Powerful Women In King Lear and the American Political System

In Shakespeare’s King Lear, women gain power which upsets the men around them. Power is first gained when Lear’s youngest daughter, Cordelia, stands up to her father and says that she only loves him as much as is due. She uses her voice and stands up for what she believes. This also helps to strip Lear of his power because it reveals that he only has power because his subjects give it to him. It also shows that Cordelia has agency. Her sisters take power after Lear steps down by treating him poorly. After Lear steps down as king and gives his land to his daughters, they treat him badly and eventually throw him out. They become aggressive, needlessly harming Gloucester and pushing people out of their way to achieve power. The play essentially villainizes powerful women through its portrayal of them as aggressive and careless towards the well-being of others. Powerful women in politics are villainized in much the same way. For example, during Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign for the presidency his wife, Michelle Obama, was portrayed in many cartoons as the force behind Obama’s campaign; Shown in one cartoon as carrying a gun and a string of bullets as Obama sports more peaceful attire. Additionally, Hillary Clinton was shown in several cartoons looking both angry and crazed. Both the women in King Lear and American politics seem to be villainized once they receive power. Powerful women are made out to be crazy and careless towards others, taking power in any way that they can and stomping on anyone that gets in their way. This contributes to the thought that women shouldn’t be in power because they are too emotional and will let their emotions get the better of them. However, this is sexism disguised as American politics. 

Killing Me Softly With His Poetry

While not the original version of this song, Fugees (featuring Lauryn Hill) does a solid version of “Killing Me Softly With His Song”. While featured on their album, The Score, this song not only conveys musicality but lyricism as well through its poetic lines.

The song presents the story of a woman who has heard a lot about a musician so she goes and sees him. The musician sings a song which she feels very deeply connected to. The lines “strumming my pain with his fingers/ Singing my life with his words” use the guitar as a metaphor for her pain as she watched this boy sing. The boy’s song “tugs on her heart strings” as some like to say. This metaphor establishes a spiritual connection between the woman and the boy’s playing. It exemplifies how music can deeply affect people and songs can resonate with people differently. The lines “Killing me softly with his song/ Telling my whole life with his words” also connects to this theme. She is being “killed” by his song because she resonates with it so much that it is bringing up feelings from the past that she doesn’t want to experience again and are causing her pain. The line “I felt he found my letters and read each one out loud” enforces how even though she had never met the musician and vice versa they had experienced something similar and he had sung about it and so she feels exposed and as though he knows her internal thoughts and feelings. All of this contributes to a deeper meaning of being so touched by something that it physically hurts. Additionally, it conveys the message that art can be used to communicate things that are difficult to speak about and share stories. 

Because “Killing Me Softly With His Song” has a deeper meaning, striking lyrics, and uses literary devices, I would argue that it is poetry. However, ultimately I think that art is up for interpretation. 

How To Get Through Beloved

Despite Nabakov’s theory that it is better to not try to relate to books because you will get more out of them if you don’t, I still like to relate to the books I read. With Beloved, relating to it is difficult. I have never been enslaved, I don’t live in the 1800’s, and I’ve never been to Cincinnati. However, in Toni Morrison’s novel Beloved, the state of limbo is explored which I relate to. In Catholic theology, limbo is the afterlife of someone who has not been sent to heaven or hell. It is usually for people who are not baptized. However, I think that limbo can have a broader inclination of a state of being between two things. In the novel, Beloved describes a traditional state of limbo as she was killed while she was a baby. She describes it as “dark” and that she is “small in that place” (88). She describes it as being very warm and crowded and “Nothing to breathe down there and no room to move in” (88). In addition to this kind of limbo, the entire book has a broader sense of being in limbo. The seamless transitions from past to present and vice versa almost make it hard to decipher which is which. This makes it feel as though the reader isn’t really in either the past or the present and they are just in a limbo between the two. 

As highschool seniors, we are about to enter a similar limbo between time. The summer after senior year is in between two phases of our lives, high school and college but it’s also the limbo between childhood and growing up. So when you are struggling to finish those last few chapters of Beloved, think of the book’s relationship to limbo and your own relationship to it. 

The Secret Woman: Why the Character’s Relationship Was Doomed From the Beginning

In Collete’s “The Secret Woman” a woman cheats on her husband who may also have cheated on her. I would argue that even before the cheating, their relationship was bound to fail because they don’t really know one another.

In the beginning of the story the husband sees his wife as gentle and femenine describing her as a “delicate sugared almond” (42) while at the party he describes her in much darker ways such as “satanic” (46). At the party it is said that the wife is very comfortable and doing her own thing “as calm as if she had been alone” (45). This shows that the husband doesn’t know his wife’s true self if he’s calling her at her most comfortable satanic after thinking she was extremely delicate and lady-like. On top of this, both of them lie to each other about where they are going and live double lives. Therefore, they do not seem to know each other very well.

Because they do not know each other well and put on a facade for their partner, their relationship is built on lies. It is also built on the MALE/female binary that also negatively affects their relationship. This results in a poor relationship that is bound to fail.

Negative Ending of “Victory Lap” Cannot Be Dismissed

In George Saunders’ short story “Victory Lap” the ending is left ambiguous. Did the boy kill the kidnapper, ending his own life, or was he stopped? Some take an optimistic view believing that the boy was prevented. While I do not indefinitely think that this perspective is incorrect, I do think that it is incorrect to say the Saunders is overall an optimistic writer.

Saunders is notorious for using the setting of wacky theme parks to stress the ills of the US capitalistic work system. In CivilWarLand in Bad Decline, Pastoralia, and Downtrodden Mary’s Failed Campaign of Terror each feature what would normally be fun, inviting fantastical worlds: two theme parks and a museum. He chooses these settings to create controlled environments where work is central and culture is replicated for the purposes of profit.  However, in his unique storytelling way, Saunders renders these settings absurd with the horrors that unfold. In CivilWarLand in Bad Decline, Saunders believes that American culture and history have been reduced and molded into something simply for the purpose of profit. These theme parks show the ways American culture has been twisted into a form of entertainment. In other words, the theme park setting boils down American culture. The theme parks include a Civil War theme (CivilWarLand in Bad Decline) and a caveman theme (Pastoralia). The presence of these parks highlight a broad critique of America’s way of profiting off of its history and dumbing down its cultural value.

In addition to his settings, Saunders’ story lines aren’t positive. The old lady kills herself, the man is forced to rat out his coworker, the Vietnam veteran indiscriminately shoots innocent people, human immigrant girls are used as lawn ornaments for the rich. It goes on and on. Time and time again Saunders critiques the ills of humanity, holding up a mirror to the worst parts of society. Looking at George Saunders’ writing as a whole I think it is safe to say that he cannot be categorized as a positive writer. Therefore, dismissing a negative ending to “Victory Lap” may be an oversight.