The Seven Deadly Sins in Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead

In Christianity there are said to be seven deadly sins which are the actions and behaviors that God is believed to hate the most. These seven sins are the disordered and perverted side of all things good and they go as follows: lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy, and pride. These sins are the focal point of many famous historical works but how do they fit in Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead? Maybe a lot more than you’d think.

Greed & Gluttony

In terms of their nature, greed and gluttony are very closely related, being sins of overconsumption to the point of waste and hoarding by means of violence. In the novel they remain just as close. One of Janina’s biggest triggers is the hunting of animals, especially for sport. Hunting is a dearly held tradition in the town but the hunters take it to extremes, killing animals and leaving them in the snow or simply wasting parts that could be utilized. The men in the novel end up dead because of their actions regarding this. Innerd is introduced as “that rich fellow” (129) and when referring to the money found on the Commandant’s corpse, Janina is sure that it was a bribe from Innerd (131), who coincidentally turns up dead not long after. It was not necessary to mention that Innerd was known for his wealth and that was actually the biggest indicator of his future death. On the flip side of this is Janina’s vegetarianism because for each mortal sin there is a capital virtue. 

Lust & Sloth

Lust is in the same group of sins as greed and gluttony with all of them being sins of desire and while this sin is not very important for Janina’s purpose, there are still some interesting examples throughout the novel. While it may be quite a stretch, it’s interesting that when Boros is explaining beetles and pheromones to Janina, she makes note of it and then uses the animals’ reproduction instincts to later kill someone.

Sloth is another sin that doesn’t play a vital role but it could be defined as either indifference to duties or overall laziness. This could be analyzed through Janina’s Ailments or her beliefs that humans have some sort of duty or way they need to act within nature. Again, that’s entirely up for interpretation but Janina does express disdain on numerous occasions for those not only actively killing animals but those who tolerate and even encourage it; she may see it as the shirking of duties.


Envy is one of the more complex sins and it is characterized by selfish desire and want and especially covetous feelings toward another. Envy is not so blatant in the novel but it can be seen in Janina’s feelings about animals; she feels such a deep connection with them and a desire to protect them to the point that she is nearing envy. And at a certain point she isn’t even envious, she just believes she is an animal, or at least a conduit for them. These feelings about animals play a large role in her motivation to kill.


Pride is the original and supposedly worst of the seven deadly sins. Pride is the opposite of virtuous humility and is defined by extreme selfishness and putting your own desires first. We see this often in the novel, especially in the townspeople and hunters with their disregard for nature and life other than their own. When Janina confronts a group of hunters in the woods, they attempt to justify their actions by saying they’re well within their rights to do what they want and this infuriates Janina. And while Janina has a deep connection with nature and animals, she can be quite prideful herself; she quite literally kills multiple men because she was putting her desires first.


 Wrath is most often associated with hatred and a desire to enact revenge on another person, making it probably the most prevalent sin in the novel. Janina’s feelings of hatred and anger are explicitly mentioned dozens of times and after all, it is what drives her to kill. In the Old Testament, God is known for his wrath to be precise and most of all, provoked. God’s wrath is a response to evil, it is not portrayed as retribution, but as righteous judgment. Janina may vehemently reject traditional ideas of religion but she’s certainly a believer in divine judgment and punishment. Does Janina not act as God would, doling out punishments for the desecration of holiness? She more so is concerned with the desecration of nature and animals but the principle is eerily similar. 

I suppose the point to take from Janina’s actions is that when men behave like animals, you put them down like animals.

Real World Critiques in Campy Sci-Fi Horror

M3GAN is the surprising 2022 horror hit about the creation of an extremely lifelike artificial intelligence doll as a children’s toy but quickly turns bloody when M3GAN proves too intelligent, even for her creators.

When M3GAN is created by inventor, Gemma, she’s meant to be a children’s toy but the effects that attachment to a robot instead of a human caregiver have on a child’s brain quickly becomes clear when Katie, Gemma’s recently orphaned niece, becomes dangerously attached to M3GAN. She grows increasingly stubborn and attached, eventually refusing to do anything if M3GAN isn’t with her. Though, not only is the level of attachment dangerous but the actual technology itself. To make a long story short, M3GAN becomes a homicidal maniac with industrial strength and must be torn apart piece by piece in the end.

So what’s the reality of M3GAN and does it actually mean anything? Short answer: yes.

While the movie does have its fair share of cheap jumpscares and lines clearly delivered as fan service, the witty comedy actually serves a great point about our usage of technology, as do other similar sci-fi comedies. M3GAN is all good fun when she starts backflipping and dancing before committing a heinous murder (seriously though, I screamed out loud in the theater) but she’s a great critique about how we rely so heavily on technology and give it to children while we don’t even fully understand it or its effects. Technology is becoming increasingly prevalent in our everyday lives and the effects that it has on an underdeveloped are still being discovered. But we know this much: it’s not good.

So what does this say about comedy as a whole? M3GAN falls in line with many other comedy movies; it’s stupid and humorous on the surface but when you actually tap into it’s subtext, it’s quite meaningful and sometimes more than tragedy, for example. I think the ability to entertain an audience with a creepy little girl robot while also conveying a message about our societal culture surrounding technology and parenthood is quite admirable.

But back to the main question: is comedy meaningful? Yeah. Why wouldn’t it be?

American Psycho or Wall Street’s Biggest Loser?

While the American Psycho (2000) film gained a sort of cult following with all its corporate gore, the original novel by Bret Easton Ellis was actually a dark, satirical commentary on a heavily consumerist and capitalistic society that destroys the morality of those who participate. Ironically enough though, that meaning got lost in a juvenile lack of media literacy.

American Psycho is full of situational and verbal irony, starting in the first few pages with our main character, Patrick Bateman, being described as “the boy next door”. Though, as the novel progresses, it becomes clear that Bateman is anything but, what with his nighttime life that consists of brutally torturing women to death. The novel is full of ridiculous and inane moments including a persistent obsession with brand names, business cards, and Donald Trump. Verbal irony, for example, is shown in moments such as when in a club, Bateman is talking to a woman who asks him what he does for a living. He says “murders and executions” right to her face, but the woman too wrapped up in her own materialistic world believes he said “mergers and acquisitions”.

While there are several running jokes throughout the novel, the most prevalent one is the joke that all corporate yuppies look and act the same, which is humorous, but largely serves as a critique of that culture; Bateman is able to get away with everything he does because no one notices or cares. Coworkers are frequently mistaken for other coworkers, friends for other friends, and so forth but Bateman, to our knowledge, is the only character that notices and we watch as he devolves into an extreme obsession with fitting in while also spiraling into increasingly violent crime.

A majority of the irony in American Psycho is that Bateman, in his attempt to fit in, seem cool to his peers, and exert his hatred and masculinity onto lower-class women, actually is one of literature’s biggest losers. Bateman is so obsessed with the image he’s putting out that he actually has no sense of self at all, opting to define his character by the thread count of his Valentino jackets.

The original intention of the novel was to critique America’s capitalistic culture that is devoid of all morality but unfortunately, the film essentially destroyed nearly all chances of it doing so. Given that the novel is largely psychological, it is hard to get the essence of American Psycho to accurately translate to a screen, even if the movie is well made. Bret Easton Ellis himself said that “American Psycho was a book I didn’t think needed to be turned into a movie” because the novel functioned amazingly well as a satire and dark comedy, but could not be made into a movie without turning into the very mindset it was critiquing.

Misogyny in Shakespeare (Spoiler: There’s a Lot)

Shakespeare is extremely notable and that is an undeniable fact. But it also remains true that while his works contain female main characters, something that was not common in his time, they fall short of having any substance outside of men or are portrayed as the most monstrous things known to men. In most of Shakespeare’s plays, a lot of people die in the end, to put it simply. But what makes death different for women in Shakespeare is that when it happens, it is primarily portrayed as their fault and when the men die, it somehow is still the woman’s fault.

In these plays, everything a woman does is wrong and men can do no wrong, and when they miraculously do, it’s seen as honorable.

Although it’s my personal favorite, Shakespeare manages to incorporate nearly every female stereotype in Hamlet. Gertrude is the betraying, selfish whore and Ophelia is the over-emotional and naive crybaby who ultimately commits suicide because there is no man for her. Not only are the women reduced to very crude stereotypes, but they are also portrayed as the personification of evil. From the start of the play, it’s clear that Hamlet resents his mother for remarrying to her husband’s brother but Hamlet actually directs most of his hatred toward Gertrude than Claudius, despite him being the one that manipulated the whole situation. It’s also clear that Hamlet has a general disdain for women because of how he treats Ophelia, even though she is as a woman “should” be: sensitive and submissive. Hamlet delights in tormenting Ophelia, often making blatantly sexual jokes to her that are also directed at his mother, frankly a whole other issue. Overall, it’s clear that women cannot win in Hamlet; unknowingly remarry your husband’s killer and you’re the devil incarnate, or do everything you’re supposed to but receive the most awful treatment that drives you to suicide. Take your pick?

Macbeth, another profound play does the same thing to women in Hamlet, but arguably worse. Lady Macbeth is portrayed as the opposite of what a woman should be; not motherly, cold, domineering in the marriage, and is therefore a villain. Lady Macbeth is ambitious and gets what she wants but she still kills herself in the end (what is it with Shakespeare and marrying women to suicide). In the beginning, it’s obvious that Lady Macbeth does not believe her cowardly husband will be able to pull off the task of killing Duncan so she calls upon spirits to give her the power to do it by “unsex”ing her and stripping of femininity. Enough said there. Throughout the play, she taunts and emasculates Macbeth, making her Shakespeare’s ultimate ball-buster, if you will. Even when Lady Macbeth gets what she wants, she suddenly can’t handle the guilt, which is not to say female characters can’t feel guilt for doing bad things, but Shakespeare doing that to Lady Macbeth felt cheap.

I would consider the portrayal of women in King Lear to be more of a commentary on misogyny than stereotyping of female characters but it ultimately is still quite flawed. While King Lear does a pretty good job of critiquing the way men view women in power, the way in which the story ends just falls back on what Shakespeare always does to women. Goneril and Regan, while obviously having done bad things to gain power, receive much worse treatment than their male counterparts. Though, the snide and disgusted comments from side characters do a better job as a societal critique than a writing failure. But, while the argument that the nasty Goneril and psycho Regan had it coming could be made, the same could not be said for Cordelia. Shakespeare portrays her as the perfect woman: sensitive, compassionate, emotional but not overly emotional, loves her father, blah, blah, blah been there and done that. Had she been left standing in the end, I think Cordelia had amazing potential as a character but Shakespeare effectively rendered her a useless woman by killing her off and it felt like the ultimate cop-out. Whether Shakespeare did this intentionally or not, he still heavily reinforced the notion that women cannot be in power, even if they are “perfect”.

Another awful honorable mention would be The Taming of the Shrew, aka the famous 10 Things I Hate About You, which I don’t think needs much more commentary (taming a headstrong and extremely intelligent woman because that is somehow revolting and undesirable, come on, seriously?)

So while Shakespeare wrote complex and compelling male leads, he had a nasty habit of writing his female characters as heinous bitches. Entertaining, yes. Profound? Definitely not.

Bird or Paper Bag?

Paper Bag by Fiona Apple is an aching song about struggle and subsequent disappointment, inspired by an actual moment in which Apple thought she saw a dove in the sky but it ended up being a plastic bag. The song quickly became a hit, resonating particularly with young women struggling with their mental health and earning Apple a Grammy nomination, and for good reason.

Verse 1

I was having a sweet fix of a daydream of a boy
Whose reality I knew, was a-hopeless to be had
But then the dove of hope began its downward slope
And I believed for a moment that my chances
Were approaching to be grabbed
But as it came down near, so did a weary tear
I thought it was a bird, but it was just a paper bag

We start out by being thrust into the image that inspired Apple to write this wong in this in the first place. The bird represents a lot of things here but namely hope. Historically, in literature, birds have represented hope and love for those who see them, and at the moment before realization of what it really is, Apple finds comfort and hope in this image, only to have that crushed when reality hits. Her unnamed lover is also represented by the perceived bird; it seems like he’s great at first but when they get closer, it’s clear that everything that seemed great about him was just a misguided daydream. Apple even admits before this that she knows he is hopeless but still clings to that chance. The use of “sweet fix” is also particularly powerful as it conveys the weight of her almost obsessive feelings–these daydreams are like a drug to her even if she knows they are hopeless.


Hunger hurts and I want him so bad, oh, it kills
‘Cause I know I’m a mess he don’t wanna clean up
I got to fold cause these hands are too shaky to hold
Hunger hurts, but starving works
When it costs too much to love

In the past, around the release date of this song, Apple publicly spoke about her issues with eating disorders, another prevalent aspect of this song. Starving oneself is an act of trying to exert control over your life even though it ends up killing. In Paper Bag, Apple is resigned to the fact that she will feel pain in her current situation no matter what she does or who she brings into her life, so she may as well have a semblance of control. It’s almost as if she’s more drawn to this situation’s struggle with control than this unnamed interest. The use of the word “starving” in this song could be a more literal reference to food, which would definitely explain the shaking hands, or it could be something more abstract like being starved of comfort and love.

Verse 2

I said, “Honey, I don’t feel so good, don’t feel justified
Come on put a little love here in my void,”
He said “It’s all in your head,”
And I said, “So’s everything” but he didn’t get it
I thought he was a man but he was just a little boy

The last line of this verse is also the literal version of what Apple means when she previously spoke about the bird and the paper bag; she thought this man could be hope but he’s really just another disappointment. This verse is also about trying to fill the metaphorical void by surrounding yourself with people who you think will soothe your pain but ultimately end up disappointing you. Apple is searching for a balm for an ever-aching wound, specifically in a man who will do nothing more than disappoint her and not understand her jokes. Despite this, she still finds herself hungry for love, starved for it even when it’s hopeless from the start.

How The Cure’s “Let’s Go To Bed” Ties Into The Stranger

In 1982, The Cure released a single titled “Let’s Go To Bed”, a new synth-pop sound that was drastically different from their previous work. To start, lyrics aside, the history of the song also ties into The Stranger in a way; The Cure was known for their gothic rock sound and it was predicted that the song would be hated by traditional fans of the band. However, Robert Smith, lead singer, guitarist, and songwriter of The Cure disregarded this fact and didn’t care that it may be hated, saying he enjoyed the song so it didn’t matter if it was hated. This could be tied into how Meursault does as he pleases without regard for how it may be received by other people.

As for the lyrics, they can definitely be connected to Meursault’s relationship with Marie and how casual it is, given that he feels little to no attachment to her, only really enjoying her company for casual sex. The chorus of the song is the repeated lines of “It’s just the same – a stupid game/ But I don’t care if you don’t/ And I don’t want it if you don’t/ And I won’t say it if you won’t say it first”. This chorus relates to his relationship with Marie in the sense that Meursault doesn’t attempt to start anything with her beyond casual activities. On his dates with Marie, Meursault often points out the pauses of silence between the two and that if Marie is being quiet, he won’t say anything and just leaves it at that. When Marie asks Meursault if he loves her and wants to marry her, he says that either way it doesn’t matter or make a difference to him but he will go along with what she wants. If Marie had never brought up marriage and love, a conversation about it wouldn’t have happened because Meursault definitely would not want or say that first. Meursault also says during their conversation about marriage that he would’ve said the same thing to any other woman, which could be related to the line “Another girl, another name” in the song.

Overall, both Meursault and “Let’s Go To Bed” frequently speak of causal relationships that don’t have much meaning outside of basic enjoyment, a recurring concept in The Stranger.

Life’s a Game of Chess (202 Checkmates)

Now hold on, little girl, my father said. Chess is like real life.

In Rion Amilcar Scott’s “202 Checkmates”, we follow the development of the narrator’s relationship with her father as well as her own personal development through their games of chess. Our narrator starts out knowing close to nothing about chess, as well as close to nothing about real life. Her father first shows her the correlation between chess and real life, saying that the “white pieces go first so they got an advantage over the black pieces,” (47). The topic of race is clear throughout the story, without ever being the focal point of it.

Throughout the story, we see the themes of coming of age, femininity, and struggle. The father continuously makes it clear that the narrator needs to apply the principles of chess to the way she functions in the real world. The mother of the narrator also tries to teach the narrator lessons, expressing her distaste for the game on multiple occasions and even saying that “Chess ain’t gonna get you work,” (50).

By the end of the story and after 201(real) checkmates at the hand of her father, our narrator has an entirely new perspective on the game and life. She starts thinking of her moves multiple turns in advance and the financial and marital struggles of her parents affect the way she looks at the pieces. Growth has made the narrator see that life is a game of chess and perhaps that chess is a game of life.

Strength of Human Nature in Escape From Spiderhead

“I’d say no,” Verlaine said over the P.A. “That’s all just pretty much basic human feeling right there.”

In George Saunders’ short story, Escape From Spiderhead, we follow the trials and experimentation of basic human nature. Spiderhead is all about empathy; do we have innate feelings of basic recognition for other humans or all we just a composition of chemicals and hormones?

Saunders explores this concept through our narrator Jeff, a convicted killer who is a test subject for new drug trials. Throughout the story, Jeff is pumped full of various drugs which forcibly make him fall in love with other subjects or eloquently speak whatever is on his mind. We see Jeff forced to have these feelings and then have them taken away to see if they remain. In a tortuous moment of watching another test subject, Heather, succumb to suicidal depression-inducing drugs, we see that Jeff has no lingering feelings of love for her but still wholeheartedly believes that she deserves life and love. Despite having no chemical feelings for Heather or knowing anything about her life, Jeff believes that Heather and “every human is worthy of love,” (69).

Jeff’s innate empathy is further put to the test when he finds out he will be forced to watch another girl be drugged the same way as Heather. Jeff, once again, has no feelings of love for this girl and even finds out she too is a convicted killer, but he refuses to participate in the experiment. Jeff doesn’t stop with his refusal though, going as far as to willingly overdose on drugs that quickly kill him. Jeff sacrificed his life to spare another person’s pain, despite seemingly having no feelings for her.

Saunders makes us question what humanity is truly made of with this story. Is it chemicals that can be manipulated or is there an innate empathy that belongs to all of us? In a bittersweet ending of Jeff’s death, we do find that certain human traits are inherent and cannot be removed with any amount of drugs.