MAN-woman

When reading the short story “Good Country People,” by Flannery O’Connor, I became uneasy towards the ending; The MAN-woman binary in the excerpt clearly highlights the discrimination towards women in the real world.

In the passage, a man who claims he is selling Bibles takes advantage of Joy, a woman with a plastic leg. He steals her leg and she is unable to fight back, losing an important part of her life and regular functionality. This scene has an underlying message: many women aren’t able to use their full potential because it is taken from them with sexism; they are often seen as less than men. The loss of Joy’s leg symbolizes her inability to “get ahead” in the real world. It also highlights the fact that many women are unfairly taken advantage of and have no satisfaction of punishing the perpetrator.

Although Flannery did not specifically state this, it reminded me that the man to woman and binary is evident in society. We have a lot of work to do with many unjust binaries. This is just a very unique way of looking at the scene.

Learnt Lesson

The end of “The Lesson” by Tomi Bambara is very open ended. Sugar and the main character race to “Hascombs”, and Sugar “get’s ahead”. Which, the main character responds with “O.K. by me”, “ain’t nobody gonna beat me at nuthin”. In my opinion, this shows that the main character has understood the lesson Mrs. Moore was trying to teach the children. The lesson Miss Moore taught, is that American society isn’t as fair as it’s portrayed. Some people start well off, and others don’t but make it work. That lesson is very similar to the end, a race to something, and someone started better off. Except, the main character takes it a step further, and says no matter what nothing can stop him, implying he will become wealthy.

Fans failing to mutually recognize

Football is back. Football is back. Football is back. No, Mr. Heidkamp, I am not trying to increase the length of this blog post but I am merely highlighting the importance of the statement “Football is back”. In the midst of a global recession, pandemic, social injustice and climate disasters, we all needed to blow off steam by watching 300 pound men run full speed and tackle each other. Nobody can deny that football is action packed and entertaining especially in the Lamar Jackson and Patrick Mahomes era. But what some fans of the NFL seem to abhor is connecting politics with sports. Since the beginning of 2020, a spotlight has been put on America’s racial injustice and specifically police’s racist and violent actions towards people of color in America. From my perspective, it seems to be a divided issue although it clearly should not be. This division of opinion is due to one side lacking the willingness to view the other with mutual recognition. Particularly white people who fail to mutually recognize people of color and the racism they are facing. NFL players among other professional athletes have been a strong voice supporting the BLM movement while also speaking out against systematic racism and police brutality. For example, at the season opener the Chiefs and Texans teams spread across the field and joined arms for a moment of silence to bring awareness to racial injustice. Sidelined players wear Black Lives Matter shirts, some kneel during the National Anthem while many wear the names of Breonna Taylor and Jacob Blake on the back of their helmets. I think professional athletes using their platform, popular voices and celebrity status to bring awareness to racial injustice is a positive message that NEEDS to be spoken on. But what is truly sad is many peoples rejection of the players actions. I continually see comments on NFL posts saying “leave politics out of sports” and “nobody cares about your political opinions, your athletes”. Not to mention the limited fans in attendance that could be heard actually booing the Chiefs and Texans during their moment of silence. Such disrespect is sad and unacceptable. Athletes and players are humans just like fans yet fans fail to mutually recognize them as full human beings leading to fans categorizing racial injustice as a political issue while disregarding the players right to voice their opinions. Racial injustice in America is so much bigger than politics, its about human lives and ALL Americans pursuit of happiness and equal opportunity.

If you are viewer and fan of the NFL but can’t respect the players using their voices to speak out on racial injustice then shut up, stop complaining and stop watching. Also, reconsider what it means to be a human if it’s so difficult for you to hear your fellow humans and Americans fight for their safety and rights. Get over yourself and develop some empathy, compassion and mutual recognition.

“A Conversation about Bread” and the double-consciousness writing struggle.

As Eldwin attempts to write his ethnographical assignment based on Brian’s school experiences, he finds himself trapped in a creative rut. As he and Eldwin are two of the few black students in the overwhelmingly white UCLA, Eldwin feels pressured by Brian into writing his essay in specific ways. Should he write his essay without sacrificing his creative vision, which could potentially be misinterpreted as conforming to or reinforcing racial stereotypes? Or should he sacrifice his vision and conform to how white people want to see his work? Can a story be told without treating the subject as an object? This struggle continues throughout the story, and spurs many revisions of his essay.

As Brian puts it, “There’s no real way for you to capture the regional differences without getting all stereotypical. … Like, why would you want to tell this story about a bunch of black Southern guys discovering bread anyways? What purpose does it serve unless it’s to show yourself as somehow better than them?” (178)

Eldwin responds “Because it’s a good story, about cultural differences, racial differences, class differences. It’s more about how many different kinds of black people there are than it is about making everyone but Junior seem like a type.” (178)

Both of them make good points here. At the end of the story, a compromise is not reached. Where should the line be drawn? How can this issue be overcome?

Themes of “Escape from Spiderhead” in Other Media

While “Escape from Spiderhead” covers numerous themes, the one I want to focus on is the somewhat forceful use of drugs in order to control people (especially emotionally). This idea is reminiscent of a videogame I’ve played called We Happy Few. The game is set in city in a 1960’s dystopian version of Britain where there was a traumatic event, called the “Very Bad Thing”, that occurred from a German invasion and occupation in WW2. In order to prevent citizens from feeling guilt and depression, the government invents a drug called Joy that suppresses all unhappy memories and leaves its user in a chemically-induced euphoria. The citizens are also required to wear white masks that form their faces into permanent smiles. As the Joy depletes, the citizens see the city as it really is after the war: trashed, poor, and ruled by a police state. The police state forces the citizens to take the Joy in order manipulate the population and keep the city in order. Those who don’t take it are either killed, banished, or force-fed the drug. Although “Escape from Spiderhead” is set in a much smaller scale, lab vs city, the implications of their uses are very similar. The Joy from We Happy Few is almost identical to ED556 by putting their users in a euphoric, entranced state.

Observing A Conversation About Bread

“A Conversation About Bread”, by Nafissa Thomson-Spires, is a short story about Brian and Eldwin, two black men who are studying anthropology and discussing powerful stories from their lives. Brian and Eldwin, are described as feeling like “unicorns” in their grad program. Comparing the men to a unicorn was very significant because it emphasizes that the men feel so out of place in their school of white students, that they are comparing themselves to a rare mythical creature.

While the men were speaking, a white woman in the room was listening in on their conversation and at one point even took out a notebook as if she was studying them. This was so profound because Brian and Eldwin, who were studying experiences from their lives, were simultaneously being studied themselves by a white woman. At the end of the story it is stated that “She may have been an anthropologist too.” This statement changes the whole presence of the woman from just a nosy woman eavesdropping, to anthropologists studying the men. This woman perfectly displays why Brian and Eldwin felt so different and out of place because they are just doing completely normal things but to the white woman they are so unique and different that she had to stop and observe them.

The White Gaze reveals…

In “A Conversation about Bread” by Nafissa Thompson Spire there is a white woman watching the two main characters. She helps show the readers the staunch differences between Eldwin and Brian. She doesn’t really affect Eldwin. His philosophy is to act as if he can’t see white people staring at him. She affects Brian though, in the way he is afraid to talk or say certain words too loud. She helps show us how the different backgrounds of these two characters help shape them in completely different ways. How Eldwin grew up going to a multiethnic school and a very liberal college where he didn’t ever feel he need to hide unlike Brian who not only had a liberal California background but also the Southern background he gained from his time in Mississippi. Brian is a little more reserved and defensive especially when talking about race. Eldwin is not afraid or reserved about anything; he embraces his heritage in everything he does.

“The Lesson” is a story within a story

After reading “A Conversation About Bread,” I have thought about how many stories have other stories within them. “The Lesson” does not conventionally convey a story within a story, but I think that it has a deeper meaning. In my opinion, the story in the passage is about the inequality within the United State’s economy. It describes a poor neighborhood that discusses the rich lifestyle. I think that the whole story is meant to symbolize the result of corrupted capitalism. The entire story is the story within a story. The text reads, “Thirty-five dollars would pay for the rent and the piano bill too. Who are these people that spend that much for performing clowns and $1000 for toy sailboats?” (114). I think this quotation shows how these kids can’t even comprehend a lifestyle in which money isn’t a problem. I think the writer shows us this field trip because it is just an example for how impoverished colored children think about the rest of the world being unfair.

Cultural Anthropology, the Middle East, and White Women in the Library

The field of cultural anthropology, especially the study of subjects in the present, has significant value to understanding our civilizations and how communities form in different areas of the world around different ideologies. However, the lens through which historians (particularly white, Western historians) view other cultures may serve as a thin, unconscious veil for validating misconceptions and maintaining a power structure. In the 1980s, the late historian Edward Said proposed that Western cultures adopted an “orientalist” attitude towards the Middle East, dictating that it was barbaric, homogenous, violent, etc. Particularly, he received pushback on his assertion that scholars of the Middle East from the West committed a certain type of damage: though under the veil of scholarship and objective observation, their conclusions were influenced by their Western biases, and the scholarship itself was an assertion of the power structure with the “Orient” as the subjects for the West’s observation. Thus arose the question, “Does cultural anthropology of other cultures ever capture an accurate description of subjugated ethnicities/cultures, and does it even benefit those it studies?” Similar questions arise in “A Conversation about Bread”, as Edwin questions his role as a ethnographical storyteller for an experience that is not is own. Yet, what I think may be more telling is the role of the white woman in the library. The woman takes notes, presumably as another ethnographical academic exercise, on the interaction between Edwin and Brian, two black scholars. Notably, her reactions to their conversation and the notes she takes reveals certain prejudices she harbors towards her subjects; note her surprise at Brian’s correct use of “monolith”. Therefore, this character may serve as an allegory to the Western cultural anthropologists Said warns against: maintaining a power structure of subject vs. object under the protection of scholarship, despite her clear biases, and never benefitting those she studies.

O’Connor’s Definition of a Good Story

Flannery O’Connor’s definition of a good story is one that needs “every word in the story to say what the meaning is” and “involves, in a dramatic way, a mystery of personality.” When I first read this definition, I didn’t understand what she meant in any concrete way, but after reading her short story “Good Country People,” I agree that these aspects are what make the story so engaging. 

The story had a really interesting structure, beginning with who was narrating the story/who the story was about. At first, I thought that the story was being told from Mrs. Freeman’s point of view, but she turned out to be more of a background character. Then, I thought the story was about Mrs. Hopewell, but while it is told partially from Mrs. Hopewell’s perspective, in the end the story is really about Hulga. When combined with the twists and turns of the plot itself, these narrative misdirections give the reader a sense that the story is unfolding before them and anything could happen next. I felt like I didn’t know where the story was going until the very end, and so the story really did need every word to get its final meaning across.

“Good Country People” also creates a “mystery of personality” in the character of Manley Pointer (or whatever his real name is). The innocent country Christian persona he presents turns out to be a disguise he uses to take advantage of people and steal from them, as he does with Hulga and her prosthetic leg. This mystery creates intrigue throughout the story but also continues once the story is over, with the reader left wondering who this character really is and why he acts the way he does.

Kyle is a Killer

At the end of “Victory Lap” by George Saunders, Alison wakes up from her dream and her parents tell her that she ran outside, yelled, and stopped Kyle from killing the kidnapper. However, I think Alison’s parents are lying to her so she is not traumatized by the events. At the end of the kidnapper’s point of view, he says “He closed his eyes and waited and was not at peace at all but instead felt the beginnings of a terrible dread welling up inside him, and if that dread kept going at the current rate, he realized in a flash of insight, there was a name for the place he would be then, and it was Hell.” (25) This sentence can be perceived two ways. 1: he would be in Hell, it hasn’t happened yet, and this is more of a hypothetical situation; or 2: it WAS Hell, it happened, the kidnapper has died and gone to Hell. The use of the word “was” rather than “would be” makes me believe that the correct reading is the latter. In addition, at the time, Alison was shaking and scared for her life and seemed like she was in no state to be able to go outside and yell at Kyle to stop. Also, Kyle was so enraged and determined that I don’t think he would stop on his own. These facts lead me to believe that Kyle really did kill Alison’s kidnapper, and Alison’s parents are lying to her to protect her from feeling like his death was her fault.

Perspectives in “A Conversation About Bread”

The short story, “A Conversation about Bread” by Nafissa Thompson-Spires, starts off with an interesting story that was being told that seems to be interesting to most readers (including me). However, it is shown in the story that the person reading it, a man named Brian, has a different perspective and opinion on the story. He sees the story as “fetishization” and that he is treating the people in the story as “fragile-like”. The reason Brian thinks this is because of his own personal experiences, he is a disabled man, and his past ex-girlfriend treated him like he was “fragile” as well. Multiple times throughout the story he tells Eldwin that he is “acting just like her [his ex]” (180). However, Brian did not have the intention to have his story “fetishize” the race in any way. He states that, “Didn’t every story provide a narrow representation at best and fetishize someone at worst?” (183). His story never had the intent of doing that.

It is interesting to see how having different personal experiences in life can effect how someone interprets a story. I had found nothing wrong with what Eldwin wrote but as soon as I saw that Brian had a problem with it, I had felt it was wrong to like the story. This can apply to today, any story can seem okay to some, but to others with different experiences, it can feel way differently.

“Parasite” and “The Lesson”: Is Society Really a Democracy?

A couple months back, I watched the film Parasite. The director, Bong Joon-ho, constitutes a story about a poor family living in South Korea that try to climb the social ladder by leeching onto the Park family — getting their taste of wealth. (This movie is a masterpiece and I highly recommend you watch it if you haven’t).

This film, I’ve noticed, has a lot of parallels with the short story, “The Lesson”. Though I can’t think of a scene in Parasite in particular, the ideologies in “The Lesson” are akin. Throughout the film, there is a common theme of poverty and the inequality between the rich and the poor. The Kim family were destitute basement dwellers who worked just as hard if not more than the Park family, but the Kims were still low income. The Kims worry about money, the extravagant Parks worry about poor people’s unpleasant smell. Similarly, the eight children in “The Lesson” go on a short trip, arranged by Miss Moore, outside of their oppressed community which leads them to encounter items they have never seen, items that are far beyond their economic means. Miss Moore wanted the children to realize that wealth is unfairly and unequally distributed. At the end of the short story, Miss Moore asks the children what kind of society it is in which some people can spend more on a toy than others have to spend on food and housing. Sugar replied, “…this is not much of a democracy if you ask me. Equal chance to pursue happiness means an equal crack at the dough, don’t it?” (115). Sugar believes that it’s not a democracy because some people do not have an equal opportunity to earn money. There are people, both in Parasite and “The Lesson”, that don’t have to worry about the almighty dollar. Both pieces unveil that there was no “equal crack at the dough,” ultimately concluding that both societies are not a democracy.

Lessened Lesson

The short story, “The Lesson” written by Toni Cade Bambara, compares the mindset of the lucky and the not so fortunate lifestyles but doesn’t reach any sure conclusion. Throughout the story we witness much commotion and seemingly there is to be some cause and effect, but I beg to differ. There is no singular point between any two characters that we will notice to have an everlasting impact. Sylvia and Miss Moore both seem to bump heads through most of the passage. Sylvia constantly wants to be better than her so she won’t have to listen to what Miss Moore has to say. However, we don’t really note any relationships being made, or any ground being covered among the kids. They both try and get the better of each other over aggression and force, but none change. For instance, in the last line of the piece, “But ain’t nobody gonna beat me at nuthin.” This sentence can be interpreted in many ways, but I take it as something good used for nothing good. Sylvia never wants to be beat, she always wants to be the best, but what stands in her way is her perspective of what’s important in life. She has great ambition and wants to be at the top, but because of her background, she won’t ever use her motivation for the betterment of herself. Yet, she will use her drive to do things like fighting her friends or getting away with stealing and that’s what I think will keep her at the social level she resides in currently.

In the Barn

Joy (Hulga) has an artificial leg and when Pointer takes her on an adventure it turns south. Pointer entices her into a romantic session that ends up in the loft of a Ban on Hugla’s farm. Pointer keeps questioning her about her fake leg and continues to ask for her to take it off so he can see what it looks like. When Hugla takes off her leg and Pointer will not give it back she begins to yell at him and demand her leg back since she can not move without it. Eventually Pointer gets up and leaves the barn stranding Hugla in the Barn by herself with no way to get around. Pointer is a fake bible seller and really steals necessities away from his “clients”.

When doing something for the sole purpose of stealing valuable items, why do you steal artificial limbs and fake eyes? I personally think that their are way more valuable items in a house than a customized artificial piece of the body for one specific person. What do you think Pointer’s reason behind this kind of robbery and cruel acts is?

“Good Country People” or not so much

I read the story the ” Good Country People” by Flannery O’Connor and I thought the story was good but the characters were so weird. For example Mrs.Hopewell was supposed to be this kind women but she was so mean to her daughter. She would say things like ” If you can’t come pleasantly, I don’t want you at all”(2), when she would try to walk with her mom. Mrs.Hopewell also had so many negative thoughts about her daughter and the most shocking one was that she had not come into realization that her daughter only had one leg. Even though the accident was over twenty years ago and you would think that Hulga would not have realized it but it was actually the mom. Also I think Mrs. Hopewell is super fake in a way. Like she not that fond of Mrs. Freedman but she still kept her in the house. Another example of her being fake was her blaming her daughter for not having a bible because she was try to get out of talking to Manley. I just felt like she did not have to lie on her daughter and she could have came up with a better excuse.

Are We All Fools?

A few weekends ago, my family had a movie night, and we decided to watch the thriller, “Primal Fear.” The movie follows a suspect in a murder trial. Everyone believes that this man is guilty, as he is seen running in blood from the crime scene. One lawyer who is taking a leave from his profession sees this chase on TV and immediately sees innocence in this man. The lawyer decides to come back to work to defend the suspect for free. 

Throughout the movie, we see memory loss and an overly apologetic tone in the suspect. Then the suspect, when angered, turns into another hostile personality. By the end of the trial, the lawyer is able to prove the suspect innocent because of his apparent multiple personality disorder. The lawyer believed that it was not the suspect’s fault and that this disorder does not define who he really is. However, after the trial successfully ended, the suspect turns to the lawyer and explains, “You are so stupid,” and “Did you really think I was that cute innocent boy?” This plot twist reminded me of the ending of “Good Country People.” 

Towards the end of Hulga’s date with the salesman, the true character of the salesman is revealed. When Hulga begs for her leg back, and the salesman refuses, we find that he was fooling her the entire time. He collects rare items such as that prosthetic leg or a woman’s glass eye. Once Hulga asks why he would do this because he is a Christian, the salesman exclaims, “I hope you don’t think,…that I believe in that crap!”(9). This exact line reminded me of “Primal Fear” because both the salesman and the suspect were able to play such innocent characters so well. The salesman, who once admired Hulga for everything about her and how brave she is, tells Hulga, “you ain’t so smart…”(9). I think it is significant to note that Hulga was the one who was proved a fool, though she has never been interested in anything ever. The one person who sees the “real” and the non sugar coated version of life, unlike her mother, is the one who is lied to. This twisted end makes you wonder: are we all fools?

The Man’s Desire for Money

During the summer, I had the pleasure of reading Shirley Jackson’s We Have Always Lived in the Castle. The story follows two sisters named Constance and Mary-Katherine Blackwood. They live with their paralyzed Uncle Julian in their late father’s house. They live in their own little world ignoring reality and their money-hungry town. The rest of their family is dead.

Constance and Merricat (Mary-Katherine) keep their father’s money in a safe that sits in his study. While their late father had managed the money, Merricat states, “I was not allowed to open the safe where Constance kept our father’s money. I was allowed to go into the study, but I disliked it and never even touched the doorknob” (83). In contrary to their father, the sisters disregard the importance of money completely.

It is until their cousin Charles arrives, the sisters are introduced to greed and capitalism.

When Charles finds Constance and Merricat’s father’s gold watch chain in a tree, he is shocked that a valuable item could be mishandled and forgotten about:

“In a tree,” he said, and his voice was shaking too. “I found it nailed to a tree, for God’s sake. What kind of a house is this?

“Its not important,” Constance said. “Really, Charles, it’s not important.”

“Not important? Connie, this thing’s made of gold.”

“But no one wants it.” (77)

While Constance and Merricat ignore money, their male relatives take an obsession to wealth. Throughout Charles’s stay, he is insistent on finding the safe and the girls’ money. Their safe takes the place of the capitalist patriarchy of America. Charles and the rest of the world are addicted to money, so when safe remains in a house where no one cares about money, its a success for the sisters over a world that embodies masculinity and capitalism.

If the Blackwoods’ masculinity relies on their wealth, and Constance and Merricat reject the desire for money, they have destroyed the Blackwood men and their oppression.

Like Mother Like Daughter

In Flannery O’Connor’s “Good Country People,” Hulga strives for independence from her mother. Mrs. Hopewell still sees her 32 year old daughter, Joy, as a child. “She thought of her still as a child because it tore her heart to think instead of the poor stout girl in her thirties who had never danced a step or had any normal good times. (2) Hulga recognizes this and begins to attempt to distance herself from her mother. Hulga changes her given name, Joy, to Hulga as a first step. She’s proud of this victory with her thought being, “One of her major triumphs was that her mother had not been able to turn her dust into Joy, but the greater one was that she had been able to turn it herself into Hulga.” (2) Mrs. Hopewell wishes to improve her daughter, ” If she would only keep herself up a little, she wouldn’t be so bad looking.” (3) Hulga recognizes her mother’s wish for her to better herself, and instead she decides to present herself poorly against her mother’s wish. For example, she decides to dress in, “a six-year-old skirt and a yellow sweat shirt with a faded cowboy on a horse embossed on it.” (3) Hulga decides to act this particular way due to her condition not allowing her to be physical independent from her mother. “if it had not been for this condition, she would be far from these red hills and good country people.” (3)

Contrasting Ideas Within “Good Country People”

In Flannery O’Connor’s story “Good Country People”, O’Connor uses many contrasting ideas, such as beauty, joy, faith, and their opposites. These contrasts cause the main conflicts throughout the story.

One of the main characters is named Joy Hopewell, however she is ironically characterized as neither joyful nor hopeful. Her “remarks were usually so ugly and her face so glum” (2) and she would generally treat her mother and Mrs. Freeman with disrespect and contempt. This attitude most likely resulted from her losing her leg at ten years old, leading to a disconnect with the name “Joy.” This inner conflict was then shown through Joy changing her name to “Hulga.”

Through the name Hulga, O’Connor also shows a contrast between beauty and ugliness. Ms. Hopewell thought her daughter’s new name was ugly, and was mad that “she had gone and had the beautiful name, Joy, changed” (2). Ms. Hopewell puts a lot of emphasis on beauty, despite seeing it in a less conventional way. She believed that “people who looked on the bright side of things would be beautiful even if they were not” (3). Ms. Hopewell values beauty and positivity, whereas Hulga values the opposite. This contrast motivates their actions throughout the story, and is the root of their differences. Similar to Hulga’s internal conflict, this contrast caused conflict between her and her mom.

Finally, O’Connor shows the contrast between those who don’t think they believe in anything, and those who actually don’t. Hulga says she’s “one of those people who sees through to nothing” (8). She thinks this makes her different from Pointer because he supposedly believes in god. However, she ultimately shows that she isn’t actually indifferent towards everything when she gets incredibly protective over her wooden leg. When Pointer notices that this means she does have beliefs and values, he gets angry, revealing that he’s been lying to her. He says that he doesn’t actually “believe in that crap!” (9) when she asks him about his supposed Christianity. Despite what both of them said, they were only putting on a front. Once they exposed their true selves, their contrasting values and beliefs caused conflict between them.