Women As People?

Gender roles, specifically women and their roles in both society and family is a prevailing idea throughout Shakespeare’s King Lear. The three women in the play are King Lear’s daughters: Goneril, Regan, and Cordelia. The play begins with an ultimatum from King Lear to his daughters to profess their love for him and in return they were offered a split of his kingdom. When Cordelia felt that her love abounded a meer profession to her father, she did not comply and was henceforth removed from the chance to get part of the kingdom. King Lear was upset by this, feeling as though this meant that she did not love him and their entire relationship previous to this point in time was quickly forgotten. In this instance, all Cordelia was to her father was a nuisance. She was quickly removed from the kingdom and her character was not brought back until the end of Act 4. Her other two sisters remain as prevalent characters throughout the play, but their only purpose as characters is to inconvenience Lear. While Regan and Goneril are apart of every act and a decent amount of scenes, Shakespeare does not care about them. Shakespeare writes the other antagonist of the play, Edmund, as having a reason to betray his father while Goneril and Regan are simply just “emotional.”

As Goneril and Regan get control over the kingdom, Shakespeare writes them in as monsters. They take away their fathers knights, his power, his name, and eventually his sanity. They are portrayed as villainous, emotional, and unfit-to-lead and become hated by almost every single character in the play including Goneril’s husband, Albany. He says, “You are not worth the dust with the rude wind / Blows in your face” (IV.II line 39-40). The readers can clearly see that without a man in power or to watch over the women, everything turns to chaos. It seems as if their emotions and feelings towards their father cloud and dictate every decision they make. Even at the end of act 5, they are both fighting over Edmund who appears to be a real man “To thee a woman’s services are due” (IV.II line 34).

Throughout the play, it is evident that the women have no real role other than to mess everything up. They are seen as unfit to lead, emotional monsters, who can not do anything without the help of a man. Shakespeare did not intend to write them into the play as real people who are heroic or have any significant importance to the play other than to be a nuisance to their father and everyone around them.

White Ferraris Turned Poetic

White Ferrari” from the 2016 album Blonde by Frank Ocean describes an experience in which two lovers go on a car ride. To me, the car ride is a metaphor for a relationship in which each person has differing views but how none of it matters to them because the journey makes it all worth it. Songs, just like poetry illustrate an experience for the reader. The way Ocean constructs his song through diction and syntax can help deepen the readers experience if they have been in love with someone who had different values and thought about life differently or broaden their experience by making them feel that they are in the relationship, understanding how Ocean feels throughout it.

The song stars by setting the scene and describing how the lovers used to be.

Sweet sixteen, how was I supposed to know anything? 
We're both so familiar. 

In just the first couple of lines, Ocean is able to convey both their innocence and their relationship towards one another. The mention of the sweet 16 indicates that he was naive, not knowing of everything yet. The line about their familiarity suggests that they fell in love at a young age, or at least were close in their teenage years. The song continues to acknowledge their growing relationship.

I care for you still and I will forever
That was my part of the deal, honest
We got so familiar
Spending each day of the year, White Ferrari
Good times

The two have blossomed together, still remaining very close and he makes it clear that he is in it for the long run. They begin to hang out every day and he wants it to last forever, and plans on being there for her. The “White Ferrari” that is implemented into this verse, as in many other parts of the song, continues the metaphor. They are driving in a White Ferrari, almost watching their relationship as they drive. The relationship is good and happy, just like a nice car ride through a scenic place. Finally, the song talks about how they view both their relationship and the world differently.

I'm sure we're taller in another dimension
You say we're small and not worth the mention

These lines hold lots of meaning, just as lines in a traditional poem do. Ocean himself believes that somewhere, not in reality, they are greater. Himself, her, and their love together is even bigger. She disagrees and thinks that their love and themselves as people are minuscule and not anything great. These lines conveys an importance greater then themselves as people and speaks to their views on their potential and the world. This creates a divide between them, another similar line being, “You dream of walls that hold us in prison.” They have different views of the world and what they can become. The song ends with Ocean’s own opinion on this difference.

Clearly this isn't all that there is 
Can't take what's been given
But we're so okay here, we're doing fine

Through these lines it is clear that Ocean craves something more in life. He is in denial that “this is it” and he wants more. He then acknowledges the relationship once more and states that they are good and that it is good enough for him. He knows she thinks differently then he does and this life is good enough for her. While it isn’t for him, she is good enough for him. Throughout the song the reader is able to see that she means a lot to him, and their relationship has evolved from a very young age. Through Ocean’s poetic syntax and diction, the reader comes to understand their relationship, the similarities, the differences, the good and the bad throughout the duration of the car ride in a White Ferrari.

Together as The “Others”

The novel Exit West by Mohsin Hamid highlights the unity that forms among migrants. Hamid emphasizes the fact that it is not each individual migrant against the world, it is all migrants against the world. They form a bond, which is created by having similar struggles and lives that they need to leave behind. As Nadia and Saeed leave his father behind as they travel, it is described as, “When we migrate, we murder from our lives those we leave behind” (98). This is not a common occurrence, it is something tragic that connects those who can relate to it. Migrants leave their home, their family, their entire past life and often can never return.

Due to this connection through trauma, it is shown throughout the novel that migrants stick together and fight for each other. One example of this is when the police showed up to the house Nadia and Saeed were staying at with other migrants. The police asked them to leave the house until “Other people gathered on the street, other dark- and medium- and even light-skinned people” (128). These people bonded together and made a racket until the police decided to withdraw. This is an important event that shows the power of people of all different backgrounds and skin colors coming together and standing up for each other. Another example is when they have to decide what to do as people become more hostile and scared of the large groups of migrants coming in. One option included “A banding together of migrants…cutting across divisions of race or language or nation, for what did those division matter now” (155). This perfectly emphasizes how migrants do not fight for themselves, they fight for each other. They are all “others” in their new locations and their previous distinctions are put aside. The quote continues and states, “The only divisions that mattered now were between those who sought the right of passage and those who would deny them passage” (155). The migrants recognize that to survive and be successful, they must work together. This unity is present in Exit West and in the real world when migrants stand together as one against the rest of the world.

The Art Of “Getting Used To It”

As we continue through Albert Camus’s The Stranger, we see Meursault continue on through his life and eventually end up in prison for killing an Arab. This is a huge twist in the story and Meursault’s life changes drastically. He went from having a routine, a way of life, to ending up in a dark, bug infested prison. As I read this, I thought about how hard it would be for Meursault to adjust to this new experience and new way of life. He was so used to doing things on his own time, without any outside influence about how he acted and what he did. Now, he is thrown for a loop and has little to no control over his actions in prison.

He states that the adjustment was difficult at first, “When I was first imprisoned, the hardest thing was that my thoughts were still those of a free man” (76). He continues on and thinks, “But that only lasted a few months. Afterwards my only thoughts were those of a prisoner” (77). This highlights how he was able to adjust to a new life, adapting the thoughts and actions that he felt helped him in his new environment. Furthermore, he states, “All the time, I often thought that if I had had to live in the trunk of a dead tree with nothing to do but look up at the sky flowering overhead, little by little I would have gotten used to it” (77). I think this is important because he is showing that no matter where he is put, he feels that he is able to adjust and become familiar and “used to” his new place.

I think this is a very important point to make, especially in regards to the year 2020 and what has been going on in our world. No one thought that the entire world would be going through a pandemic and all of the chaos that has emerged from it, but we have gotten used to it. We went from being confused and scared, to every person wearing a mask being normal, and another semester of school from home. While no one was expecting this to happen, and no one is necessarily ecstatic about it, we as humans have all gotten used to it. It is a human adaptation, being able to grow and learn in a new environment, and it is one that I think is very crucial in present times. Both Meursault and people all over the world have been able to “get used” to a big change and make the best out of it.

The Lives On Fifth Avenue

In Toni Cade Bambara’s The Lesson, the students being taught by Miss Moore come to realize some of the differences between their lives and the lives of the people who shop on 5th avenue. When Miss Moore is talking about the kids, she describes Sylvia and her friends as “all poor and live in the slums” (110). When the group arrives at Fifth Avenue, they are enthralled with the objects they see in the windows and how much they cost. They find a paperweight that costs $480 and are confused at first, curious as to why a paperweight is even needed. The students talk about if they have paper on their desk at school or at home that would need a paperweight and say, ‘”I don’t even have a desk,’ say Junebug. ‘Do we?’ ‘No. And I don’t even get homework neither,’ says Big Butt. ‘And I don’t even have a home,’ say Flyboy” (112). The kids start realize that their lives are very different, and are surprised that people would spend that much money. They continuously say, “White folks crazy” (114), emphasizing that they feel different and out of place from the people that they are encountering.

Each item they see, they check the price and are surprised every time. Sylvia saw a $35 toy clown and thought about what that money could buy for her and her family. “Thirty-five dollars could buy new bunk beds for Junior and Gretchen’s boy. Thirty-five dollars and the whole household could go visit Granddaddy Nelson in the country. Thirty-five dollars would pay for the rent and the piano bill too” (114). This contrast between what people spend their money on was really an eye-opener for Sylvia. She could not understand why people would pay so much for one thing when in her community and house, that money could be better used somewhere else. The author gave this insight into Sylvia’s mind in order to show that she recognizes Fifth Avenue and her home as two very different entities and realizes the very evident differences between the two.

Escape from Punishment

This story is written in a specific way so the reader is not fully aware of what is going on in the beginning. There is talk about drugs, and euphoric sensations as a result, but the writer does not fully explain what is going on and why this is all happening. A couple of pages in, Saunders gives us a little information to why Jeff is going through what he is. The text states, “…as if trying to remind me that I was not here by choice but because I had done my crime and I was in the process of doing me crime.” (55) This is very interesting because the reader realizes that Jeff is stuck there and being administered drugs because he committed a crime. This crime is referred to as “the fateful night” in the story and it is later on revealed that Jeff is in Spiderhead because he killed a guy in a fight. I thought his was a very important part of the story because the reader is able to see that each character does not actually have the consent we thought they had before. Because they have to say “acknowledge before being given the drug, I thought they were in control, but this quote shows that they are not. This point is emphasized when Heather is given Darkenfloxx. While Heather says “acknowledge,” she ends up dying from this drug in less than 5 minutes, proving that she has no control. This terrible system, guilting Jeff and the others into believing they are terrible people and deserve to be given these drugs in exchange for their past faults, reminds me of the present day debate on whether or not prisoners should be tested on for different products or drugs. These are very similar situations, where there is a power hold from one side, and the other has little to no control. This power struggle is a very dangerous one and can lead to scary things, as shown in Spiderhead.