A Powerful Woman

In Shakesphere’s King Lear, the idea of a woman in power is portrayed as negative. Even today, it is unsettling to me that woman are seen more negatively in a position of power than men are. There is still an idea that a powerful women is cold, intense and “crazy.” In the case of Michele Obama, the media had to make her seem more feminine and family oriented in order for others to find her worthy of respect.

In Taylor Swift’s song “If I Was a Man,” she sings,

They wouldn’t shake their heads
and question how much of this I deserve
What I was wearing
If I was rude
Could all be separated
from my good ideas
and power moves?

Women are more likely to be judged on their appearance, and how they act than by the work/talent they have. People seem to be bothered when women don’t fit the stereotypes of cooperative, supportive and humble. Also the idea of a woman with children is to motherly to lead, but if she doesn’t have children, then she isn’t living up to society’s expectations. Its a continuous cycle and double standard. A man can lead without it being implied that they are “weak” or “overemotional.”

I do think improvements have been made, and will continue to do so in the future. I think more people should be aware though of the stereotypes/ criticism that goes along with being a woman in power.

The Cardigan Under the Bed

Taylor Swift is a master story teller. Through her range of music genres, the artist has been telling stories of love, heartbreak, youthfulness and loss throughout her career. With her indie/alternative album Folklore, she not only writes songs about her own experiences, but of other characters. Specifically in the song “Cardigan,” she seems to write in the point of view of a teenager that has experienced her first heartbreak, and is very aware of the betrayal and pain it has caused her. The song indicates that in retrospect, heartbreak and pain can make a person stronger, and can have a impact at any age.

Cardigan utilizes metaphors, simile, allusion, repetition and imagery to express the lingering pain of heartbreak. As stated in the first verse:

Vintage tee, brand new phone
High heels on cobblestones
When you are young, they assume you know nothing
Sequined smile, black lipstick
Sensual politics
When you are young, they assume you know nothing

The first two lines of the song are very descriptive and convey the speaker’s youth. The line “when you are young, they assume you know nothing” is the most repeated lyric in the song. The speaker is not only reflecting on life as a teenager, but also the fact that she has become experienced with love and pain. It also indicated that she knows more now, and that everything in the past is a learning experience no matter how much pain it caused.

In the refrain of the song, Swift sings,

And when I felt like I was an old cardigan
Under someone's bed
You put me on and said I was your favorite

The old cardigan is a metaphor for the speaker’s low self and tendency to feel forgotten. She felt that her boyfriend made her feel valued and cared about. This is the speaker reflecting on how ‘seen’ she felt while in this relationship in her youth. The matureness of the speaker is showcased through her ability to pinpoint the exact factors that made that past relationship what it was.

Tried to change the ending
Peter losing Wendy, I
I knew you
Leavin' like a father

In the third chorus, the speaker says that she tried to save the relationship from ending, but it wasn’t able to be fixed. Swift alludes to the story Peter Pan with the lyrics, “Peter losing Wendy.” Peter Pan wants Wendy to stay with him in Neverland, but Wendy wants to grow up. In regards to the song, the speaker may think that that her past boyfriend wasn’t mature enough, and that is why their relationship ended. The lyrics “I knew you” are also repeated multiple times in the song, indicating that the speaker nevertheless, felt a real connection to this person in her youth. The simile, “leaving like a father” shows how her boyfriend left her, similar to a father leaving his family.

Overall, Cardigan reflects the story of a speaker reflecting on their first heartbreak. Through it’s past tense point of view, the song showcases that heartbreak and loss can be a reflecting point later in life. It also establishes that even though teenagers are young, they still are capable of knowing things. I highly recommend this song, and all of Swift’s other songs for that matter. They communicate experiences that others can relate to and gain information from. Isn’t that poetry?

What Makes a Person A Native?

The novel Exit West by Mohsin Hamid expresses a dilemma; what makes someone a native to their country? One idea the story seems to convey is that every human is a migrant- we all move around through time. When Saeed and Nadia have arrived in Marin, California, it seems that there are no true natives left in the town. The text states, ” ..nativeness being a relative matter, and many others considered themselves native to this country..”(197). Being native to a country doesn’t seem to have a true meaning. Some would say they are native if they were born in the country they reside in, their ancestors grew up on the land, or their genes are directly descendant of the slaves that were brought to the land. Hamid seems to not have a true definition of what being a native means, because it means something different to everyone.

Hamid argues that we are all migrants, because the world is always changing, even if we stay in the same place our whole lives. On page 207, an old woman is introduced. She has lived in the same place her whole life, yet she feels the neighborhood has changed so much over time that she has moved as well. The text states, ” when she went out it seemed that she too had migrated, that everyone migrates, even if we stay in the same house our whole lives, because we can’t help it” (209).

So the question is, if we are all migrants, is anyone a true native, and what makes a person a native?

The Sun: Meursault’s Spotlight

The story The Stranger by Albert Camus introduces a character named Meursault, who some could argue is just passing through life and not caring about the attributes such as love, religion and family that people would say makes life worth living. In the story, there is a constant mention of the sun. The sun’s brightness and heat seems to be described in key moments, such as Meursault’s mother’s funeral and the moment on the beach where he decided to go back to the man that was following Raymond. The sun acts as a spotlight on this emotionless, empty character to face reality. It seems as if Meursault makes all his key decisions because of the blinding of the sun beating down on him. It’s inescapable, (unlike everything else in his life.) Meursault felt trapped by the sun’s beams : ” …”Strained every nerve in order to overcome the sun and the thick drunkenness it was spilling over me”(57). The sun’s power allows Meursault to shoot and kill the man. In the beginning of the story, there are multiple mentions of the brightness of the room Meursault was sitting in with his mother’s friends mourning her. The lights and sun makes him see the world in its real light. He sees his mothers friends sad over her in that moment, as well as makes a decision to kill the man on the beach under the spotlight of the light. He can’t hide from it, its always present over him. Kind of like society’s norms and expectations on what makes live worth living.

A Good/Evil Struggle Connection

In class, we read the short story, “Escape from Spiderhead” by George Saunders. In this story, the main character Jeff has a constant inner struggle of whether or not Abnesti (the scientist conducting multiple drug experiments) is acting as good or evil. He constantly informs Jeff that what he is doing will benefit humanity and that he is someone that he can trust. He states, ” You know me, how many kids do I have?” and “do I remember birthdays around here? “(33) He also doesn’t swear, showing that ideally he is a good person. But Jeff sees first hand the effect these experiments have on others. He watches Heather, another participant die after being given Darkenfloxx. Jeff has a past of criminal activity, and has killed someone, and doesn’t want to see others killed in this experiment. He ends up commiting suicide because he doesn’t want to be associated with this kind of evil.

In my summer reading book ” Scythe” by Neal Shusterman, there is also a struggle of finding out who is good and who is evil. The book is about a society in the future where humans can live forever, and if they do “die”, they can be revived and can also set their ages back. In order to keep the population under control, Scythes are in charge of killing people permanently. There is an on going conflict in this book on whether or not the different Scythes are using their power effectively, and if they are killing or “gleaning” as they say in the book, in the right way. The main characters, scythe apprentices, Citra and Rowan are constantly conflicted on the right and wrong way of ending people’s lives. One scythe, goes on mass killing sprees, where another scouts out individuals that seem to have lost a lust for life. Citra and Rowan are both conflicted with the idea that what they are essentially doing could be considered evil, but are also benefiting humanity.

Both stories were interesting reads, and had interesting ideals about the struggle of good and evil. Essentially both indicate that no one can be truly good when it comes to ending people’s lives.

Jeff’s Inner Conflict

“Basically, what I was feeling was: Every human is born of man and women. Every human, at birth, is, or at least has the potential to be, beloved of his/her mother/father. Thus every human is worthy of love.”- Jeff Pg 33

“I hated it. I’m a person. I have feelings. Still personal sadness aside, that was good. You did terrific overall. We all did terrific. Heather especially did terrific.”- Abnesti pg35

Jeff, a criminal, watching Heather going through the effects of the Darkenfloxx makes him feel that even though she has done horrible things in her past she is deserving of love. He sees the good that Abnesti is doing at that moment: that he is giving people that feel that they are not worthy of love, the love they deserve, with this new drug. But then it shifts, Jeff also sees the bad- that Abnesti is a monster for making Heather act this way and killing her. In that moment, Jeff is conflicted with Abnesti’s intentions. Throughout the story, Abnesti is constantly reasuring Jeff that he is a good person, but Jeff ultimately sees him differently, and commits suicide at the end. He doesn’t want to be associated with the act of killing anymore.