“The Good Place” is an NBC comedy that ran from 2016 to 2020, and it deals with the question of an afterlife from a mostly comedic perspective. The main premise is that the main character, Eleanor, has been sent to the “Good Place” which is basically heaven in the show’s universe. However, very quickly, Eleanor and the other residents begin to suspect that not everything is what it seems in this so called “Good Place”. The show follows the adventures of Eleanor and her friends as they discover the truth about the afterlife. There’s plot twists, romance, inside jokes, and plain old slapstick comedy all over the place. On the surface, the show deals with some serious topics regarding ethics, class, and the existential nature of what happens after you die or what it means to live on earth. However, the show keeps a comedic tone throughout all four of its seasons, providing some seriously interesting commentary to the viewer without taking itself too seriously. The show is sure to take plenty of moments to point out the trivial or humorous points of an “afterlife”, and even the most powerful, god-like figures in the show are portrayed as very human-like characters, each with their own mannerisms and weaknesses.
In addition, the main characters, Eleanor, Chidi, Tahani, and Jason each have their own unique characteristics that the show constantly plays off of; Eleanor being the sort of entitled, brash suburban women, Chidi being the very technically correct ethics professor, Tahani being the elitist, definitely entitled type, and Jason being the “Bortles!” failed Jacksonville DJ/crashes his jet ski into a manatee, Florida-man type. The show uses the more absurd and humorous elements of these characters (and others in the show) to cleverly point out how, despite their very different outward appearances and reputations, each character’s lifestyle has come with its own weaknesses and strengths in terms of how they are “evaluated” post-death.
I won’t go too in depth here, but basically, (spoiler alert), the four main characters find out that they are actually all in the “bad place”, and have been fooled by Michael, the kind neighborhood designer, that they were actually in the “good place”; this comes as a shock to characters like Chidi and Tahani who were sure that they actually deserved to be in the “good place”. Michael, the seemingly gentle neighborhood designer, is actually a demon who has designed a torture scheme that pits people with incompatible personalities together, where they will inevitably argue with one another about everything. In an effort to perfect his unorthodox torture scheme, Michael continually resets the memories of the characters, only to have them always figure out they are really in the bad place. The show takes off from there and explores the nature of a binary afterlife system, and the inherent flaws in such a setup. Eventually, the characters reconcile with Michael/the other afterlife gods/beings and are able to prove they are capable of improvement post-death, eventually ending up in the real “good place”. The show also generally keeps a playful vibe in terms of music, colors/sets, etc, throughout, helping the viewer engage in this existential topic in a light-hearted way.
In addition to the more blunt, traditional humor in “The Good Place”, I think it also fits the definition of a romantic comedy. This is because throughout all of the jokes and existential wonderings, the show always comes back to Eleanor and Chidi. No matter how many times their memories are wiped and no matter how incompatible they may seem with one another on the surface, Eleanor and Chidi keep finding their way back to one another, no matter the enormity of whatever post-death scenario they have encountered. In this way, the show ties a lot of its strings to the romance between Eleanor and Chidi, therefore making its comedy and effectiveness dependent on said romance.
Like any TV show, there’s a lot going on in “The Good Place”, so if you have the chance, I’d recommend watching some of it–it’s very thoughtful and also very funny–in order to really understand many of the deeper things it may be trying to say. At the very least, though, “The Good Place” definitely proves the effectiveness of comedy to create both an entertaining and thoughtful show.
A couple months ago, I found myself watching the 2021 disaster film “Don’t Look Up”. The premise of the movie is that an extinction-level asteroid is hurtling towards an inevitable collision with Earth, and the great minds and governments of the world only have six months to prepare for disaster. The film features a star-studded cast list and is a (in my opinion) pretty hilarious but also deeply reflective satire-comedy.
*** (Summary below, it’s sort of long)
The movie opens with the two main characters, Kate Dibiasky (Jennifer Lawrence), a PhD candidate at Michigan State and Dr. Randall Mindy (Leonardo Dicaprio), her professor, discovering a comet that is unknown to science. Much to their dismay, they actually find out that the comet is on a collision course with earth and will make an impact in six months. At about nine kilometers long, the comet is large enough to cause an extinction-level event on Earth, potentially wiping out humanity. Accompanied by the head of the Planetary Defense Coordination Office leader of NASA, the scientists head to Washington DC to formally inform the president, Janie Orlean. Played by Meryl Streep, Orlean’s character is probably meant to be a riff on several modern politicians/the ridiculous nature of modern politics in general, but she most noticeably represents a lot of the more absurd mannerisms of Donald Trump. The scientists spend an entire day waiting in the lobby of the White House as they are informed that the President is busy figuring out how to confirm her Supreme Court nominee who happens to be an ex-porn star. In an effort to get the news out, Dibiasky and Mindy decide that they will take the risk of leaking the news on a popular television show. Much to their horror, they find that the news anchors, so engrossed in the morning talk show gossip, are not really interested in the comet, apparently not grasping the enormity of the incoming event. Finally, the White House makes time for the scientists, and they inform them that they have confirmed their findings and will do anything in their power to prevent the collision of the comet. However, as Dibiasky points out, this meeting takes place on the heels of news that Orlean herself had a sexual affair with the previously mentioned Supreme Court nominee, and the White House is likely looking for something to divert the public’s attention; an incoming extinction-level asteroid being the perfect candidate. Just as the government is about to launch a mission to destroy the comet using nuclear weapons, Jeff Bezos/Elon Musk global billionaire stand-in Peter Irshwell discovers that the comet actually contains trillions of dollars of rare minerals. Suddenly seeing the opportunity for profit, the government partners with BASH (Irshwell’s company) to devise a plan to mine the comet of its valuables while still destroying it before it makes impact. Of course, this new insanely ambitious plan must be drawn up from scratch before the comet makes impact in only a few months. Whether she genuinely believes it or is brainwashed by the pursuit of power and profits, Orlean and the government forge ahead with Irshwell’s plan, which notably, cuts out other major countries in the world, forcing them to create their own missions. Mindy sells out, becoming the face of the government’s propaganda campaign to not be worried about the comet; helping the government create ads praising the incoming comet for the jobs and boundless opportunity it will create. Outcasted and frustrated, Dibiasky starts a campaign begging people to just “look up” as the comet is now so close to earth that it is visible at night. Trying to quell public panic, Orlean responds with her own campaign with the slogan, “Don’t Look Up”; out of sight, out of mind, right? The comet approaches, and the joint non-US mission to destroy the comet blows up, leaving only BASH’s mission left to save humanity. Perhaps unsurprisingly, considering it was devised in less than six months, BASH’s comet-mining/comet-destroying mission ends up failing, and suddenly it finally hits Orlean and the elites of the world that the collision is inevitable and humanity is doomed. The comet makes impact, and the movie ends, humanity presumably going extinct in the process.
*** (Summary above, actual analysis below)
I would highly recommend watching this movie on your own because there really is a lot going on and it’s very interesting and quite funny to watch. It may not be the most technically perfect movie, but it’s definitely good for a lot of laughs and some reflection. This brings me to the actual satire of “Don’t Look Up”. Many elements of society from modern politics to the general public’s relationship to science and nature to our TV shows are satirized. Orlean and her completely ridiculous persona are a clear critique of several modern politicians who seem to treat their office as if it is almost some sort of game show. The Supreme Court nominee is definitely a bit absurd, but in modern America, it seems that it is becoming/has become much more possible for traditionally unqualified and generally absurd candidates to arise to occupy our most influential positions of power. Similarly, the president is so engrossed with her approval ratings and her nominee that she lets her politics inform her approach to science, rather than letting science inform her politics, another theme that may seem all too familiar to many Americans. Much like how the president is misguided by the institution of politics, the media is misguided by the need to feed their viewers with the latest gossip on celebrity breakups and fast-paced, easy to understand, dopamine-filled entertainment. The viewer sees that the world of “Don’t Look Up” has devolved into a state where people are unable to process the factual information that is right in front of them. Put simply, the people of “Don’t Look Up” have grossly misidentified the things in the world that are most meaningful and impactful (literally). In this misguided world, people are unable to face reality and the very real and pressing issues that come with it. Dibiasky is eventually driven insane by the fact that people cannot seem to understand that they are literally going to die in six months.
I think all of this comedic, almost drunken ineptitude ties into the themes that the movie’s satire is trying to communicate. I believe the movie is trying to make a commentary on how modern society has become alienated from nature and basic critical thinking. Watered down by a world full of social media and urbanization, where people can basically live their whole lives surrounded by human institutions and societal constructions, people are losing touch with natural reality. The characters of “Don’t Look Up” are plagued by a modern, anthropocentric world, where six months may simply seem like it’s too far away to really care, where everyone assumes that some smart scientist people will fix the problem, and where the nature of the physical world and our own mortality are taken for granted. People are too busy being concerned about what they’ll do on social media tomorrow, where they’ll party over the weekend, living vicariously through celebrities and influencers, or listening to politicians without any semblance of critical thinking, that they are becoming societal robots, so engrossed in finding profits, power, or meaningless satisfaction in human institutions that they can become complicit in the completely insane “Don’t Look Up” narrative (Or similarly ridiculous campaigns that exist today). I’m not trying to say that all of the above-mentioned things are necessarily bad things to participate in – there’s a lot of wonderful things about the modern world, and for most of us, they’re definitely worth indulging in – however, the film is reminding the audience to stay grounded, remembering there’s a world beyond us and beyond humanity, and what happens there DOES matter. In fact, it matters more than most of us can probably comprehend. We may take for granted our institutions, products, and technology, but the undeniable reality is that we are born into a world that is an incredibly complex, interconnected system. While it is important to focus on ourselves, set personal goals, and strive to live our lives how we desire, we need to remember that we are part of a world where our actions can have impact (for good or bad) and where life is fragile.
The movie has a great moment at the end when there is nothing left for the characters to do other than await the incoming impact. Dr. Mindy remarks,“We really did have everything, didn’t we? I mean, when you think about it”. Facing certain doom, the characters finally realize the things that they had taken for granted. Mortality is a constant in everyone’s life, but the comet is a literal reminder to the characters and the audience that life is temporary and no amount of engrossment in modern, anthropocentric institutions can, or should shield us from that. The comet also reminds us that we have the amazing power to be able to think for ourselves, discover science, and have the potential to solve even the most daunting of challenges. It reminds us to be thankful about what we do have, and to be excited to use it to live in a meaningful way. Tragically, in the film, lust for power, money and brain-deadness, sourced from an obsession with the relatively shallow parts of modern humanity, lays to waste the enlightened side of it. The result is an epic collapse in which humanity pays the ultimate price for its ignorance: extinction.
In this way, the film’s satire means to inspire its viewers: to remember to develop critical thinking skills, to be considerate of science, to stay reasonably well informed with the world around them, and to remember that they can be independent agents of change whether it be on a big or small scale. It also promotes an environmental message, reminding its audience that science only matters if people listen to and act on it.
In conclusion, “Don’t Look Up” is a satirical piece that also uses comedy and a dramatic scenario to promote a message of self-awareness to its audience: do not just exist in the modern world; be an active citizen of our global world, capable of resisting the modern world’s worst temptations in favor of experiencing and improving on its best ones. The movie is reminding its viewer to not just exist passively, but to live zealously, think critically, act with purpose, and live life to its fullest.
So one line that stood out to me reading “King Lear” is from Act I, Scene IV when the Fool is consulting Lear at Goneril’s castle:
“For you know, nuncle,/The hedge-sparrow fed the cuckoo so long,/That it’s had it head bit off by it young”.
(Act 1, Scene 4, line 220-22)
I think most readers probably understand this as the Fool telling Lear that he has basically spoiled his kids too much, which is true in this situation. However, as a bit of a bird/nature nerd, I instantly recognized this quote as something more. I think diving a little more deeply and literally into this metaphor reveals some very cool science and perhaps some interesting insight about the characters of Lear themselves.
The Fool is referencing a very real naturally occurring phenomena called brood parasitism. Brood parasitism is a behavior in birds where a parasitic species lays its own eggs in a different species’ nest. The bird who has been parasitized raises the foreign chick like it is one of its own while the foreign chick usually outcompetes the victim’s chicks. In ecology, this is an obvious parasitic relationship because one species is benefited while the other is harmed; the victimized mother has wasted an entire nesting season raising a chick that is not her own while the parasitic mother hardly did any work and still passed on her genes.
From an evolutionary standpoint, this makes sense, as raising babies takes weeks or months during the summer and takes an enormous energy cost from the parent. Of course, that energy is well spent if a bird can pass its own genes down to the next generation, but for birds who have been parasitized, this often won’t happen. Meanwhile, the parasitical mother has saved a tremendous amount of time and energy which she can use to parasitize more nests, ultimately increasing the number of babies she can have in one nesting season while never raising any of her young herself: a smashing success from an evolutionary perspective. There are dozens of unrelated species around the world that do this, (one of them is a native species around here, the Brown-headed Cowbird) and you could go on for hours analyzing the ins and outs of brood parasitism.
For the purpose of King Lear though, it’s just important to know that the Common Cuckoo is a parasitical species native to Europe. The Common Cuckoo parasitizes the nests of dozens of smaller songbird species across its range (such as the “hedge-sparrow”) and has even evolved adaptations such as superficial resemblances to birds of prey (to scare away the victim species’ mother in order to lay eggs in the nest) and the ability to lay eggs the same color as the host species’ eggs to better disguise them. (Like I said above, there is way more you could dive into within brood parasitism or even within just cuckoos).
If the cuckoo is successful and lays its eggs inside a nest, its young will hatch before the host species’ young and will naturally grow faster than the host species’ chicks, outcompeting them for food. It’s important to realize that when a mother feeds her chicks in a nest, she is programmed to give food to the biggest, healthiest chick, who will also be the chick that is the loudest and most effectively begs for food. The identity of the biggest chick is usually just a matter of who hatches first, and so the first hatched egg has a huge advantage over their siblings, as they are able to start growing first, even if the difference is only by a few hours or days.
Parasitical chicks take advantage of this, and as soon as they are born they will instinctually push other eggs out of the nest, attack their siblings, and outcompete them for food, doing whatever it takes to survive. The result of a successful parasitism can often look very strange; the parasite’s offspring become much larger than their “mother”, and the mother works tirelessly to continue feeding the enormous appetite of her “chick”. The parasitical chicks have completely “won” the exchange, as the host mother has raised no true offspring, raised her own species’ parasite, and has probably exhausted herself feeding huge parasite babies. (This does not happen in every case of brood parasitism, as many species have evolved defenses against parasitical parents and chicks, sparking an evolutionary “arms race” between the parasites and the parasitized.)
So how does all this scientific exposition tie into King Lear? As I went through this process in my head, a lot of interesting parallels made themselves apparent to me. The comparison between the older, bigger, begging, attention-seeking chicks and Goneril and Regan almost seems too clear. Regan and Goneril were firstborn to Lear, and their pleas for attention and practical begging in front of Lear ensured their survival, at least in the context of receiving wealth and power. Cordelia is not loud and (metaphorically) large, and she doesn’t beg in front of Lear. Like an instinctual mother, Lear instantly rewards Goneril and Regan while carelessly tossing Cordelia away. In other words, Lear raised two cuckoos and he and Cordelia lost out because of it. Considering the lack of references to maternity in Lear, you could speculate if Cordelia even has the same mother as Regan and Goneril, a revelation which would make the cuckoo metaphor even more telling.
I think the theme of bad, wicked, or cunning people getting power by being manipulative and telling people what they want to hear is evident in real life whether we look at something as seemingly benign as spoiling children or destructive, like brutal dictators only promoting those who praise them. This is supported by who we see accumulate power in “King Lear” versus who is banished and stripped of it. However, it is very intriguing to see how this is a theme that occurs in nature as well; clearly, the begging, prostrating, “yes-man” trope is an (oftentimes effective) strategy employed beyond just the world of humans.
My song, “Berenstein” by THE BAND CAMINO, was released as a single in 2017. In trying to keep my selection relatively random, I just chose this song because it was one of the first songs that happened to pop up on my phone. I’ve always enjoyed listening to it for its sci-fi, synth sound and mysterious lyrics which I’ve never really dived into that much. I would encourage you to listen to the whole song to get the whole “feel” of it, but here I’ll give some of my thoughts on it:
Essentially, the speaker, audience, and occasion are pretty standard in a sense; a lover, the person he loved, and thinking back on what could’ve been; a “lost” relationship. The meaning, if only “x” things were different, we could have been together, but it never worked out. A classic theme across many songs. However, the song quickly takes on a more compelling meaning starting with its refrain,
“At another place in time
You were infinitely mine
When Berenstein was fine”
The inclusion of “Berenstein” is an allusion to the Mandela Effect, a phenomenon where a significant number of people insist that they remember something happening when it never did. Famous examples include Nelson Mandela dying in prison in the 80s when he really died in 2013, or for people who grew up reading the “Berenstain Bears” children’s books, an insistence that they were pronounced “Berenstein Bears”. A popular explanation for this phenomenon is the existence of parallel universes where these small details really exist the way we remember them. In this way, the song’s allusion to Berenstein actually cuts deep, the speaker is possibly alluding to a different universe or “another place in time” where “You [the speaker’s lover] were infinitely mine” and “Berenstein was fine”. The song then is a love letter across realities with a wish to travel between time and space to that universe when Berenstein, rather than Berenstain, was fine. The subtle inclusion of just one word changes the song from a catchy pop tune to a multidimensional love letter that contemplates reality.
To further emphasize the existence or significance of this idea of an alternate reality, the song employs personification to describe said reality,
“You were always certain that it did exist
Imagination so intrinsic all at stake
All the things we said when we were younger
Did it bend or did I break?”
“It” being the alternate reality is described as something that may have “bent”, not a literal term we would associate a reality of having, but one that gives us more context into the song. Perhaps a relationship never worked out for the speaker because of some event in their reality that “bent” the potential for said relationship the wrong way. Then again, just as in one universe things may bend the wrong way, in another they may have bent the right way and the speaker would have experienced the relationship he dreams of. The personification of reality “bending” gives more power to the idea of multiple universes and/or the idea that such realities are malleable, and in turn, the things or relationships across those realities could also be malleable. Once again, the inclusion of certain elements in this song leaves the listener thinking about more than just a romance between two people but questioning the properties of love and reality. The personification of a universe being “alright” or a reality “bending” gives the idea that love is a malleable thing with many different variations across realities.
Finally, the song employs a constant motif of time and age to tie together its elements of love and parallel existences. In addition to its constant refrain,
“At another place in time
Only parallel to mine
The universe was alright
When Berenstein was fine”
The song also references time stating,
“Wait for me, wait for me there
I’ll die if you die, wait for me I swear
Wait for me I’m still somewhere
You’re getting older without me, I’m scared”
“All the things we said when we were younger”
Did it bend or did I break?”
The explanation of time within the speaker’s relationship makes it clear that the speaker has known their lover for a long time, and they probably regret both the timing of their relationship in their reality and yearn for a better timing in a different reality. The theme of time is literally important to understand the speaker’s relationship across their own life and whatever parallel lives they may have, but I also think it is meaningful for sparking a reflection on what time really signifies in a relationship. In our reality, time is linear and moves in one direction, if things didn’t work out in the past, that’s just how it was destined to be, and it’s fixed in the past. This perspective lets the reader challenge that, if one could jump between realities as the speaker wishes to, time would no longer be linear; relationships that never worked out could be re-explored and re-lived “at another place in time”.
Overall “Berenstein” by THE BAND CAMINO uses the allusion to one word, “Berenstein” to open a trove of poetic devices and philosophical wonderings. The song illuminates the multidimensionality of a relationship, capable of being lost between two individuals in our world, but also capable of being lost between realities. Whether it is the time motif, personification of realities, or the initial allusion to the Mandela Effect, Berenstein takes its listeners on an unorthodox journey through time, space, and love.
When we watched the film, “Trust” after reading Camus’ “The Stranger”, I think myself and a lot of my peers were probably struck by many of the parallels that seemed to exist between the book and the film. After all, the movie has a very mundane and depressing tone for a lot of its duration, just like “The Stranger”, where lot of events seem to happen that would be best explained through an absurdist world devoid of meaning. For example, at the beginning of the movie, Maria’s dad just suddenly collapses and dies. It is explained as a result of many problems her dad had, but it is presented in the movie as a totally inexplicable, random event that happens to occur at just the right moment for Maria’s mother to unleash all of her wrath onto Marie. The whole film takes on a gray, monotonous sort of feeling while details like Matthew having a grenade and a baby being kidnapped seem to be presented rather bluntly; there are things that just happen or exist and are portrayed in a rather straight forward way not unlike moments in “The Stranger” where domestic violence and murder are also described as something that just sort of happens and is experienced by Meursault; not in a particularly emotional way, just as a reality of the absurd world he lives in.
Despite these similarities, an interesting difference I saw between the two, especially towards the end of “Trust”, comes in the form of how some of the morals or ethics shown in both. Something I found striking is that although Matthew is a very smart guy and can fix all kinds of electronics, part of the reason he keeps quitting/has difficulty coming to terms with his job is because he sees it as unethical. The company he works for makes defective products so that they will get clients to come back and pay for them to be fixed. The company wants Matthew to keep his head down and just do his job, but it becomes clear that Matthew feels strongly against this so much that he keeps quitting. When reflecting about this moment I thought this showed an interesting divergence from “The Stranger”. If this were Meursault’s job, in my opinion, Meursault would absolutely not care if he was scamming people or not. We see that Meursault barely has a moral pulse throughout the entire book, for example when writing the letter for Raymond or when murdering someone.
In contrast, in “Trust”, the movie actually ends with Matthew and Marie sharing a genuine moment at the computer-repair shop where their love for each other is evident and Marie saves Matthew from his own suicide attempt. Marie and Matthew don’t really have much in terms of power or money to gain by loving one another, but over the course of the movie they seem to find that they really do genuinely love and understand one another. Meursault doesn’t really ever feel that emotional towards other characters, usually valuing people in a more materialist sense. While the movie ends in uncertainty for Marie and Matthew, it is clear that they have broken through the mundane world with their genuine emotions for one another, creating a world between the two of them that is dynamic enough to dispel any ideas about an absurdist existence. Ultimately, one story features a man arrested, contended, and alone on death row with another also arrested but clearly discontented and wanting to be with Marie. Despite many of the apparent similarities between the novel and the film, “real”, emotional, love is responsible for revealing some very stark differences between “Trust” and “The Stranger”.
When analyzing “The Secret Woman” in class, I thought that another student made an interesting remark regarding the masquerade as featured in the story. Essentially, by covering up one’s true identity, someone potentially unmasks another.
At its heart, masks do present a lot of challenge to us as humans. We are so used to actively perceiving and analyzing facial features and expressions that when we are met with something close to but not quite the same as the real thing, such as a mask, we are met with confusion and uncertainty. It is not so abstract as to mask the presence of a human being, but it is abstract enough to mask any emotions or expressions. Under this vale of uncertainty, “The Secret Woman” suggests people may stray from their common behaviors. When together, the couple seems to appear relatively mundane about their lives and their view on attending this ball. Under the vale of the mask, however, the wife seems to act wildly and energetically, as she bounces around the party. Under another mask, the husband stalks his wife, watching her activities.
Ultimately, I don’t think that “The Secret Woman” is supposed to be about the faithfulness of one partner to another but is meant to show the natural feelings that people will have when not bound by societal or cultural expectations. The wife still loves her husband, but she has a more daring and youthful side that she would keep to herself if it weren’t for an opportunity like this. I think this can apply to us a lot when we meet new people, are in public spaces with many strangers around, or are online. In these situations, people either don’t have context about you or cannot access it whether it be because of a literal or metaphorical mask. How do we let unfamiliarity or uncertainty impact the way we confront and behave in front of others? How does a mask change our character?
George Saunder’s “Escape from Spiderhead” has many compelling components from its intensely vivid descriptions to its unsettling dystopian setting. While there are many interesting details and descriptions throughout, the story ultimately seems to circle back to a question surrounding the humanity, or the lack thereof in human beings. Surrounding the raw drama and violence of the story are the drugs that are used to influence the convicts’ actions. Clearly, the use of the drugs is the primary fictitious element of the story, meant to signify a jump in technology that has not yet been reached. At least to myself, but I suspect most readers, the drugs are seen as an unknown futuristic substance that have influence and reach well beyond any current technology; the subjects behave and react in bizarre ways while we imagine how we might possibly react to such an unreal substance. However, while reflecting on the story, I began to question how much of a stretch component the drugs really are.
After all, as human beings, we are not robots and we don’t make decisions based off of an objective programming; we are organic beings with complex minds and our minds are heavily influenced by already naturally occurring chemicals, hormones, etc. Especially when we are more emotional, we may feel that we aren’t even thinking but rather acting on impulse, impulse associated with instinct rather than logical thinking. Basically, our minds are already under the constant influence of natural drugs that will largely steer our mentality. The most profound moments in one’s life can probably be framed within an achievement, a relationship, a tragedy, a struggle. Those sorts of moments might often have that sort of dreamy, unreal feeling because our body and mind have already determined how we will act; we are programmed to react a certain way to love, friendship, adversary, sadness. Even our morals and ethics that we lay our actions on our often determined by the experiences we have as babies and children, long before we begin to think critically about the world. The dystopian reality where humanity’s free will and intellect can be easily hijacked with chemicals and technology may be less sci-fi and more like a minor extension of reality because we may have never really possessed that perceived free will in the first place. If we are already highly emotionally creatures, constantly being influenced by signals out of our control, then is it that much of a stretch to see the effectiveness of these sorts of drugs? Ultimately, much humanity do we really possess? The answer to a question like this is subjective and difficult to determine, but Saunders does end the story hinting that humanity does exist. Despite his alienization, dehumanization, and total influence under the drugs, the narrator seems to be able to act according to his own will, ultimately coming to terms with himself as he dies, swearing to never kill again. His action represents a change in his personal mentality, a strong demonstration of morality, and comes on his own terms, signifying a decision that is about as independent and humanizing as an action can be.