The Dangers of the Imagination in Atonement
In Atonement, Ian McEwan suggests the dangers of confusing our fantasies with reality; that we have become so accustomed to choosing to see what we wish to see rather than reality and this leads to destruction in our lives. Our refusal to accept or want to see reality creates a cycle in which we become alienated from others, just as Briony, Robbie and Cecelia did. Briony lives in her stories, Cecelia lives in her mind, and Robbie lives in his memories. Eventually they each end up alone and longing for a happy ending that is never given to them. As human beings we have a fundamental need for an answer. Even when we have limited information and perspective, we use our imagination to fill in the blanks in order to obtain an answer. Through gothic allusions and interchanging viewpoints McEwan emphasizes the detrimental effects of getting lost in what we wish or hope to see while seeking an answer and ignoring reality. Imagination is wonderful to an extent – we must be able to recognize and accept reality or else we will end up disappointed in situations with permanent consequences.
To begin, McEwan creates gothic allusions, particularly with Briony, in which he reiterates the dangers of denying reality and always expecting a life that contains “hidden drawers, lockable diaries and cryptographic systems” or in this case, a constantly exciting and adventurous lifestyle. McEwan illustrates these dangers through Briony. Briony is seemingly very mature and intelligent for her age, with a very wild imagination. While having an imagination, goals, and desiring excitement is not wrong, Briony takes these qualities too far. As scholar Brian Finney states, “when she acts out her confusion between life and the life of fiction, the consequences are tragic and irreversible” (Finney, 69). This further suggests that Briony has taken her imagination too far and the reader is shown why this is catastrophic when she accuses Robbie of raping her cousin due to her overactive imagination. This calamitous event illustrates why one cannot depend too much on what one thinks or want to be real and deny actual reality. As human beings it is within our own innate nature to desire answers to everything, so naturally when Briony sees her sister in an odd situation by the fountain, she seeks out an answer. Even though Briony claims, “This was not a fairy tale, this was the real, the adult world…” we as readers can identify the irony in this statement because Briony allows her imagination to take over her logic (37). This exact scene is where McEwan displays to readers how easy it is to be taken over by the thrill of a possible adventure or story. Life is not like a story in which a “woodcutter saved a princess from drowning and ended by marrying her” (36). If we constantly allow our imagination and desires for excitement to take over while seeking out an answer, we will ultimately end up disappointed because life does not always offer excitement and adventure.
Along with Briony, Robbie is a prime example of the disappointment one can run into if he or she becomes too immersed in what they desire to happen and ignore other possibilities. When Robbie is sent to war due to Briony’s accusations, he spends the length of his journey dreaming about seeing Cecelia again. He walks a great distance to get to the port of Dunkirk, in belief that once he reaches the beach his nightmares will be over. This explicitly alludes to gothic themes where there is always a happy ending. Robbie had “assumed that the cussed army spirit… would prevail. Without knowing it, that was the beach he had been walking to for days” (233). This implies that we expect a happy ending; that as humans feel we deserve to be rewarded with a happy ending for making it through a hard time. McEwan is not suggesting that we always should expect the worst or look at life through a very negative lens. Instead, he urges the reader to be careful not to rely too much on what we desire and hope for or else in the end, we can end up very disappointed like Robbie. Robbie relies on his desires and ultimately ends up extremely disappointed – “He thought he had no expectations–until he saw the beach” (233). Through these gothic “happy ending” themes shown in both Briony and Robbie, McEwan shows us why we must be careful to not confuse life and fiction based on our desires and need for an answer.
The vacillating narrators in Atonement gives the reader a view into most of the characters lives but it does not provide details for all events, which leads the reader to infer certain situations. As scholar Kathleen D’Angelo puts it, “readers are faced with a multiplicity of interpretations” (D’Angelo, 92). By creating a changing narration, McEwan shows his readers how easy it is to infer something when we have limited information. This causes us to rely on our imagination, the very thing that got Briony into trouble. To show the similarities between Briony and readers, McEwan first uses the “rape” of Lola. Never does McEwan explicitly state it was Paul Marshall who raped Lola. Never does he state that she was raped. We infer that she was raped, and we assume when Paul wakes up “uncomfortably aroused” after dreaming about his four younger sisters and his strange behavior at dinner, that he must be the one who raped Lola (57). While McEwan provides the reader with many strange examples that suggest it was Paul Marshall who raped Lola, the oscillating narrator makes it so the reader never knows exactly which character it committed the crime. – McEwan allows the reader to use our imaginations to make assumptions.
While the reader does this almost without thinking, the reader again becomes even more like Briony. In “Part One” of Atonement, Briony is described as a girl who has a “wish for a harmonious, organized world” and “mayhem and destruction were too chaotic for her tastes, and she did not have it in her to be cruel” (5). Like Briony, most readers do not mean to assume and overuse the imagination – is happens subconsciously like Briony. Briony has limited perspective, so she uses her imagination to fill in the blanks. She truly believes her version of the events, just as the reader truly believes Paul Marshall was the rapist. McEwan makes us dislike Briony but also shows us that as readers, we tend to do the same thing as the flawed character.
The vacillating narrator not only leads the reader to make inferences about Paul Marshall, but the limited information also leads the reader to do exactly what Ian McEwan warns about. As mentioned previously, it is within human nature to use imagination in order to infer answers when the information is not explicit. At the end of Part Three, Briony is finally content because Robbie and Cecelia are together and in love, despite her false accusation. She claims that neither she nor “the war had destroyed it” (330), a somewhat happily ever after for the couple. However, in the epilogue the narrator is a much older Briony and the reader learns that instead of having a happily ever after, “Robbie Turner died of septicemia at Bray Dunes…” and “Cecelia was killed in September of the same year…” (350). The reader assumed that there was undoubtedly a happy ending, relying heavily on desires and inferences. The fact that McEwan causes us as readers to feel content with what we think is the end and then takes it away from us shows how easy it is to rely on our desires and also how dangerous it is.
While the book may disappoint the reader because the happy ending is not actually real, McEwan does this in order to warn the reader for when it actually is real. The reader never actually sees into Robbie and Cecelia’s thoughts – they were made up. The reader cannot rely so heavily on preconceived notions, without having explicit facts. McEwan makes the reader so much like Briony that, as readers, we begin to realize the things we hate Briony for, we do ourselves. We assume who the rapist is, we assume that the narrator is reliable and then we assume there is a happy ending. We have limited information on what actually is happening, but McEwan leads the reader to believe we are right, which once again makes us even more like Briony. He uses Briony as a warning to all of us since she is so relatable – he warns us to focus more on facts and reality and to not get caught up in what we think happened or what we “know.” We were disappointed at the end of Atonement – if we continue to infer based off of our own limited perspectives, our disappointments can become reality and not just based off of fiction.
Ultimately, Atonement is a novel that presents it readers with the detrimental effects of getting lost in what we wish to see or be while seeking an answer and ignoring reality. While hyperbolizing the dangers of this through his characters and plot, McEwan emphasizes the importance of being able to accept reality and not letting imaginations run wild. While having an imagination is typically something that is considered fun and creative, it is important not to blur line of reality. McEwan illustrates the detrimental effects of ignoring reality through the gothic allusion of the happy ending and interchanging viewpoints.
The Landscape of D-503’s Mind
Zamyatin’s excerpt “Evening…. digestible concept, by…” illustrates the landscape of D-503’s shambolic mind, in order to establish the roots as the irrational pursuit of perfection. Zamyatin begins by establishing the metaphor between the terrestrial world and a notion of paradise, in which there is perfection. The “golden milky fabric” that Zamyatin describes, suggests the notion that from below this fabric, or this divide, the unattainability of perfection is murky since it is milky, however with the golden feature of the fabric, D-503 suggests that it is a pursuit worthy of efforts because gold is unanimous with success (Zamyatin 54). This description in itself emphasizes the irrationality of this pursuit because the description of milky is juxtaposed with the description of golden, which suggests that the route to success is murky and unclear. This failure to acknowledge the flaw or implication of his statement, lead to the disillusionment of D-503 as he realizes that the path to success, which is for him the path to perfection, is unattainable. The flaw in his reasoning suggests the humanity of D-503 since humans are highly prone to oversee detail, which is the basis of accurate knowledge and perfection. This human quality makes humans prone to never attain perfection in regards to their state of mind and develop an ability to understand the world. Zamyatin furthers this his establishment of setting with D-503’s explicit statement of the “evening” that comes with a “light fog,” (54). The chronology of day and the weather are aspects of life that humans do not have the ability to control. The evening setting suggest an unknown because of the lack of light in the evening, while a light fog ensue an even greater feeling of frustration in the fabric, because fog is an entity that once individuals believe they trespass they only pass in order to find more fog, in this case even more obstacles in the pursuit of perfection.
Zamyatin’s chaotic syntax illustrate D-503’s pursuit for perfection within the landscape of his mind, in order to emphasize the negative consequence of this irrational pursuit which the development of even more confusion in the mind of the individual, in regards to their identity. At the beginning of the passage, there is a minimal appearance of ellipses, dashes, and parenthesis. As he becomes more stubborn in his pursuit of perfection, he loses his ability to develop and write his ideas clearly as seen by the abundance of clarifying punctuation that is, by the end combined. This establishes the irony perfection comes as a result of disorganization, because there is a limit to human ability and all perfection starts with imperfection, therefore disorder is the prerequisite to the betterment of an individual, but not necessarily the perfection of an individual. This notion emphasizes the difficulty of clarifying the workings of the mind, which condemns the One State for striping the ciphers of their humanity and therefore the little context they have to understand any of the workings of their minds. For this reason, D-503 fails to acknowledge that what he needs is not perfection, but rather a sense of individuality and imperfection in order to allow him to learn from his mistakes himself, and truly develop a more clear depiction of his mind.
The ambiguity on the description of D-503’s mental landscape, condemns the pursuit of a notion that is incomprehensible, such as perfection, in order to emphasize that perfection loses it’s meaning once society creates its members as already perfect. In essence, there must be an idea of imperfect to judge whether something is perfect. D-503 describes his mental state as there, “both here and infinitely far” (54). The ambiguity of his sense on his pursuit of perfection, since he compares himself to a god that represents perfection, describes the human tendency never fully understand where they are in this pursuit, however, they must acknowledge that there is a difference between the two there’s, The one described as infinitely far as perfection, while the one described as here as reality. Therefore, those who are closer to their thoughts have a better understanding of them, and thus, understand the importance if content when improving the state of the mind. The pursuit of impossible perfection makes everything unclear, and thus establishes an illustration of an illogical and suffering mind. A mind that must make logical sense out of seemigly incoherent pieces of reality.
Ameron Book 2 the Second Sword by Adam Federspiel Prologue Tyrone Story
Ameron Book 2 The Second Sword By Adam Federspiel
Tyrone was starting to get scared. His team was supposed to meet for a Pyroball practice, but no one showed up. At first he thought it was a prank, but he searched all around the vast, labyrinthine Academy, and he couldn’t find any of them. He had been trying to text them ever since his party, but no one responded. He bumped into Adrian, Mason, and Ne Laa. Despite everything the Academy has been through, they still looked like their normal selves. Adrian had “Hey, Tyrone!” Mason said. “Hey guys,” Tyrone said deadpan. “Is something the matter?” Ne Laa asked. “Oh, it’s nothing,” Tyrone said. “It doesn’t seem like it,” Adrian said. “It’s just… my friends are missing, and I’m starting to get concerned…” Tyrone said. “Where was the last place you saw them?” Ne Laa asked.“At my party…” Tyrone said.“Well, maybe they’re at your house?” Adrian asked.“Hmm… you might be right!” Tyrone said. “Thanks!” Tyrone ran up to his room, down the plain stone hallways, to get some of his stuff he wanted to take home.
Since I’m going to my house, I might as well take my books, Tyrone thought. Tyrone may have been a jock, but he was secretly a huge bookworm. He liked adventure books, funny books, but most of all he read books about explorers. His by far favorite were the books about the legendary explorer, Jack Dakana. He read about his adventures, such as discovering the first plant of Ameron, a giant tree which he named the Yggdrasil, and travelling to other universes. He walked inside, only to find his room a mess. The floor was covered in dirty clothes, old books, and scuffed up Pyroball gear.“What the fuck?” Tyrone yelled. “I just organized my room!” Suddenly, he heard a noise in the bathroom.“Huh? Who’s there?” Tyrone asked. There was a deathly silence. Tyrone slowly walked towards the bathroom. He opened the door, ready for a fight. But no one was there. “Phew!” Tyrone thought. “I must be losing my mind. ”A hand shot out from behind him and grabbed his neck. It threw him at the wall with superhuman strength. Tyrone looked up and saw who it was. “Surprised to see me?” Moone asked. “Moone?!” Tyrone said incredulously. “I heard you were looking for your friends,” Moone said. “Yeah, so?” Tyrone asked. “Would you like to see them?“ Moone asked. “Yeah…”“Well that… is wonderful…” Moone said. Moone laughed as he ran at Tyrone. Tyrone got out of the way, causing Moone to crash into the wall. “Get away from me!” Tyrone shouted. Tyrone tried to punch him in the face, but Moone fell back and sunk into his own shadow. What the hell?! Tyrone thought. Moone suddenly appeared behind him. He extended his arm and shot a shuriken at Tyrone, using a machine attached to his arm. Tyrone screamed in pain. “You’re lucky Magnus wants his test subjects alive, or else I would’ve shot you with one of my poisonous shurikens.” Moone said. Moone grabbed Tyrone, and disappeared into the shadows. Out of reach, and out of sight.
rationality to economic and social problems
Humanity constantly seeks change to improve itself, be it through economic restructuring, political reforms, or educational agendas. When a collection of these changes towards progress mesh nicely together, while possessing a common, encompassing goal, an author is able to construct his or her version of utopia-a futuristic, ideal society that appears significantly more attractive and desirable than the current one. Often, this new society will be radically different, disposing of long held political and economic structures, sometimes replacing them, other times leaving them out of the picture. However, such radical changes often encounter skeptical minds-that is, the readers are separated so far from their current society that the new one is inconceivable and thus lacks the full appeal or fair consideration desired by the author. This is the reason many utopists are forced to provide some concessions in their writings, which at times leads to a lack of completeness in the utopia portrayed.
This lack of wholeness is one of the crucial problems that Edward Bellamy encounters even as he paints a rather detailed, extensive picture of his version of utopia through the novel Looking Backward. In his book he delineates a futuristic utopia set in the twentieth century in which humanity lives in a much more collaborative and unified manner. No longer do such concepts as currency or laws exist, while the motivation to pilfer or deceive has simply dissolved. The general public, as opposed to private institutions, now possesses control over the capital, holding it as a collective entity. Furthermore, militaristic armies have dissipated, and in place a cohesive labor force, which Bellamy refers to as the “industrial army,” has risen (118). All these innovative concepts are related in most part through the dialogue of the narrator, Julian West, who, through a rather bizarre and lengthy sleep finds himself in the nineteenth century one day and the twentieth century the very next, and Dr. Leete, a denizen of Bellamy’s twentieth century utopia. However, even with such radical changes, Bellamy is forced to provide concessions and leave some questions unattended in order to appease his readers’ minds, circumvent conflicting aspects, and augment the appeal of his utopia. Although these incidents of retraction are limited and few, they still remain crucial, as they limit Bellamy from presenting the full scope of his utopian vision. Most strikingly in Looking Backward, there exist two major aspects that engender this sense of incompleteness along with contradiction and tension for Bellamy’s utopian society. One is the character portrayal of the Leete family, which is depicted using the blueprint of a stereotypical, Victorian era family. The other is isolationism, both on a societal and international level, as the Leete family interacts very little with the other members in this society and as Bellamy allocates very little attention to international concerns.
Foremost, Edith Leete’s conventional, Victorian feminine personality is one front upon which Bellamy’s concessions arise subtly yet significantly. Kenneth Roemer, in his essay “Literary Domestication of Utopia,” analyzes the role Edith, the daughter in the Leete family who is rather fond of Julian West, plays to ingratiate the readers of the nineteenth century. Roemer takes note of how Edith is characterized as still retaining those characteristics and interests thought to be held prominently by women, such as shopping and particular concern over the style of clothing. He even points to her episodes of crying as manifestations of typical feminine qualities. Furthermore, Roemer refers to Edith’s sympathetic and nurturing personality, as she supports Julian as he plunges into a state of consternation at the thought of how his life has so quickly been transformed upon entering into a totally different society (110-111). With this character portrayal of Edith, Bellamy is able to maintain the longstanding and conventional qualities that separate the genders, which further allows the audience to hold on to something familiar to their own society.
This return to typical gender distinction seems trivial, however, until one sees the contradictory behavior of Edith when put in the light of Dr. Leete’s description of women in this utopian society. When the question arises concerning how women of the twentieth century act in times of love, Dr. Leete responds: “There is no more pretense of a concealment of feeling on their part than on the part of their lovers. Coquetry would be as much despised in a girl as in a man” (Bellamy 201). However, Edith does not live up to this description; soon after Julian professes his love for her, Edith’s countenance is one marked by shyness and timidity (220). Furthermore, when Edith finally garners enough confidence to tell Julian her love for him, she professes it in the most circuitous manner: “Are you sure it is not you who are blind” (221)? Thus, Edith’s actions in this situation contradict the description given by Dr. Leete, which signifies the tension that Bellamy is held between. He seems to be pushing towards a more egalitarian perspective between genders in this society, but makes concessions on certain grounds so that his audience-middle to upper class late ninetieth century Americans-will continue to hold a grasp of this society on the basis of relating to the familiarity of stereotypical, Victorian characters.
On an analogous ground, no reference is ever made about Edith’s or Mrs. Leete’s profession in society, while it is clear what Dr. Leete does. Bellamy, in an attempt to revert back to the stereotypical and conventional family structure, emphasizes dependence on the patriarchal figure. This concept of dependence on the father, however, seems highly incongruous with the statement Dr. Leete makes in response to Julian’s assumption that wives are dependent on the husband: “Of course they are not, nor children on their parents either, that is, for means of support…” (199).
Bellamy furthers this compromising so that the audience can continue to better relate to the society that he is depicting. For example, the plot again leads the reader to see distinct boundaries in the gender relations: “That evening I sat up for some time after the ladies had retired, talking to Dr. Leete about the effect of the plan…” (159). Although such a subtle incident, it reveals much about the retained air of superiority possessed by the men in this society, showing that discourses on such intellectual or political issues would not pertain or hold much value to women. Again, one must wonder which gender path Bellamy is truly following-his proclaimed egalitarian one or one that still retains distinct boundaries, characteristic of the Victorian era?
In addition to this pressing tension that creates a dichotomy between the genders, Bellamy is keen to make sure he reveals the profession of Dr. Leete. In a community in which everyone is equal, everyone is content, and everyone is wealthy, why choose a doctor to be the person to portray such a society? Bellamy’s logic in this case most likely stems from the idea that he needs to show his audience, most of whom own similar types of prestigious positions or vocations in society, that these same, higher class people are still happy in a society where they are considered equal to their neighbors, who may be trash collectors or some conventionally labeled inferior profession. Had Bellamy chosen to portray this utopia through someone else, such as a coal miner, his readers would have been highly skeptical concerning whether the rich still maintain their standard of living, although the marked difference in quality of life between the coal miners of the nineteenth century and those of the twentieth century may have been highly effective in demonstrating the change in quality of life. Nonetheless, one must remember that most of the audience will be foremost concerned with maintaining its luxurious position in society, and only secondly will pursue the aggrandizement of other, lower class members. However, one may argue that the reason Bellamy chose a doctor is to provide someone who is of higher education, thus possessing greater knowledge about the structure of society. Although this may allow the reader to better understand the full scope of the utopian society, Bellamy’s decision to choose a doctor, at the least, serves partly to cater this book towards a specific audience, one marked by high class and affluence.
The character portrayal in this novel is not the only aspect that hinders the complete and coherent presentation of Bellamy’s utopia; the concept of isolationism, both on a societal and international level, also contributes to this tension that Bellamy confronts. Foremost, the isolation on the societal level-that is, within the city of Boston-is very apparent throughout the novel. Merritt Abrash, in his essay “Looking Backward: Marxism Americanized,” points out that very little interaction takes place with other citizens, and Bellamy fails to include much of any reference to relatives, family friends, neighbors, or even acquaintances of the Leete family. In situations where it would be opportune to describe social interactions between the citizens of this utopian society, such as at schools (Abrash 238), Julian states, “I shall not describe in detail what I saw in the schools that day,” which seems rather evasive on Bellamy’s part (Bellamy 175). Furthermore, much of the novel takes place in the home of the Leete family, with minimal journeying into the city or enjoyment of the statues and parks that have been built for the public’s pleasure. Why does Bellamy choose to isolate the Leete family to such an extent? Is this utopian society really one of dullness and little human interaction, or once again is Bellamy tangled within the intricate threads of this tension and forced to provide another concession? Possibly, Bellamy faced a length issue, which led him to limit social interaction simply between Julian and the Leete family; however, his lack of practically any interaction between other members of society points to a different motive. As one sees how radical and extreme Bellamy presents this concept of “brotherhood” and common unity, one may discern that Bellamy realized it would be strategic to isolate the Leete family, retaining and emphasizing its individual identity as a family (Bellamy 122). The concept of a family has been built into almost all types of cultures throughout history, and to tamper with it, or even propose the idea of dissolving it, would entail losing the interest and respect of several readers (Roemer, “Utopia and Victorian Culture,” 322).
In addition to this isolation on a societal level, little attention is directed to international concerns. Bellamy assumes that all other nations would easily flow in line right behind America in the transformation to utopia and that violence and turmoil would somehow be naturally obviated. Susan Matarese, in her essay “Foreign Policy and the American Self Image: Looking Back at Looking Backward,” analyzes this idea and further expounds it as she points to Bellamy’s use of the term “Nationalism.” Bellamy employs this term as a blanketing, categorical title for the overall structuring of his society. This term does not give the sense of any type of collaboration with other countries, and instead alienates them and focuses on America as the sole nation of concern. In the utopia that Bellamy portrays, it seems as if mankind has been united, and countries are mere geographical barriers, not cultural barriers or anything of that matter, causing this term to seem somewhat out of place. Matarese nicely articulates her proposed reasoning on why Bellamy choose such a term: “His choice of the term ‘Nationalism’ to describe the new economic, social, and political order which he presented in Looking Backward was a deliberate effort to dissociate his ideas from Europeans who shared his socialist ideals” (44). However, this departure from the theme of “brotherhood” that Bellamy seems to champion throughout much of his book may again be attributed to tension caused by his intended readers-that is, those in the nineteenth century held the common belief that America would set the paradigm for all other countries and therefore lead the way towards utopia (46). Although one may contend that it can be assumed that the sense of “brotherhood” would be extrapolated to other countries, upon reading Bellamy’s portion of the novel concerning the remodeling of other nations, this idea quickly dissolves: “An international council regulates the mutual intercourse and commerce of the members of the union and their joint policy toward the more backward races…” (126). Bellamy’s use of such a pejorative phrase as “backward races” clearly demonstrates that he intends to make no provisions for differing ideals, treating them more as barbarians than brothers.
Throughout his book Bellamy makes numerous concessions in an attempt to form ties between the society he lives in and the quite radical one he is proposing. However, many of these concessions may reflect a deeper complexity that exists regarding the circumstances in his novel and his vision. For example, the convoluted way in which Edith expresses her love for Julian may be justified by the fact that her grandmother was engaged to Julian during his previous nineteenth century life (Bellamy 220). This fact does cause the relationship between Julian and Edith to be rather awkward, and thus it may explain the indirect expressions of affection and care. In addition, the conflicts surrounding the issue of gender equality may not necessarily be a concession, but rather genuinely intended-that is, these contradictions are simply manifestations of Bellamy’s vacillating thoughts on gender equality. Bellamy may feel that the separation of gender is an ingrained aspect of society and that this idea should continue into the future. Also, the isolationism that predominates in Bellamy’s novel may simply be a strategic move on his part to better present his utopia, not evade the topic. Thus, with all the incidents and aspects of Bellamy’s novel that are referred to in this paper as concessions, it is truly impossible to say with resolved decisiveness whether they truly were concessions. Bellamy may in fact have shaped this utopian society, down to its details, exactly as he desired in order to convey his thoughts and beliefs in a completely authentic manner. Ultimately, there remains a vague sense of ambivalence concerning the issue of whether or not the details within Bellamy’s novel can be labeled as concessions.
The inclusion of similarities or connections between the author’s society and the one that he or she is proposing is not incidental or limited to Bellamy, but rather necessary and pervasive among utopists. The utopists realize that they need some form of relation between the differing societies so that the readers do not become completely baffled or dubious when attempting to decipher the ways of a radical, divergent society, and Bellamy considers exactly this tactic when writing his novel (Roemer, “Utopia and Victorian Culture,” 315). However, this tension or compulsion that utopists feel to maintain similarities with the society of the audience often detracts from the full scale of the utopia’s novelty and accuracy, ultimately leading to a lack of coherence and wholeness in the depicted society.
Men have become the tools of their tools
Henry David Thoreau, a leading philosopher of the 19th century, stated that “Men have become the tools of their tools.” Machine Man, written by Max Barry, holds true to this quote. In this fiction novel, scientist Charles Neumann surrounds his entire life based on mechanical parts for which he switches out his biological parts. Up until nearly the end of the novel, Charles can be referred to as a cyborg, meaning he relies on these mechanical parts to extend his physical capabilities. He loses his morality for biology increasingly, as he allows mechanical parts to take over his entire body. Although technology continues advancing and is becoming more resourceful, it can have damaging effects. In Charles Neumann’s case, the use of technology is detrimental to his overall health.
First, using technology negatively impacts Charles’ mental health. Machine Man immediately begins with Charles criticizing robots as a child. For example, he claims “Instead of doing one thing right, they [robots] did everything badly” (Barry 3). As early as the first page, readers pick up on the fact that Charles has a hunch for improving machinery. Later, in his adult life, Charles becomes a scientist, and he works for an engineering company called Better Future. Ironically, Charles loses a leg in an unfortunate work accident because he becomes worried about finding his phone. Unhappy about the choice between several undesirable prosthetic legs, Charles creates his own artificial leg, but he finds that having one biological leg and one mechanical leg hinders him from reaching his full walking potential. Without delay, Charles begins constructing a second leg, and, without remorse, he removes his last biological leg from his body. Throughout the plot, Charles constantly makes new parts for his body. In a logical sense, it is not normal for one to remove his or her own body parts when they are functional. Not to mention, he puts this type of work before everything else, making no time for socializing. Isolation and the constant need for control are symptoms of an obsessive compulsive personality disorder, those of which Charles displays. According to The New Harvard Guide to Women’s Health, “Typically people with this disorder are unjustifiably stingy with time and money, and often are workaholics, valuing productivity or possessions above other people” (Carlson, “Personality Disorders”). This description holds true of Charles, as he is always focused on his strange work, many times forgetting to eat or sleep.
Additionally, Charles believes his mechanical body parts will drive attention to him. Lola Shanks, Charles’ prosthetist and love interest, contributes to his desire for more mechanical body parts. For instance, she compliments his work, saying “Oh, Charlie. It’s beautiful. It’s completely beautiful” (Barry, 56). Lola makes Charlie feel as though he matters, and that’s a feeling he’s never had, as he mentions his dating life has been nonexistent for quite some time (Barry 9). Perhaps his insecurity is lessened by Lola’s compliments to the point where he believes, ironically, that people will appreciate him as a person if he becomes more of a machine. Of course, in the natural world, an actual machine man might be marveled at; however, Charles is only fooling himself by thinking that going through the extremes of changing his body to the point where he has no body will gain him a love worth having. Insecurity means “lacking self-confidence,” and that is just how Charles can be described (The American Heritage Dictionary of Medicine, “insecure”). By and large, rather than facing his insecurities and doubts, Charles takes advantage of technology, leading to his downfall.
Charles proves that technology weakens his social well-being. In the beginning chapter, Charles says “I have no friends, am estranged from my family, and haven’t dated in this decade” (Barry 9). This early description of his social life guarantees an understanding of later behavior, and it seems like that of an introverted personality. The Macquarie Dictionary refers to an introvert as “somebody whose attention and interests are directed towards his or her own mental life” and “somebody who is uneasy in company [and] shy” (“Introvert”). Perhaps because of his introverted personality, he isn’t often surrounded by others. Furthermore, if Charles believes his mechanical body will gain himself validation and approval from others, he has stepped in the wrong direction. Technology is a tool used to improve interaction between people, but in Charles’ case, his physicality distances himself from others. Also, Charles’ obsessive nature heavily impacts his relationship with Lola Shanks. Lola cares about Carl, another prosthetic patient, and she tends to him, which brings out the jealousy in Charles. Because of his emotions, Charles decides he isn’t going to allow Carl the pleasure of using the other marvelous mechanical body parts he has composed. Charles’ selfishness becomes apparent, and, consequently, Lola pushes Charles out of her life. Finally, technology is an overall hindrance to Charles’ well-being in the long run. For example, Charles loses all evidence of being human when he becomes a soul inside of a screen (Barry 271). Clearly the purpose of technology is redefined in Charles’ mind. Oddly enough, Charles’ social life spirals downhill as he goes from using technology to actually becoming it.
Charles Neumann’s life revolves around technology, just as many other humans depend on it in the 21st century. Charles represents a society that cannot function without the use of technology, and his life portrays the consequences. Max Barry presents the idea that one should not become so dependent on technology that his or her life ends up on the line of uncertainty. Charles busies himself with becoming someone of importance, yet he ends up as nothing but a box. All things considered, Charles no longer lives a normal nor healthy lifestyle, all because of his one-track mind.
Barry, Max. Machine Man. N.p.: Vintage, 2011. Print. “insecure.” The American Heritage Dictionary of Medicine, edited by Editors of the American Heritage Dictionaries, Houghton Mifflin, 2nd edition, 2015. Credo Reference. Accessed 28 Mar 2017. “introvert.” Def.1. The Penguin English Dictionary. Ed. R. E. Allen, Penguin, 3rd edition, 2007. Credo Reference. Accessed 28 Mar 2017. “Personality Disorders.” New Harvard Guide to Women’s Health, The, Karen J. Carlson, et al., Harvard University Press, 1st edition, 2004. Credo Reference. Accessed 28 Mar 2017.
Book Review: Throne of Glass by Sarah J Maas
Throne of Glass by Sarah J Maas. Those who love fast paced adventure, magic, and a little bit of romance will love this book. It is angled mostly towards young adults, but anyone can pick up the book and enjoy it.
Other books similar to this one include The Hunger Games, Cinder, The Young Elites, The Red Queen, and Snow Like Ashes. The Throne of Glass centers around the main character Celaena Sardothien, a notorious assassin. After being captured, the only way to earn her freedom is to fight as the King’s Champion in an intense competition. Celaena has to decide who to trust and who to stay away from in an endless struggle between wrong and right. But, a dark magic is lurking inside the castle alongside the competition, and her fight for freedom becomes a fight to survive.
She must find the source of the darkness and destroy it, before it consumes her world.Celaena Sardothien is a no nonsense skilled assassin who has been feared for most of her life. She is tough, sharp witted, and sharp tongued, and has no problem taking care of herself. She lives life on the edge, and is always prepared to dominate any situation. Celaena follows her morals, even in the face of hardships. She is the type of heroine who doesn’t need to remind anyone of her true strengths. She will do whatever it takes to protect those she loves, and will go to incredible lengths to save the world she knows.
If Celaena were to apply to college, she would apply to West Point. “To educate, train, and inspire the Corps of Cadets so that each graduate is a commissioned leader of character committed to the values of Duty, Honor, Country and prepared for a career of professional excellence and service to the Nation as an officer in the United States Army.” I selected West Point for Celaena because it is the type of school that she would want to attend. She trained for most of her life as an assassin, and would enjoy putting her skills to use in a place where she could do good. Although, I think she would have a problem with the strict rules and regulations, but on a spur of the moment decision, I could see her deciding that she wanted to go to a military academy. The school also has a very good reputation, which would be an important factor in her decision. Also, the boarding and admission is free, since you would be going directly into the army afterwards. This would only strengthen Celaena’s resolve to go there. I think West Point would be a stronger fit than any other college.
A Critical Analysis Of The Translation Of Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy By Douglas Adam
I will try to present a critical analysis on Nil Alt’s translation of Douglas Adam’s The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, published in 2017 by Alfa Publishing House
Firstly, I would like to mention the book. As its name suggests, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is a guide on how to hitchhike in the galaxy. The book was actually a radio show in 1978, and after the appreciation the show got, Adams wrote a book out of it in 1979. It is actually “a trilogy in five volumes” as Adams puts it (but I will be analyzing just the first five chapters of the first book). The book, or the radio series, also became a play, a TV series, a computer game and a movie. Moreover, in Turkey, the book was published several times, including Saluki Budak’s translation for Edesos Publishing in 1991, Serhat Dalkır’s translation for Sarmal Publishing in 1996 – which was translated as Her Otostopçunun Galaksi Rehberi – and Nil Alt’s translation for Kabalcı Publishing in 2003 – which was republished in 2017 by Alfa Publishing.
The protagonist of the book is Arthur Dent, a “typical” English man who is not a hero, and actually a boring person. The story begins on a regular Thursday lunchtime, with many officers from the municipality coming to Arthur’s house to say that his house would be demolished because a new road has to go through there. However, what actually matters is that Vogons, an alien race, comes to demolish the Earth due to the exact same reason, because an intergalactical bypass have to be built. So, the Earth gets destroyed, and luckily, Arthur’s friend turns out to be an alien, they hitchhike to a spaceship together, and then Arthur becomes the last living Earthling. The rest is just crazy adventures.
When it was published, the book was a huge success, a lot of people have read it, and it has affected many things. For example, Altavista’s first translation service was named Babel Fish because in the book there is an actual fish which you can put in your ear for it to translate every known language. The band Radiohead named one of their songs after Marvin, a depressed robot in the book, as Paranoid Android. Also, an asteroid was named after Arthur Dent. Lastly, according to Google, the answer to the life, the universe and everything is 42, just as it is in the book.
Before starting my analysis, I would like to say a few words about the author Douglas Adams and the translator Nil Alt. Actually, there are a lot of things to say about Douglas Adams, but let’s briefly say that he is basically a genius who died at a very young age. He was a writer and editor of Doctor Who series. He has a very specific writing style and sense of humor, and what he is successful at doing is that he can combine things that you would never imagine together in a very natural and funny way. He is also the author of Dirk Gently’s Wholistic Detective Agency. On the other hand, the translator Nil Alt graduated from Robert College and then Istanbul University. She did her MA at Bogazici University, in Translation and Interpreting studies. She has translated many novels, essays and children’s books.
When performing my analysis, I will try to adopt the path Van der Broeck suggested – although mistakenly I have read the translated version first. Therefore, I will start by analyzing the stylistic features of the source text, and then carry out a comparative analysis to understand why the translator made certain choices.
Douglas Adams is an author that uses repetitions a lot, sometimes he modifies a phrase a little and then he restates it or repeats it. Onomatopoeias have also a great place in the book as well. Furthermore, the book contains a lot of satire, especially on human nature; the satire in the book is sometimes too obvious, and sometimes it is not. Adams also combines casual language and science language, and he is really good at building simple and monotony looking sentences, but he adds a surprise effect with shocking twists. In addition, he creates successful back and forth dialogues between the characters. Lastly, the book also includes Vogon poetry, which according to The Guide is the third terrible thing in the entire galaxy.
After identifying the stylistic features of the text, we can now proceed to the comparative analysis. Firstly, I will look at how the translator dealt with the repetitions in the text:
ST: “There was a terrible ghastly silence. TT: “Koruna bir sessizlik oldu.
There was a terrible ghastly noise. Korkunç bir gürültü oldu.
There was a terrible ghastly silence.” Korkunç bir sessizlik oldu.”
In this part, Adams repeats almost the same sentence three times. Nil Alt does not make many alterations in the translation and she also uses the same repetition. However, I do not think that “gürültü olmak” sounds natural in Turkish.
ST: “…a terribly stupid catastrophe occurred, and the idea was lost forever.”
TT: “…aptal bir felaket meydana geldi ve fikir sonsuza dek yitip gitti.”
ST: “But it is the story of that terrible stupid catastrophe…”
TT: “Ama o korkunç, aptal felaketin…”
ST: “…and until the terrible catastrophe occurred…”
TT: “…ve o korkunç felaket meydana gelene dek…
ST: “But the story of this terrible, stupid Thursday…”
TT: “Ama o korkunç, aptal perşembenin…”
In these sentences, Nil Alt again chooses to protect the repetition affect; however, she does it in a kind of inconsistent way. For “terrible stupid catastrophe”, she uses “aptal”, “korkunç” and “korkunç, aptal”. It would maybe fit better if she translated all in the same way.
ST: “…and was also deaf and dumb.”
TT: “…üstelik sağır ve dilsiz birini seçmiştim.”
ST: “…who also turned out to be deaf and dumb.”
TT: “…ama o da sağır ve dilsiz çıkınca…”
ST: “…the third man I spoke to turned out to be deaf and dumb and also blind…”
TT: “…üçüncü adam da sağır ve dilsiz, üstelik de kör çıkınca…”
In this example, Nil Alt again conveys the repetition effect, but she somehow euphemizes the sentences. It may be due to the fact that if someone calls a deaf person “dumb”, she may be subjected to a serious reaction. I believe that is why instead of saying “sağır ve aptal”, she preferred to say “sağır ve dilsiz.”
Now I will focus on how the translator conveyed the general style of the original text, and why she made certain word choices.
ST: “He had simply mistaken the dominant life form.”
TT: “Ama üzerinde araştırma yaptığı egemen canlı türünün seçimi hakkında hata yapmıştı.”
Although the translation contains a misinterpretation, I do not mean to hunt errors. Here, I want to draw attention to the fact that the translator chose to explain the sentence instead of leaving it shortly as the original, and she added “üzerinde araştırma yaptığı” part, even though it was clear that the text is talking about a “research” in the previous sentence.
ST: “The ships hung in the sky in much the same way that bricks don’t.”
TT: “Gemiler, tuğlaların asla duramayacağı gibi gökyüzünde asılı duruyorlardı.”
I have particularly wanted to add this sentence into my paper because I believe this is one of the sentences that clearly shows Douglas Adams’ style and how unpredictable he is. Even though this sentence seems like impossible to translate – or it is impossible to create the same effect let’s say – I think Nil Alt managed the translate it nicely. The sentence actually lost its effect slightly, but I can say that it is a successful translation transferring the correct meaning and most of the effect.
ST: “’Six pints of bitter,’ said Ford Prefect…”
TT “’Altı tane sert Arjantin bira,’ dedi Ford Prefect…”
In this sentence, Nil Alt chose to domesticate the beer part because only in Turkey people call a 70 cl beer glass “Arjantin”.
Now, I will examine the translation of “people” as “halk”.
ST: “…most of the people on it were unhappy for pretty much of the time.”
TT: “Üzerinde yaşayan halkın büyük bölümü çoğu zaman mutsuzdu.”
ST: “…lots of the people were mean, and most of them were miserable, even the ones with digital watches.”
TT: “…halkın çoğunun durumu kötüydü ve onların büyük bölümüyse sefildi, dijital kol saati olanlar bile.”
ST: “…for saying how great it would be to be nice to people for a change…”
TT: “…bundan böyle halka iyi davranmanın ne kadar iyi olacağını dile getirdiği için…”
Nil Alt chose to translate “people” as “halk”. However, when I checked the definition of “halk” from TDK, all of the definitions included a common word: ülke – country. So, we can refer that being a “halk” is somehow related to living in the same country or belonging to a nation. Yet in the source text, the intended meaning includes all of the people living in the Earth – namely humans. Even though and (2) seem nice and natural, it sounds somehow unnatural. Instead of saying “halk”, “üzerinde yaşayanlar” or “canlılar” could be a better option.
I will now proceed to analyze the translation of made-up names.
Celestial Home Care Omnibus – Gökyüzü Evinizin Bakım Derlemesi
Fifty More Things to do in Zero Gravity – Sıfır Yerçekiminde Yapılacak Elli Üç Şey Daha
Where God Went Wrong? – Tanrı Nerede Yanlış Yaptı?
Some More of God’s Greatest Mistakes – Tanrı’nın En Büyük Hatalarından Birkaçı Daha
Who is this God Person Anyway? – Bu Tanrı Da Kimmiş?
Encyclopedia Galactica – Ana Galaktika Ansiklopedisi
Pan galactic gargle blaster – Pan galaktik gargara bombası
The President of the Mid-Galactic Arts Nobbling Council – Orta Galaktik Sanat Onur Kurulu Başkanı
From these examples, it is seen that Nil Alt preferred to domesticate most of the times. For instance, she translates “Encyclopedia Galactica” – a reference to Encyclopedia Britannica – as “Ana Galaktika Ansiklopedisi”, since the popular version of the real encyclopedia in Turkey was Ana Britannica. On the other hand, the original text itself has a somehow “foreignizing” effect since the items mentioned are already alien to all people of the Earth. Nil Alt successfully manages to convey this “foreign” effect in Turkey while at the same time preserving the alliterations, assonances and puns – as in the example of “Pan galactic gargle blaster – Pan galaktik gargara bombası”.
Lastly, I will take a look at the translation of Vogon poetry in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. In the book, Vogon poetry creates a humorous effect. It has a proper grammar, one can identify the verbs and nouns; however, the words are mostly made up and the “real” words used are usually words that we are not used to see used together.
“Oh frettled gruntbuggly…
Thy micturations are to me
As plurdled gabbleblotchits on a lurgid bee.”
“Senin işemelerin banadır…
Ey lekecikli homurtu böcekçiği
Hastalıklı bir arının üzerindeki bir sürü gevezelik lekesi gibi.”
“Groop I implore thee,
My foonting turlingdromes.
And hooptiously drangle me with crinkly bindlewurdles,
Or I will rend thee in the gobberwarts with my blurglecruncheon,
See if I don’t!”
“Zor da olsa bul onu
Ve üzerimke buruşuk gürndüz sefartlarından halka halka ağ at
Yoksa seni bulandıran çatırdağımla parçanklara büldürtürüm seni,
Bak bakalım vazgeçiyor muyum?”
In the source text, the humorous effect is created by the use of unfamiliar, or rather not real words. In both of the examples, Adams consistently uses those strange words to create Vogon poetry. When the translation is examined, we again see that Nil Alt uses words they usually do not go together. However, while in the first example she only uses real words which are indeed familiar to us, in the second example, she starts to use made-up words. In the book, these poems are in consecutive pages. Therefore, this situation builds an inconsistency.
Overall, in the translation, it is clear that Nil Alt tried to transfer the linguistic features of the source text. She manages to deliver the humorous effect and the “strangeness” of the text. I would say the possible strategies she adopted may be domestication and calque and – inevitably – foreignizing. The translation is sometimes inconsistent, but I believe while translating, Nil Alt was aware of the linguistic characteristics of the book, and she did made effort to convey the repetitions, satire and strange language use.
Literary Analysis of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is a science-fiction parody novel by Douglas Adams. It can be classified as an absurdist story where the protagonist searches a meaning to life. Throughout this character’s journey, he’s faced with multiple obstacles which are totally absurd events that defy all logic reason. This novel particularly stands out for its distinguishing writing style. It’s specifically particular because of its use of multiple literary devices, gallows humour and satire to emphasize the absurdity of the novel, which truly is what makes it unique. Adams sheds light on the ridiculousness and silliness of things we generally regard as normal.
Literary devices to convey absurdity
Many times throughout the novel, Douglas Adams uses literary devices to amplify the absurdity of his narrative. For example, the narrator uses the personification of a bowl of petunias when he tells the story of two missiles targeting the Heart of Gold that are changed into a sperm whale and a bowl of petunias using the Infinite Improbability Drive. During its fall to its doom, the bowl of petunia, given humanlike characteristics, has time to think “Oh no, not again” before reaching its splattered demise. This is a good example of the use of absurdity through personification.
Adams also makes a parallelism between the destruction of Arthur Dent’s house and the destruction of the Earth by the Vogons. In both cases, the house and the Earth are destroyed to make way for a bypass, and both leader of the destructions, M. Prosser and Prostetnic Vogon Jeltz, use the same argument: Arthur and the residents of the Earth should have known about these plans since they were on display. There’s a great sense of absurdity within the fact that the city council’s reasons for the abrupt demolishing of Arthur’s house are the same as the Vorgons’ reasons for destroying the Earth. This absurdity alludes to Adam’s view of the world and the general silliness of the society and bureaucratic nonsense.
Lastly, the narrator also uses foreshadowing, which consists in giving an advance hint to what’s to come later in the story. For instance, in chapter sixteen, the narrator notes that the stress is a serious problem after Arthur said “The suspense is killing me”. So to avoid too much suspense, the narrator reveals a few things to the reader in advance. There’s absurdity behind the fact that Adams reveals twist and turns that look far-fetched to the reader considering that the latter is unable to make sense of these revelations since they’re so far away in the story’s timeline. Adam probably used this literary device in order to create suspense and to generate a need to see how the story develops.
In brief, the use of literary devices such as personification, parallelism and foreshadowing really emphasizes the absurdity of the climax and overall plot line of Douglas Adams’ novel.
The use of gallows humour
The tone employed by Adams throughout his fictional story is gallows humor. By definition, gallows humour consists of making fun of a hopeless, disastrous or terrifying situation. The narrator makes sure that every life-threatening situation Arthur Dent ends up into is resolved in a quirky, dark and dry humoristic and ridiculous way. Adams mostly makes use of this type of humor when a character knows something awful is going to happen and there’s nothing to do about it. For example, a good usage of gallows humor would be when Arthur and Ford are caught by Prostetnic Vogon Jeltz while hiding from him. Ford humoristically says: “If we’re unlucky, the captain might be serious in his threat that he’s going to read us some of his poetry [before he throws us into space]…” Adams decides to make a joke out of a life-threatening situation knowing that the reader will ask himself an absurd question that would normally have no place in circumstances like these.
Another good use of gallows humor is when Arthur starts to realize the fact that the Earth is now destroyed and everything he has known is lost. Instead of grieving the loss of his loved ones, he’s shattered by the fact that there are no supermarkets anymore. “There was no way his imagination could feel the impact of the whole Earth having gone, it was too big. He prodded his feelings by thinking that his parents and his sister had gone. No reaction. He thought of all the people he had been close to. No reaction. Then he thought of a complete stranger he had been standing behind in the queue at the supermarket before and felt a sudden stab — the supermarket was gone, everything in it was gone. Nelson’s Column had gone! Nelson’s Column had gone and there would be no outcry, because there was no one left to make an outcry. From now on Nelson’s Column only existed in his mind. England only existed in his mind — his mind, stuck here in this dank smelly steel-lined spaceship. A wave of claustrophobia closed in on him.” In a serious and hopeless situation, Arthur jokes about missing more his local supermarket rather than his family members.
Lastly, Adams also use gallows humour when Arthur meets with Slartibartfast and they both leave in his aircar. The old man tells Arthur: “Follow me or you’ll be ‘late.’ And by ‘late,’ I mean ‘dead.’’
In conclusion, gallows humor is used quite a lot by Adams to get to most out of disastrous situations. It really brings out the absurdity of this novel since every joke is completely absurd. While the book in question may not make everyone laugh, the completely “off the wall” questions and use of gallows humor are what’s truly funny.
Satire and mocking modern times
From time to times, Douglas Adams uses satire to expose and criticize foolishness and corruption of modern society with humor, irony and exaggeration. He often makes jokes on social problems and morality. For instance, he used satire in the beginning of the novel as a tool to share his point of view on the Earth and humans. “Orbiting this at a distance of roughly ninety-eight million miles is an utterly insignificant little blue-green planet whose ape-descended life forms are so amazingly primitive that they still think digital watches are a pretty neat idea. Most of the people living on it were unhappy for pretty much of the time. Many solutions were suggested for this problem, but most of these were largely concerned with the movements of small green pieces of paper, which is odd because on the whole it wasn’t the small green pieces of paper that were unhappy.” In this excerpt, the author starts off by using derision and humor to communicate his negative opinion on the subject. Then he goes on satirizing the weakness and flaws of humans such as greed, pessimism and insatiability and condemns the society of being mammonnish and rapacious.
Latter in the novel, as explained before, Arthur is worried about his house being destroyed for the construction of a bypass. However, this problem becomes unimportant when the entire Earth is destroyed for much the same reason. Many of the situations mirror event on Earth, but are exaggerated for comedic effect. The destruction of an entire planet is seen by Vogons as unimportant; on a galactic scale, planets and races are destroyed every day. That’s why Arthur’s concern is mocked and ignored. With these two satiristic scenarios, Adams was able to show the absurdity in everyday life and how constant worry over small issues is counter-productive.
Overall, the use of satire ruthlessly exposes the absurdity of modern existence, particularly the bureaucracy and self-importance of humankind. It really shows how thing that we consider of great importance are actually insignificant in the larger scheme of things. This is what makes his writing style humorous and absurd.
Plot Summary of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
The story begins with our protagonist, Arthur Dent, having a normal morning in his house, though it is interrupted by a bulldozer standing outside his house, waiting to demolish it to build a bypass. Promptly, Arthur decides to lie in front of the bulldozer. Ford Prefect, Arthur’s good friend (who is actually an alien), stops by telling Arthur that he must come to the pub with him. Arthur says that he can’t let the man in charge, Mr. L. Prosser, destroy his home, which Mr. Prosser says was planned for nine months, but Arthur didn’t know about it (which ends up being horribly ironic later). Ford somehow convinces Mr. Prosser to lie in front of the bulldozer for Arthur. Ford says to Arthur that it wouldn’t really matter if his house was destroyed or not, because the world was going to end in twelve minutes. Arthur hears his house being knocked down and runs straight to the site from the pub. Ford knew where his towel is.
The Earth is then promptly destroyed by the Vogons to build an intergalactic highway, which the entire Earth didn’t know, but was posted in Alpha Centauri. Ford and Arthur hitchhike on one of the ships. Ford places an odd looking fish in Arthur’s ear, which begins to translate everything he heard into English. They are then captured by a Vogon, who takes them to see Prostetnic Vogon Jeltz, who is in charge of this operation. Prostetnic Vogon Jeltz read them some of his poetry (to which, Vogon poetry is third worse in the entire universe). Then threw them out into space.
They are then picked up by accident due to the infinite improbability drive, which essentially just zaps you everywhere at once until you meet your destination. On the ship they find Zaphod Beeblebrox, former President of the Imperial Galactic Government and who Arthur met at a party once; Trillian, who Arthur met at the same party; and Marvin, a legitimate depressed robot, who is extremely intelligent.
They then go on the search for Magrathea, a supposed legend which turns out to actually be real. Magrathea used to be the richest, built planet in the entire universe, before it passed from memory into false-fiction. The group goes down onto the planet, to which Arthur and Marvin stays on the surface while Zaphod, Trillian, and Ford go underground in search of riches, to attempt to restore the galaxy to its former glory.
Arthur goes on a walk only to run into Slartibartfast, a Magrathean. Slartibartfast takes Arthur on his aircar. Slartibartfast begins telling Arthur the story of how Earth has “formed a matrix of an organic computer running a ten-million research program.” The story is this: the Magratheans built an incredibly knowledgeable computer, Deep Thought, and when they turned it on, they decided to ask it for the answer to life, the universe and everything. Deep Thought responds with saying that it’ll need to think on it… for seven and a half million years. Fast forward those seven and a half million years, Deep Thought has an answer; forty-two. The people are furious, though Deep Thought says that they didn’t specify enough, and so, the Magratheans ask for The Ultimate Question. Deep Thought says that it can’t provide The Ultimate Question, but the computer the Magratheans will ask him to build in the future, will be able to provide The Ultimate Question. It gives the name of the future computer; Earth.
Arthur meets up with Ford, Zaphod, and Trillian, who are with the hosts, who are mice (who were the first most intelligent life forms on Earth). The mice figure, that since the Earth holds the Ultimate Question, Arthur must have it. Arthur is about to have his head cut open, with Trillian not able to help him; Ford and Zaphod are about to be attacked by several goons, all of whom are larger than them, when, luckily, all of the alarms on Magrathea suddenly go off. Cops suddenly come to collect Zaphod, as he was and still is currently on the run because he stole the Heart of Gold, for a reason that he actually erased from his mind. The Heart of Gold is a prototype ship with the infinite improbability drive. The cops are shooting at the group, when suddenly, the cops’ life-support systems blew up. Arthur finds Slartibartfast’s aircar to the Heart of Gold and the Blagulon Kappa policecraft, where they find Marvin, who apparently plugged himself into the ship’s external computer feed and talked the ship about it’s view of the universe, to which, the ship committed suicide.
After traveling a few light years away and the Horsehead Nebula, where Magrathea is resided, Arthur is flipping through Ford’s copy of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, he lands on a page about Galactic Civilizations going through three different phases; the survival, or otherwise known as how; inquiry, or why; and sophistication, or where. Zaphod asks Arthur if he’s feeling hungry, to which Arthur replies with yes, and Zaphod says that they’ll stop at the Restaurant at the End of the Universe.
Relatability in the Hitchhiker’s Guide to Galaxy by Douglas Adams
There has been a big growth in the importance and the presence of entertainment in our daily life and of course with such large demand there has also been a large supply of content ranging from books, to movies, comic books and a plethora of others. Sci-fi (or science fiction) is one of the genres that had the biggest growth this century, amassing many fans and avid researches of the genre, exploring many different subjects, from wars, space exploration, plain survival and even the detective genre. With one of its core features being high tech computers, advanced science and many fantastical scientific explanations with no basis in real life, it is able to capture the interest of many different people as a fantasy space, a place in which real life doesn’t matter and the events of that world are all that is of importance at the moment.
A very common theme explored in sci-fi ironically enough has nothing to do with science but with sociology, so much that a paper was published discussing the use of science fiction as an introduction to sociology and critical thinking. The paper focuses on how being able to think of real ‘fictional’ problems the student may be able to develop a more skeptical questioning stance then on real life because they are seeing the problem from a different point of view then of their personal bias towards their own society and status quo.
It is fairly easy to notice that most science fiction plot are leaded by some sort of social questioning, be it in the famous franchise Star Wars (1977) or in this case The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series by Douglas Adams. He was one of the most influential science fiction writers of the past few decades, inspiring many even after his death with his book series, that made various satirical remarks and questions towards our society, morals and values. What really makes his work interesting and perhaps why it has impacted so many people, is his ability to talk not only about society’s struggles, but also about one’s struggles towards existence, anxiety and fears that lurk deep inside our consciousness, resonating with many people even today.
On one of the first lines of the book we are met with the statement that human population were unhappy and trying to solve it by circulating “[…] small green pieces of paper, which is odd because on the whole it wasn’t the small green pieces of paper that were unhappy.” In the book Adams trivializes and satirizes big problems using absurdity and humour. At the start of the book the Earth is exploded and Arthur Dent, the main character, is the only human able to escape alive the total destruction of the planet by hitchhiking on a spaceship along with an alien friend of his. During this escape sequence, before the Earth is exploded the Vogons (alien race) explain that it’s not their fault and people shouldn’t complain, for the planet was being demolished to make way for an intergalactic highway and papers for the construction had been available for a long time asking for the planet to move away to somewhere else before it gets exploded. The way an impactful event such as the planet exploded is explained by a bureaucracy filled process to build a highway creates two distinct feelings on the reader, one of them being the humour projected in such an absurd scenario being diminished to paperwork and the other being a sense of dread that the same thing might as well be happening in a smaller scale on our on planet right now and corporations will do whatever it is that they are being paid to do and have the ‘legal’ paperwork to.
Following these events, Arthur Dent embarks on a myriad of different aventures through many planets and galaxies, each being more absurd than the last. But as we, readers are experiencing Arthurs point of view much of the time, we are also led to feel his anxiety and extreme fear during the entire series. While many of the other characters are mainly focused on the politics or the inner workings of whatever lies ahead, Arthur is usually only thinking about how not to do anything to change the state of things, because of the initial shock of losing his home planet, he avoids any and all possible situations, usually reverting back to his main scapegoat that is thinking about having a nice cup of tea. His anxiety comes from the opening of possibilities that happened to his life and the fear of what doing or not doing any of them might affect his life even more.(
On a certain occasion after learning that the Earth was actually a giant bio-computer that was being used to calculate the ultimate question to life, the universe and everything, Arthur explains he always had the feeling that he was part of something greater, that life was always missing a piece, thinking to finally understand what that feeling was, only to be corrected by the planet’s manufacturer that it is perfectly fine paranoia and every thinking life form in the universe has the same feeling, as to why the Earth was built in the first place. Leading us on a rollercoaster of emotions from the feeling that an answer was found to very rapidly learning that this feeling is not exclusive to us and that everyone was just as vulnerable and unable to do anything to change it. One of humanity’s common fear towards alien species is that we are somehow inferior to them and could easily by dominated or invaded easily if they wanted to, completely overpowering us. This happens on a scene where Zaphod (the captain of the ship) entertains the idea of replacing Arthur’s brain with an electronic one. “’Yeah,’ said Zaphod with a sudden evil grin, ‘you’d just have to program it to say What? And I don’t understand and Where’s the tea? – who’d know the difference?’”. Arthur at this point had already been demeaned many times during the trip, is barely shaken by the statement that humans are considered as simple as building machines. On another part of the book Arthur gets really offended that the Earth’s description in the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy reads only ‘Mostly harmless’, feeling small and diminished that his whole planet, culture and millions of years of evolution had been reduced to just two simple words. Showing in fact how much we derive the notion of worth or importance by the approval of others, Arthur is pretty shaken by that statement, feeling once again small and insignificant to the scope of the universe. As Adams wrote once, the idea to the Hitchhiker’s guide to the galaxy came from a trip he did to Paris on his own, carrying only an exemplar of the hitchhiker’s guide to Paris. He suffered a lot from outdated informations and noticed that it was only the point of view of one person’s experience about the place, and no one could really experience and know everything, thus being a fairly shallow representation of what the place has to offer this is really clear in the mostly harmless description of Earth.
Not only does the book plays around with our anxieties and fears, it also poses some questions about our moral values, how we were brought up to think about things and the status quo of the life we perceive around us. Arthur and his friend are at a restaurant in space, when they are posed the question if they would like to meet the dish of the day, quite rapidly followed by the entrance of a large talking bovine specie, gladly offering parts of his body along with meal suggestions. Arthur is taken aback by the whole situation, feeling uneasy to eat a living being that could talk to him as an equal and wanted to be eaten, he then orders a green salad, to which the large bovine disagrees. After explaining that many vegetable species have raised concerns against being eaten, his species was developed so it could state his desire to be eaten clearly and so no one would feel bad, before leaving to shoot himself the bovine makes a snarky remark of being very humane to Arthur. Here Arthur gets caught in a complex situation, his values basically dictate that we shouldn’t eat those that we consider equal, but when faced to the fact that he would rather eat living things that he couldn’t understand and didn’t want to be eaten, then eating the one who clearly could state so, Arthur panics and decides it’s better not to think of it, asking only for a water. At that moment Arthur decides not to perturb his perception of the status quo of how food is supposed to work, even after being presented with the whole situation he prefers not to think of it, shielding himself from the anxiety that comes with this new knowledge and the impact it would have on his life.
Zaphod’s character also makes the reader question free will and what it means to take a decision. As the story progresses he learns that his memories have been erased by someone and later learns that someone is himself. Not knowing why he did it to himself, he is in a constant state of doubt, in which whenever he takes any decision he doesn’t know if he really wants that or if that was an idea implanted in him by his earlier self before the mind operation, making him question his own will and how much of it was in his control and what wasn’t. Using absurdism again, Adams is able to infer the idea that some of our actions are not in our complete control, but in the control of another part of the self, like impulse actions or thoughts that can’t be explained, they feel almost foreign, but they are coming from inside ourselves, a metaphor for our subconscious and the constant struggle for the conscious mind to understand what is it that the deeper layers of our consciousness are trying to tell us. Another example of this can be found on another one of Adam’s work called Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency(1987) where after being hypnotized by Dirk Gently, Richard question his own free will on the night he climbed into his girlfriend window by impulse, only later to learn he was being possessed by a ghost, that was using him to send a message. This lack of understanding and consequently fear of the subconscious is present in all of his works, it resonated with people when the books launched and it still resonates to this day, debatably even more, now with so much more access to information thanks to the internet and widespread media, people are more aware now then never about the inner workings of the mind, or better, how much we still don’t know about those inner workings. As a society we had a great increase in therapists and psychologists and even more so of people seeking those professionals for help, this is deeply related to this fear of not understanding how our own mind works, because if we are our mind and we don’t even understand it, what do we understand. So we as a society try to find those answers as to try and stop having fear. Just like in the end, the Earth, the bio computer supposed to give us the ultimate question, was destroyed by very rich therapists which basically ruled the universe, for the only thing technology could never figure out was the existential void inside every living being, giving them the most lucrative business in the universe, which is an absurdist representation of a form of control, exposing how much we are controlled by the fear of the unknown, and how much we are willing to pay to make it go away.
Adams’s books are great fantastical adventures with really engaging and entertaining plots and writing style, but where he shines the greatest is his ability to evoke feelings of anxiety and doubt out of the reader but without making it a negative experience. His works sometimes act as mirrors to problems and questions about our society and just as well as it is a mirror to ourselves as people, he exposes some of humanity’s biggest fears and doubts without overwhelming the reader or losing the humour at any point, using of clever plays of absurdist situations and even more absurd explanations, to break our expectations and surprise us. The combined experience of having these big questions imposed on us with the complete unsuspected turn that Adams takes us, makes for a really memorable situation in which you can go back and ponder upon, heavily increasing the effectiveness of his message. His work makes the reader feel at home with the story, because even with such incredible out of this world plots, the fundamental doubts and feelings of the characters are all so human like to their core, usually exposing the most primal emotions and instincts of living creatures in such humorous manner that it makes the reader able to laugh at these big demons and process them better.