Seeing Blind… Or Not

Throughout King Lear, there is a motif of blindness that can be interpreted in many different ways. There are instances where blindness is figurative, such as when King Lear and Gloucester misjudge their children and are failing to see what they are doing for them, but there are also instances when blindness is literal, such as when Gloucester’s eyes are gouged out.

In terms of the figurative blindness main characters such as Lear face, this theme can be tied into others, including power and madness. In act 1, Lear’s daughters are trying to prove their love to him in order to inherit the best part of the kingdom and Lear’s power. However, once Lear gives up his power and has nothing left considering he gave it to his daughters, he feels that they are now blind to him and don’t care about him. This is captured when Lear states “Fathers that wear rags/Do make their children blind” (page 101). Lear expresses his feelings of betrayal caused by his daughters. He gave them everything, and the power they now hold is causing them to be blind to their father and his well-being, leaving him in the dust. In terms of madness, in act 3, Lear and Kent come across a terrible storm. King Lear has gone so mad because of his loss of power and being betrayed by his daughters that he becomes blind to what is best for him. He states “When the mind’s free,/The body’s delicate” (page 137), meaning that his mind is so consumed by his daughters betraying him that he is unaffected by the physical effects of the storm, or he’s blind to the elements.

Now for Gloucester’s blindness. There is some irony in this blindness motif. Throughout the entire play, Gloucester is blind to which one of his sons is loyal to him. Edgar has to go so far as to disguise himself to earn even a little respect from his father. Even though Edmund is out to get Gloucester, he has created this elaborate lie about how it’s truly Edgar who is out to get him, which is why Edgar must disguise himself and flee. What’s ironic about this whole situation is that after Gloucester is literally blinded when his eyes are gouged out, it is then that he can see which one of his sons is loyal. In act 4, Gloucester explains that he could not see clearly when he had eyes, saying “I stumbled when I saw. Full oft ’tis seen,/Our means secure us and our mere defects/Prove our commodities” (page 173). Gloucester is apologizing to Edgar here, saying that now he sees the situation even more clearly than when he did have his eyesight, and that sometimes having things makes us spoiled but not having them makes us better people.

Overall in this novel, the motif of blindness presents characters with a new and often wiser outlook on situations, which is an ironic way to incorporate this motif. However, it conveys the importance of trust.

Poetry: Always Better the First Time?

In his most recent EP our little angel, ROLE MODEL includes a song called “better the first time,” one of my favorites on the EP. The singer describes his struggle with mental illness, being antisocial, and relationships in his new EP. In “better the first time”, the singer gives his take on love, conveying the idea that love and relationships are better the first time, as the title directly states. He goes on to show that the good moments in relationships only last for a short amount of time in the beginning, and then disappear as time goes on. He begins the poem with the lyrics

I'll come clean
It's not me
We're not where we used to be
And that's alright
Love drives by
Comes too quick and then it dies
It's always better the first time

These first lines go along with Perrine’s theory that an important part of poetry is experience, whether it be to know the experience of others or to understand our own experiences better. Not only in the lines above but throughout the entire poem the singer shares his experience with relationships and how he has dealt/deals with relationships running their course. While this fits the first part of Perrine’s claim that poetry shares experience, it also fits the latter claim that poetry can be used to help us understand our own experiences better. For many people, songs say the feelings they cannot, and I think this song is a perfect example of that. This poem can help those who are in the same position as the singer understand their feelings better.

These next lyrics support another key point of any poem: imagery.

I miss scratches on my back
Those acrylics on my spine

Perrine conveys the idea that poems don’t just flatly tell us something, they use vivid details that enable us to imaginatively experience what’s being described. The lines above use imagery in order to make listening to the song an experience in which you can imagine yourself in the world the lyrics have created thanks to the appeal to our senses.

Lastly, Perrine presents an interesting idea concerning poetry, saying that poetry is sometimes ugly rather than beautiful. This can be seen in the lyrics below.

Good times we had
But we'll never get 'em back
And it hurts me too
But that's nothing really new
Everything I love turns to everything I lose

This poem focuses on a pretty depressing topic, saying that every love the singer has had he has lost and that he’ll never get the good times he had in those relationships back. Although it’s rather dark and sad, it still gets the point across gracefully through imagery and putting the listener in the shoes of the singer.

Exit West: Shattering Gender and Cultural Stereotypes

In his novel Exit West, Mohsin Hamid uproots the stereotypical roles women and men play in relationships as well as stereotypical cultural expectations. This can be seen through the description of Saeed’s parents’ relationship. When talking about this relationship, Hamid highlights the sexual desires of Saeed’s mother rather than his father’s. He states when talking about Saeed’s mother that “She was also more keen, and so she insisted on repeating the act twice more before dawn. For many years, their balance remained thus” (13). This is a sharp contrast from a book we previously read, The Stranger By Albert Camus. In his novel, Camus highlights the sexual desires and advances of the male character Meursault, enforcing the stereotype that men command the physical aspects of the relationship and women oblige. Hamid completely flips this expectation of gender roles when he says “Generally speaking, she was voracious in bed. Generally speaking, he was obliging” (13). The breaking of the stereotype that men command the physicality of the relationship can also be seen in Nadia and Saeed’s relationship. Nadia is primarily the one making sexual advances, and when Nadia initiates, Saeed responds by saying “I don’t think we should have sex until we’re married” (55). Typically, a woman would make this decision, but in this case, the gender norms were again flipped, portraying the man as more sensitive than the woman.

I don’t think I can write about breaking gender norms in Exit West without talking about Nadia and her black robe. I think it ‘s very telling that Saeed assumes Nadia is religious and prays because of her conservative clothing. Once again, Hamid totally turns your predictions upside down with Nadia’s response to Saeed questioning why she wears the conservative clothing: “So men don’t f*** with me” (17). Beginning this book, I honestly didn’t expect there to be a huge theme of women being individual and female empowerment overall. However, I think that although this arguably isn’t the main theme of the novel, it is one that really stood out to me. I love how individual and empowering Nadia’s character is, and I think it’s a good example to have in literature such as this.

Finding the Meaning in Nothing

When beginning to read The Stranger by Albert Camus, I had a hard time recognizing the point or the purpose of this story. I mean, it’s really hard to recognize considering Meursault’s extremely surface level attitude towards everything, including his mother’s death. During his trial, the director of the home Maman was in said, “He had been surprised by [Meursault’s] calm the day of the funeral” and that “[He] hadn’t wanted to see Maman, [he] hadn’t cried once, and that [he] left right after the funeral without paying [his] last respects at her grave” (Camus, 89). It might just be the way Meursault deals with grief, but to be honest, his inability to express his emotions not only confused me, but made me a little angry.

I think the fact that I was so mind boggled by Meursault’s response to usually emotion evoking events made me neglect what the book is trying to get across: is there any meaning to life? Honestly, I find this to be a frustrating theme. I like things to be very cut and dry, so the fact that I have to use my own opinion and figure it out myself isn’t my favorite part of reading this book. However, as Camus says in “The Myth of Sisyphus”, “Myths are made for the imagination to breathe into them”. In the case of The Stranger, I believe the same applies. We as readers have to breathe imagination into this book and form our own opinions on the meaning of life.

The Symbol of Bread

When reading “The Conversation About Bread”, I was struck by an arguably minor detail of the story: Brian’s story that Eldwin was trying to tell. But I wasn’t struck by it in the way you may think. Obviously it’s a very profound aspect of the story that Eldwin realizes he can’t write Brian’s story because it is not his experience, but I thought the writing about the bread specifically in Eldwin’s writing was very interesting. In the story he’s attempting to write he states “We were all like, what’s up with the yellow bread? For it was surely some white folk stuff” (173). I thought it was really interesting how something as simple as bread can reflect someone’s socioeconomic status and how all these boys were in awe at a type of bread. This is similar to “The Lesson”, in the sense that they see a toy at the store, a clown on a bar, and are all baffled by the fact that someone would pay $35 for it. Sylvia states “Thirty-five dollars could buy new bunk beds for Junior and Gretchen’s boy. Thirty-five dollars and the whole household could go visit Grandaddy Nelson in the country” (114). Something that seems so inexpensive and insignificant to one person could mean something so much more to another person who is less financially stable, similar to how something (the bread) could seem like no big deal to one person but can actually reflect their socioeconomic status.

The Complexity of Jeff

In the beginning of the story, it’s very unclear who Jeff is, where he is, why he’s there, what he did, etc. As the story goes on, it becomes easier for the reader to connect these dots concerning Jeff’s character. I found it really interesting that although Jeff is given the drug Verbaluce to enhance his thoughts and the way he verbally conveys them, the thoughts he has without the drug are so complex. Also, when we find out later in the story that Jeff has committed murder and that’s why he is in spiderhead, we can see the progression of his character, from committing that crime to not wanting to see Rachel or Heather suffer from Darkenfloxx despite his neutral feelings towards both women. In the end, when Jeff “escapes” from spiderhead, he thinks about the fate of everyone in spiderhead. He ponders how everyone ended up this way, if they chose it, etc. He conveys his thoughts in a way that really flow and come out almost elegantly, so much so that Jeff says “Wow, I thought, was there some Verbaluce in that drip or what? But no. This was all me now.” I found this quote interesting because Jeff is portrayed as I guess different, for a lack of a better word, from the other people in spiderhead, as he thinks more intensely about what is going on and why, and I think that quote really captures that idea.