Literature Review


Symbols and Ideas in “The Yellow Arrow” and “Snowpiercer”

November 8, 2021 by Essay Writer

In Victor Pelevin’s novel, The Yellow Arrow, there is an evident string of symbols and metaphors which represent the harsh conditions of the Russian people during the early 1990’s. One of the literally largest symbols in the novel was the train itself: The Yellow Arrow, a symbol of the Russian Federation. However, Pelevin’s use of a train allegory is not restricted to Post-Soviet Russia. The critically acclaimed film, Snowpiercer, has a plot that is very similar to The Yellow Arrow. The film also takes place aboard a train with no stops but resembles something entirely different. The settings of Victor Pelevin’s novel, The Yellow Arrow, and Bong Joon-ho’s film, Snowpiercer, have similarities and differences in representing democratic capitalist societies because of their social, economic, and political aspects.

One common trend found in the situations of the Yellow Arrow and the Snowpiercer is the social environment. On the Yellow Arrow, we see a clear distinction between the different cars; where the “open cars” are inhabited by the lower class and the cars with compartments are considered a higher class (Pelevin 25). The passengers who live at the end of the Snowpiercer are also forced to live in terrible living conditions while the upper class live in the luxurious front cars. This type of separation is mainly derived from a person’s wealth and is seen all throughout human history. One philosopher who is well-known in this theory is Karl Marx who states, “Society as a whole is more and more splitting up into two great hostile camps, into two great classes directly facing each other” (Hurst et al. 215). The use of train cars in both works, concisely show this social stratification. Another common social movement is the use of religion in both works. On the Yellow Arrow, a group of passengers are referred to as bedeist, which is a religious group that believe the train is traveling towards a “Bright Dawn” (Pelevin 87). On top of the train, a group is seen worshipping some symbol also a likely ritual of some religion (79). Similarly, the upper-class children on the Snowpiercer are taught to believe in the “sacred engine.” Both examples show how societies tend to develop superstitious religions; especially during times of uncertainty. Despite these similarities, there are some differences. The passengers of the Yellow Arrow aren’t as socially distinct as the passengers of the Snowpiercer. The Yellow Arrow passengers are recovering from a communist system where all people were socially equal. But now we see upward mobility of passengers from the open cars to the compartment cars. On the Snowpiercer, passengers almost never moved up unless they are put in prison. In fact, some of the lower-class passengers are even taken as slaves by the upper-class passengers. Clearly, both works show similarities and differences in social characteristics of each society.

Another aspect of society that is portrayed on the Yellow Arrow and the Snowpiercer is the economy. On Pelevin’s train, passengers were stealing spoons and ash trays for money and some passengers were getting mugged. On Joon-ho’s train, there is also gambling and thievery happening within the lower cars. Furthermore, these examples are noticeably the results of the poor economy aboard the trains. “Crime rates and inequality are positively correlated within countries and, particularly, between countries, and this correlation reflects causation from inequality to crime rates, even after controlling for other crime determinants” (Fajnzylber et al. 1). Socioeconomic factors play an important role in the behavior of different classes and genders regardless of which economic policy being used. For example: “It’s the young girls I feel sorry for, our pure girls, those blue-eyed does who have to sell themselves to all sorts of scum in the open carriages” (Pelevin 61). Prostitution and other crimes arise in many societies due to social inequality and economic downfall. Corruption is seen on both trains as well. Yellow Arrow passengers bribe the conductors to get away with their “black-market” (60). Snowpiercer passengers bribe the guards with drugs to get past some of the cars. In various cultures, corruption and inequality can be found in all parts of state and local governments which negatively impact a society’s economy (Fajnzylber et al. 1). Nevertheless, there are some variations in these two economies. As mentioned earlier, the passengers on the Yellow Arrow seem to be capable of economic freedom. For example, certain passengers can have jobs aboard the train and even sell their own artwork. While aboard the Snowpiercer, the rich doctors and tailors only provide services to the upper-class and the lower-class are forced to only eat protein bars made from crushed insects. Pelevin’s train represents the post-command economy of Russia struggling to become a more capitalist market. Joon-ho’s train more closely represents the disadvantages and rigidity of a modern-day capitalist economy.

Politics is another realm explored aboard the Yellow Arrow and the Snowpiercer. Both stories conclude with the main characters departing the train which both show an uprising in opposition to their respective institutions. Yet, the revolts themselves are complete opposites. On the Yellow Arrow, the passengers are reluctant to let go of their communist ways and most do not care who is in power (63). The protagonist, Andrei, no longer wishes to be a “passenger” and seeks his freedom to the democratic cities he sees outside the train. On the Snowpiercer, the protagonist leads the lower-class into a revolution against the oligarchical upper-class in a communist-like revolution. As previously mentioned, the film can be related to the theory of Marxism, and the protagonist, Curtis, the main instigator of the revolution, can be viewed as the epitome of the marxist revolutionary. He is acting not for the good of himself, but for the good of his class, and even when offered a position at the head of the train at the climax of the film, he turns it down, refusing to abandon his principles (Sutton 1). Both protagonists seek and eventually achieve reform against their insufficient societies but in very different ways. In both stories, the passengers on the trains are unable to realize that life outside the train is better than inside. This ignorance is the product of the oppression dispensed by each governing body aboard the train. Therefore, the political situation of The Yellow Arrow models that of post-Soviet Russia where the government is futilely running a country that isn’t aware of its tragic direction. Snowpiercer, though, is criticizing contemporary politics and how people choose to stay complacent with the disregard that their government treats its people.

The settings of Victor Pelevin’s novel, The Yellow Arrow, and Bong Joon-ho’s film, Snowpiercer, have similarities and differences in representing democratic capitalist societies because of their social, economic, and political aspects. The locations of The Yellow Arrow and Snowpiercer can be considered rather unrealistic and this surrealism is perhaps utilized by both writers as an added effect to the strange societal structures they’re trying to portray. However, the concept of the Yellow Arrow and the Snowpiercer may not be all that bizarre. In fact, our society may be more like a never-stopping train than we think.

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Understanding Naturalism in “Miss Julie” and “Six Characters in Search of an Author”

November 8, 2021 by Essay Writer

In not more than 300 words, make an analytical description of naturalism and one kind of anti-naturalism. In not more than 1200 words, demonstrate what each description might contribute to an understanding of one scene from ‘Miss Julie’, (pages 78 to 88) and one scene from ‘Six Characters in Search of an Author,’ (pages 39 to 48.)

The term ‘naturalism’ takes in two concepts: that of a philosophical theory, and an artistic, or more specifically, theatrical movement. The philosophy behind naturalism is a product of post-Darwinism, and proposed that man belongs to the natural order, with no higher spiritual or religious aspirations. His character and fate is simply defined by heredity and environment. As Abrams puts it:

“Man inherits his personal traits and his compulsive instincts, especially hunger and sex, and he is subject to the social and economic forces in the family, the class, and the milieu into which he was born.” (Abrams, 1993, p.175)

Naturalism as a theatrical movement was an attempt to create, as Ibsen proposed, a ‘perfect illusion of reality.’ The theatre was to be made less artificial and more realistic – snubbing the stage conventions of the outmoded romantic tradition.

In the preface to ‘Miss Julie,’ Strindberg laid out possibly the best manifesto of naturalistic theatre ever written. He set down proposals concerning the way in which theatrical concepts such as: dialogue, acting style, character depth, structure, scenery, setting, subject, and genre, could be adapted in order to be accommodated into the naturalist movement.

Anti-naturalism is not a movement in its own right and as such cannot be defined specifically ­ it developed as a reaction against the naturalists, and takes various forms. Pirandello practises a different form to Brecht, whose Marxist theories claim that man shapes his own destiny, (a significant opposition to the naturalist philosophy,) while admitting that he does not do so in circumstances of his own choosing. Pirandello’s form of anti-naturalism uses naturalist conventions such as natural dialogue, and the removal of acts, while showing up its flaws and contradictions. An example of this is on page 39, when the Stepdaughter and Madame Pace converse in low, natural tones, and the Actors complain loudly that they cannot hear, showing an impracticality in Strindberg’s proposals. In this way, then, both playwrights use a degree of compromise in their stance against naturalism, but go about their arguments in different ways.

The technical aims of naturalism within a theatrical movement were best set out by Strindberg in his Preface to ‘Miss Julie.’ He proposed that dialogue should be non-exaggerated – meandering, and imitating natural conversation, as opposed to “symmetrical, mathematically constructed,” dialogue. However, the dream speeches on page 87 appear to contradict this. Ward points out that the speeches are:

“Too neatly juxtaposed to be real, much to full of pastoral imagery to be more than a lyrical expression of Jean’s and Julie’s experiences, and much too tightly constructed to be part of natural dialogue.” (Ward, 1980, p.68)

However, it could be argued that the stylistic rhythm of the speeches are designed to hold the audience’s suspension of disbelief, carrying them along with the action, which is a naturalistic aim.

Similarly, acting style should be natural, and question traditional theatrical conventions ­ Strindberg was detailed in stressing the importance in the stage directions on page 82 of ‘Miss Julie’ that:

“When it is natural for her {Christine} to turn her back on the audience she must do so; she must not look out into the auditorium, nor should she hurry as if she were afraid the public might grow impatient.” (Strindberg, 1958, p.82)

In plays of the romantic tradition, it was unheard of that an actor should turn their back on the audience. Other flouts of tradition included the omission of spoken asides, and the practice of actors directly addressing the audience. The same could be said of Strindberg’s removal of play divisions, such as acts. He argued firstly that life does not divide itself, and also used this structure to intensify the play’s action.

Naturalist drama was keen on exploring the psychology of its characters, as a protest against the tradition of stock, stereotypical characters, and an emphasis was placed upon a character’s multiple motivations for action. Strindberg suggests, amongst others, the following genetic, psychological and physiological motivations leading to Miss Julie’s tragic fall.

“…the passionate character of her mother, the upbringing… by her father… the festive atmosphere of Midsummer Night… her menstruation… the powerfully aphrodisiac influence of the flowers…” (Strindberg’s Preface, Strindberg, 1978, p.93 – 94)

These motivations tie in with the naturalistic belief that hereditary, environment, and the pressure of the moment dictate human behaviour. Miss Julie exclaims on page 117:

“Who’s to blame for all this ­ my father, or my mother, or myself? Myself? I haven’t a self; I haven’t a thought that I don’t get from my father, nor an emotion that I don’t get from my mother… How can I be to blame?” (Strindberg, 1958, p.117)

Less crucial proposals include the need for a play to be genre defying, in order to escape the expectations of the audience. For example, the first part of ‘Miss Julie’ could be mistaken for romance, with a successful elopement, but the sentimental elements are later destroyed and undercut. A play was to deal with modern themes within a contemporary setting.

The scenery was to be as real as possible, and there was to be a minimal use of make-up, which hid the character’s expressions. There was also a call for modification of the theatre itself ­ to raise the audience’s seats, and remove the orchestra pit and side boxes, since Strindberg was strongly opposed to the use of the theatrical medium for light entertainment.

Naturalism was an attempt to apply to literature the discoveries of Nineteenth Century science. The naturalist play was thought of in terms of a scientific experiment ­ adapted to humanity instead of the natural world. The realists, along with the naturalists, believed that art is a mimetic, objective representation of an outer reality, and both were opposed to romanticism. However, whereas realism simply observes humans with unbiased objectivity, naturalism goes further, to ‘test’ certain traits, against perceived patterns of human behaviour.

Was Strindberg successful in applying naturalist philosophy to ‘Miss Julie’? Within the movement, there is an overwhelming emphasis on the need for facts. Strindberg’s ‘facts’ are questioned from the outset in the preface. For example, is Miss Julie a ‘man-hater’? Without facts there can be no theory, and without theory there can be no practice, so is his play immediately discredited in this respect?

According to Ward, Strindberg’s intention was to represent Miss Julie as:

“…an aristocrat whose role and function is being superseded by the evolutionary process. She is a member of a virtually extinct class who is destroyed by the representative of a lower, more dynamic class.” (Ward, 1980, p.57)

However, Strindberg’s simple intentions and analysis, put forward in his Preface, make ‘Miss Julie’ a considerably poorer play than it is. Jean and Julie are trapped within their classes, and their relationship is stunted by social prejudice, but Julie is too complex to represent a class, or be “a pawn in a Darwinian strategy.” (Ward, 1980, p.58) Jean, also, is a powerful individual rather than a stock social type. Neither Jean nor Julie turns out to be typical of their class, as Jean is class conscious as a result of his higher ambitions, and Julie is desperate to break out of social conventions. Ward finds Strindberg’s representation of class evolution unconvincing, stating:

“It seems strange that so sensually vital a woman was ever intended to represent the last of an etiolated aristocratic line, or that such an insensitive, swaggering lackey as Jean should be regarded as the successful representative of the newly emerging dominant class.” (Ward, 1980, p. 58)

In ‘Six Characters in Search of an Author,’ Pirandello sets out to prove that the subjective is inescapable – a solipsist principal. He proposed that human beings are isolated from one another, and can never communicate the full truth of their identity to each other. The play portrays various power struggles, between the Characters and Actors, and amongst the Characters themselves. The Characters battle for the stage, in order to impose their view of reality and experience on the others. On page 19, the Stepdaughter wants to possess the stage to allow the full communication of her experience, but the Father argues one of the key points of the play:

“…How can we understand one another, sir, if in the words I speak I put the meaning and the value of things as I myself see them, while the one who listens inevitably takes them according to the meaning and the value which he has in himself of the world he has inside of himself.” (Pirandello, 1995, p.19)

In other words, the receiver of the communication will project his or her own values onto what is being said. The play’s purpose is to depict the irresolvable nature of this dilemma. Pirandello’s solipsist beliefs made him wary of what he called the ‘producer’s play,’ where the director would misinterpret and distort the play against the author’s intentions. He satirises this scenario at several points in the play, firstly on page 48 when the Director complains, “it’s always been my curse to rehearse with the author present. They’re never satisfied,” expressing the conflicts involved while making the transition from writing to performance. At the same time though, he accepts that the theatre cannot accommodate the full complex truth of a situation, on page 46 when the Stepdaughter argues over the precise wording of her lines, and on page 32 when the scenery is being prepared for the brothel scene:

Director: {to the Property Man} Go and see if there isn’t a divan in wardrobe.

Property Man: Yes sir, there’s the green one.

Stepdaughter: No, no. Not green. It was yellow with a floral design made of ‘peluche’ ­ very big and very comfortable.

Property Man: Ah, we don’t have one like that.

Director: It makes no difference. Use what we’ve got.

Stepdaughter: What do you mean it makes no difference?

Director: We’re just trying it out for now! Please don’t interfere. (Pirandello, 1995, p.32)

Pirandello found the fact that perception is constantly changing, both over time and amongst different people alarming, and set out to depict this instability and state of flux on the stage. At no point can the audience relax, as Pirandello systematically disrupts the action, contrary to the aim of naturalism, which is to create and sustain the illusion of reality. On page 65, as the Son solemnly relates the events of the past, with the full attention of the audience and Actors, there is a sudden revolver shot, and the theatre is thrown into pandemonium. There is no intense involvement ­ the audience is repeatedly drawn in, then pulled away from the action.

The play uses aspects of naturalism, such as the realistic stage setting, behaviour, and dialogue, ‘vivacious in its naturalness,’ (p.6). The Father is led by ‘wretched needs,’ (p.24) implying he was a slave to his instincts, driven by the animalistic motives suggested in naturalist philosophy. However, the play also presents a satire on ‘natural acting,’ on page 40, when no-one can hear the hushed conversation of the Stepdaughter with Madame Pace ­ the Director argues that ‘the requirements of the theatre must be respected.’ On page 45, the Leading Lady announces cattily that she will be dressed “far more appropriately” that the character herself!

Pirandello’s brand of anti-naturalism takes some aspects of naturalism, then presents it with its shortcomings ­ in other words, he uses naturalistic means, but not ends. The play undercuts the romantic conventions of exclamation, cataclysm, and exaggerations of character. It is also technically anti-naturalistic: the curtain is up at the start of the performance, the workings of the theatre are fore-grounded, the scenery is changed during the play, and masks are used to distinguish between the Actors and Characters. Although it could be argued that satire creates exaggeration, no attempt towards naturalistic illusion is made.


Abrams, M. H. (1993) A Glossary of Literary Terms (1941) Fort Worth: Harcourt Brace College Publishers

Paolucci, A. (1974) Pirandello’s Theatre: The Recovery of the Modern Stage for Dramatic Art London: Feffer & Simons, Inc

Pirandello, L. (1995) Six Characters in Search of an Author (1921). In Six Characters in Search of an Author and Other Plays. M. Musa (Trans.) London: Penguin

Robinson, M. (1996) Strindberg: Selected Essays M. Robinson (Trans.) Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

Strindberg, A. (1958) Miss Julie (1888). In Three Plays. P. Watts (Trans.) London: Penguin

Strindberg, A. (1978) Strindberg’s Preface to Miss Julie (1888). In The Father, Miss Julie, and The Ghost Sonata M. Meyer (Trans.) London: Methuen

Styan, J. L. (1981) Modern Drama in Theory and Practice: Volume 1. Realism and Naturalism Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

Ward, J. (1980) The Social and Religious Plays of Strindberg London: The Athlone Press

Williams, R. (1987) Drama from Ibsen to Brecht London: Hogarth Press

Zola, E. (1881) Naturalism from Le Naturalisme au theatre G. Brandt (Trans.) Paris: G. Charpentier. In Brandt, G. (Ed.) (1998) Modern Theories of Drama: A Selection of Writings on Drama and Theatre, 1840 ­1990 Oxford: Oxford University Press

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Characters Usage and Creative Process in “Six Characters in Search of an Author”

November 8, 2021 by Essay Writer

Pirandello’s Six Characters is a play that tries to explain the creative process to the audience. The author used his characters to personify the various stages of a playwright’s writing process, while framing the action against the convenient backdrop of the stage. His characters most closely correlate to Freud’s structure of the human psyche, focusing mainly on the unifying characteristics of the superego, ego, and id (Merkur 31). However, Pirandello never explains that his characters are allegorical, and simply presents them to the audience as creations of “the instrument of human fantasy” (Pirandello 6). He also indulged in hints of dark humor found throughout the play, which only masked the characters’ true meanings even further. The audience is left with the feeling of fragmentation, as even the Manager is unsure whether the characters are real or not. Most importantly, the one character that could make sense of it all, The Author, is maddeningly absent. Nevertheless, while the play may have been a precursor to the Theatre of the Absurd movement, it does have meaning: Six Characters in Search of an Author is an allegory for a playwright who is struggling to bring his characters to light.

Before the entrance of the Six Characters, Pirandello prepares his audience by setting the scene for a play-within-a-play. The stage is set up to give the appearance of incompleteness, a hint at the fractional nature of the play. While the Manager struggles to control his cast, the audience is allowed to glimpse the often-comedic complexity of the creative process. By the time the stage door opens to reveal the Six Characters, Pirandello has already begun to create the backdrop of uncertainty for the play. However, upon entering the stage, the character of the Father quickly works to establish a credible reason for his existence, appealing to the troupe’s artistic sensibilities. In this way, Father’s speech is directed toward the audience as much as it is meant for the other players on stage, while he positions himself as the chief narrator. First, he proposes that the characters’ existence can be explained by accepting the human psyche as an actual plane of reality, where characters are doomed to roam without purpose until given life by an Author. At this critical moment, Pirandello courts the audience’s disbelief with logical fallacy, as Father begins to construct a plausible scenario in which he may exist: “life is full of infinite absurdities, which, strangely enough, do not even need to appear plausible, since they are true” (Pirandello 5). Relying on this bit of abstract rationale, the author offers a reason for his characters’ presence. Instead, Pirandello vaguely posits that characters who have been subjugated to the realm of imagination have the “inner passion” to be written (9). Thus, while the author has taken pains to explain the appearance of the characters, with one line of dialogue he completes the play’s setting by using subterfuge rather than exposition.

With his background established, Pirandello gradually develops the plot in narrative flashes, often interrupted, as the characters recount their dramatic history. The embattled family’s depictions of the events are contradictory at best, and the conflicting perceptions seem to highlight their disjointed natures. The characters do not dispute the events themselves, but rather the motivation behind them, while the actual truth remains a mystery. Father, portrayed as a hyper-rational and philosophic narrator, most nearly resembles the superego of the human psyche. Though each character represents a stage in the creative process, Father is the foremost example of this personification. He is one of the more tenacious characters in the family’s attempt to have their story acted out, and throughout the retelling of the drama, Father incessantly defends each of his decisions with tortuous rationalization. Freud’s structure of the superego is characterized by a predominant sense of morality, and conjunctly, guilt. As the play progresses, it becomes apparent that Father, driven by both motivators, desperately wants his version of the story to be told. However, this only further ties him to the superego: “A confession not only gratifies the confessant’s wish for punishment…but in localizing guilt in one subject, it allows those who sit in judgment to displace and then satisfy their own need for punishment” (Schmeiser 333). Father’s dialogue is peppered with implications of these tendencies: “All my life I have had these confounded aspirations towards a certain moral sanity” (Pirandello 17). By indulging his moralistic affectation, Father exemplifies how, within the creative process, the superego tends to dictate the editing and manipulation of the story.

In sharp contrast to Father, Stepdaughter unquestionably portrays the id in Freud’s psychological construct. Stepdaughter is prominent for her sexual characterization, and for her unrestrained laughter. No less than six times throughout the course of the play, Stepdaughter’s hideous laughter is silenced by one of the other characters, which continues to accentuate her primal disposition, as well as her disconnection with reality. Stepdaughter consistently responds to every admonition with pained martyrdom, but still embraces the sexual tendencies that mark her allotted aspect of the psyche. Like the id, Stepdaughter is fascinated with the visual elements of the story, and frequently interrupts Father’s account with only marginally pertinent information about the visual context of the tale. Her descriptions of Madame Pace’s shop, the pale blue envelope, and her attire as a schoolgirl all point to her obsession. Unruly and unashamed, she is Father’s foremost antagonist in Six Characters. Stepdaughter consistently contradicts Father’s perception of the events, and casts doubt upon his illusion of morality. While Father rationalizes each of his motives, Stepdaughter is content to throw the whole, sordid tale before the Manager, as she casts her stepfather in a very grim light. Ultimately, she is the character who captains the action of the plot and insists on pushing forward to each new and forbidding scene.

Mother rounds out Freud’s trinity of motivators. Signifying the ego, Mother has the tendency to play the mediator between Father and Stepdaughter. She embodies emotion, filling in the details between the pretentious rationalizations and the bitter, unrestrained laughter. Mother weeps for the victims of the creative struggle, her discarded children. She is responsible for development, giving birth to new aspects of the story; as Father points out, “Her drama…lies, as a matter of fact, all in these four children” (11). Together, Stepdaughter, Mother, and Father symbolize inspiration, development and creativity in the creative process: the playwright’s Holy Trinity. However, the Manager plays a crucial role as the editor of the tale. While Father, Mother, and Stepdaughter present the raw details of the story, the Manager is tasked with organizing this stream-of-consciousness narrative into a tolerable play. The characters argue against the Manager’s edits, but he responds with a simple statement: “Truth up to a certain point, but no further” (51). At the abrupt conclusion of the play, it becomes obvious that without the edits of the Manager, this story is a senseless mess. Nevertheless, the characters arrive in search of an Author, and not a manager. At Father’s insistence that the Manager become the Author, the Manager replies, “I have never been an author” (26). Regardless, the Manager tries to put the characters’ action in writing, but is hopelessly confused without the inspiration and guidance of the Author.

The absence of an Author in the play is significant because it is the greatest indicator of the play’s allegorical intentions. According to Father, it seems that their Author struggled with their story, and ultimately gave up: “the author who created us alive no longer wished, or was no longer able, materially to put us into a work of art” (8). Thus, the characters may present themselves, carrying their drama with them, and the Manager may try to edit the pieces of the story into cohesion, but without the Author, it is unclear whether any part of the creative process is pretense or reality. The Author’s absence could be metaphorical; a suggestion that the Author’s imagination has stalled. The imagination, “the instrument of human fantasy,” is the portal that connects the Author to his characters, and vice versa. This is why the characters have grown impatient with the Author, and arrive on the stage searching for “any author” (5). Since the Author has failed to write his characters alive, their story is fragmented, like forgotten ideas that still exist in the Author’s subconscious. From the allegorical perspective—with the stage representing the Author’s mind, and the characters acting as separate aspects of his psyche—these ideas could “exist,” waiting for an Author to complete them. Thus, the characters’ story seems unfinished and condensed, just as they are, while the most pivotal moments are played out in vivid detail. This theme of fragmentation is highlighted by the confusion expressed at several key points in the play by the Manager and Actors.

Pirandello’s conclusion to the play, when taken at face value, seems pointless and absurd. However, through the lens of allegory, it appears that Pirandello’s Author would never return to finish writing his characters. The Manager’s dismissive line, “Pretense? Reality? To hell with it all!” (72) echoes the Author’s disillusionment with the creative process, and indicates that he has given up on his characters, ultimately failing in his struggle to bring his characters to light. This failure is not without some internal protest: Father, the dominant voice for the characters, cries out, “Reality sir, reality!” (72). The simple exchange of dialogue in the midst of violent commotion is what gives the play a discernable ending: the allegory concludes with the Author abandoning his characters and snuffing out their tenuous light of existence.

Works Cited

Merkur, Dan. Explorations of the Psychoanalytic Mystics. Amsterdam, Netherlands: Editions Rodopi, 2010. PsycINFO. Web. 10 Nov. 2013.

Pirandello, Luigi. Six Characters in Search of an Author. Translated by Edward Storer. New York: E. P. Dutton, 1922. Web. 10 Nov. 2013.

Schmeiser, Susan R. “Romancing the Family.” Harvard Journal of Law & Gender 33, (2010): 327-337. Web. 13 Nov. 2013.

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Through the Eyes of the Six

November 8, 2021 by Essay Writer

In the play, Six Characters in Search of an Author, Luigi Pirandello presents a humanistic worldview. The assertion is made repeatedly that we, as humans, can define who we are, that our actions dictate our character. This view is presented in two contexts. First of all, it is illustrated in the lives of the characters. The characters’ lives and actions are predetermined by an author; therefore, who they are cannot change, although their identity is still defined by these constant actions. The second context that the humanistic worldview is presented in is through the lives of the actors. They are, just like the characters, defined by what they do. However, their reality, or who they are, can change. As the Father says to the Manager, “This you as you feel it today all this present reality of yours is fated to seem a mere illusion to you tomorrow” (44).

No matter which context the humanistic worldview is illustrated in, the premise that our humanity is defined by our actions is wrong from a Christian perspective. What we do does not determine who we are; rather, who we are determines what we do. All of the actions that Christians take should stem from their identity as children of God. When we accept Christ as Savior, we acknowledge who we are and what we were created to be. That is, we recognize that our purpose is to glorify God and to serve Him, and once we concede this, all of our actions will follow naturally. Our actions, whether good or bad, can never alter our fundamental identity as a child of God.

Those still living in sin, however, remain in the illusion presented in Pirandello’s work. They define themselves by what they do, whether that be in the form of a job, a relationship, or “good works.” They are forced to uphold the idea that these things determine who they are because the only other option is to face the uncomfortable reality of their sinful conditions and future in hell. Pirandello alludes to this truth while discussing the necessity of the transitory reality of the actors. “Illusions of reality represented in this fatuous comedy of life that never ends, nor can ever end! Because if tomorrow it were to end…then why, all would be finished” (44). They must retain the pretense of reality.

Salvation, then, frees us from the necessity to uphold a pretense of reality through our actions because we understand and accept the true reality of who we are meant to be. We are no longer slaves to sin, works, and their definition of our identity in the present or our course for the future. Our identity and future are set, and from this our actions proceed.

The preceding statements show that the manner in which both the characters and the actors define their humanness is wrong. They also help us understand the conflict of Pirandello’s characters. They cannot see beyond the illusion of their own actions to understand the source of their tragedy. For example, the Father constantly complains how the other characters do not understand him as he really is; they see him only as he appears in one action. The Step-daughter only views him through the scene where he solicits her as a prostitute. “She now seeks to attach to me a reality such as I could never suppose I should have to assume for her in a shameful and fleeting moment of my life” (16). His statements are invalid, however, in light of the previous discussion. His problem lies not in the fact that others incorrectly define him by one action, but rather in the fact that he is defined by his actions at all. The “reality” of him in the Step-daughter’s eyes is not the true reality of who he should be but only an illusion of sin, which leaves him incapable of seeing his true identity. He is forced to focus on himself and his actions.

The character of the Father illustrates most clearly the humanistic worldview presented by Pirandello; however, at times he also presents the opposing Christian view. Pirandello, through his work, seems to suggest that the way the actors and the characters live is not right. For as the Father says in critique of his own existence, “Thus, sir, you see when faith is lacking, it becomes impossible to create certain states of happiness, for we lack the necessary humility. Vaingloriously, we try to substitute ourselves for this faith, creating thus for the rest of the world a reality which we believe after their fashion, while, actually, it doesn’t exist” (18). This statement sums up the irony of the worldview presented in the play, that someone could so clearly state the true reality and yet be too absorbed in pretense to actualize it in life.

Work Cited

Pirandello, Luigi. Six Characters in Search of an Author. Trans. Edward Storer. Mineola: Dover Publications, Inc., 1998.

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In Search of the Meaning of Life

November 8, 2021 by Essay Writer

Every decision, every breath one takes, and every step one ever walks brings one closer to a single goal — to find the meaning of life. The summation of one’s decisions, steps, and movements through life shapes one’s individual existence and leads to proliferation of the damning idea of finding that sense of meaning. For many, this pursuit is never realized, and to others, the entire idea of successfully finding the meaning of the deep, dark mystery of life might be impossible. Despite this skepticism, many search for meaning in daily events, attempting to find the overall meaning of life. In Six Characters in Search of an Author, actors attempt to run through a Pirandello production, but the value comes from the lessons they learn. The actors and characters in Six Characters in Search of an Author display a yearning to find the meaning of life, but descend into a darkened existentialist state when faced with the crushing realization of the world around them, as Pirandello tries to point readers down a different path in life.

Throughout the play, those in it try and find meaning from their daily actions to shed deeper light on the greater meaning of life. If they thought that their daily actions were to be meaningless, they would surely descend into a darkened mental state, so it is crucial for them to attempt to acquire knowledge of life from their mundane and minute actions of the day. Firstly, consider the director. His job is to orchestrate the play, to ensure its success, and that all the actors fulfill their roles adequately. It is in his management of the actors that he gets a sense of meaning, not only in his job, but in life as a whole. In that regard, he enjoys doing his line of work, and relishes the satisfaction he gets from what he does. He continuously meddles in the performance of the actors, because to him, that meddling is what gives him power, and thus, a sense of meaning. The actors, in general, try to make some sense out the play they are putting on, and give themselves some meaning. To accurately portray the characters of the play, it is necessary for the actors to understand these characters themselves. Therefore, they struggle, but persist to try and find their own meaning in the words they speak and the actions they undertake in the play. As the father says on page 12, “You have created living beings — more alive than those who breathe and wear clothes! Less real, but perhaps more true” (Pirandello 12).

Next, this search to find meaning from daily life can be seen in the actions of the father, step-daughter, mother and son as well. The father is perhaps the best example of this search for knowledge of life having meaning. He is pretty unsure over what to make of life, as seen through when he sent his wife and daughter away (17). Especially after his run-in with his step-daughter at Madame Pace’s shop, his life is continuously tossed around and upside-down. The father offers up deeper, more philosophical takes on what the play itself is about, or what the actions of the actors and the characters mean. His consistent philosophical anecdotes indicate a desire to find deeper knowledge (28). The step-daughter too seeks this knowledge. Exploited but vivacious, the step-daughter is perhaps the character that seems the most confused about where they are in life and where they are going. In the actor troupe, she tends to stir the pot and cause others to question why things happen, in accordance with her own questioning. The mother is constantly in grief, searching for a solution to cure her dismal existence. It is clear that she is not content with life, and goes through the motions day-in and day-out, yearning for the day that she might find true meaning that will free her from her despair and sadness that she carries with her on a daily basis. She seems to be constantly tortured by something as simple as her past and her existence, and her grief can really be pinpointed when the step-daughter and the father share their experience in Madame Pace’s shop (16). Just like the mother, the son is unhappy, specifically with his role in the play. He yearns for more, for a deeper existence, as he tends to have a rather facile role within the play. As he yearns for more, he yearns for a purpose for to his acting, even if he does not actively have it.

Lastly, when the characters inevitably fail to acquire they knowledge they search for, their lives spiral down an existentialist path to a deeper, darker trance, offering a cautionary tale. The director is clearly a part of this descent. As the set turns into chaos, the director’s own sanity seems to descend as well. He continually berates members of the cast for not meeting his expectations, and generally loses control of his own emotions. His own purpose in directing the play, and the authority he has over the actors is put into question. Without this, he freaks out, eventually ending the production in a fit of rage. In general, the actors begin to go wild at the end of play. They run around in a sense of mayhem, challenging nearly everything the director says, with their own performances offering no consolation. The father specifically begins to sink deeper and deeper in an existentialist state, feeling the meaningless nature of life and feeling like a pawn in a chess game. He continues to ponder the philosophical nature of things, questioning the meaning of life. He begins to even take on a rather nihilistic view, openly disparaging aspects of the world around him (62). The step-daughter escalates her theatrics to obscene levels. She hands on the end of every word, threatening to break into tears or create drama at the drop of a feather. The performance overcomes her, and given that she has not found anything of value from the play, she demands attention to keep her relevance (68). The mother, too, creates a scene. After the dramatic events at the end of the play, she continues on her dismal way, crying consistently. She questions the meaning of life, in light of the recent events, and her negative view on life is evident. Lastly, the son freaks out about his lines (or lack thereof) and how he is representing the author’s interests. He cares about this to a considerable degree, almost to the point of violence. His descent into anger from his existentialist sate is fueled by the lack of concrete intention by the author. In assigning his own meaning to the play, he places his own value in it, to become emotionally connected.

Six Characters in Search of an Author displays a cautionary tale. Pirandello demonstrates the search for meaning in life, demonstrated by the characters, especially in the way of the father and the step-daughter. The characters try and find meaning from their performances in the play, but they do not find what they seek. Pirandello offers a cautionary tale, as the characters fall into states of contemplating life with dark, grim views. The play warns readers not to fall into the same traps as the characters, and shows that failing to find the knowledge that is sought after will lead to a dismal, sad existence. Overall, the play shows a descent into a darkened existentialist state.

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Characters Analysis in Pirandello’s Works

November 8, 2021 by Essay Writer

Pablo Picasso, father of cubism and pioneer of neo-expressionism, immortal in his fame, once said, “Everything you can imagine is real”. To the layperson, Picasso’s notion may smack of enigmatic evasiveness; the transcendence of reality is not easy to conceptualize. To playwright Luigi Pirandello, however, these words are representative of an absolute truth. In his play, Six Characters in Search of an Author, Pirandello tests this relationship between fiction and reality using the ‘Verismo’ style of writing. There is a thin line drawn between the six characters, who acknowledge themselves as such, purely creations of the writer, and the ‘actors’, not meant to be characters at all but instead a representation of actuality, of true people easily confused with those seated in the audience. And while it is true that everyone depicted within the play is intrinsically a character of Pirandello’s, these characters are separated into two distinct groups: those representative of characters and those representative of true people. In attempting to differentiate these two groups, Pirandello gives the Characters masks, so that their singularity of emotion and individual objectives are visible throughout the play. He also portrays the actors and those associated with the actors as being very tangible representations of true people; due to the nature of ‘Verismo’ writing, the audience is meant to become genuinely confused at the presence of ‘true people’ on the stage, a space traditionally reserved for the progression of fictive events. However, over the course of the play it becomes increasingly apparent that, despite attempts to separate the two groups, everyone depicted in the play falls under Pirandello’s definition of a Character: one with an “immutable reality” (Pirandello, 61). As the tragedy unfolds, the lines between characters and actors, between fiction and reality, become blurred. Though it appears that Pirandello has taken great pains to separate the representations of what is real from the representations of what is not, the separate depictions of the actors and Characters and the subsequent mixing of roles reveal a sub-textual commentary on the false nature of all those portrayed within the play, whether fictive or real, and the implications of this notion of falsity in regards to human nature.

In the beginning of the work, a foundation is laid to allow the audience to view the distinguishing qualities of the Characters throughout the play; this work has often been interpreted as Pirandello’s attempt to reveal the characteristics essential to the character. However, it is my impression that he defines the character in such depth in order to question the characteristics essential to the actual person. The contrast in the primary depictions of the Characters and actors creates a juxtaposition of fiction and reality that is called into question later in the work.

From the first time the Characters appear on stage, they are depicted as physically and internally separate from actual people. As the Character of the Father puts it, they are “more alive than those who breathe and wear clothes! Less real, perhaps; but more true!” (12). Though these Characters are ‘alive’, they are not alive in the same sense as the actual person; unlike real people, the Characters have no freedom of choice and are therefore condemned to the perpetual repetition of a single reality. This limitation is portrayed in the Characters’ conversations with the actors, and the use of masks and character descriptions within the text.

The actors, however, are portrayed as a representation of reality; nothing of their basic descriptions or actions would lead the audience to believe that they are anything other than accurate representations of Pirandello’s time. The clothes, the set, the casual dialogue and the seeming spontaneity of their actions give every impression of a quotidian reality. However, an undeniable stereotypic quality becomes increasingly apparent with the progression of the work. From practically the first scene, the Director is the epitome of serious theatrical management: authoritative, frustrated and demanding. Even more extreme is the depiction of the Leading Lady, the manifestation of haughtiness, conceit, and self- importance. This contradiction of reality and impracticality is noteworthy; though it does not change the fact that the actors are representative of actual people, the inconsistency that is established soon becomes an important theme throughout the play.

Though the Characters and actors are initially portrayed as contrasting representations of fiction and reality, their roles begin to mix as the story progresses, purpose and objective are confused between the two categories, and the concept of free will is called into question. First, there is the fundamental problem of the established roles; the fact that both the Characters and the actors are all essentially characters of Pirandello’s, and that all the characters (Characters and actors) are portrayed by actual actors, creates a contradiction to the singularity of objective established earlier in the play. Also, the Characters begin to take on ‘real’ qualities as the actors become increasingly one-faceted, a trait originally reserved for the fictive Characters. This confusion of roles, of fiction and reality, finally reveals the false nature of all the characters and actors portrayed in Pirandello’s work.

When the Characters first enter the piece, they not only have individual objectives, but also a collective objective; they must find an author. Here begins the mixing of roles. The director is the first called upon to exchange his stereotypical authoritative role for one with greater creative significance, that of the author. The next group called upon to exchange their roles is the Characters; the author/director, still demanding, orders them to take the stage and rehearse their story, and so the Characters become their own actors. Meanwhile, the actors are studying the Characters so that they may take over their roles and become Characters on the stage. However, when the roles are reverted back to their original state, no one is satisfied to play the part they were originally intended, and only the actors remain constant in their singularity of objective. The Characters refuse to accept the actors’ interpretation of their story; as the Stepdaughter exclaims, “I want to play my drama. Mine!” (53). The director, also, leaves his role again to approach the stage as an actor and demonstrate the proper reenactment of the story. It is only the actors that remain completely constant in their stereotype and in their singular objective to act. Through this transcendence of roles, it not only becomes apparent that the line between fiction and reality is perhaps not as clear as it originally seemed, but also that the actors become more like characters than the Characters themselves.

As the Characters become more persistent in their desire to have control over their story and its actualization, the actors begin to seem less like representations of the actual and more like fictive characters. In fact, by the end of the play, it is not the Characters that have what the Father calls an “immutable reality” (61), but the actors. The Characters leave changed, there are two less Characters among them once the play has been completed. The actors, however, leave the same as they began, with the director declaring the day “lost” (73) and agreeing that they will continue their rehearsals the next day as though nothing significant had passed over the course of the play. Though the Father tells the Director that the difference between the two of them is that the Director’s “reality can change overnight” (61), his reality does not change overnight, he will continue his life as though nothing has changed, as though he lives in an immutable reality, the life of a character.

Perhaps it would be prudent of the reader to look not at the lines drawn between fiction and reality, but of the mixing of the two. If at the end of the play, the actors, the representation of actuality, seem more to be representations of fiction, what does that say about actual people? Perhaps Pirandello is actually commenting on the extent to which all ‘actual people’ are born as characters. Maybe we are all overly occupied with waiting for an author, an actor, a stage; perhaps the falsification of all the characters is meant to show that there is no author, no stage, no one else to play our roles for us. Perhaps this play is truly a statement about people who do not take advantage of there free will, but instead live an immutable reality, stuck in the same job, the same role day in and day out. And so I propose we heed Pirandello’s advice; it is time to stop searching for an author, and write our own plays.

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The importance of Isolation in “Guaymas, Sonora” and “Goodbye to All That”

November 8, 2021 by Essay Writer

In both “Guaymas, Sonora” and “Goodbye to All That,” isolation is a motif that transitions in its meaning. In “Guaymas, Sonora,” Didion’s isolation is tied to her escapism. On the other hand, in “Goodbye to All That,” isolation accompanies Didion’s search to solve her despair in a youthful desire for independence. In both essays, Didion returns to a life in which she is not isolated. The motif of isolation illustrates how physical and mental isolation do not contain the ability to resolve emotional conflicts.

In “Goodbye to All That,” the physical settings of New York City and California illustrate Didion’s physical isolation, revealing how her acquisition of independence was aligned with her sadness. To some extent, New York is a city in which Didion will not be physically isolated. However, she is in a mental state of isolation during her time in New York which is exemplified when she addresses how she does not mention her struggles in the “letters [she] wrote to California”. California, another physical location, is the setting which Didion was attempting to physically avoid, where she feels dependent and trapped. By physically detach herself from the people she knows across the country, Didion is seeking independence. However, Didion’s sadness within this independence is revealed when the setting that once excited her turns into despair over the locations she previously frequented. When Didion was diagnosed with depression she pairs it with her inability to emotionally deal with the setting, such as her inability to “walk on upper Madison Avenue”. This emotional struggle to walk on a street in New York illustrates how her physical isolation was tied in with her mental state of despair. New York in turn becomes a symbol tied to her to sadness. Thus revealing how her physical isolation is aligned with her depression. To solve her sadness, Didion gets married and eventually physically exits New York. Her marriage, a companionship which would theoretically alleviate her isolation and end her youthful independence, was what catalyzed her exit of New York and return to California. This illustrates how Didion attempted to alleviate her depression by altering her state of physical isolation.

In “Guaymas, Sonora,” the setting of Guaymas, Mexico portrays Didion’s escapism through her and her husband’s physical isolation, painting isolation as an only temporary way to solve despair. This is exemplified when Didion discusses the emptiness of Guaymas, a setting which lacks experiences to take part in. Didion’s physical isolation in Guaymas is conveyed as being caused by her depression. Didion attempts to escape this with a shift in setting. However, the setting of Guaymas conclusively failed to provide Didion a solution to her despair in Los Angeles. This is portrayed as she and her husband looked for an activity, but could only find a “tracking station” or a film, which led her to believe it was time to leave the setting of Guaymas. Didion recording this realization that vacation in Guaymas had limits and they needed to return home illustrates the realization that isolation is but a temporary solution to despair.

The physical settings of Guaymas, New York City, and California are physical as well as mental places of isolation. While New York City, unlike Guaymas, had a plethora of activities to take part of during a youthful discovery of independence, Didion was still in despair and a majority of the city reminded her of this despair. On the other hand, Guaymas was a vacation spot, a method of escapism. Didion’s isolation in that physical setting paints isolation temporary medicine for sadness. Nevertheless, Didion realized in both essays that isolation was ineffective in completely resolving her sadness, and physically exited both settings with a companion. In “Goodbye to All That,” Didion attempts to resolve her disparity with mental isolation. On the other hand, in “Guaymas, Sonora,” Didion attempts to solve it with physical isolation. In both essays her resolutions are only temporary. Thus, the motif of isolation is painted as temporary solution to the emotional conflict of despair.

In “Goodbye to All That”, imagery conveys Didion’s hope that her experiences in the city will provide her a refuge to her mental state of isolation. This is exemplified in the plethora of olfactory and visual descriptions when she describes New York. From descriptions of the colors of traffic signals to the senses heightened when a breeze blows by, Didion conveys a level of imagery that captures her desire to feel and hold experiences deeply. The multitude of happenings in New York coupled with the imagery she describes essentially drown out her despair, temporarily. Her mental despair on the other hand is still apparent. While heightening imagery, representative of Didion’s heightened emotions, increased the intensity of positive experiences, it also increased the intensity of negative ones. Thus, the same imagery that brings her joy can bring her a negative experience and cause her to further recluse and mentally isolate herself into a state of constant sadness. While the imagery does evoke some hope in Didion’s acquisition of a new life and independence, it also conveys her orbit into despair and inability to escape, for the intense sense perception she experiences in New York makes it impossible.

The barren imagery in “Guaymas, Sonora” portrays how complete physical isolation fails to resolve one’s mental disparity. Visual and tactile imagery in this essay portray a relaxing, exotic vacation. However, the imagery being paired with a sense of repetition evokes an atmosphere of boredom. Didion continuously discusses the heat as well as the red and brown shades of the desert. This repetitiveness illustrates a lack of experiences and elicits little emotion, other than boredom. Thus, the eventual decision on Didion to return home due to a lack of activities to take part in makes logical sense. It also illustrates how her physical isolation had nothing stimulating for her mental state. The imagery provided an underwhelming sense of Didion’s which portrays how physical isolation fails to catalyze a mental shift in disparity.

In both essay, imagery conveys how sense perception is a driving force in the attempt to alleviate emotional disparity. In “Goodbye to All That,” Didion’s record of imagery reveals her attempts to drown out disparity through heightening her senses. A different effect of imagery occurs in “Guaymas, Sonora,” in which the repetitive, nearly monochromatic imagery highlights a numbness of the senses of Didion and captures her attempt to solve disparity through physical isolation from a world filled with a multitude of senses and emotions (a world that exists in New York). It is also important to consider that in the two essays, Didion is in different stages of her life. In “Goodbye to All That,” Didion is young and attempting to acquire independence. She is searching for new experiences, emotions, and in turn welcomes the different overwhelming senses the setting offers. On the other hand, “Guaymas, Sonora” is set after Didion’s experience in New York, a time in which she has settled down in Los Angeles and is searching for physical isolation accompanied with a lack of senses.

While “Goodbye to All That” focuses on Didion’s mental isolation and “Guaymas, Sonora” focuses on Didion’s physical isolation, both highlight the relationship between isolation and despair. Didion eventually returns to her home of Los Angeles in both novels, illustrating how her attempts to alleviate her emotional state were unsuccessful. Conclusively, both “Goodbye to All That” and “Guaymas, Sonora” convey the motif of isolation to illustrate that physical and mental isolation is but a temporary solution to resolving one’s despair.

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The Bridge Between Chhinese And American Culture In The Joy Luck Club

November 8, 2021 by Essay Writer

Cultural divides are difficult to overcome in storytelling, because readers must both re-orient their largest cultural assumptions and understand the ideas of specific, unique characters. However, in The Joy Luck Club, Amy Tan effectively makes much of Chinese culture comprehensible to American readers. In describing a culture that is exceedingly different from the American way of life, Tan presents both cultures side by side in order to draw attention to their differences. One way she accomplishes this task is through the use of prologues that frame each of the four sections of the book. Each prologue gives the reader a cultural perspective, which allows for better interpretations of the book’s sections. These prologues unite the short story sections and as the prologues themselves come together to form one story, they bring the collection together as a whole to form an in-depth look at Chinese culture’s survival in American society. Amy Tan uses section prologues to establish viewpoints from which to observe and interpret each section while establishing general conflicts facing the characters in the short story collection; the prologues progress from identifying the problem to suggesting the continuance of cultural heritage, they help to bridge the cultural gap between the mothers and daughters in the story.

The prologue for “Feathers from a Thousand Li Away” depicts the relocation of a woman to a new country and the resulting cultural problems this type of relocation entails, which turns out to be the main conflict of Tan’s short story collection. The story in the first prologue recounts a woman’s immigration from China to America. She voices her optimism about America and the wonderful life it will give her daughter. The swan she is traveling with symbolizes both her life in China and the hope she has for her daughter in the New World. However, the swan is taken from her as she goes through customs, leaving her with only a feather to pass on to her daughter. This exhibits the loss of culture that takes place during relocation and identifies the reality facing the Chinese mothers in the book: “Tan’s structural narrative opening marks the way ‘America’ strips the woman of her past, her idealized hopes for the future in the United States, and excludes her from an ‘American’ national identity” (Romagnolo 270). This prologue enlightens an American audience on the dilemmas faced by immigrants in order to garner sympathy for the mothers in the story who could be misinterpreted without this background information. In the end of the story, the woman is left with only a feather to pass on to her daughter, which calls the reader’s attention to the feeble connection between Chinese-born parents and American-born children. This insufficient connection or inability to pass on culture and history to their daughters is what the mothers of the story fear. In this sense, the prologue establishes the stereotypical Chinese-born mother and the following set of four chapters elaborates on this model by illustrating both the fear of the mothers for their daughters and their troubled pasts that have led them to pursue better lives for their daughters.

With the prologue’s depiction of a mother’s fear of cultural disconnect, the chapters comprising “Feathers from a Thousand Li Away” confirm the existence of such fear among the mothers, which in turn establishes the mothers as sympathetic characters and gives an emotional curve by which the reader can judge them. In this section, as Jing-mei comes to terms with the death of her mother, she consequently realizes how far removed she is from her culture and heritage. After her mother’s death, Jing-mei is expected to take her place at the Joy Luck Club, and she realizes she is ill equipped to do so. On top of feeling distanced from the other women, she feels she cannot take her mother’s place in the family. She is told about her mother’s quest to find her daughters and that she must carry on this duty and educate them on who their mother was to which Jing-mei replies, “What can I tell them about my mother? I don’t know anything. She was my mother” (Tan 31). This admission conveys Jing-mei’s disconnect from her culture and appalls the other mothers because they fear the same attitude is present in their own daughters. An-mei exclaims, “Not know your own mother? … How can you say? Your mother is in your bones!” (Tan 31). This passage “articulates the anguish of the forgotten and obliterated, of not having progeny who would look back at ancestral ties with the past. All the mothers, Suyuan Woo, An-mei Hsu, Lindo Jong, Ying-ying St. Clair, fear this genealogical obliteration” (Zenobia 254). This section illustrates the generational disconnect predicted in the prologue and establishes the main conflict of the collection: the cultural gap between Chinese-born mothers and American-born daughters.

After the establishment of the story’s main conflict, the prologue to the “Twenty-Six Malignant Gates” section shows the nature and extent of the cultural gap between Chinese mothers and their American-born daughters while garnering sympathy for the daughters in the story. The mother attempts to instruct the daughter by interpreting a Chinese book titled Twenty-Six Malignant Gates. The use of a Chinese text to justify a strict parenting style reveals the typical mothering technique among Chinese mothers, which could appear a bit overbearing to an American reader. This is an important cultural difference to address because “an American reader is less likely to grant those mothers their due without understanding that Asian mothers normally behave in a more heavy-handed manner than their American counterparts” (Souris 137). However, the effect of this prologue is twofold. The overbearing nature of the mother also establishes the view from which to examine the daughter’s attitude and actions, which translates to the examination of each daughter in the main narrative: “If the first preface prepares us to be sympathetic towards the mothers, this second preface prepares us to be sympathetic towards the daughters as we read each monologue against that preface as a backdrop” (Souris 129). As the prologue prepares the reader for the stories of the daughters, it establishes a tangible cultural gap rather than the anticipated one referenced in the first prologue, which cements the rising conflict. The next anticipatory action is at the end of the second prologue when the daughter goes against the mother’s warnings and ends up falling. This foreshadows the negative consequences this gap between the two generations will have for the daughters in the story.

The sympathy garnered for the daughters in the story aides the interpretation of the “Twenty-Six Malignant Gates” section, where the daughters assume control of the narrative and exhibit both their disregard for the wisdom of their mothers as they deal with hardships. Rose mentions the book referenced in the prologue and claims that the book shows “that children were predisposed to certain dangers on certain days, all depending on their Chinese birthdate… And even though the birthdates corresponded to only one danger, my mother worried about them all” (Tan 131-132). Rose is using this observation to establish her mother’s overbearing nature. However, in the same way that the prologue’s effect is twofold, Rose’s observation both criticizes her mother’s parenting strategy and reveals the cultural roots for such a parenting method. With the mention of the Chinese book, An-mei’s overbearing nature as a mother is tied to her Chinese culture, which paints children as prone to danger and in need of strong parental guidance. With this distinction, Rose’s observation of her mother reveals her parenting method to be more protective than oppressive. This realization is aided by both preceding prologues because the first one garners sympathy for the mothers, which causes an American audience to look beyond the overbearing Chinese mother, and the second prologue garners sympathy for the daughters in the story, which causes the reader to understand the attitudes of the daughters. This type of misunderstanding is the root problem of the short story collection: “The story is a tragedy of incomprehension resulting from a clash of cultural values and generational divide. The mother belongs to the old world order and believes in the inalienable right of the mother to regulate and run the life of the daughter” (Priya).

Following the juxtaposition of the Chinese opinions of the mothers and the conflicting American views of the daughters, Amy Tan sets the scene for the “American Translation” section by giving the reader a parable that identifies the details of the disconnect between the mothers and daughters. She does this by illustrating the difference between the American and the Chinese viewpoint. Harold Bloom illustrates the purpose of this prologue by observing, “The prologue sets the tone and the reasons for the tensions and conflicts in the mother-daughter relationship” (7). In the parable, the mother and the daughter gaze into a mirror. The mother, who symbolizes the Chinese way, exclaims, “In this mirror is my future grandchild, already sitting on my lap next spring” (Tan 159). Her eyes are set on the future and the continuation of her family. The daughter looks into the mirror and simply sees “her own reflection looking back at her” (Tan 159). This conveys the American worldview, which focuses on the present and the individual alone. Tan uses this mirror symbolism again when Lindo Jong is in the salon with her daughter. When she sees her daughter in the mirror, she sees herself and her own mother. With this reflection showing the past and the other story’s reflection showing the future, the Chinese worldview is illustrated in its entirety because it focuses on both the past and future with little regard for the present, which is the focus of the American worldview. This dynamic carries through the entire story as the mothers, who were raised the Chinese way, watch their daughters grow up in the American way. Ying-Ying describes this as a difficult way to raise a child by stating, “I raised a daughter, watching her from another shore. I accepted her American ways” (Tan 286). Their daughters grow up with a different focus in life and therefore become strange to their mothers because of the different worldviews. However, the recurring idea in the book is that “if you are Chinese you can never let go of China in your mind” (Tan 203). While this sentiment is confusing to the daughters in the beginning of the book, the mothers know it to be true, and the daughters slowly come to believe it as well.

After the establishment of the cultural gap and the stress it has on the mother-daughter relationship, the “American Translation” section of the book, which is narrated by the daughters, exemplifies the conflict between American and Chinese viewpoints and begins to move towards a solution through nature imagery. In “Without Wood,” Rose embodies this conflict. Ted takes advantage of Rose and makes her feel insignificant. After their separation, she goes out to view the garden in the yard and remembers how Ted would tend to the garden constantly and control every aspect of the planting and maintenance. He arranged them in different boxes, which allows plants to grow only under his controlling supervision. As she overlooks the overrun garden, Rose recalls something she read in a fortune cookie: “When a husband stops paying attention to the garden, he’s thinking of pulling up roots” (Tan 215). This is significant because with the way Ted gardened, with the plants in different and specific boxes, the root systems and the plants themselves would have been tame and easy to pull up. This is meant to convey the American way of life, which sees little connection with the past, making it easy to change and leave. However, Rose realizes this inconsistent way of life creates an unstable foundation on which to stand. As she views the overgrown garden with its strong, interconnected roots, she decides she prefers this to the well-kept garden because there is “no way to pull [the roots] out once they’ve buried themselves in the masonry; you’d end up pulling the whole building down” (Tan 218). With its interconnected and grounded roots, the garden symbolizes Rose’s Chinese heritage, which provides her a sound foundation on which to stand. With this newfound strength, she stands up to Ted and demands the house in the divorce rather than letting him simply throw her out. Because of the prologue, this event is classified as a return to her Chinese heritage or the Chinese mindset as her American view centered on the present is widened to include her past. This strengthens her because she realizes she has a strong Chinese identity and, as a result, obtains a new sense of self.

Once the specific conditions of disconnect between the two generations have been set down, the next preface illustrates a passing of the torch to the daughters in the story while voicing uncertainty for their preparedness for such a burden. In the prologue to “Queen Mother of the Western Skies,” a grandmother is seen voicing her parental uncertainties to her granddaughter. This prologue produces an effect similar to that of the first prologue: “Very sympathetic to the mother, this preface prepares us to organize the monologues we are about to encounter in a manner that is sympathetic to the mothers” (Souris 130). The grandmother claims she has raised her daughter the way she was raised in order to properly prepare her, but she questions whether or not this was correct or if it has truly prepared her daughter. The baby laughs at her musings, which causes the grandmother to scold her: “You say you are laughing because you have already lived forever, over and over again?” (Tan 239). She sees in her granddaughter another American-born child who will refuse to listen to her mother and will believe she knows better. The grandmother scolds her for this perceived insult. This questioning of her own parenting skills and seeing the future of her own daughter as a mother signifies the grandmother passing the torch to her daughter. It is now up to the daughter to raise her child and carry on tradition, no matter how ill-equipped the grandmother may think the daughter is at doing so. This torch carries with it a new level of responsibility for the daughter generation in the book.

This passing of the torch and the effects of this new cultural responsibility bridges the gap between the two generations as symbolized at the end of the book by the jade pendant that Suyuan passed down to Jing-mei. Suyuan Woo gives her daughter a jade pendant and tells her, “I wore this on my skin, so when you put it on your skin, then you know my meaning. This is your life’s importance” (Tan 235). The necklace symbolizes her Chinese heritage, which is why Jing-mei does not wear the necklace until after her mother’s death. She lives the Americanized way of life until the death of her mother, after which she feels a need to understand and return to her Chinese roots. She recalls her mother’s words about the jade as she contemplates its meaning: “This is young jade. It is a very light color now, but if you wear it every day it will become more green” (Tan 235). This charge for her to wear the pendant every day is Suyan’s attempt to constantly remind Jing-mei about her heritage. Because of the prologue, the reader perceives this as a passing of the torch where it is now up to Jing-mei to carry on Chinese culture. In describing the process of darkening the jade with wear, Suyan is conveying that the future is just as important as the past. Jing-mei needs to remember the past and the heritage she stands on, but she also needs to darken the necklace, which symbolizes building upon her heritage in order to pass on a stronger foundation to her children. Therefore, Suyan’s description of the necklace as “life’s importance” bears the Chinese worldview, which is described in the third prologue as having the past and future as the main focus of everyone’s lives. The fact that Jing-mei chooses to wear the necklace after her mother’s death shows that, like Rose, she has returned to her heritage and the ways of her mother. With this decision, she quells the fears of the lady in the prologue, who seems unsure of her results as a parent and the resulting ability of her daughter to carry on her culture. In the end, Jing-mei returns to her heritage and understands her mother as well as she can.

Despite the changing viewpoints in her book, Amy Tan conveys these stories in sections with thematic explanations in the form of prologues, creating an in-depth view into both Chinese culture and the effect of immigration on it. Each prologue prepares the reader by establishing the situation of Chinese Americans, which is something that would be foreign to a wide range of readers. They also aid the reader in understanding Chinese culture as a whole, which otherwise could seem harsh to the average reader. It establishes a viewpoint from which to observe and judge each set of stories. It is important to have a cultural background for these stories in the same way that it is important for the daughters in the story to have their mothers’ cultural backgrounds to facilitate understanding: “Incomplete cultural knowledge impedes understanding on both sides, but it particularly inhibits the daughters from appreciating the delicate negotiations their mothers have performed to sustain their identities across two cultures” (Hamilton 196). The cultural gap between the reader and the characters in the story must first be closed in order to perceive the closing of the cultural gap within the story. Tan accomplishes this task with the four prologues. In the end, the prologues tie the stories together. When viewed chronologically, the prologues can be observed as one parable surrounding two characters: an immigrant mother and an American-born daughter. In the same way that the prologues can be joined as one story, the stories within the collection can be united in order to portray a multifaceted image of Chinese culture and the stresses that face immigrants attempting to find their identity somewhere between the two cultures.

Works Cited

Bloom, Harold. Bloom’s Modern Critical Interpretations: The Joy Luck Club. Bloom’s Literary Criticism, 2009. Bloom’s Modern Critical Interpretations.

Hamilton, Patricia L. “Critical Readings: Feng Shui, Astrology, and the Five Elements: Traditional Chinese Belief in Amy Tan’s The Joy Luck Club.” Critical Insights: The Joy Luck Club, Jan. 2010, pp. 196-222. EBSCOhost, b=lfh&AN=48267633&site=eds-live&scope=site.

Priya, Lakshmi. “Cultural Barrier through Communication – as Explained in Amy Tan’s The Joy Luck Club.” Language in India, vol. 12, no. 1, Jan. 2012, pp. 70-76. EBSCOhost,

Romagnolo, Catherine. “Critical Readings: Narrative Beginnings in Amy Tan’s The Joy Luck Club: A Feminist Study.” Critical Insights: The Joy Luck Club, Jan. 2010, pp. 264-289. EBSCOhost,

Souris, Stephen. “CRITICAL READINGS: ‘Only Two Kinds of Daughters’: Inter-Monologue Dialogicity in The Joy Luck Club.” Critical Insights: The Joy Luck Club, Jan. 2010, pp. 113-144. EBSCOhost, b=lfh&AN=48267630&site=eds-live&scope=site.

Tan, Amy. The Joy Luck Club. Ivy Books, 1995.

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Fiction Comparisons Through Symbolism and Settings: “A Pair of Tickets” and “Volar”

November 8, 2021 by Essay Writer

Amy Tan’s “A Pair of Tickets” and Judith Ortiz Cofer’s “Volar” both use symbolism and distinct settings to portray the lives and feelings of two young girls that originate from a different cultural background. Although these girls are different in the way they lead their lives and the way their nationality impacts them on a daily basis, they both struggle with cultural related problems many people living in a place that is not where they originated from have to deal with. Both of the short stories use similar styles of setting and symbolism to describe two very different problems these young girls have to face because of who they are and where they are from. The setting of each story gives the audience insight of why the characters feel, act, and react in the manner they do. The subtle but powerful symbolism used throughout the stories help create more depth and meaning impacting the main characters.

“A Pair of Tickets” is about the narrator Jing- Mei going to China for the first time and discovering what makes her Chinese. Growing up in California, she has assimilated with the American way of life and the cultures in the country. She insisted that she does not feel Chinese on the inside at all even though her parents were both Chinese immigrants and she looked like it on the outside. In the beginning of the story she wants nothing to do with being Chinese and tries her hardest to avoid it but once she gets to China, she learns what being Chinese really means and oddly enough she feels like she has come home. The setting of China correlates to Jing- Mei’s story of self-discovery. The setting explores heritage, location, and ethnic identity to give the reader a better understanding of the Jing Mei and how it all has an impact on her. The setting and her Chinese relatives help her learn about the nature of being Chinese and cause her to shift her point of view about her heritage. “I look at their faces again and I see no trace of my mother in them. Yet they still look familiar. I also see what part of me is Chinese. It is so obvious. It is my family. It is in our blood” (202). Being in China and being around her family members change around her sense of culture and brings her to realize that although she does not live in China, she is Chinese through her roots and her family.

On the other hand, the story “Volar” is about a family of immigrants also residing in America. The little girl who is also the narrator of the story, has her own version of an American dream that is very far from her reach because of her circumstances. Unlike in “A Pair of Tickets”, the girl from this story has a hard time fitting in. Being from Puerto Rico, she struggles with looking different than everyone else and relating to people living in America so by trying to escape the harsh reality that is her life, she would imagine herself as Supergirl looking over the buildings and spying on her neighbors. This dream gave her the feeling of empowerment and control of her surroundings. In reality she lives in a “Barrio” which is a Spanish speaking neighborhood. The young girl mentioned “I would wake up in my tiny bedroom with the incongruous-at least in our tiny apartment…” (204). She recalls waking up from her super hero dreams to her disappointing small area of living. She is very aware of how the way she lived was below the standards of others. She goes on further to describe how everything in the neighborhood is small and filthy while looking through the kitchen window. She also describes her mother who also is desperate to leave this place and go on vacation to Puerto Rico to visit family and be surrounded by people and culture that they fit in with. The detailed setting of this story helps the reader understand why the narrator and her mother both desire to escape and return to what they know because it is easier and better.

Both “A Pair of Tickets” and “Volar” include heavy use of symbolism to display a deeper meaning the main characters and their struggles as individuals with a distinctive heritage living in America. In “Volar”, the symbol of the mother and daughter wishing to fly is a representation of how desperate they are to escape their hard life in America. Flying is the fastest way of getting somewhere and gives the feeling of complete freedom. This is what the young girl and her mother were dreaming about, although their dreams were very different, they had the same meaning behind them. “She’d sigh deeply and say the same thing the view from her kitchen window always inspired her to say: Ay, si yo pudiera volar” (205). The mother would look out the window hopelessly and imagine the feeling of being able to fly to escape and be where she feels happiest and most comfortable: Puerto Rico. In “A Pair of Tickets”, there is symbolism through the seasons described throughout the story as well as the train tickets. As Jing- Mei first arrives in Guangzhou, the scenery is described as very dull and gloomy which can be describes as winter. This is a representation of the time period she must go through before she is able to blossom and evolve. Once she gets to Shanghai, the scenery is still the same being dull winter like but after she meets her sisters for the first time, it is as if winter shifts to spring. The names of her and the twin sisters when translated to English all have a connection to the spring season. Therefore, when they stand together, embracing one another, their names join to represent a flourishing spring season. The pair of train tickets are the symbol of the journey that led Jing-Mei to evolve and complete the route of self-discovery.

The two stories both use a plethora of symbolism and specifically selected settings to describe to very young girls and why they feel and behave the way they do. The use of symbolism and detailed settings is to explain the life from the point of view of a child who often has to endure a lot when originating from another country. “A Pair of Tickets” is a story of a girl who discovers big portion of her life through the setting of China and the family she meets. Many events throughout the story symbolize her feelings and her journey in accepting her culture. “Volar” is a story that uses symbolism and a specific setting to describe a young girl with thirst to escape her life and clarify why she wants to “fly” so much.

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Harold Pinter’s Traditional Views on Language and Communication

November 8, 2021 by Essay Writer

The works of Harold Pinter question the traditional views of language and communication, asking the audience to reconsider the hierarchal relationship between speech/silence, presence/absence, and the role of each opposition in the struggle for power and dominance, whether in the context of class structure or gender. Is silence the absence of speech, what is truly present in vocal speech? In his essay “Language,” Martin Heidegger writes, “We are always speaking, even when we do not utter a single word” (187), silence is not a nothingness, lack, or absence; it speaks and communicates – leading to Pinter’s theory of “two silences.” The two categories of silence are:

One when no word is spoken. The other when perhaps a torrent of language is employed. This speech is speaking of a language locked beneath it…The speech we hear is an indication of what we don’t hear. It is a necessary avoidance…When true silence falls we are still left with echo but are nearer nakedness (518). (footnote 1)

In this instance, vocalized speech becomes an evasion, an interruption, a repetition; a sign always referring to something else, deferring the presence of our true intention, with the hope of leading astray – it is silence. What is true silence? Pinter disagrees with his work being a “failure of communication” – silence interpreted as an alienated, broken void – “I think we communicate only too well, in our silence, in what is unsaid…Communication is too alarming…To disclose to others the poverty inside of us is too fearsome a possibility” (15); true silence is like an exposed, gaping wound. Language is both weapon and shield in a battle of dominance and subservience; there is an attack, a retreat, an evasion, and the unanswered question – resulting in a silence of rejection or bafflement.

In Homecoming (1965), the battle is between the mental and physical, including the power struggle between men and women. Matters of power and control begin in the opening of the first act between Max and Lenny, father and son; introducing the overwhelming physical inclinations of the family. Max asks Lenny, “What have you done with the scissors?” (520), and there is no reply, just a silence of rejection and dismissal. Max reveals he wants to cut something out of the newspaper, and then Lenny finally responds, “I’m reading the paper” (520) – a short declarative statement, saying more than his words disclose. The paper could be any object, and the scissors as well; the surface of the dialogue is absurd. Beneath the language is a territorial, very instinctive, power struggle over the role of alpha male. The situation escalates, Max yells, “Do you hear what I’m saying? I’m talking to you?” (520), and quietly, in opposition to Max’s anxiousness, Lenny calmly asks, “Why don’t you shut up, you daft prat?” (520). Max’s following tirade is interrupted only with a dismissive insult, “Plug it will you, you stupid sod, I’m trying to read the paper” (521), and ended with Lenny’s sarcasm, “Oh, Daddy, you’re not going to use your stick on me, are you?” (521). Max sits hunched, retreating into silence, as Lenny wins, perhaps not the first time. The episode between Max and Lenny sets the mood for the introduction of Teddy and Ruth.

When Teddy and Ruth enter the house, they begin a small argument paralleling the one between Max and Lenny, over who will go to bed and when. Teddy first tells Ruth she should go upstairs and get some rest; however, Ruth responds with a clear refusal, “No, I don’t want to” (525). Ruth turns the conversation, gains control, and Teddy ends up being the one going upstairs to bed – the physical wins over the mental. After Teddy exits, Ruth and Lenny meet for the first time, a meeting fueled with sexual innuendo, allusions to physical violence, bafflement, and beneath the silence, a layer of tension; Lenny meets his match. Lenny, after ignoring the numerous mentions of Ruth’s marriage to Teddy, asks for “Just a touch…Just a tickle” (528) of her hand – his first move and intention is physical. Ruth disrupts his play for power with a simple, “Why?” throwing him astray. His response is a short anecdote about a diseased hooker he slapped around and thought of killing. Ruth responds to the tale, “How did you know she was diseased?” (528). It is an odd, unexpected reaction, bewildering Lenny; stunning him into silence to regain his comportment (His next story will be even more violent than the first). Ruth leaves Lenny completely vulnerable after calling him by the name his mother gave him, and with her remark over a glass near an ashtray, after Lenny insists of “relieving” her of it, “If you take the glass…I’ll take you. (Pause.) …Why don’t I just take you?” (529). Lenny can only respond with “You’re joking…What was that supposed to be? Some kind of proposal?” (529), followed by a defeat in silence. After this incident, Ruth becomes a woman of “proposals,” a wife, and mother, what is Ruth supposed to represent?

Ruth first appears to represent the limited feminine role in the patriarchy: either the maternal Madonna or the erotic whore, but Pinter will later question the limitation. Max refers to his dead wife as either a “slutbitch” or the “backbone to this family” (533), switching her role throughout the play. This is Ruth’s “homecoming,” and the question is how will she overcome such pigeonholing? Can she? Max and his son’s expectations are made clear, as Joey proclaims, “Christ, she’s wide open…She’s a tart” (537), and Lenny’s idea to put her to the streets, in order to make some income while living with the family; to some extent she must be a whore, a slut. In opposition, in the final scene, Ruth, like a maternal Madonna figure, sits in a chair – after questioning the boys’ masculinity, “Rocks, What you know about rocks?” (538) – with Joey’s head in her lap, and Max on his knees, whimpering, “She won’t be adaptable!” (545).

What should be made between these two opposite impressions? A possibility is Ruth’s movement into power was hidden, and made possible, by a distraction, like the distraction of underwear shown by the movement of her leg, or the distraction of words passing through lips, leading to misconception and misinterpretation. Her mimicry and mimesis of the “whore” role allowed her to silently slip into the position of a powerful, maternal figure; the attention and significance should have gone to the movement itself, instead of the decorative diversion.


1) Ruth’s revelation is a good example, making clear Pinter’s intentions:

“Look at me. I…move my leg. That’s all it is. But I wear… underwear…which moves with me…it…captures your attention. Perhaps you misinterpret. The action is simple. It’s a leg…moving. My lips move. Why don’t you restrict…your observations to that? Perhaps the fact that they move is more significant…than the words which come through them” (535).

Works Cited

Heidegger, Martin. “Language.” Poetry, Language, Thought. Trans. Albert Hofstader. New York: HarperCollins, 1971. 187-208.

Pinter, Harold. “Homecoming.” Modern and Contemporary Drama. Ed. Miriam Gilbert, Carl H. Klaus, Bradford S. Field, Jr. New York: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 1994. 517-551.

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