Significance of “Sign of the Times”

Harry Styles’ first ever released album, Harry Styles, includes his poetically genius song “Sign of the Times” as the second track. His debut album explores his mix of angst, frustration, and wonder about the future after his band separated and he became a solo artist. This album was released in 2017, but he released “Sign of the Times” earlier as a debut solo, and to this day, he sings it at every concert even after releasing two other albums.

In an interview with Rolling Stone, he revealed that the song was about the fundamentals of life, such as struggles of equality, race, and rights in our world, and is written from the point of view as if a mother was giving birth, and although the child would be fine, she was not going to make it. Through the song, Styles touches on his belief that it is not the first time the world has been through a hard time, and it is not going to be the last. In his lyrics, he uses the story of the mother being told she will die, but her child will survive to show that the mother is aware and saddened that her child is being born into a troubled world, but that they will meet again. This song is about the mother using her last breaths to tell her child to go forth and conquer, in her last five minutes of living.

“Just stop your crying, it’s a sign of the times”

In this opening line, we can assume that the baby comes out crying, therefore symbolizing the message that the child knows he or she was born into a troubled world, and the mother is affirming this to the child. The “sign of the times” are the troubling events that are occurring in the world, which shows Harry’s frustration with the state of the world and that it is a sinister place. The mother telling the baby to stop crying is a symbol of reassurance, that bad things happen in the world, but it will all be fine.

“Why are we always stuck and running from/The bullets?/The bullets”

These lines seem to show the mother talking to herself, questioning why the world is the way it is. Styles also is getting at the idea that we have overcome hard times before, and that we just have to push through them, like the child needs to push past this moment with the mother, and how we cannot be afraid of the world nor try to escape what is happening. The significance of the repetition of the bullets throughout the song shows that there is always something wrong occurring in the world, and it can metaphorically be seen as the things that come into our lives that we cannot stop from happening, like the mother finding out she will die after the birth. The bullets themselves can also be interpreted to represent the hardships of the world, so Styles uses that to convey the mother’s concern for the world she birthed her child into.

“Remember everything will be alright/We can meet again somehwere/Somewhere far away from here”

These lines are introduced in the middle of the song, and the mother is telling the baby that it is only the end for now and that they will meet again. It can also be inferred that Styles is making a reference to his ex-band here (what most of his fans like to think), meaning that they will meet again sometime in the future. However, his clever use of anadiplosis in these lines causes the listener to focus on where the mother and baby will meet and be able to be happy together.

All in all, the Harry Styles fandom seems to have many different interpretations of this song, such as his love for an old band member of his, but the song has much more meaning. Styles himself said it was the song with the most personal lyrics to him and his feelings about the inequality in our world.

Camus’ Argument in “Myth of Sisyphus” Seen in “The Stranger”

Albert Camus’ argument in “Myth of Sisyphus” is that one can rise above their fate if one accepts it. In context, Sisyphus is repeatedly struggling to push the rock up the mountain, but when it falls back down, he is free from his burden and reflects that his struggle will not get him anywhere. Camus also argues that fate is only bad if people have hope, meaning that if people don’t think there is a better alternative then they can be at peace with their fate in life. In terms of Sisyphus, he knows he is struggling in his situation and accepts that struggle, therefore his punishment could only be bad if he has hope. Camus essentially believes that happiness and absurd awareness are connected and that humans can only be happy when they accept their life and true fate. Therefore, Sysphus is happy because he has accepted his struggle in his eternal fate and has risen above this fate, meaning he can be happy. Camus stating “[o]ne must imagine Sisyphus happy” also shows that he believes humans must be able to be happy through experiences without the reliance on hope or faith because Sisyphus has experienced happiness through his true experiences and accepted his fate. 

In Camus’ novel “The Stranger,” I noticed his argument about Sisyphus was applied to the narrator of the book, Meursault. At the very end of the novel, when Meursault is sentenced to death, he takes a lot of his time to think and reflect. He goes back and forth with himself, trying to decide if he should request an appeal of his sentence. He concludes that everyone is going to die anyway, so he decides to accept the rejection of his appeal. His mind believes that only after accepting that rejection, he can even consider the alternative of him being pardoned. After re-reading this section of “The Stranger,” I realized that Camus’ argument about Sisyphus having to accept his fate to be happy in life applies to Meursault while he is consulting with himself in jail because Meursault is setting himself up to not have any hope, and therefore cannot be disappointed.

Power in “The Secret Woman” by Collete

After reading “The Secret Woman” on my own, I was left wondering about many instances in the story. I was most intrigued by the lies told between the main character Irene, and her husband. At first glance, I did not really think about the meaning behind Irene cheating on her husband, but after the discussion in class, its importance came clear.

Irene and her husband both lied to each other and ended up at the opera ball alone. When Irene was at the ball, I found Collete’s description of Irene’s disguise and movements very powerful. In addition, when it is revealed that Irene’s intentions were unloyal to her husband, I was pretty surprised but I also think that the woman cheating being surprising represents a double standard. After her husband discovered this, he was stunned that she had power over herself and her choices, and he did not know how to handle the situation. I think after he caught her he felt like he did not have the power in their relationship anymore and she was in control, which he did not like.

This story reinforces the idea that in society, men cheating is normalized, but when a woman is cheating it is absurd and frowned upon.

Nabokov’s take on good readers

Vladimir Nabokov has a strong stance on what makes a good reader. He makes many good points such as good readers are good deceivers, re-readers, and observers. What really struck me about his argument was that a good reader has impersonal imagination and artistic delight. Nabokov highlights that in order to have these traits as a reader, one has to detach from the story and stay aloof while also taking pleasure in said aloofness at the same time. When I read that part of “Good Readers and Good Writers,” I wasn’t sure that I agreed with that argument. However, through the analysis of his argument and further thought on it, I now see where he is coming from. When I have read in the past, I have found myself getting so consumed in the literature that I don’t necessarily enjoy it. His point that a good reader knows when and when not to use their imagination has stuck with me because I find myself looking too much into what the author means literally and not using my imagination. I think the pleasure in the aloofness of a reader is key as well because if a reader is simply just detaching from the story without pleasure, it is difficult to enjoy or imagine things. He concludes the paragraph by stating, “We must see things and hear things, we must visualize the rooms, the clothes, the manners of an author’s people,” which essentially argues that the artistic delight aspect allows the balance between the author’s mind and reader’s mind (41). Paying close attention and using imagination when reading these details allows the reader to visualize the literature without getting too consumed.