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.