Why Janina’s Revenge Failed

At the end of Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead, we learn that the narrator and protagonist, Janina, are responsible for all the murders that occurred throughout the book. Her reasoning for it was that she learned these men were avid hunters and had killed her dogs. She then believes that she has been chosen by the animals as the instrument of their revenge, and acting as their tool, she kills four of the hunters.

This decision to kill the hunters for the animals led Janina to tell others that the animals killed the victims. She initially has very little success with this, telling the police her theories and being brushed off as a “crazy madwoman”. However, as time goes on, others begin to agree with Janina. Both the Dentist and the man with a poodle are initially open to the possibility and later express their shared belief that the animals killed the hunters. I think Janina tells people the animals are taking revenge are twofold: Firstly, I think she genuinely believes she was chosen by the animals, and secondly, she hopes that it will open people’s eyes to the intelligence of animals and stop people from killing them.

However, by being the one to kill the hunters, Janina’s message is built on a lie. This lie is not only told to other characters but to the readers as well. She omits the killings from the story, as well as how she got Innerd’s horoscope info. Interestingly, Janina frequently shares horoscope information about other characters with the reader, but does not tell the reader about her horoscope, further obscuring her true self (I believe this is true, it’s possible I missed a bit where she does talk about her own horoscope).

Because Janina is eventually found to be the killer, her message about the animals taking revenge is lost. Any chance of more people believing is lost, unless the other townsfolk believe that the animals actually did choose her. It does seem that some people do believe Janina is in the right, (Oddball, Dizzy, Good News, the book shop owner, Boros), but these were people who already shared many of Janina’s views. Janina ultimately accomplished very little by killing the four hunters, and I doubt hunting in the town will stop. I believe that because of this, her revenge has failed.

The Death of Stalin, and Twisting Comedy

The Death of Stalin (2017), is a comedy film about the succession crisis that ensued in the Soviet Union after Stalin’s fatal seizure in 1953. The plot follows a power struggle between Nikita Kruschev, then 1st Secretary of the Moscow Committee, and Lavrenti Beria, head of the NKVD security forces (the secret police). The film uses comedy to send a message about human nature, but more specifically, governments: Authoritative regimes are built on fear and are still incredibly incompetent. The film finds comedy in the fear present in life in the Soviet Union, such as a scene where a man fears that a room may have been bugged and he was recorded mildly insulting Stalin’s taste in music, and begins apologizing to random appliances in the room in case they were bugged.

The film loosely falls under the traditional definition of a comedy, as a (debatably) noble protagonist, Kruschev, achieves an increase in fortune by the end of the film. However, the path to this fortune is anything but noble. Kruschev lifts a travel ban placed by Beria to allow the people into Stalin’s funeral, leading to NKVD forces firing on an unexpected crowd of arriving mourners, massacring them. Civilians are executed and sent to gulags, reforms are withheld for political power, and the protagonist achieves his increase in fortune by staging a coup, holding a kangaroo court, and executing Beria. This gains Kruschev an increase in fortune as he becomes the Head of the Soviet Union. However, further subverting the definition of traditional comedy, the film ends with text reading that Kruschev will eventually be ousted by Leonid Brezhnev. This solidifies the message of the film about authoritarianism, as not even the hero of the story is secure in this regime.

UChicago’s Shady Dealer and Devil’s Advocates

In the February 3rd edition of the Chicago Shady Dealer, University of Chicago’s satire campus newspaper, an article is featured announcing a new, fictional class to UChicago. The article, UChicago Unveils New Devil’s Advocate Class, satirizes types of people that commonly get on reader’s nerves.

This article details the aspects of this made up course, such as “rhetorical fallacies, the lived experience of a second years’ thought processes, and hands-on experience being the most punchable motherf*cker in the room”. The article features an interview with fictional student Robert Hutchins III on his intention to take the course. Hutchins says, “The masses often lack the mental capacity to make an educated choice between candidates. Unlike me”. The article is mocking self obsessed people who always seem to think they know better than everyone else. The article is making fun of “that one guy”, who always seem to have the worst opinion on everything and gets on peoples nerves. The article pokes fun at these people and the way they think and act.

The Fool and Jester’s Privilege

Throughout the play, the character of the fool always interested me. Lear banished both Cordelia and Kent for defying him at the beginning of the play, however in every scene the Fool is present, he openly mocks and ridicules Lear, and faces no repercussions at all. The Fool is the first to tell Lear that his decision to give his lands to Goneril and Regan, and repeatedly calls Lear an old idiot. Despite threatening to punish the Fool for this, he never does, and for the first half of the play, the Fool is the only person who can be honest with Lear. I believe this is due to the idea of jester’s privilege. Jester’s privilege was a right given to court jesters in medieval times that allowed them to say anything without fear of reprisal under the idea that they are simply a fool, and nothing they said matters. This allowed the jester to make whatever rude jokes they wanted about the king without worrying about their head getting lopped off. The fool also makes use of this privilege to be honest with Lear and give him a reality check, but ironically, Lear makes the foolish decision of not listening to the fool.


Daft Punk’s Grammy winning album Random Access Memories is the duo’s seventh and final album and features the song Touch featuring Paul Williams. The song was used in a video announcing the duo’s split in 2021, and has since become associated with the end of Daft Punk. This is fitting as the song’s lyrics and themes have to do with memories and the loss of better times. Similar to their previous songs such as Human After All, Touch is a song about a robot capable of feeling human emotions. This robot, who’s experience is displayed via the lyrics sung by Paul Williams, illustrate a deep sense of longing the robot feels for these emotions. The lyrics begin with the robot saying:

Touch, I remember touch.

Pictures came with touch.

A painter in my mind,

Tell me what you see.

This opening establishes the robot’s memories of the feelings of touch that he’s felt. Lines like “a painter in my mind” establishes their disconnect from the feeling. Instead of being their own experiences, they are pictures created by another person in their mind. The song continues with the lines:

A tourist in a dream,

A visitor it seems.

A half forgotten song,

Where do I belong?

The robot has been disconnected from his own feelings so long that he feels like “a tourist” or a “visitor” as he remembers his own feelings. Because of how disconnected they are, they are disoriented, confused, and have no true understanding of who they are, asking themself, “Where do I belong?”. They further question their own identity as they say:

Tell me what you see,

I need something more.

Kiss, suddenly alive.

Happiness arrive.

Hunger like a storm,

How do I begin?

As the robot begins to question their own experiences and further explore their memories of touch, the music becomes more upbeat as the robot feels “suddenly alive” as they re-experience their past feelings. They feel an intense “hunger” for more feelings, asking themself, “How do I begin?”. As they further explore their memories, the robot says,

Touch where do you lead?

I need something more.

Tell me what you see,

I need something more.

The robot wants to find out where these feelings will lead them, and as they further explore their own memories, they repeat “I need something more”. With this, the music kicks into an upbeat composition as the robot experiences the joy of feeling these newfound emotions and memories. Then, as quickly as it sped up, the music slows down. The music builds into a bridge that slowly gets happier and happier as the following phrase is repeated by first Daft Punk’s robotic vocals and then a choir:

Hold on, if love is the answer you’re home.

Hold on, if love is the answer you’re home.

The robot, having found a greater understanding of themselves, finally feels like they are home. They now understand what it is they’ve been searching for, and the uplifting music displays this. Eventually, as the chorus reaches its highest point, the vocals and music are abruptly cut off, leaving a few seconds of silence. This silence is interrupted by the robot’s returning vocals, stating:

Touch. Sweet touch,

You’ve given me too much to feel.

Sweet touch,

You’ve almost convinced me I’m real.

For whatever reason, the robot has now been cut off from their feelings of touch. They have been left once again without their feelings of touch, but now with the memories of what once was, and the sadness as they wish to return to those times. This brief understanding of their feelings has left a hole in the robot, who says “You’ve given me too much to feel”. The robot is so apathetic now that they no longer believe themselves to be worthy of human feelings anymore, saying, “You’ve almost convinced me I’m real”. Now knowing what feelings and emotions feel like but left without any way to experience them any more, the robot only says:

I need something more,

I need something more.

Ending with a low piano note on the final “more”, the song leaves with a feeling of longing and sadness, replicating the longing the robot feels for the emotions and feelings humans go through, and their despair as they realize they are unable to. This song has recently become associated with Daft Punk’s split, which is fitting considering it’s themes. As time advances, we will be left with only memories of past experiences and feelings, and we will only be able to wish for more time, for something more.

Exit West and the End of Borders

Mohsin Hamid’s novel Exit West tells a story about our world if random doors became portals to other random locations on Earth. People in the novel begin using the doors to escape their own countries in fear of war, poverty, or various other real-world issues that people emigrate from. First world countries such as the United States and England receive an influx of refugees from the portal doors, and respond harshly to this immigration. Efforts are made to forcefully remove the migrants from their shelters, and nativist militias organize and begin attacking the migrants. However, shortly after the conflict escalates to violence, it ends as neither side wished to cause any bloodshed, or do evil things. The world governments organized the construction of new cities specifically designed for the new presence of migrants.

This idea of borders disappearing is something I have thought about before. We are currently in an age of increased global connection, and especially with the creation of the internet and instant international messaging, the separation between nations is gradually decreasing. Immigration has also increased, and many nations are becoming more diverse. But global connection is not without hindrance. Events like rising nationalism in the US and the European reactions to refugees from the Middle East cast doubt on the possibility of a world without borders. I personally believe that too many people are rooted into their nationalist beliefs of their countries, and that if a scenario similar to the one presented in Exit West were to occur in reality, there would not be a peaceful conclusion to the conflict. Sadly, I think humanity has a far way to go before a border-less world can be accepted by many.

The Elephant Vanishes and the Absence of Unity

The Elephant Vanishes by Haruki Murakami tells the story of an elephant that disappears along with its keeper without a trace from its pen in suburban Tokyo. The story is told from the perspective of an unnamed narrator who has shown a fascination with the elephant, and who finds himself confused with the seemingly impossible to explain escape. We later learn the extent of the narrator’s interest with the elephant. He watched the elephant and its keeper interact and he was struck by the bond they shared. He repeatedly brings up the unspoken trust between the two.

The story seems to be a critique of the lack of unity in the modern world. The narrator lives by himself and is fascinated by the elephant and keeper because of their unity. He even remarks during his job how he finds unity important. The narrator speaks to a woman in a bar, and while the two seem interested in each other, the topic of the elephant sours the conversation, and an attempt at unity between the two fails. The narrator says that he feels his life has become monotonous and bland in his high ranking corporate job. A point is made to show that the narrator’s company insists on using the English word “kitchen” rather than the Japanese word. I believe that this story is a vehicle for Murakami to criticize contemporary Japan.

“10th of December” and Memory Loss

George Saunder’s short story “10th of December” provides an interesting perspective into someone suffering from memory loss. One narrator, Don Eber, attempts suicide during the story because he is terminally ill and no treatment has worked. He sees his death as inevitable and fears what will happen to him before he dies. His stepfather went through a similar disease, and Don watched as the man he loved faded away as his stepfather’s mind deteriorated further. Don is already suffering similar symptoms, forgetting certain words, parts of his life, and almost his own name. Don wishes to commit suicide to spare his family the pain he felt watching his stepfather die. Diseases like Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia have incredibly painful effects on those suffering it. This story stuck out to me because I’ve seen how memory loss can affect people. I also understand the fear about whether something like that could happen to yourself. Forgetting who you are is a terrifying idea.