It Isn’t Just in Your Head, the Mutual Recognition of “Escape from Spiderhead”

George Saunders’ piece, “Escape from Spiderhead,” conveys an essential message that appears at the end of the reading as Jeff, our narrator, reflects on his past and lets go of his struggles.

“Escape from Spiderhead” takes place in a futuristic prison clinical that test new drugs on criminals instead of having the criminals put into an ordinary jail. The reading follows along with Jeff’s perspective and his thoughts about the events he endures. Jeff experiences a particular experiment, which tests his morals, and he learns more about himself and other than every before.

The specific drug tested, in the time we are with Jeff, is a drug that makes two random strangers fall entirely in love without having been interested before. Furthermore, the drug can turn off the passion, drug-influenced or not. In the beginning, there is no resistance and maybe even some enjoyment, but it starts to make Jeff question many things. He doubts the reality of love and reflects the emotions felt, were they even real? Matters are made more difficult for Jeff as the scientists force him into furthering the experiment to prove the drug to be successful.

Through the experiment, Jeff reflects on his feelings towards others as human beings, compassionate, sympathetic, and understanding. He sees them as his equal even after discovering the horrifying crime they had committed. Jeff’s recognition toward them grew more present over time. It isn’t until the experiment is taking too far that Jeff realizes the truth he has been missing.

During the time of the trial and his “fateful night,” Jeff’s mother had always been there for him, protecting him and trying to put him in a better place. Even after Jeff was convicted, his mom still saw him as a human similarly to how Jeff saw the others during the experiment.

Overall, some may assume mutual recognition is seen when Jeff connects with his fellow mates. But it is not until the end when Jeff decides his fate and thinks of his mother and himself as not a criminal anymore. It is the relationship between mother and son that has evidence of seeing each other as equals and human beings that makes mutual recognition visible.

“Black Box” and the Questionable Empowerment of Women

On the surface, Black Box seems like a short story that does a good job of empowering women through the decisions they make, specifically being a spy and helping the government gain information on high profile criminals. However, through the use certain words such as “Beauty”, and the involvement of our narrator’s husband, there seems to be slight ambiguity in what our author was trying to convey.

To begin with, it seems that the use of the word “Beauty” is used to describe all young women. That is only one word, and it can be taken that calling someone a beauty reduces a girl to one aspect. That is degrading to females because it takes all other aspects out of them. They are only seen as beauties and nothing else. On top of that, it is said that “Posing as a beauty means not reading what you like to read on a rocky shore in the South of France.” This quote is one of many that shows that beauties are supposed to not do what they want, and solely have to listen to what their Designated Mate wants. If this is the case, then why does the author refer to all young women as beauties, and not just the spies. I feel like this means that our author is actually in a way being degrading.

When you look at how the narrator talks about her husband, it also seems that she is taking part in this program not because she wanted to, but more because her husband wanted her to. This is taking away from her decision, and is implying that she can’t make her own decision. the quote “You will reflect on the fact that America is your husband’s chosen country and he loves it.” This quote makes it seem that she is partaking in this because of her husband’s allegiance to his country. These quotes, plus many more throughout the story, prove the ambiguity the author makes when trying to empower women.

Secret Woman: FOUND

Throughout Secret Woman, a short story by Colette, there are surprisingly few secrets, especially concerning Irene, the main subject of the story and the narrator’s wife.

The nature of short stories makes telling any tale with great detail a monumental undertaking. To skirt along this limit, Colette chose instead to pursue a single scene of a longer story with enough detail that it sends a message by its lonesome.

She then proceeds to descriptively sculpt all of Irene’s indulgements for the night leaving the reader with very little that is hidden or inconclusive about the so-called “Secret Woman”. Colette portrays the narrator as disgusted and seemingly uninterested in his wife after he realizes the scope of her secondary personality, but the diction of the story in many cases suggests that the wife isn’t quite reliant on her husband for support and can take care of her self.

I would contend that the story is centered around the idea that only the husband thought he was special, and the contrast between his self perception and how his wife actually views him.

Foreshadowing the Future in “A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings”

Everyone believes in something, and everyone has a dream: winning a state championship in track and field, passing that super complex math test, or resolving world hunger. But when these dreams come true, they’re not all we thought they were cracked up to be. In Gabriel Márquez’s “A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings,” the townspeople all believe in angels; they have no trouble accepting that that’s what the old winged man is. The complication is that this angel does not meet the towns stereotypical expectations for him. In fact, he doesn’t look like the conventional angel, speak the language or fly. This conducts the townspeople to eventually accept the fact that their beloved wishes would not be granted by the angel in the way that they thought, essentially forcing them to face the ugly truth of their poverty ridden lives.

When the angel proved to be of no significance to the people they decided to move on to the next attraction that grasped their attention,which in this specific case was the spider woman. This can directly be tied into kindergartners as keeping them on track isn’t the easiest task similar to the townspeople. 

As a society, we have been taught to throw away the things we don’t need anymore. From our early days to our ruthless hallways now, our generation specifically, has been propelled towards this idea. 

I feel as though Márquez incorporated this theme of recycling into the story to target and mock the ways of society, then and now. He does this by using the natural the role of a reader to his advantage as he lightly weaves this idea through the story. This approach isn’t direct yet, readers end up grasping this perspective and overall vain concept from the characters that he is trying to convey.

“Victory Lap” and our Inability to Humanize the “Enemy”

Pieces of writing nowadays can take us through many different perspectives and points of view. We can see through the eyes of a schoolgirl from the 1800’s, a stockbroker during the great depression, or just your average teenager. But, what we don’t often get to see through are the eyes of those we are pitted against.

What surprised me the most about “Victory Lap”, looking past the very interesting characters and detailed plot line, was the writers choice to have a part of the story be told from the point of view of the assailant. We are often fed the backstory of a villain as a way to pick out his or her motives from the short list that is usually given (revenge, jealousy, etc.). We can infer from that a carefully and (often) simple narrative of why they do what they do. But, what is not always presented is the full perspective. This could include shows of emotional response, less relevant personal information, or even just a glimpse into how their mind actually functions. It is almost as if we are afraid to give these villains (or whatever you’d call them) full access to the human spectrum. We need to have an invisible wall between “us” and “them”.

Recently, these in depth narratives have been showing up more and more. What first comes to my mind are the surprisingly large number of Netflix documentaries focused on the backstories and minds of killers, depicting very detailed accounts of very gruesome topics and people. I think it’s interesting to see our society bringing awareness to the fact that these people are still human, and humans are capable of theses kinds of things. And, although it can be frightening to take down any walls that separate the “villains” from the “protagonists”, doing so can also provide insight into how certain actions come to be, and maybe even how they can be prevented.

“Cariboo Cafe” Levels of Delusion

The Cariboo Café, by Helena Marina Viramontes, tells a story about a unique small town through symbolism and the switching between multiple different perspectives. One of the defining characteristics of the story is the three different narrators. The part of the story that intrigued me the most was the structure. The fiction starts out in the perspective of Sonya who is locked out of her house with her little brother. Since Sonya is from an immigrant family she is told that she has to live under the radar and that her only safe space is her house. While she is drifting off into her thoughts, her brother is brought up. Sonya’s life has pretty much revolved around her little brother Macky. This little boy is her world and she realizes she needs to protect him. At this point in the story Macky didn’t seem very important but over time, he becomes the symbol that I am talking about.

Soon after the mention of Macky the perspective shifts to a cook who owns the Cariboo Café. The story dives deep into his background and how he lost his son Jojo. One night an old woman comes in with two kids who we later find out are Sonya and Macky. When the diner owner first meets them he has an instant connection with Macky. The reason he likes him so much is because he reminds him of his son Jojo. He favors Macky and treats him like a son. It’s almost like he sees Macky as Jojo for the few moments they’re in the diner together. The final perspective is the old woman who lost her son Geraldo, who was the same age as Macky. The old woman became really sad when her son was gone. Eventually that sadness turned into a mental issue. She started to believe she could get her son back (who was most likely dead). This all escalated to the actual kidnapping of Macky and Sonya. She placed Geraldo’s identity onto Macky and fully believed it was him. She also became really paranoid because the police were looking for the missing kids or her “Geraldo”. Since she knew what the police did to her Geraldo the first time, she had every right to be scared about them taking “her little boy”.

I view this story as the progression in delusion of the three people. The story starts out with Sonya who is Macky’s sister and ends with a woman who believes Macky is her son. It tells the same story through the eyes of three different people with three different levels of sanity. The order of the perspectives and delusion also show how pain can affect people. The amount of misery that the treatment of immigrants has caused on both Sonya’s family and the old woman is very clear in the story. The delusion is somewhat representative of what these immigrants have to go through. Sonya is very young so there hasn’t been much time for the pain to affect her; but the old woman has seen everything and has completely lost it. The amount of agony she has faced causes her to take another kid to make her feel okay again.

Playing Into Gender Stereotypes in “Black Box” and the Real World

In “Black Box”, women are taught to use how they are perceived as weapons. They purposely act clueless and obedient. This technique works because it plays into the preconceived notions that men have of women.

The “Beauties”, women contracted by the government to seduce and gain information from men, justify their actions by telling themselves that the information they are gathering is of the utmost importance and will save America. They do what they do because they think it is for the greater good.

By purposely acting ditzy and obedient, the Beauties are reinforcing negative stereotypes about women.

When I think about negative, harmful stereotypes, my mind immediately jumps to Hollywood. In film and television, stereotyping runs rampant. The girl who walks into the dark basement to investigate a mysterious sound dies, a woman who is focuses on her career doesn’t have time for love, businessman realizes he was in love with his secretary after she left him. There are a plethora of movie/TV stereotypes about women.

Although famous actresses often champion feminism, many of them continued taking one-dimensional roles. In Grease, Sandy changes everything about herself for a boy. In Jurassic World, Bryce Dallas Howard plays a career-oriented woman who is cautious of love. Actresses may only see the role as a part to play, they are helping perpetuate harmful stereotypes.

Instead of gaining power, women are giving power to demeaning stereotypes, which in turn allow men who believe in those stereotypes continue with their actions.

Flipping the Tlic/Terran Binary

Something that I noticed while reading “Bloodchild” by Octavia Butler was that the T’ often preceding Tlic names seemed to function as a title.  The T’ in T’Khotgif changes to Ch’ after she produces offspring as evidenced by T’Gatoi’s reference to her shortly after the birth: “‘T’Khotgif—Ch’Khotgif now’”(173).  

This may imply that these titles carry a sort of respect and formality, similarly to the way we would address our superiors as Mr, Ms, and Mrs.  If this is the case, then the way that characters in “Bloodchild” use these titles would tell us more about their relationships with their Tlic and the power dynamics that are implied.  

Before Lomas is cut open, he calls out for his Tlic, T’Khotgif, by her full name.  Gan recalls this later: “‘He said ‘T’Khotgif.’ ’ Qui shuddered. ‘If she had done that to me, she’d be the last person I’d call for.’” (171)

Qui, who is clearly uncomfortable with the Tlic, also refers to their family’s Tlic by her full name while asking Gan how he viewed their relationship “‘while T’Gatoi was picking worms out of that guy’s guts’” (172)

However, we see this binary being broken towards the end of the story when Gan addresses his Tlic, without the prefix.  This has an effect similar to using a teacher’s first name and signifies a shift in their relationship.

I believe this was intentional as Gan, frustrated and emotional from the situation, does it repeatedly while he challenges her: “‘Ask me, Gatoi.’” (174) and “‘There is risk, Gatoi, in dealing with a partner.’” (175) While these quotes would have made sense without “Gatoi”, seeing this binary start to change as Gan begins to question her is quite powerful.

“No Beauty is Really a Beauty”

Jennifer Egan’s “Black Box” seems to comment on the role of women in a number of ways. First through her contrast of the agent and the “beauties” of the story, and also by revealing the circumstances of the agent, making the reader question whether or not her service is purely a self-motivated act of patriotism.

We find that in this world the purpose and goal of women is “to be a lovely, innocuous, evolving surprise” (16) Using the mask of gender, the narrator is able to go undetected in the highly patriarchal society, and more importantly to her “Designated Mate.” While she is initially portrayed as a subject, all the other beauties are objects, referred to by a quality of appearance and not personality or thought.

Egan may be revealing that underneath the appearances, all the women are much more than meets the eye, but her comment on society seems to dig much deeper when the reader considers why she is on the mission in the first place.

Through a number of context clues we can find that her ‘voluntary’ service may be motivated by more reasons than personal victory or sacrifice. For one, during intimate encounters, she repeats “Remind yourself that you aren’t being paid”(7), and she reflects that “America is your husband’s chosen country, and that he loves it”(15). Her husband is a high level engineer, creating a lot of the tech for this mission. This is indicates that she might have been persuaded to go, instead of really wanting to. Additionally, she mentions that she waited to have children until after the mission, causing me to wonder if that was her decision, or a trade-off that she has go on the mission before her husband will have kids with her.

Another important detail is that her father is a famous movie star who never knew she existed. Listing the reasons why she cannot die, she writes “You need to tell the movie star that he has an eighth child and that she is a hero”

“Reflect on the many reasons you can’t yet die:

You need to see your husband

You need to have children

You need to tell the movie star that he has an eighth child and that she is a hero”

20

Thus, the reasons why she is going on the mission are for her husband and her father – two men. She is being used by the MALE/female power dynamic, and despite her crucial service for her country, she is still seen as and object and an expendable means of gathering information.

In this way, she is just as much a “beauty” as all the other women.

The Stance “Bloodchild” Has on Gender Roles

After reading through the story for the first time, my mind was filled with questions such as: “What did I just read? Why did T’lics have children by implanting Terrans (Humans) with eggs? Who make a story like this?”

The story sets us up in this unknown society on an unknown planet where Terrans (Humans) and T’lics (Aliens) live with one another in peace. We’re given some backstory as to how the Terrans and T’lics eventually came to be living with each other. They both, at one point, hated each other. Terrans would shoot to kill T’lics while T’lics would assassinate the Terrans at night. However, after years of fighting each other, both groups came together to discuss peace between the two groups. New laws were set among both groups and that leads us back into present day in the story. We follow Gan throughout the story as he discovers the truth about T’lic implantation. Gan was chosen from the day that he was born that he was going to be a NT’lic. NT’lic were designated Terrans that would host and give birth to Grubs, T’lic babies. One thing that struck me was that they typically only went for males.

After analyzing the story a second time, it came to my mind that this story experiments with gender roles. The story introduces this new land where men were giving more births than women just so that the T’lic population could continue to increase. You begin to realize that T’lic seem to have more control over the Terrans. It’s hidden in the words, but each species has a specific role that they’re expected to carry on throughout their life. Besides the point of survival, you come to a generalization stance where you wonder if T’lics only keep Terrans alive because they can be used.

T’lics saw it that men were either expected to have children with other Terrans or give birth to Grubs. For women, they were expected to have more children in order for T’lics to choose who would be the next chosen one to give birth to Grubs when they got older. T’Gatoi, the T’lic that lives in Gan’s home, states in the story that they actually prefer women to birth Grubs because they had more fat in them; however, they choose men so that women can have the ability to birth their own children. T’lics use Terrans only for the mere benefit that they implant their eggs inside of them and have them give birth to the next generation of T’lics.

This story plays with the idea about gender roles in our society and questions: What would happen if men obtained the ability to give birth? Octavia Butler does a good job diving deep into this idea while also telling a story like no other.

A Search for an Elephant and a Deeper Meaning

The ending of the Elephant Vanishes left me unsettled. I do not believe that the elephant simply vanished however, Haruki Murakami did not leave us with much to interpret. While I read this story I was continuously on the search for a deeper meaning. Since there was no satisfying ending I tried to look for something that would put me at ease.

I think one of the main themes in this story is balance. The author brings it up in two ways, the size of the elephant and the keeper at the end of the story and in the narrator’s life.

Balance also plays a role at the end when the keeper and elephant are described as being the same size. Physically they are balanced because they are the same size. I think this balance helps the elephant and keeper achieve mutual recognition. Aside from being balanced physically they have a relationship different than most that allows them to think of each other differently. The narrator almost describes this as an intimate relationship where they are able to communicate with each other on a different level. The keeper does not believe that he is superior to the elephant and ending the story with them as the same size reduces the differences between them leading them to mutual recognition.

The narrator’s life is all about balance. His profession is selling kitchens and his sales pitch is about how they need to be balanced. He goes to work, reads the entire newspaper, and observes the elephant. The elephant vanishing brings excitement to his life and becomes all he can think about. Someone in my class mentioned that in Japanese culture everyone wants to fit in. You want to conform instead of sticking out.

Since I was searching for a deeper meaning I think this is an interesting point. The author may be attempting to relate this to society and the desire to fit in. This story is not like any other story that I have read, an elephant vanishing into thin air is a pretty dramatic and unique event to occur and story to write about. With that in mind I think that it is very important that the author made the narrator’s life so consistent because he represents society and the elephant represents breaking out from the conformities of society. Although Murakami may have intended for the story to simply be about a vanishing elephant, this is a much more satisfying ending.

A Story in Tweets: The New Serial Novel

When I first read “Black Box” by Jennifer Egan, the thing that caught me the most off-guard was not the language or the rules of the world, but rather the story’s structure. I didn’t understand the way it was formatted; all of the individual boxes and almost fragmented sentences were not what I was used to when it came to short stories. Out of curiosity, I looked it up, and I found that the strange organization came from the fact that the story was originally written through a series of tweets from the author.

The whole thing made a lot more sense when I thought of it coming out in that context. Using Twitter to tell this story actually fits the plot very well, considering that it was told from the point of view of the “beauty’s” mental information log, which has a similar condensed style to a tweet. Although we had to read the story as the New Yorker published it, I could imagine reading it in real time, feeling like you were getting updates from the woman’s black box itself.

Aside from its application to the actual story, I thought the method Egan used was interesting because it reminded me of old serial novels. Many years ago, authors used to publish their stories in fragments in magazines or newspapers, almost like episodes of a TV show. It was a popular technique among science fiction writers, but it was also used by famed authors like Charles Dickens and Ernest Hemingway. The appeal back then was that it was more profitable for the authors than exclusively selling full novels, but it also allowed their stories to reach a wider audience, seeing as more people could afford to buy magazines than books.

While tweeting out “Black Box” may not have been more profitable for Egan, it did have the same effect as publishing serials did for the authors of the past in that it went out to one of the widest audiences in the world: social media. A vast majority of the world, regardless of social or economic status, participates in social media to some extent, and using it in this way allowed Egan to reach so many more people than she would have if she had published it in book form. And who knows, maybe this will lead to Twitter stories becoming the 21st-century form of serialization–though I’m not sure if I’d be willing to read a Harry Potter novel 280 characters at a time.

“The Cariboo Cafe” and Current Events

In Helena Maria Viramonte’s, “The Cariboo Cafe”, she constructs a powerful story that brings the reader to face hard reality’s, deal with current issues, an illustrates how many people live today. Throughout the past several weeks, “The Cariboo Cafe” has stuck out of the stories we have read to me, because of the intense reality that is shown. Hopelessness, Family, Immigration, Horror.

In many ways Viramonte’s story is not pleasant, but it strikes with a certain power. A Power to provide a fictional story but also display images in the readers head that truly stick. As of 2018, ICE held more than “42,000 people in custody each day” (CNN). All of these people that are detained in these horrible conditions are in search of a better life. Sadly, the characters within “The Cariboo Cafe” do the same, stuck in horrible conditions and try to persevere.

In the closing of Helena Maria Viramonte’s story, the third perspective shows a desperate mother who has grown so sick of pain, that she still is in search of her dead child. Many people like the woman of the third perspective face these very real problems and in the world that we live in, we do not always see that. Overall Helena’s story is most powerful to me because it shows a very real situation.

https://www.cnn.com/2018/11/12/politics/ice-detention/index.html

“The Secret Woman” and a Deeper Social Analysis

Upon reading “The Secret Woman,” the main question that came to mind for me is was it better or worse that she was not at the party for someone specific. In class, a majority of people were saying that it would have been worse if she was meeting a certain person due to the emotional connection she clearly finds more desirable compared to her husband.

While I do understand this rationale, I couldn’t help but to think that at least in a scenario where the woman is there for someone in particular, the husband knows that her feelings for him were triumphed by feelings for another. I would argue that the scenario portrayed where the woman is simply there for the pleasure of being there, is much worse than an affair. This is, in my mind, due to the fact that clearly her husband is not satisfying her enough anymore, and she is bored. At least in an affair, the woman may still have feelings present. What is happening in the story in my mind with her attendance to the “party” is that she is in need of a pleasure no longer provided by her husband.

Mental Health Symbolism in “The Elephant Vanishes”

We started discussing the symbols in “The Elephant Vanishes,” especially with the elephant. Different people all had different theories, but what I want most to expand on is Murakami’s exploration of mental health, and potentially mental illness.

It is very clear in the story that the narrator’s mental health deteriorates throughout the story, as time goes on without the elephant being found. The narrator indicates that since the elephant disappeared, he started smoking again, which he had stopped many years prior. He also finds it very difficult to think or talk about anything besides the vanishing elephant after it disappears.

I have a few different ideas of what the elephant can symbolize. First I view as the situation with the elephant as perhaps an allegory for grief somehow. Obviously losing an elephant is losing something in itself, but I think perhaps Murakami was trying to illuminate a truth about grief. It may be obvious that someone is experiencing grief, and at first, everyone is attentive and compassionate to the people affected by the loss. But, eventually everyone moves on, and the people most affected by the loss still are going through the motions of grieving, while it seems that no one is there to go through the motions with them. Then, the grieving can start feeling isolated and alone.

Because the narrator was so invested in the elephant, its disappearance almost felt like he was losing a part of himself. Being involved in the search for the elephant might have helped him feel better for a bit. The media coverage may be similar to consoling family and friends as I mentioned earlier, and the way that the news stopped covering the elephant might symbolize how someone with mental health issues or those who are grieving can feel isolated like the world is moving too fast. This becomes clear when the narrator feels angry at this lack of coverage.

Another way of interpreting the elephant as a symbol for mental health, specifically mental health care, is the way in which the elephant might serve as a distraction to the narrator. At first, I wasn’t sure why Murakami included the information about the narrator’s job, because I found the details boring and unnecessary. It then registered with me that was quite possibly the point. The narrator was living such a mundane life, that the elephant was the only thing to distract him for a while from how perhaps pointless his life might have seemed.

I feel that if what Murakami was trying to make a statement about work-life, he made a very powerful one. No one should work their life away, and everyone should have something that they are passionate about outside of work. There should be a balance that many cultures don’t value.

The Relationship Between the Tlics and Terrans in “Bloodchild”

The Tlics and Terrans have an interesting and complex relationship in “Bloodchild.” One side of their relationship is based on power. The Tlics have control over the Terrans in the story. The Terrans can’t leave The Preserve and are also forced to bear the Tlic’s “children” (the shrubs) even though it can kill them. Even with supposedly “good” things, like the eggs, the Tlics control how much the Terrans get. Everything is monitored by the Tlics, so that the power dynamic seems clear: Tlics have power over Terrans.

At the same time, the Tlics seem to be making an effort to make the Terrans comfortable. It would be easy for the Tlics to force the Terrans into hostile conditions simply to bear their young. Instead, they provide the Terrans with things like eggs that make the Preserve more enjoyable for them. They also acclimate Tlic and Terran so that they are comfortable with each other. The Tlic even go as far as trying to make the Terran physically comfortable, by encasing them in their limbs.

These two sides of the Tlic and Terran relationship are extremely conflicting. I think it’s interesting to observe which characters believe each side of this relationship. For many it’s unclear. Does the mother refuse eggs because she believes the Tlics are cruel? Does Gan agree to bear the Tlic’s children because he feels a strong emotional relationship with her? A relationship the Tlic want him to feel? The overarching question for all of this is why the Tlics make so much effort to have connections with the Terrans, when it does not seem necessary? How much are the Tlic innately similar to the Terran and how much of how the Tlic act is a direct result of being in constant relations with the Terran?

How “A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings” Relates to the Modern Obsession with Appearance.

In “A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings”, although the people take great interest in the man who fell from the sky, they are quick to dismiss him as a real angel solely based on his appearance.

When Pelayo and Elisenda first discover the angel, the first thing they do is point out the flaws in his appearance: “There were only a few faded hairs left on his bald skull and very few teeth in his mouth, and his pitiful condition of of a drenched great-grandfather had taken away any sense of grandeur he might have had” (Marquez 354). Their first impression of the angel is only about how he looks at first glance. Even with his enormous wings that should most definitely indicate that he is a magical being, they assume he is a castaway from a ship. This is all because the old man did not fit the typical description that is associated with an angel.

Just as Pelayo and Elisenda make assumptions based on the appearance of the old man, the media today similarly overemphasizes appearance. Every model in magazines or on social media has physical features that people are expected to strive for. If people do not fit the stereotype for the “ideal” appearance, the media makes it seem as though they are imperfect. This unrealistic expectation for physical appearance makes people, especially teenagers who are heavily influenced by social media, unhappy with how they look. In a time when appearance has been prioritized over other characteristics of a person, it can be easy to lose sight of what really matters.

Sonny’s Clues

Sonny’s Blues is a story with many lessons, much advice, most of them dark. I first read this story with a positive outlook but as I look at the diction and read in between the lines the story is not so bright as I first thought.

James Baldwin effectively used everyday positive images and successfully managed to turn them into dark figures. Such as “the playground is most popular with the children who don’t play at jacks, or skip rope, or roller skate, or swing, and they can be found in it after dark” talking of the drug abuse in the youth in the community and the dark path they trail.

Image result for dark playgrounds

What I really want to get at is the on bottom of page 77 and continues at the top of 78. The conversation of the parents and older people of the community, and the topic they speak of and how Baldwin presents it. How he sets up a room of those in the community who have survived, but not thrived. The trap in which the kids grow up in, not realizing the cage that surrounds them. This is just another moment of what should be happiness but Baldwin manages to turn off the lights, and show the truth. He speaks of the darkness “growing” outside the windows and the noises of the streets, while the parents of the community are inside. They speak and have conversation with one another of their experience, the community they have suffered and endured. This darkness grows everyday because the children become a day closer to becoming an adult, in which they realize the situation they grew up in, is life they cannot escape, a cycle. He shows the cycle, is invisible to the naive youth with the line “everyone is looking at something a child can’t see” showing the kids are still blind to what is ahead of them. What is ahead of them, is what their parents went through, and what their parents went through, and on and on.

This cycle is of racism, poverty, and Baldwin sets it up as inescapable. Sonny’s brother and Sonny himself, are his examples, for Sonny went down the road of drugs, barely surviving and his brother, continuing the cycle by not escaping the neighborhood, by living in a project-house, though he has a job as a teacher. Some may argue that Sonny managed to escape this quiet cycle with his music, but Baldwin uses his music to emphasize that he is only a survivor.His music only being a parallel to the discussion of the parents, only being able to speak, create sound, in which they can understand the situation they are in, and the narrator being able to hear his brother’s music because he too understands that they are stuck. Overall, Sonny’s Blues is a wonderful work.

Variations in Human Nature on Different Planets

I found that Octavia Butler’s “Bloodchild” was by far the most outlandish and unconventional short story that our class read. I still cannot seem to wrap my head around the implantation of Tlic eggs into the Terran hosts. What I found the most jarring though was actually how accepting the humans were of their submissive role to the Tlics. 

Throughout human history, humans have always managed to find and seize new things that were not there for the taking. For centuries, imperialism was second nature to many powerful nations. The arrival of European powers was always followed by the appropriation of land and resources and the forced assimilation of natives. I found it quite surprising that the humans had not attempted to subject the Tlics to their own influence upon immediate arrival on the Tlics’ land. Butler reveals that there had been Terran resistance to Tlic power in the past; however, the resistance seems more likely to be over the reproduction arrangement than an unsuccessful attempt at imperialization. Perhaps the first Terrans to arrive really had tried to colonize the Tlics’ land but failed and were written out of history as a result.

Regardless of whatever the backstory might have been, the Terrans’ obedience is still surprising because of how unbalanced their relationship is in favor of the Tlics. Human beings have always viewed themselves as the single most important and developed species, so it is quite out of character that they would submit to another species.

Cariboo Cafe in Our World

The Cariboo Cafe by Helena Maria Viramontes is very relevant to modern immigration trends and brings attention to the hardships that are often faced by immigrants. Sonya’s family is faced with unexpected adversity that stalls their desires of living the American Dream. The overarching theme of distrust is highlighted by the rules that her Papa sets for her to ensure her safety. He says, “never talk to strangers” and encourages her to avoid the police at all costs. This perceived lack of safety is increased when Sonya is attacked at school. Unfortunately, this phenomenon of foreigners feeling unwelcome and very out of place is common in the United States. There is a somewhat common belief that immigrants have no place here and this leads them to feel scared. Our modern stance on the southern border and especially non white immigrants are targeted and seen as the enemy. Sonya’s family fights these realistic obstacles in hopes of attaining what may be a fallacy, a less difficult pursuit to happiness and the American dream.