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.