Rawlins make the decision to accept him, especially since he was confident with them by telling John and Rawlins that if they, “wanted to throw something up, I’ll [he’ll] hit it.” (48). In the first part, they all collectively build this image of a cowboy and they all share common traits associated with them, which is very uncommon for western novels. In regards to John Grady’s development, this collective image lets the audience get insight on the fact that due to his upbringing and background, John Grady is unable to fit the image of the cowboy at first. The collective image that McCarthy created in the first part of All the Pretty Horses does not last as long as some readers would assume. In fact, the image between the three of them slowly dissipates throughout the next three parts of the novel. This is first seen in the second quarter, when the three of them are separated for the first time and John Grady is seen as more of a charismatic front man than the others. For example, John Grady built up so much notoriety at La Purísma after he’d broken in sixteen horses that when “John Grady pointed and asked that tortillas be passed there came hands from both sides of the table to take up the dish and hand it down in this manner like a ceremonial bowl.” (110) John Grady’s growth in regards to him separating from the previous collective image of a cowboy can also been seen when he and Rawlins were talking the night of when Don Hector gave John that special task as Rawlins mentioned that, “It’s an opportunity for you. [John Grady] Ain’t no reason for you to turn it down that I can see.” (116) From that point on, John Grady is seen as a separate entity from his companion, which only grows throughout the book.

Also in the second part, John Grady slowly becomes more lawless, which was previously Rawlins’ assigned trait in the collective cowboy image, as he faces criticisms from people within the ranch because of his newfound relationship with Alejandra. Specifically, Alfonsa is the first to advise John Grady that, “it is not proper for you [John] to be seen riding in the campo with Alejandra without supervision.” (136) and that John Grady should be, “considerate of a young girls’ reputation” (136) since that is “all she has.” (136). Although seeing Alejandra may seem harmless to John Grady, this is the first time he receives disapproval from a majority, and that point expands at the end of the part, when John Grady and Rawlins are arrested. From the perspective of John Grady’s development, McCarthy still manipulates the image of a cowboy trope so that it is gradual rather than instantaneous, and the second part in particular highlights that.

The final two portions of All the Pretty Horses can be identified as very significant in regards to the manipulation of western tropes to amplify John Grady’s development as a character. Previously, the image of a cowboy was manipulated by McCarthy by being split between three different characters and when that dissolved, John Grady gradually fit some of the traits associated with a cowboy’s typical image. What occurs in the last two parts is all buildup of John Grady morphing slowly into that image; in the third part, he becomes much more lawless and in the final part, his lawlessness only amplifies as he becomes a lone traveler. For example, in an act of self-defense, John Grady ended up murdering a man in the prison he and Rawlins were in by, “sinking a knife blade into a cuchillero’s heart.” (201). This can also be seen when John is separated from Rawlins in the final part and holds the captain hostage in order to get his horses back by threatening, “When I die you die.” (270). This creates a stark contrast with the John Grady presented to the reader in the first part of the novel, and the contrast is drastically accentuated in the last portion of the novel as John Grady “Passed and paled into the darkening land, the world to come.” (302) as he continued to travel by himself, searching for something because he cannot find anything for him in his old town.

In regards to western tropes throughout the novel, they are still manipulated; John Grady just fills some of the characteristics because it is necessary due to the setting. He is generally a humble character who holds an unwavering honor code, but due to his circumstances, John had to fit the image of a cowboy. For example, the reader is aware that John Grady “Never thought I’d [he’d] do that.” (215) after he had killed the assassin in the prison. But Rawlins comes to his defense by claiming that he “didn’t have no choice” (215) due to the violent atmosphere within the prison. Also, John never intended to travel alone; Rawlins wanted to leave since the emotional toll of witnessing Blevins’ death and being within the prison began to consume him. Therefore, with the idea of western tropes in mind, McCarthy constantly manipulated them because in common westerns, death does not take a negative emotional toll on cowboys nor does the cowboy want to travel with a companion. McCarthy most likely did this to show how John’s personal philosophies persist throughout each part and specifically how they had to waver due to the circumstances he was in, which gives the reader an understanding of his physical journey in comparison to his psychological journey.

A big part of the significance of All the Pretty Horses comes from McCarthy’s ability to manipulate the common tropes within the western genre. In comparison to other westerns, McCarthy’s novel is very uncommon in regards to character development and its relationship with other western tropes, which could be intentional. Overall, the western tropes within McCarthy’s All the Pretty Horses, are implemented to stay true to the western genre, but are later manipulated in order to show the relationship between the psychological and physical journey of John Grady Cole.