Guilt and Responsibility in The Reader by Bernhard Schlink
The Reader presents guilt as an inescapable force. An integral motif that runs throughout the whole novel is the question of who is to blame and is responsible for the monstrous crimes committed during the Holocaust. In the novel Michael and his generation seem to blame the previous generation who simply looked the other way and dismissed or ignored the gravity of the situation, either by their lack of action during the Holocaust or by accepting the Nazis and their sympathizers back into their society after World War 2. However, Michael also holds his own generation as responsible for letting and accepting their parents back as some of them worked for Hitler during his rule or they were simply just bystanders as it happened.
Michael believes, loyal love, “made them irrevocable complicit in their crimes.” He recognizes love for the first generation Nazis as a complicity that speaks to the long-standing role of guilt in Germany’s history. For Michael this becomes a guilt that is passed down from generation to generation throughout the whole nation and is described as an unavoidable “German fate.”Schlink first portrays the theme of guilt in the novel when Michael meets Hanna. Towards the beginning of the novel when Michael is at Hanna’s house and is ready to leave, Hanna says she’ll walk him out, but she decides to change her clothes first so Michael then waits in the hall while she changes in the kitchen. However, the door is left marginally open so that Michael can see her and he watches her undress. Michael who is unable to stop himself from watching, “takes in the sight of her neck, her shoulders, her breasts, her hips, and her stocking-covered legs”. But when she then sees and realizes that Michael is watching her and continues on watching with a look that is “surprised, skeptical, knowing, reproachful.” Michael, full of guilt and shame, leaves the apartment and the building. This is the first time that Michael is feeling a sense of shame and it suggests that the second generation, represented by Michael, should be ashamed of their love for the first generation which is shown through the rest of the novel as guilt.
Bernhard Schlink further presents Hanna and Michael’s relationship as generational conflict between Nazi perpetrators, and their children. Michael identifies Hanna’s comfortable grace as “an invitation to forget the world in the recesses of the body.” However, Michael at 15 years old did not realize it yet, the images of Hanna are replaying in his mind over and over again.
The younger Michael uses his memories of Hanna to fulfill his youthful desire. His older self narrating the story reflects that it is Hanna’s unawareness that attracted Michael, yet it is exactly this obliviousness that helped facilitated her crimes as a Nazi. Her obliviousness stemmed from her illiteracy which could also possibly suggest that had she been able to read that she wouldn’t have had a major role in the crimes and so Michael can excuse what happened and try to be absolved of the guilt that he feels for loving her as Michael surrenders to the tempting feeling of trying to “forget the world in the recesses of the body”, that is, to forget their past for the sake of their love affair.
Schlink portrays guilt as both destructive and necessary. Guilt is destructive in that it creates inner conflict as well as conflict within relationships and across both the generations of Nazi perpetrators and their children. The guilt arising from the Holocaust causes Michael’s generation to be torn between love for their parents and the moral obligation of condemning them for their complicity in during World War 2. Another example of guilt is its destructive power as the damage that Michael’s guilt over rejecting Hanna inflicts on him. Michael’s resulting decision “never to take guilt upon himself or feel guilty, never again to love anyone whom it would hurt to lose” makes him close off emotionally, sabotaging and ruining his relationships with other people. Despite how destructive guilt can be, it also is the driving force to motivate people to take responsibility for their actions, and to recognize their mistakes and wrongdoings, and also to avoid doing them again in the future. The collective guilt that Michael’s generation inherits from the Holocaust is what drives them to acknowledge and condemn the Nazi war crimes. After his marriage fails, Michael feels guilty for the negative impact that the divorce had on his daughter, encouraging him to become more open in his current and future relationships. The novel presents both positive and negative consequences of guilt suggests and that guilt must be accompanied by a sense of responsibility, responsibility not only to your own mistake and wrongdoing but also to accept guilt in a way that is productive. Schlink is arguing that Germany must face and deal with its Nazi past in order to be able to move forward.
Schlink portrays responsibility as necessary because in order to move on as a society everyone must take responsibility for either taking part or enabling the Nazi crimes. It is necessary as it allows society to feel a sense of being guilty without feeling responsible no change would be made in the future as they would not feel the guilt that would drive them to change. But as Germany has to accept the guilt and deal with its Nazi past adequately, forgiveness for the atrocious crimes committed during the Holocaust is perceivably impossible. Towards the end of the novel, where we see the Jewish woman in New York, who was the only remaining survivor of the church fire which Hanna was responsible for, refuses to accept Hanna’s money, because by doing so it would relieving Hanna of her guilt and thus consequently absolving the Nazi crimes committed. The woman’s inability to forgive Hanna possibly suggests that some crimes are so monstrous that they can never be forgiven or compensated for. This indicates that the Nazi perpetrators and those who are guilty must forever remain guilty or otherwise if they are forgiven then their crimes and actions will be forgotten and consequently they victims may be forgotten to leaving space for such events to happen again in the future. Though Hanna committed suicide and is therefor dead by the time Michael meets the woman, the woman’s rejection to grant Hanna forgiveness suggests that even those who are dead cannot be forgiven for such heinous crimes. Michael is portrayed as unable to escape guilt as he felt shame and guilt whilst being together with Hanna and even after Hanna died he felt guilty as he thought he betrayed her and was responsible for his death.Michael refuses to forgive himself to absolve any guilt as he says “if I was not guilty because one cannot be guilty of betraying a criminal, then I was guilty of having loved a criminal.” and towards the end of the novel he goes on to say “In the first few years after Hanna’s death, I was tormented by the old questions of whether I had denied and betrayed her, whether I owed her something, whether I was guilty for having loved her. Sometimes I asked myself if I was responsible for her death.” This further reinforces the idea of the guilt must remain in a state of guilt in order to avoid such things to happen again.
Overall Schlink shows guilt as a powerful and destructive force capable of creating conflicts within one’s self as well as generation. Schlink portrays guilt as an integral part of the novel as it shapes the future generations by giving them a sense of responsibility in their actions or inactions proving that it is also necessary to move forward as a society.
The Representation of Perpetrators in Time’s Arrow and The Reader
In order to analyse the representation of perpetrators in Holocaust literature, I am going to be looking at Martin Amis’ Time’s Arrow and Bernhard Schlink’s The Reader. I would argue that both authors treat the perpetrators in a very measured manner, meaning that the reader can to a degree understand them and their actions, which in turn help us to learn, but never completely feel sympathy for them. This is important because of the ethical questions surrounding the representation of the perpetrator within Holocaust literature: “how does one depict the correlative element of the atrocity, that of the perpetration of the suffering?”  Erin McGlothlin argues, “…there is a sense that to focus on critically on the perspective of the perpetrator would at best be unseemly and at worst a betrayal of the memory of the victims…” , which is why the ways that both Amis and Schlink construct their perpetrators is so fundamental.
It is first important to establish what exactly a perpetrator is- Raul Hilberg in Perpetrators, Victims, Bystanders: The Jewish Catastrophe 1933-45 defines the perpetrator as anyone who ‘played a specific role in the formulation or implementation of anti-Jewish measures.’ 
When first considering the evidence within both texts that shows the authors creating a character that can be understood, in both The Reader and Time’s Arrow, we are given the image of a perpetrator who is an every-day person, not a psychopath, as we would naturally expect. This can first be seen when considering the protagonist of Time’s Arrow, a simple doctor, who is described by his own conscience as follows: “I’ve come to the conclusion that Odilo Unverdorben, as a moral being, is absolutely unexceptional, liable to do what everybody else does, good or bad, with no limit, once under the cover of numbers.”  Here Amis’ use of the adjective “unexceptional” is striking as it subverts the readers natural expectations of what a perpetrator is, someone who is highly exceptional and evil. In addition to this, Amis allows his perpetrator to assume many different, normal identities and names throughout the novel, for example “Tod T. Friendly”  and “John Young” . More convincingly, the backwards structure of Time’s Arrow emphasises a feeling of lack of control, suggesting that the novel’s protagonist has had to act in such a way. This highlights the idea that the perpetrator can be an ordinary person who has become part of the genocidal machine. Comparatively, in The Reader, Schlink’s description of Hanna’s exterior makes her seem like a normative every day woman. Hanna is described in the novel as follows: “Her shoulder-length, ash-blonde hair was fastened with a clip at the back of her neck. Her bare arms were pale…High forehead, high cheekbones, pale blue eyes, full lips that formed a perfect curve without any indentation, square chin. A broad-planed, strong, womanly face.”  Here Schlink’s lack of spirited or dynamic adjectives convey Hanna’s exterior as rather unremarkable, allowing us to view her as an unextraordinary, conventional human being. More convincingly, because of her job as a Tram conductor, Hanna is often presented to us in a uniform, which further familiarises and standardises her character.
Additionally, in both texts, the reader is able to understand the perpetrator more and begin to accept that they are not necessarily the worst kind of people, because unlike characters such as “Uncle Pepi” , a representation of Nazi psychopath Josef Goebbels, who is shown to revel in the mass violence and destruction of the Holocaust, our perpetrators are both shown to have coping mechanisms. Coping mechanisms convey the idea that Hanna and Unverdorben do not actually enjoy or want to be a part of the perpetration of the innocent. This can first be seen when considering the doctor in Time’s Arrow, who develops a split personality to cope with the shockingly brutal and inhumane nature of his own actions. In her essay The Powers of Horror, Julia Kristeva discusses the Holocaust, stating “The abjection of Nazi crime reaches its apex when death, which, in any case, kills me, interferes with what, in my living universe, is supposed to save me from death: childhood, science, among other things.”  This abjection of doctors killing instead of saving lives caused the doctors to develop split personality disorders as a coping mechanism, and Amis’ exploration of this can be likened to that of Robert J. Lifton. In Nazi Doctors Lifton argues, ““Splitting” or “dissociation” can thus denote something about Nazi doctors’ suppression of feeling, or psychic numbing, in relation to their participation in murder.”  Amis is able to embody the split personality disorder within his text, by his use of inverted temporal narration, which means the narrator is separate from the character of the doctor. However, at the beginning of the novel’s fifth chapter the previously separate narrator becomes temporal with the doctor: “Now. I, Odilo Unverdorben…”  Due to the fact that the overall narrative of the novel is backward, we can interpret this joining of the two selves as the splitting of the two selves that arguably occurred amongst Nazi doctors. Sara Horowitz argues: “Amis’s device gives symbiotic existence to Robert J. Lifton’s idea of the Nazi doctor’s second self…the normal and the Auschwitz self.” 
Whilst this is not as strong of a concept in The Reader, I would argue that a coping mechanism for Hanna could be having the young girls read to her. This is something that we learn during the court scene, when the victim says: “Yes she had her favourites, always one of the young ones who was weak and delicate, and she took them under her wing and made sure that they didn’t have to work, got them better barracks space and took care of them and fed them better, and in the evenings, she had them brought to her. And the girls were never allowed to say what she did with them in the evening. And we assumed she was… also because they all ended up on the transports, as if she had had her fun with them and then had got bored…one day one of them finally talked, and we learned that the girls read aloud to her…”  Here Hanna is described to take on the familiar maternal role, feeding, protecting and caring for the girls, the embodiment of Hanna as a mother here makes it almost impossible for the reader to imagine her intentions are ill, as we are all familiar with the positive connotations of motherhood and mothers. The argument can be made that this ritual of having the girls read aloud to her becomes a coping mechanism for Hanna because throughout the novel we see just how much pleasure she gains from being read to and we understand that the world of literature is an escape for her. There is evidence of this when Michael recounts reading War and Peace to Hanna: “I read her War and Peace… Again, Hanna became absorbed in the unfolding of the story. But it was different this time… she didn’t make Natasha, Andrei, and Pierre part of her world, as she had Luise and Emilia, but entered their world the way one sets out on a long and dazzling journey…”  More convincingly, Michael later justifies this argument: “Ask her if she chose the weak and delicate girls, because they could never have stood up to the work on the building site anyway, because they would have been sent on the next transportation to Auschwitz in any case, and because she wanted to make that final month bearable.” 
In contrast to this, Amis and Schlink both also use techniques to detach the reader from their perpetrator characters. In this way, the sexual power of the perpetrator is something which is prominent in both texts. I would argue that this is a technique that the authors use to distance the reader from the perpetrator, as in this way they are presented in a predatory manner, making them seem more capable of their later horrific crimes in the Holocaust. In Time’s Arrow power forms one of the novel’s persistent motifs, associated with not just doctors but also sex. This can be seen because the first time that Tod has sex with Irene he experiences a compelling sense of power: as he “loomed above her” , he is “flooded by thoughts and feelings I’ve never had before. To do with power.”  In this way sex offers the protagonist “instant invasion and lordship” , a feeling he also gets when carrying out surgery. The lust for power that Unverdorben shares with his Nazi comrades also epitomises his relations with his wife, Herta, who is harshly described as “his chimpanzee required to do housework naked, on all fours.”  The intrinsic link that Amis sets up between his perpetrator and the act of sexual power is most strikingly displayed to the reader through the highly caustic fact that as soon as Unverdorben acquires heightened physical power rounding up the Jews for the Waffen-SS Unit he joins, he becomes sexually impotent. This is overtly crystallised by Amis’ use of the two short and harshly clarifying sentences in the line, “I am omnipotent. Also impotent.” 
In The Reader we see the exploration of the sexual power of the perpetrator in the taboo older woman/ underage male relationship that “fifteen”  year old Michael and thirty-six year old Hanna share. Hanna’s domination over Michael is immediately shown to us in their first meeting, Michael describes her helping him as an “assault”  as she “seizes”  his arm, which instantly foreshadows the attack on his masculinity that this subversive relationship will cause. This, teamed with his description of himself as “being so weak” , in contrast to his likening of Hanna to “a horse” , an animal synonymous with strength and physical power, confirms their roles within the relationship with Michael yielding to Hanna’s sexual ascendency. We are most overtly shown the full extent of Hanna’s sexual power over Michael, when he describes the physical act of sex between the two: “…she looked me over calmly. I turned red…” , “…and then she was on top of me, looking into my eyes until I came…”  Michael goes on to say, “When we made love, too, she took possession of me as a matter of course. Her mouth took mine, her tongue played with my tongue, she told me where to touch her and how, and when she rode me until she came, I was there only because she took pleasure in me and on me.”  Here the repeated image of taking makes Hanna seem like a predator devouring her prey, highlighting the dangers of her sexual power. Michael goes on to confirm the assumption that Hanna’s sexual power makes her different, distancing her from the reader, when he says, “Years later it occurred to me that the reason I hadn’t been able to take my eyes off her was not just her body, but the way she held herself and moved.” 
The most convincing way that Amis and Schlink create disassociation between the reader and the perpetrators of both texts is by of the fact that we do not hear either story from the point of view of the perpetrator. In the case of Time’s Arrow we are told the majority of the story from the perspective of the doctor’s conscience: “Something isn’t quite working: this body I’m in won’t take orders from this will of mine. Look around, I say. But his neck ignores me.”  In The Reader we are told the whole story from the perspective of Michael, who at the commencing of the story is just fifteen years old: “When I was fifteen, I got Hepatitis.”  The use of having a separate narrator to the perpetrator is primitive, as it enables the author to pass moral judgement on the actions of the perpetrator. There is evidence of this in Time’s Arrow for example when the conscience speaking of John’s ill-treatment of Irene, admits: “I can’t stand the way he treats her. To him she is- how can I put this?- Soon assimilated.”  Similarly, in The Reader when Michael learns of the true horrors of Hanna’s crimes during her trial, he feels overwhelming guilt and questions whether he is a bad person for falling in love with someone capable of such evil: “…then I was guilty of having loved a criminal.”  Therefore, having a separate narrator keeps us a reader on the outside looking in, we are not connected with the perpetrator and thus, like the narrators we are able to see their actions as overwhelmingly unacceptable and horrific. In the case of The Reader many critics have discussed this technique, with Kristina Brazaitis noting, “Hannah remains remote, ambiguous, impenetrable and mysterious”  and Heidi M. Schlipphacke remarking, “The reader never gains access to Hanna outside the gaze of the protagonist Michael.” 
In conclusion, I would argue that the perpetrators of the novels Time’s Arrow and The Reader: Unverdorben and Hanna are extremely three-dimensional, well developed characters. This is a technique used by Amis and Schlink to enable us as readers to understand and comprehend the capability of their actions, but also be distanced from them so that we do not fully sympathise with them, ensuring that we cannot betray the actual victims of the holocaust. This enables the morality and ethical concerns of representing the perpetrator to be quelled, but at the same time allows us all to be greater educated on the subject of the holocaust. After all, how can we as individuals change for the better or prevent such an abomination from happening again, unless we hear about the perpetrators. This argument is shared by many modern Holocaust critics, and is expressed by Tim Cole and Robert Ehrenreich in their work, The Perpetrator- Bystander- Victim Constellation: Rethinking Genocidal Relationships: “it is through the study of those responsible for the instigation and implementation of the destruction process that the reasons for its occurrence may best be understood.”  I would contend that the most successful way Amis and Schlink allow us to understand, but not fully sympathise with the perpetrators is through their foregrounding of the everyday image of the perpetrator. As this is something which really confronts the reader, making us assess our own behaviour, as we question whether in that position could we to have been a perpetrator. As Bauer put it in his speech to the German parliament in 1998: ‘the most horrible thing about the Shoah is in fact not that the Nazis were inhuman, the most horrible thing about it is that they were indeed human, just as human as you and I are.’ 
- McGlothlin, E- Theorising the Perpetrator in Bernhard Schlink’s ‘The Reader’ & Martin Amis’ ‘Time’s Arrow’. From: Spargo, R.C. & R.M. Ehrenreich (eds)- After Representation: The Holocaust, Literature and Culture, New Jersey & London, Rutgers University Press, 2010, p,.210-230. Pg. 210
- McGlothlin, E- Theorising the Perpetrator in Bernhard Schlink’s ‘The Reader’ & Martin Amis’ ‘Time’s Arrow’. Pg 213
- Hilberg, Raul, Perpetrators, Victims, Bystanders: The Jewish Catastrophe 1933- 1945, New York, Aron Asher Books/ Harper Collins, 1992, Pg. ix
- Amis, Martin, Time’s Arrow, Vintage Books, London, 2003. Pg. 164-5
- Amis, Martin, Time’s Arrow, Pg. 14
- Amis, Martin, Time’s Arrow, Pg. 107
- Schlink, Bernhard, The Reader, Orion Books, Great Britain, 1998, Pg. 10
- Amis, Martin, Time’s Arrow, Pg. 128
- Kristeva, Julia, Approaching Abjection, from Powers of Horror: An Essay on Abjection, Columbia Press, New York, 1982, 1–30. Pg. 13
- Lifton, Robert J. The Nazi Doctors: Medical Killing and the Psychology of Genocide, Basic Books, New York, 1986. Pg. 419- 420
- Amis, Martin, Time’s Arrow, Pg. 124
- Horowitz, Sara R. Voicing the Void: Muteness and Memory in Holocaust Fiction, State University of New York Press, Albany, 1997. Pg. 193
- Schlink, Bernhard, The Reader, Pg. 115
- Schlink, Bernhard, The Reader, Pg. 68
- Schlink, Bernhard, The Reader, Pg. 116
- Amis, Martin, Time’s Arrow, Pg. 45
- Amis, Martin, Time’s Arrow, Pg. 45
- Amis, Martin, Time’s Arrow, Pg. 59
- Amis, Martin, Time’s Arrow, Pg. 159
- Amis, Martin, Time’s Arrow, Pg. 148
- Schlink, Bernhard, The Reader, Pg. 13
- Schlink, Bernhard, The Reader, Pg. 2
- Schlink, Bernhard, The Reader, Pg. 2
- Schlink, Bernhard, The Reader, Pg. 2
- Schlink, Bernhard, The Reader, Pg. 69
- Schlink, Bernhard, The Reader, Pg. 22
- Schlink, Bernhard, The Reader, Pg. 23
- Schlink, Bernhard, The Reader, Pg. 31
- Schlink, Bernhard, The Reader, Pg. 13
- Amis, Martin, Time’s Arrow, Pg. 13
- Schlink, Bernhard, The Reader, Pg. 1
- Amis, Martin, Time’s Arrow, 95-95
- Schlink, Bernhard, The Reader, Pg. 133
- Brazaitis, Kristina, On Re-reading ‘The Reader’: An Exercise in Ambiguity.- From: Journal of the Australian Universities Language and Literature Association 95, 2001, p. 75-96. Pg. 90
- Schlipphacke, Heidi M., Enlightenment, Reading and the Female Body: Bernhard Schlink’s ‘Der Vorleser’, Gegenwartsliteratur 1, 2002 Pg. 314-315
- Ehrenreich, Robert M. & Cole, Tim, The Perpetrator-Bystander-Victim Constellation: Rethinking Genocidal Relationships.- From: Human Organization, Vol. 64, No. 3 (Fall 2005), pp. 213-224, Published by: Society for Applied Anthropology, http://www.jstor.org/stable/44127316 [Accessed 09/01/18] Pg. 6
- Bauer,Yehuda, Rethinking the Holocaust, United States of America, Yale University Press, 2002, Pg. 26
The Conflict Between Condemnation And Understanding in The Reader By Bernhard Schlink
In the novel, The Reader, published by Bernhard Schlink in 1955, the conflict between condemnation and understanding is one of the major overarching themes. In this story, Michael falls in love with Hannah Schmitz but further in the story realizes that she has played an important role in a terrible nazi event. He has trouble understanding what he is feeling. The book explores this conflict in court, this conflict between the two lovers, and finally a takeaway that each individual reader has understand for himself.
As Hannah is put on trial, she is confused as she is illiterate and decides to take the fall for all of the events even though she didn’t do the whole thing. She doesn’t realize that it is as bad as it actually is. She doesn’t have mens rea, only the actus rea, as she was simply following orders. The court is confused at first but then condemned her for a life in jail as they cant be undecided and have en liquet. It has been resolved in criminal court. It is made clear in the text that doing nothing to stop the events is the same thing as participating in them. Michael, throughout the whole body of literature, is looking for justice for the nazi’s behavior. This is seen with his career choice as well as his attendance at Hannah’s trial, even before knowing she was involved. Furthermore, there are some strong feelings of shame throughout the text. Indeed, the second generation is finally learning what actually happened and has to deal with the first generation. Michael has difficulty feeling true anger because of his love for Hannah.
The love story is a metaphor for the clear uncomfortable cohabitation between the 2 generations.She decides to kill herself as the dead understand. The conflict spreads from the court room to the two protagonists. Michael feels guilty of loving her. With the inherited money, he donates it to a jewish charity for illiteracy. It is not resolved as ever since she was on trial, they didn’t have a conversation, there was no closure. His way of moving forward is with the charity, and researching to come to peace with the coexistence of the two generations. He has to understand that that he has to accept what has happened and move forward. Michael is condemned because his whole life is now based around this incident. He is unable to sustain a real relationship and is confused. In order to move forward, Germany and its people have to deal with the nazi events.
At the end of the novel, the daughter doesn’t accept the money because if she does, it means that she forgives her and would release her of the responsibility. Michael feels guilty about the affair with Hanna, it is something which he can’t yet reveal to anyone. Yet even after she leaves Michael, Michael very clearly still loves her due to his constant thoughts and longing for her. Even when he thinks he is over her and is “numb”, we see that he still notices key things about the way she holds herself in court- this was one of the things he originally fell in love with. This clearly shows that his love for her never died, it perhaps just dulled its appearance while he tried to distract himself from it. There is a large amount of sadness that Michael had from the fact that Hanna kept these things from Michael such as her illiteracy and involvement in the holocaust, especially when it appeared he trusted her with a lot. Hanna evidently holds sadness for having been illiterate and uneducated seen clearly through her alienation with books and wanting Michael to read to her even on tape when she is in prison. Although Hanna’s feelings about leaving Michael so suddenly aren’t discussed, we have to assume she would have felt a sense of sadness at having to leave him with no reason and thinking she would never see him again. Hannah feels guilty of being illiterate, it is seen as she wants people to read to her so that she can learn. She prefers to suffer the consequences of the whole entire crime instead of revealing her dark secret. Implicitly, there are past events that she doesn’t own up to, because she never answers clearly when Michael asks about her past.
Throughout the novel, there is reference to Hanna bathing a lot, this could simply be a metaphor for her trying to wash away the guilt from her past actions. Accepting money is accepting apology. Not resolved, Germany lives with this past forever. Reader is left with his own understanding with his own experiences. Hannah or everybody else was put in the trolley situation. They could have either gotten killed or killed all of the people in the church.
Reader & Writer Relationship: Why They Need Each Other
The Reader and Writer Relationship
The Connotation Bond of the Reader – Writer
“Life is all about relationships”. Even before birth human creates a relationship with his or her mother inevitably. To human’s relationships just happen, even thought that they aren’t looking for it because humans are meant to create relationships with others surrounds them. Love is an important emotion for humans and a great builder of relationships. People try really hard all the time to relate this emotion to others; however, not always it is well received or accepted or even is not sufficiently valued by others thereby causing different open forms of interpretations and prompting numerous issues and misunderstandings. This concept can be applied not just for love but also to different relationships that can be created by humans like the reader and writer relationship is a great example since not always isn’t easy as love. The reader and writer confront different levels of communication and expectation issues that lead it to have uncountable discrepancies that may result in advantages or disadvantages to the relationship between the two.
Men and women are different in so many aspects that are hard to list all the differences but if the focus remains in one of the important problems that men and women have it’s easier to point out some facts and explanations. Communication is the main problem and hardest issue that men and women have. Men and women are taught in different ways to be and becoming completely different cultures. In this scenario “Louise and Jake are having an argument “It can’t be simple because Louise and Jake are responding to different levels of communication” (Tannen 131). Neither aren’t paying attention nor listening to each other concentrating on their own ideas. They can’t have an agreement because meanwhile Jake is focusing on what he considers is the main point of the argument Louise is on another level of communication trying to explain another part or point of the issue. This conversation shows how Louise is trying to make Jake understand the main or ‘real’ point of why they are having this argument. Readers sometimes as well focusing another part, piece or issue presented on what he or she is reading maybe not paying enough attention to the point that the writer is trying to make. On the other hand, the writer should be able to make his or her point of view as clear as possible and the reader should read deeply and try to interpret better what they are reading. For example, if the writer is using metamessages to hide a deeper meaning for the reader but doesn’t use the right words or enough explanation will be hard for the reader to identify that message.
Society has design specific tasks and behaviors to separate males and females making them two completely different individuals. “These cultural differences include different expectations about the role of talk in relationships and how it fulfills that role” (Tannen 125). Men and Women are expressed as different worlds or as different cultures as the passages convey, so they might have different expectations of every aspect of life because they are taught to think and to aspire to different things making their achievements follow a different path in life. Writers sometimes concentrate so much in the topic and facts that they are writing about that they forget what type of public or audience they might have and then their metamessage or literal message is misunderstanding because maybe the reader is not at the same level of communication as the writer is. So, to the writer should be a goal to fulfill the readers expectations or the needs they have as well as the reader who sometimes choose an author a little bit up than what hey are costumed to is basically just to know their limits. For example, a third-grade child can’t read a calculus book from high school because is inappropriate to their intellect, experience, and age. The writer should make sure to whom he or she is referring to using appropriate vocabulary and assumptions and phrases that the future reader will agree with.
In life, there’s so many occasion and situations and it defers how everyone reacts but the way that men and women react to those moments are it is quite a huge difference. As already explained women tends to use metamessages to communicate their points and men use literal messages creating an imbalance between the two. “The men were focusing on the message the cake as food. The women were thinking of the metamessage: Serving a special cake frames an occasion as a celebration” (Tannen128). The women were reacting to the occasion symbolizing the cake as part of her vision and expectation of the moment meanwhile the men was focusing on the fact that the cake, in this case, was useless because of the circumstances. Readers and writers have similar issues when the writer is unaware of their own public or their own weaknesses for sorting topics or also when the writer isn’t communicating his point clearly that maybe might be her or he blind spot making really hard to reader to achieve the main point or idea and sometimes just the reader can notice those weak spots. For example, is hard when a professor use a high level of communication or words to speak to their students who maybe are not enough prepare to understand that level of communication, so then his point will be unclear and misunderstand; however, he won’t notice that this is happening just the student who is paying attention is the one who concern. Therefore, the writer should pay more attention to those weaknesses in a topic or be aware or the type of audience he or she will present their work making as clear as possible and the reader at the moment to pick a writer should be aware of the type of communication of level that the writer might have and get prepared or have a source to get help.
Peggy McIntosh explains in her essay “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack” how society hide direct examples of racism making them invisible or noticeable to everyone showing how she as withe person had been benefiting from the system showing and untaught journey to show how this is real and affects everyone and she point out how being white it is a privilege and unearned power putting others on disadvantages before they even born basing just in the color of their skin. “Privilege can look like strength when it is in fact permission to escape or to dominate” (McIntosh). Power is always related to dominating or control over others. Power it shows strength, so I’m strong over others when privilege reflects on sort situations when I look bigger than I am. Readers or writers might have different privileges among them that are their advantages when the moment arises and can look like are their strength. It seems that they dominate every aspect looking like they cannot give any chance among them to take advantage among the other advantage; for example, the writer can choose the shape of their writing or choose their public that’s a privilege that they own that looks like their strength over the reader, but the reader can also choose the author and the content they are interested in being an advantage over the writer. Always there will be moments where either one the reader or the writer will have their advantage; however, both should be on the same level of communication to understand either assumptions or opinions but is each to take advantage of the other advantage because is hard to change diverse situations so is better to take the positive part of every aspect.
When something is been part of someone it’s challenging to express what’s right or wrong because people just been there they are just growing on that system. “It is hard to disentangle aspects of unearned advantage” (McIntosh). When it comes to explains something to someone who has grown in a determinate situation is hard to express those aspects or ideas that maybe they haven’t seen before especially because how they couldn’t notice it before if they been on it probably their whole life is simple because they are the system; for example, how to teach a children about peace and fearless when the children has been exposed their entire life to bad habits and domestic violence. Readers and writers might have the same problem its hard to tell the weaknesses of either one when maybe they had been practicing the same scheme for a long time are something that they are used to it so is hard to point out facts that are not right or they are committing a huge or small mistake. It’s possible that they didn’t notice it before and maybe if they change the way they know maybe will change them completely. The writers and readers should be an open-minded is a crucial thing nowadays. Open to different possibilities can come from just one aspect like what’s the real position someone takes the front of something or how to express accordantly to situations.
The system that runs on society never tells directly to everyone that they haven’t tried enough to eradicate racism because they need racism to work. “I was taught to recognize racism only in individual acts of meanness by members of my group” (McIntosh). People knows that racism is there and society lets everyone to knows is still among us and that there are slightly different forms of dealing and work with it because society taught that just in specific moments when the racism appears or when we should call a specific acts racism because everything besides that is just the only way everything works and it should be the normal way to run the system. Readers and writers, in the same way, they won’t be able to recognize their advantage or privilege on present situations because they had been taught that it is acceptable and normal or abnormal sort things they don’t have that specific options to decide on their own. Things happen all the time in specific situations where a necessary action is needed. At the moment the writer composes their writing or the reader decides to take any work to read the writer as well as the reader should try to recognize by their own when they are on an point where their power that maybe might control at the moment of any taken decision or in a situation where they are able to see how they advantage over the reader trying, at least, to be fair or create a balance where both parts are benefit; in fact, the writer can understand and have a full idea of their main point of their writing considering that maybe the reader might not have the same understanding so the writer is ahead over the reader so is the writer provide enough examples, information and explanations to at least make the reader understand the central point and to guide the reader.
Society has taught the important fact that everything and everyone can be separate it by solid hierarchy nothing never can cross that invisible line; always there something or someone below and above. “We can handle things physically and mentally on the same level as men” (Zissou 4). Since society had created a solid barrier in our thinking is easy to relate things or people to sorting stereotypes or actions, and women are the biggest example of this hierarchy being below men all the time. Readers and writers follow the same type of rules because readers are underestimated all time in front writers; however, to be an excellent writer goes hand in hand be an excellent reader. “To be a significant writer you have to be a significant reader” (Darden). Readers and writers complement each other all the time because without one of them cannot have the other. For example, if the writer doesn’t have firm shape of background of information about the topic they want to write they won’t be able to write something completely valid because it does not know with certainty or precision what he or she is writing about and to get that information is by reading others work and reading about others experiences so at the end the writers must read to be a good writer. The writer should considerate always that the skill of write needs to be nurtured all the time with new fresh information by reading that the fact that readers and writers complement each other is important and is also important to know that reader also needs the writer.
Absolutely nobody is really prepared for life. The system that surrounds us is premade to those who are luckily chosen and design to belong in the upper class of the hierarchy of our society. Bryant Quinn highlight in her essay what involves she had learned and how it became her passion:
Every day, hardworking people were making mistakes and losing money, not because they were careless or dumb but because the system was designed to delude them. The massive unfairness of it all burned into my bones. I’ve lost that sense of outrage – my desire to help consumers make their way safely trough the jungle of Big money. (32)
She expresses the fact that most of the time the people who work the most and maybe does have the abilities and knowledge to manage themselves and their money are a knockout because they are no enough prepared to combat the system society have created. The system is created to take people money because of foolish reasons being unfair to those who really deserve not to lose. ”Finding good answers is one of the most satisfying things that I’ve ever done as a reporter” (Bryant Quinn 33). Occasionally is necessary to have a hint is this jungle of “Big Money” sort like a guide someone or something who has being through this situation had overcoming it. Sometimes the writer does not lack passion or abilities when she or he writes but maybe the system that they are exposed to or from where they learned wasn’t the best a make then confuse the way they place everything together or just doesn’t have the right guide to make them follow the right way; for example, in high school they teach students how to write a basic essay but in college you can’t even use that as a base because most of what the student is being taught are useless. The system should be fair and solid taking one step to another teaching to the student always the right way even though college is a higher level of education high schools should teach the premature writers the right base. The writer should be learn everything surround them and keep what’s more likely to be the right path as well as the reader should narrow all the knowledge they had and keep the basics and what’s really important.
To conclude, the reader – writer confront many issues having different expectations on meeting different advantages and disadvantages in their relationship. Any type of relationships is never easy. The reader and writer relationship also isn’t easy. But when the reader and writer don’t try to understand that before them are others the relationship between them just can fail. It is important to have many strategies when problems present. The reader and writer relationship may get better always if both try to meet the other needs on their relation. When the reader know and use their advantages over the writer and use them to complete the writer weaknesses the reader is trying to improve the relationship or when the writer understands he or she needs to read and to have a high background of information, vocabulary, and understanding about their topic to produce an exemplary job and about the audience the might have the writer then is thinking about the reader. The reader and writer need each other because without one or the other there’s no relationship.
1984 by George Orwell and Its Influence on The Reader
Kyrra McClintock challenges her readers to reconsider their position on mendacious language in the 21st century in relation to George Orwell’s novel, “1984”. She provides an in depth view of the different types of language that are used to manipulate an audience. Throughout history, the English lexicon has changed dramatically and become complex through the advanced expansion of words, expressions and phrases. Many words have positive connotations and are used in a way that excites and illuminates the reader; however, sometimes words are used negatively by people of power to manipulate the readers into a certain way of thinking. In recent times, with the rise of social media, specific terms have arisen to define words that institutions like the government, the military and political parties use on a daily basis to manipulate society.
George Orwell’s novel “1984”, is based around a totalitarian government presented in a dystopian future where only one leader has freedom of speech or even thought. Big Brother, who controls everyone, uses language to manipulate society. In every edition of the ‘Newspeak Dictionary’ more and more words with negative connotations are removed. Newspeak is used to manipulate and control the people of Oceania. The use of mendacious language in everyday life is parallelling the dystopian world that Orwell created, this is quite prophetic as this type of words and grammatical construction are similar to Orwell’s future. This language manipulation is happening right now. Orwell takes the meaning out of the English lexicon by writing about a society that has changed the purpose of language all together.
Within the novel, Orwell continuously shows how openly deceitful and dishonest language can be. The “Ministry of Love” is truly a place for torture, almost the complete opposite meaning of the ministries title, similarly, the ministry of Peace controls war. “Joy Camps”, which were camps that people were forced into hard labour, are an example of some of the contradictory language the ministries and parties used to manipulate and control their audience. Newspeak is the official language of Oceania in “1984”. It was designed to remove the possibility of negative thinking by creating a language where there are no negative connotations, how can anyone go against the party without the words to describe their rebellion? Instead of the word “bad”, the term that is acceptable would be “ungood”, as it has less negative connotations and the prefix produces the exact opposite of the meaning so there is no uncertainty in its context. Orwell explored the ideas of truths contradicting each other by the concept of “doublethink”.
“Doublethink means the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one’s head simultaneously, and accepting both of them” (Orwell, G. 1949). Newspeak also removed any synonyms, antonyms and inadmissible phrases. “In the year 1984 . . . it was expected that Newspeak would have finally superseded Oldspeak (or standard English, as we should call it) by about the year 2050. Meanwhile it gained ground steadily, all Party members tending to use Newspeak and more in their quite everyday speech.” (Orwell, G. 1949). Insidious euphemistic language was not just created by George Orwell, it has been used throughout history countless times.
The language Nazis used not only concealed reality from their victims, it also eased the truth about the Nazi involvement in mass murder. They used words like “resettlement, bath houses, final solution and cleansing” instead of using words like “murder, gas chambers and genocide”. In the novel, the political party essentially did the same thing with their “joy camp” euphemism. Euphemistic language can be found essentially anywhere. The language used in war is a good example of how euphemisms can mask the depressing truth. The government has used this language technique many times in the past, notably after 9/11. “Extraordinary Rendition” which sounds like something positive with the use of the word “extraordinary”, is quite the opposite in fact. This term is used when the CIA kidnaps suspects of terror activities and later tortures them. As America continues to hide behind these acts by using more anodyne language, it makes America more self-conscious and creates a country of doubt and recession instead of stability and certainty. “In George Orwell’s classic 1946 essay ‘Politics and the English Language,’ he noted that his era’s equivalents for ‘collateral damage’ were ‘needed if one wants to name things without calling up mental pictures of them.’” (Astore, W. 2016). “Orwell explored the ideas of truths contradicting each other by the concept of ‘doublethink’.” A term that is commonly used around social media is ‘fake news’. Its purpose is to use misleading information to gain profit or political power. It can be very deceitful as it is created to look like as many credible sources as possible. It has become a large issue on social media in the last couple of years especially with the rise of Donald Trump into presidency.
With the 2016 election there were many ‘Fake News’ statements and articles circulating the media about the candidates. For example, “Hillary Clinton is running a child sex ring out of a pizza shop” was one story that had been “leaked”. Although this was obvious it was fake news, many people believed it to be true. This proves society can be manipulated into believing any rumour on the internet or in the media. There has always been fake news circulating around the world; however, with social media growing at a rapid rate, fake news and other mendacious language like ‘buzz words’ and ‘weasel words’ etc. have been shared liked and commented on, all over social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Fake news inventors
gained so much attention they realised they could make money off the lies, this just advanced the growth of fake news throughout our society. As a society we are powerless against Trump and other political leaders. In relation to fake news they have basically said that the people cannot take any action against this mendacious language even if society did, our actions would not have any consequences. The government has used ‘post truths’ multiple times in the past. Instead of using facts to persuade an audience, by using post truths a leader can appeal to an audience’s emotions instead. Trump used people’s emotions of insecurity to promote his idea on building a wall to keep trespassers out of the country. Similarly, Big Brother manipulated the country by compelling them to react to violently to footage of their enemy during their “Two Minutes Hate”.
A cartoon of Donald Trump surrounded by a small selection of the “Trumpisims” he has stated.
It is not only leaders who use this vague and deceitful language, it has entered a wide range of institutions. Schools use this language to comfort a parent about their misbehaved child. Businesses use ‘weasel words’ to misinform people about their products. People who are ‘poor’ are classified ‘low socioeconomic class’, we accept these titles because just like the party in “1984”, they are of higher ranking than the rest of society, therefore; it is easier to believe them.
Should the links between now and Orwell’s “1984” be concerning? Although we have not quite reached the extent of Orwell’s “1984” totalitarian society, we are not far off. There continues to be more cameras on the streets, thoughts being manipulated and leaders taking whatever action they please. The term “Big Brother is watching” used to be a joke, however; it is very rapidly becoming a reality. Euphemisms are used absolutely everywhere and are continuing to grow at an exponential rate. Society should doubtlessly be concerned about our future becoming “1984”.
How MIAD Makes You a Better Learner, Thinker, Reader, and Writer
When I started the semester, I thought myself to be a very visual learner, critical thinker, through reader, and an underdeveloped writer. As I have progressed through the semester I have learned a lot more about how I tackle the battle of developing as a student. There were times when all I wanted to do was sleep and not think of anything but sheep flying above my head and times where I stayed awake all night because I just couldn’t stop thinking about my next project. Inspiration flowed threw me until exhaustion hit me like a brick wall at 4am and I was left to spend the rest of the day a zombie.
After a couple of weeks of being at MIAD and developing as an artist I confirmed my notion of being a visual leaner. I always thought myself to be a visual leaner dur to the fact that I am constantly on YouTube to learn how to put something together so I can see it being done. When I started working in the 3D lab with my space forms class I was glad they demonstrated how to use all the saws and machines. They even did it a few times just for safe measure and even though the demos can seem kind of boring they are only helpful in the end. As I learn I also found that I must do the action to really get it to sink in. I might be able to tell someone exactly how to use the scroll saw but I know I can’t confidently use it myself if I don’t use it beforehand. Let me cut some wood for a couple of minutes with someone standing by and then let me go because after that I will know how to use it from top to bottom and side to side.
As a thinker, I tend to lean more critically and logically. My mom calls it thinking in black and white, it either is or it isn’t. As I have lived thru this semester I have also learned to look at things with a bit of grey in there and to look at an object or problem from multiple angles. When I was writing about litter I thought there were many things I was very sure of; litter is bad, litter builds up in the oceans, litter kills animals, and litter can be stopped if everyone only just picked up litter or threw away thrash before it becomes litter. At the same time, I had to think of other things that might constitute more as grey thinking; what to do to help stop littering, to recycle, to go plastic free and not use plastic, to build gardens to promote health to the earth, and ways to take that garden into a small place like an apartment. This is greyer thinking because after you have thought black and what, what the actual issues are, you have to blend them to create an outcome of grey or in this case the action to help stop litter.
When I read I read slowly. I have gotten a lot quicker in the past couple of years but I still think of myself as a slow reader. My friend Emily and my Mom can read a 400-page book in a matter of a few hours were as it would take me about a day maybe a little more. This is what makes me a though reader in my eyes. I like to read every word and not miss a thing, sometimes rereading. A problem I face with reading is that I only like to pleasure read and can hardly work up the motivation to read something that is assigned to us for a class. When I read, I read historical books that have spins of fiction in them and lore. I am also very precise when I pick books to read, which doesn’t help in a class setting. I only particularly read historical books that are set 1700 or earlier and they must be in the UK with some sort of fantasy to them. Yet still during the semester I have read the readings I have come to like the ones with very informative information in them. One day I can only hope to not be a though and lazy reader.
During high school my worst grades where always in English class. It’s just not my strong suit and I have come to terms with the fact that it is going to be a very slow process to be able to effectively write and not mess up on small things like spelling, grammar, and citation. As I have had to write more in my classes it is slowly becoming apartment to me that I write how I talk. Not good, or so I’m told. It’s hard for me to write something with depth and length while keeping it very professional. So, in a kind of protest to this new find I consider myself to be a very underdeveloped writer with protesting quality’s. I am underdeveloped because of how my easy mistakes and I protest by adding my literal voice in my writing, take that Jake(my boyfriend) and mom.
Ending this semester, I have found out a lot about myself as a leaner, thinker, reader, and writer. All of it has helped me create my art in a more mature way that I hope can be seen. So threw all the sheep and sleepless nights I have been able to live sun filled helpful days at MAID growing and developing in all these categories. Some days where hard but I still learned and read. I would still create and think about my next project or write a hopefully informative witty essay, like I am maybe doing right now. All in all I completely am proud of how I have grown as a leaner, thinker, reader, and writer.
Reader’s Involvement with Characters’ Lives in John Steinbeck’s Literary Works
How does Steinbeck take you into the lives of the characters?
After reading a novel by John Steinbeck, you feel as though the characters have been thoroughly described. One of Steinbeck’s tools to accomplishing this is by illustrating the setting through his words. He is also very strong when it comes to characterization, and dives right into the character’s life. By putting you in their shoes, you start to think through their perspective. By the time you’re at the ending, you feel much acquainted with the lives of the characters.
Through out his stories, Steinbeck uses setting to describe what the character is going through. In The Pearl, he writes about one scene where Kino tries to block the path of the ants, but they crawl over his foot. This represents how Kino and his family were overcoming obstacles and fighting higher powers (the Spaniards). John Steinbeck also makes the reader utilize the setting to get a better understanding and vision of the story. An example is when in Of Mice and Men he explains the barn very descriptively, giving you a better idea of how the character lives. It’s as if you can picture the story in your head, while the story goes on. Lastly, the setting represents the changes that the characters have gone through. Kino starts off in a hut with just enough to get by, but near the ending ends up in cave with much less than what he started with. Instead of moving forward, he took a step backwards.
By using characterization, Steinbeck portrays his characters more easily to his readers. He makes you feel as if you really know them. As the story progresses you start to learn how these everyday characters struggle so much. In Of Mice and Men, you see what George has to go through because he sticks around with Lennie. Not only do you see the struggles, but you also see their dreams. George and Lennie planned to get their own ranch and, “live of the fatta’ the land.” These dreams are never accomplished, but are effective in making the characters seem realistic and hopeful.
“What if that was me?” That is one question that Steinbeck brings to your mind, whether or not you notice it. When George works up the guts to shoot Lennie in the back of the head, you can’t help but wonder what you would do if faced with that situation. Or what if you were given an opportunity like Kino and were determined for a better life? Would you hold onto that even if you watched that chance slowly tear you apart and destroy you? However, you are sometimes given a stereotypical view of characters. Throughout Of Mice and Men, Crooks is called the nigger multiple times, but you never get to see how he thinks until Chapter 5. He just seems like another person that you forget about until you get inside his head. In that same chapter you realize that he feels inferior due to the way he’s treated. Curley’s wife isn’t the only one that treats him bad either. Empathy is definitely one word that you feel for Steinbeck’s characters. When you reach the last page of Steinbeck’s stories, you know that you’ve been given a 360° view on the lives of these characters.
Making a Successful Text-Reader Relationship: Italo Calvino’s If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler
Written narratives often exist within a clear text-reader relationship established by an author. The act of reading and experiencing a text—its reception—inevitably causes some kind of reaction for the reader. Reception theory is the theoretical study of the variety of ways in which a text may be read and received. Italo Calvino plays with this variety in his novel If on a winter’s night a traveler. He pushes the limits of reception theory by creating a narrator who supposedly already knows what the reader’s reaction will be. If on a winter’s night a traveler challenges the traditional modes of narratology, thus forcing me to question my own assumptions about how narratives are structured and received.
Calvino’s reworking of the text-reader relationship could not be effective without these very assumptions. Naturally, the title provided me with my first impression of the novel—that it would probably be a dramatic narrative full of adventure or romance. Given an understanding of more traditional novels, one would not expect this assumption to be far from the truth. However, Calvino must have anticipated my presumptions, because he certainly shattered them by the end of the first sentence: “You are about to begin reading Italo Calvino’s new novel, If on a winter’s night a traveler” (3). I immediately became aware of his plan to subvert narratological conventions. This opening line, particularly in contrast with the title, challenged everything I thought I knew about narratives. The sentence establishes an ambiguous narrator; one can never be sure if it is a self-referential Calvino or simply an omniscient third-person voice. I also began questioning the nature of the story—What happened to the dramatic title? Does this mean that I have not started the book yet? Calvino played into and subverted my assumptions about storytelling with a single sentence. The opening lines both discredited my ability to discern the text’s genre and dictated my process of textual reception.
Though uncertain of the narrator’s identity, I was bound to his instructions right from the start of the novel. He tells me to “relax. Concentrate. Dispel every other thought. Let the world around you fade” in order to receive Calvino’s text (3). Here, the narrator seemed to have some assumptions of his own. He knew exactly how I should receive the text. Rather than simply addressing me as a detached audience, he imposed an explicit series of preparations to be made for reading the rest of this novel. I was dragged into the text against my will, as I had no other choice but to continue reading the narrator’s orders.
Calvino then expanded my involvement in the text to something of a character role. Our narrator still knows best, but his tone suddenly shifts from instructive to dialogical: “Best to close the door; the TV is always on in the next room. Tell the others right away, ‘No, I don’t want to watch TV!’ Raise your voice—they won’t hear you otherwise—‘I’m reading! I don’t want to be disturbed!’” (3). Here, we see a toppling of conventional text-reader relationships; my reading experience now serves as an actual scene. Calvino’s “you” thus blurs the line between character and reader. A certain reception has been imposed on the reader such that being a recipient entails living and functioning within the text.
However, the reader’s existence inside If on a winter’s night a traveler is both fleeting and arbitrary, as Calvino creates a virtual “you.” The reader inevitably reaches a point at which he or she detaches himself or herself from the “you” being addressed. This moment arrived for me when the narrator reverted my attention to “the TV…in the next room” (Calvino 3). The narrator made assumptions about my reception of the text that were not true. Simply, there was no television near me. Though he did not lose my interest, Calvino certainly loosened his grip upon me as a recipient. The “you” referred to throughout much of If on a winter’s night a traveler—in fact, it is the novel’s first word—is indeed virtual. “You” is not attached to any particular reader. Instead, it serves to push the story along, regardless of a reader’s ability to receive the text.
Calvino played with my reception again in the succeeding chapter. He negates everything I had just read by informing me that “the novel begins in a railway station” (Calvino 10). It seems as though If on a winter’s night a traveler has two openings, the second of which is narrated in a new, more descriptive third person voice. As the first narrator had predicted, “You don’t recognize [the tone of the author] at all…But then you go on and you realize that the book is readable nevertheless, independently of what you expected of the author” (Calvino 9). Indeed, Calvino subverted my presumption that narration is limited to a relatively consistent voice. One extreme case of unconventional narration I had previously read is William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying. Though several of Faulkner’s characters narrate each chapter, at least the novel sticks to a distinct first person narrator throughout. Meanwhile, Calvino’s ambiguous narrator shifts from addressing a virtual “you” to approximating a more conventional third person storyteller.
At this point, Calvino seemed to suspend his efforts to drag me into the text. He introduces a counterpart to the virtual “you:” a character whom I consider to be a third person “I.” Our new narrator explains that “I am the man who comes and goes between the bar and the telephone booth. Or rather: that man is called ‘I’ and you know nothing else about him” (Calvino 11). The chapter follows “I” as he struggles to carry out an elaborate plan to switch empty suitcases with another man in the station. The use of a detached first person has inspired in me a new understanding of voice and character. I had never before considered the possibility of using “I” as more than just a pronoun. I would like to contend that the novel’s contents (I emphasize content, not effect) would not be significantly different had Calvino used traditional third person names instead of “you” and “I.” I was able to separate these arbitrary labels from the characters and storyline; whether or not I was a part of the novel had no effect on the plot. Detaching myself from “you,” specifically, freed me up to appreciate another target of Calvino’s subversions: structure.
I first noticed a structural oddity at the start of the railway station chapter. Whereas the first chapter was simply entitled “,” this new chapter bore the familiar name “If on a winter’s night a traveler” (Calvino 10). Here, Calvino made me question my assumptions about a title’s function and placement. That “the novel begins in a railway station” seemed to imply that If on a winter’s night a traveler has multiple beginnings. In the following chapter, , the virtual “you” discovers that “If on a winter’s night a traveler” was actually the opening chapter from “the Polish novel Outside the town of Malbork by Tazio Bazakbal,” mistakenly bound in “your” copy of the Calvino novel (28). Naturally, I began questioning everything I had just read. Calvino playfully undermined my knowledge of his text and challenged my presumptions about narrative structure. At this point in my reading, I realized he was essentially telling two different sets of narratives.
The virtual “you” then began taking on a life of its own. “You” proceeds to meet and fall in love with a lady, Ludmilla, whose copy of If on a winter’s night a traveler suffers the same defect. Their relationship transforms into a relatively conventional narrative over the course of the numbered chapters. This second person narrative was more akin to what I imagined at the beginning of the novel—full of adventure, drama, travel, and romance. Calvino alternates between telling their love story and presenting the opening pages of several other fictional novels; for example, the following chapter takes the same name as Tazio Bazakbal’s book. Both sets of narratives run alongside each other throughout the rest of the novel. The numbered chapters continue to develop, such that I nearly found myself beyond the point of reattachment to Calvino’s “you” by the last page: “Now you are man and wife, Reader and Reader. A great double bed receives your parallel readings” (260). Though Calvino initially dragged me into If on a winter’s night a traveler, my existence within the novel ended up being irrelevant by the final chapter. The virtual “you” embarked on an entire journey to reach this happy ending, independently of my reception of the text.
If on a winter’s night a traveler juxtaposes two sets of narratives in a manner quite reminiscent of my personal favorite novel, Mikhail Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita. The Russian satire alternates between biblical Jerusalem and 1930s Soviet Moscow. A burned manuscript about Pontius Pilate ties these settings together and drives the novel’s overarching plot, a love story between the titular characters. Though not as politically motivated, Calvino achieves a similar effect with If on a winter’s night a traveler as the focal point of “your” romance with Ludmilla. He raises his text into a new realm of text-reader relationships, thus taking reception theory to the ultimate level. Calvino extends his role as an author to play with the reader’s assumptions about how a narrative can function. By the end of If on a winter’s night a traveler, I found myself suspended somewhere in between being the novel’s main character and receiving Calvino’s text as a detached reader.
Evaluation of the Attention and Love of Crime Fiction
“Drawn to Aberration: Why Deviance in Crime Fiction Fascinates the Reader”
There are many reasons to why crime fiction is appealing to those who read it. One of these key reason is the deviance of a character in a crime fiction novel. A deviant character is one who does a certain thing against the standards of his or her society. Therefore, “deviance” doesn’t necessarily mean good or bad behavior, it all depends on a society’s particular norm. The short fiction novels “The Pedestrian” by Ray Bradbury, “Harrison Bergeron” by Kurt Vonnegut Jr., “A Good Man Is Hard to Find” by Flannery O’Connor, and “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” by Joyce Carol Oates all contain a deviant character. Additionally, the short non-fiction articles “A Taste for Murder: The Curious Case of Crime Fiction” by Rachel Franks and “Why Crime-Thriller Fiction?” by Mark Rubinstein explain why crime fiction appeals to those who read it. Deviant characters in crime fiction fascinate the reader because these characters challenge the norms of a society, give the reader suspense of what they will do next, face a negative consequence that they had probably deserved, and do certain things that can likely occur in reality that lead the readers to question why these things were done. These concepts are supported by these crime fiction article as well as the non-fiction articles.
It is compelling for a character to make a stand for what he or she believes is immoral. This gets the reader’s attention because this type of deviance in a character makes the character stand out and gives the reader something to look forward to in the story. In Kurt Vonnegut Jr.’s “Harrison Bergeron” the deviant character, Harrison, went against society’s norms by taking off the handicapped helmet that he was supposed to wear at all times by the control of Diana Moon Glampers, the Handicapper General of the United States. Harrison Bergeron had lived in a society where everyone was equal by the forces of the anarchy in which they had lived in. As the author put it: “Nobody was smarter than anybody else. Nobody is better looking than anybody else. Nobody was stronger or quicker than anybody else. (Vonnegut Jr.)” Unfortunately, Harrison was killed by the Handicapped General herself for attempting to challenge her authority. Likewise, in Ray Bradbury’s “The Pedestrian”, the deviant character, Leonard Mead, enjoys taking long walks during the night, which is considered to be deviant in the society that he lives in since everyone is expected to be in their homes at night. The voice of a police car, who stopped Leonard on the street, considered his activity suspicious and abnormal. The voice asked Leonard questions such as “Why are you walking?” and “Walking where? For what? (Bradbury)” After the police voice told him to get into the car, Mead resisted at first, stating that he did nothing wrong. This is vivid evidence of Leonard challenging the norms of his society because he feels that what he did was harmless although it was viewed as crime in his society. Overall, the reader will anticipate the actions of a deviant character fighting against the norms of an adverse society.
Secondly, the reader develops a sense of uncertainty for the future actions that a deviant character will do. In “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” by Joyce Carol Oates, the story’s most deviant character, Arnold Friend, was attempting to lure the protagonist, Connie, out of her house and into his car. As Connie resisted, Arnold began to appear menacing to her and Connie started to feel nervous. The tension of the passage and suspense of the reader grew larger throughout the conversation between the frightened Connie and the intimidating Arnold. Evidence of this growing tension can be observed particularly after Arnold says to Connie: “Soon as you touch the phone I don’t need to keep my promise and can come inside. You won’t want that. (Oates)” This leads the reader to anticipate what Arnold will do or say next. This short fiction story, as Rachel Franks stated in “A Taste for Murder: The Curious Case of Crime Fiction” is one that will “make us hold our breath until the very last page. (Franks)” In general, the reader feels suspense for what a deviant character will do in the future in relation to what the character is doing in the present.
In addition, the reader anticipates a misfortune of a deviant character. In the crime fiction article, “A Good Man Is Hard to Find” by Flannery O’Connor, consists of Bailey and his deviant mother, who is referred to as the “grandmother.” The grandmother displays very tenacious and racist behavior, behavior divergent of an elderly woman. For example, she vulgarly refers to a young black child as a “nigger boy” when she tells a story to her family during a family road trip (O’Connor). A racist grandmother is a deviant grandmother, one that expresses abnormal and unusual behavior. Additionally, she makes her son drive to a house that she assumes is in Georgia but is actually in Tennessee and she does not inform those in the car. Soon after, Bailey crashes the car and during the aftermath of the accident, the grandmother spots a passing car and successfully attracts the attention of those who were in the car. Beforehand, after the accident had occurred, it is revealed that the grandmother was “hoping she was injured so that Bailey’s wrath would not come down on her all at once. (O’Connor)” This proves the deviance of the grandmother because she would rather experience physical pain than to have her son be upset at her. It turns that an escaped murderer, known as “The Misfit”, and his two henchmen were in the car and they ended up killing all of the members of the family, including the grandmother. To sum it up, the grandmother was the cause of her family’s death. With a deviant character like the grandmother, the reader would anticipate that something unfortunate would happen to her, only because it is what she had probably deserved. Overall, the reader anticipates the misfortune for a deviant character, one that the grandmother encountered.
Lastly, deviant characters in crime fiction commit crimes that are common in reality, ones that are often reported on news stations and likely to draw the attention of those about to hear about it, mainly because these potential viewers want to learn more about why a crime was committed. Oftentimes, there are stories and news reports about homicides, similar to the ones that the Misfit as his two henchmen committed in “A Good Man Is Hard to Find.” and the reader gets to learn about the deviant Misfit and why he chooses to commit murder. After reading this short story, the reader learns that The Misfit is obstinate and peevish, especially from the ending quote: “Shut up, Bobby Lee, it’s no real pleasure in life. (O’Connor)” It is also revealed to the reader the things he used to do prior to his murderous life. Shortly afterward, the reader learns The Misfit’s thought process after he states: “I found out that crime don’t matter. You can do one thing or you can do another, kill a man or take a tire off his car, because sooner or later you’re going to forgot what it was you done and just be punished for it. (O’Connor)” The reader than understands why The Misfit commits crimes with no remorse, similar to how people want to understand more about why criminals in real life commit the murders that they do. Additionally, in the non-fiction article “Why Crime-Thriller Fiction?” the author Mark Rubinstein relates crime fiction to crime in reality, claiming that crime fiction is “gripping because the events they describe could actually occur. (Rubenstein)” This quote relates to the idea of the reader wanting to learn why a fictional criminal committed a certain realistic crime, the same way he or she would want to learn why a real life criminal committed a crime.
Crime fiction is appealing to its readers for various reasons. One key reason is because of the deviant characters that are found in crime fiction stories. A deviant character does certain actions that are against the norms of his or her society. These actions aren’t necessarily good nor bad, it just depends on the society in which these action are done and how these actions are viewed in the society. The popular crime fiction novels “The Pedestrian” by Ray Bradbury, “Harrison Bergeron” by Kurt Vonnegut Jr., “A Good Man Is Hard to Find” by Flannery O’Connor, and “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” by Joyce Carol Oates all contain at least one deviant character. Moreover, the short non-fiction articles “A Taste for Murder: The Curious Case of Crime Fiction” by Rachel Franks and “Why Crime-Thriller Fiction?” by Mark Rubinstein help in explaining why crime fiction appeals to its readers. Deviant characters in crime fiction fascinate the reader because these characters challenge a society’s norms, give the reader suspense of what they will do in the future, face a negative consequence that they had probably deserved, and do certain actions highly likely to occur in reality that lead the readers to question why these things were done. These concepts are clearly supported by the crime fiction articles and the non-fiction articles as well.
Analysis of Vladimir Nabokov’s Book, Lolita with Regards to the Explanation of the Role of Humbert
How does Nabakov use this chapter to develop the reader’s understanding of Humbert Humbert’s character?
Nabakov unveils in chapter 13, Humbert Humbert as the devious predator, a paedophile convinced of his own cunning genius. Through his narrative voice can we, the reader, be both sickened by his perverse insanity and perplexed by our own advocacy of his pursuit of Lolita. When stripped of linguistic and significant embellishments, this chapter perpetuates a lewd account of masturbation and sexual exploitation, through Humbert’s confused and romanticised perception. Humbert becomes the soapy-eared intellectual and the ravenous beast simultaneously, as his sexual corruptions surface.
Humbert Humbert is both an ironic conglomeration of all duplicitous heroes and an anomalous mess of sexual iniquity and false pretentions. The crux of his foggy character is manifested in chapter 13, in an erotic account of his masturbation over his ‘little maiden’ Lolita. Unbeknown or not to Lolita, Humbert hunts her sexuality in an attempt to consummate his desires, transforming himself into a beast in the process, ‘while I crushed out against her left buttock the last throb of the longest ecstasy man or monster had ever known’ (page 61). The study of his character becomes one of moral contention, should we trust Lolita as ‘safely solipsized’, or should we, as the reader stop the progression of the narrative and put down the book? In Edgar Allan Poe’s The Tell Tale Heart, in which the protagonist is comparable to Humbert, the unreliable narrator is again encouraged innately by the reader to carry out his murder by the mere turning of the page. Nabakov is aware of this, and the metafictional role the reader plays, ‘we should ponder the question how does the mind work when the sullen reader is confronted by the sunny book. First, the sullen mood melts away, and for better or worse the reader enters into the spirit of the game’ . Nabakov disregards the ‘truth’ that is searched for in fiction, like he disregards psychoanalysis, both being distillations of human conceptions and ideas, which he believes should stay deceitful and therefore magnificent. Humbert’s narrative perspective in this particular chapter is accentuated by the excitement of the language. Rather than an objective account of his sexual encounter, wonder prevails through the run on sentences and erotic language, ‘and all the while keeping a maniac’s inner eye on my distant golden goal, I cautiously increased the magic friction that was doing away, in an illusional, if not factual, sense, with the physically irremovable, but psychologically very friable texture of the material divide (pajamas and robe) between the weight of two sunburnt legs, resting athwart my life, and the hidden tumor of an unspeakable passion.’(59). His inability to state, without adornments, the reality of his sexual perversions shows an awareness of his wrong doings in moral perspective. He constantly refers to Lolita as Eve, or a temptress, and at one point likens her to a snake, ‘She twisted herself free, recoiled, and lay back in the right-hand corner of the davenport’ (58).
Regardless of Nabakov’s disdain towards symbolism, the apple in chapter 13, as in the existence of Christian faith, becomes an emblem for corruption. By likening himself and his experiences to those of the divine, Humbert Humbert aggrandizes his base desires into a spiritual pursuit of his nymphet. If Lolita is Eve, she eats the fruit and thus renders Humbert as the blameless Adam, ‘she had painted her lips and was holding in her hollowed hands a beautiful, banal, Eden-red apple. She was not shod, however, for church’(58). Humbert’s profane referencing excuses his acts on the grounds of Lolita as the temptress and not the vulnerable girl. Humbert manifests his sexual desires through biblical allusions, playing into humanity’s innate blame of women. His woman hating attitude is most prevalent in his approach to Lolita’s mother, and his licit lover, Charlotte Haze or, ‘big cold Haze’ (57). The apple becomes ‘Delicious’, a named facilitator for sexual feeling in Humbert’s attempt at a surrealist representation of his ‘unspeakable passion’. Lolita is an ancient projection of femininity, for Humbert she is Eve, a nymphet, a surrealist Venus, Carmen, the illusion of a half-woman to the erudite man.
In chapter 13, Humbert declares himself a man turned monster, filled with clandestine sexual gratification by the will of God, ‘Blessed be the Lord, she had noticed nothing!’ (page 61). Humbert’s euphoric achievement becomes his defining characteristic, his ‘cunning of the insane’ and his further quest for the nymphet who exists in his minds’ eye.