God of Small Things and Parasite

“How could she stand the smell? Haven’t you noticed? They have a particular smell, these Paravans.”

Baby Kochamma, God of Small Things

“No, no, it’s not that. What is it? Like an old radish. No. You know when you boil a rag? It smells like that.”

Park Dong-ik, Parasite

*spoilers* GOST reminded me of many works of art, including Parasite, one of my favorite movies. Both works put smell at the center of tensions between classes.

This use of smell is very striking in both stories. Even though it’s one of our most powerful scenses, smell tends to be sidetracked in movies and books.

Class might visually or audibly present itself differently in different cultures. Scent is the most universally recognized measure of class; no matter where in the world you live, it requires privilege to have access to perfume, running water, and soap, and to live in an area that isn’t heavily polluted or have a job that doesn’t include interactions with trash/chemicals.

The effects of orientalism are also present in Parasite. I haven’t seen the movie for a while, but a detail I remember is that one character, Ki-jung, uses the fake name “Jessica” and claims to have studied in America when she tries to become the Park family’s art therapist. She seems more qualified to the Park family because of her English name and American education.

There are more similarities between the two stories. Both are about relations between families of different classes, and all families involved in these stories are destroyed because of these relationships. If you haven’t seen Parasite, I highly recommend it. Like GOST, it is as thrilling as it is thought-provoking.

Lear(n) from King Lear

My dad’s parents are much older than most grandparents. My grandma was of the first generation born in an independent Ireland and my grandpa remembers the Great Depression and fighting in WWII.

Both constantly told stories, which made me love history and storytelling. They taught me many important lessons through these stories (for example, don’t steal Jeeps). I am so grateful that they told the stories and that I listened.

A lot of people might not be attracted to the story of King Lear because he is not young. However, King Lear is so powerful and important because Lear is older – it shows that a person can change even in old age and, through the story of an old person, it encourages the audience to change before they are in old age.

The audience has a lot to learn from Lear’s journey during the play. Similarly, we have a lot to learn from the older people in our lives. We don’t inherently owe our elders respect. However, we do owe it to listen to them.


Swedish folk duo First Aid Kit’s song “Fireworks” is just one example of poetry on their amazing album Ruins. While the singing and instrumentals were what originally drew me to the song, it has great lyrics and is a wonderful example of music poetry.

Like many songs on the album, which was created after a broken engagement, the song is about a breakup. “Fireworks” uses lyrics and music to bring the listener into the speaker’s mind and world.I took a trip out to the frozen lake

And it felt so far away

But I could feel it washing over me

There’s no escaping the harsh light of day

The poem repeats motifs of water/lakes and light. I would describe the musical aspects of the song as flowy and bright, making these motifs more effective and present in the poem. I’m not sure what these motifs represent or are trying to convey, but the song effectively transports the listener into the speaker’s situation with powerful imagery.

Why do I do this to myself every time?

I know the way it ends

Before it’s even begun

I am the only one

At the finish line

One of the most powerful lines in the poem is “Why do I do this to myself?” This is repeated many times throughout the poem and puts the listener in the speaker’s mind. The chorus (lyrics below) is repeated three times during the song. The repetition demonstrates the speaker’s regret and how their mind is stuck, repeating the same questions over and over.

I would highly recommend giving First Aid Kit a listen. Every song features comforting and bright harmonies, but the band also takes a lot of risks ensuring that every song sounds different. Every First Aid Kit song is a powerful piece of music poetry.

Red in Beloved

A few chapters into Beloved, I realized that I associated the color red strongly with the novel. I couldn’t tell if it was because the cover is solid red or because of the large number of times red is mentioned in the book. But I knew that, for me, the novel just felt red.

Color in general is important to the book. This is especially clear in the character of Baby Suggs. Because white people (white being the absence of color) took everything from her, she craves color. In the time leading up to her death, she spends the days thinking about color. Both Stamp Paid and Sethe say they hope Baby Suggs never focused on the color red (page 213 for Stamp and 237 for Sethe).

I think that the color red represents the past and trauma. This became clear to me when Beloved opens Paul D’s “tobacco tin” heart (bringing back his memories), and he starts saying “red heart” over and over again (138). Later, when Stamp Paid is thinking about Baby Suggs and the history in 124, he finds a red hair ribbon (213). When these two characters think about the past and trauma, the color red comes into their lives.

So it Goes

Kurt Vonnegut’s novel Slaughterhouse-Five is primarily an anti-war novel, but it was also influenced by existentialism. In the novel, American soldier Billy Pilgrim becomes “unstuck in time” while fighting in WWII. This essentially means he goes through life out of order, constantly time travelling and never knowing when or where he’s going to end up next.

Pilgrim knows everything that happens in his life (and what death is like) and understands that his life has no purpose. Like Meursault, Pilgrim experiences life with little emotion (even when he’s abducted by aliens!). Both Meursault and Pilgrim are completely in the present. They never search for a purpose or for a bigger meaning.

Before reading The Stranger, I thought Slaughterhouse-Five was incredibly depressing. I would probably still find it sad, but reading it through the existentialist lense might give the book a new feel. Maybe Billy Pilgrim is actually the most free and happy person because he doesn’t have to worry about life, death, or what it all means.

Vonnegut uses the phrase “so it goes” throughout the novel. I think it’s a very existentialist phrase, as it recognizes that the things happening in life are random and have no meaning.

Coffee, Coffee, Coffee!

During the first few chapters of the novel, I felt like Meursault was constantly drinking coffee. Looking back at part one, I realize it’s only mentioned on three or four different occasions, but it definitely stood out to me. In addition to coffee, he talks about smoking, eating, and washing his hands more often than I feel like most narrators do. All of these things are part of many people’s daily routines.

Routines are very important in The Stranger. Maybe it’s just a coincidence that Meursault talks about coffee a few different times in the first three chapters, but it is not a coincidence that the concept of routine keeps popping up.

Routine is mentioned for the first time on the first page of the novel: “I ate at the restaurant, at Celeste’s, as usual,” (3). When Meursault is at the old people’s home for the vigil the caretaker says “As is usually the case, the funeral is set for ten o’clock in the morning” (6). The vigil and funeral are obviously routine for the nurse and caretaker; Meursault even says the funeral seemed to happen “so deliberately” (17), which also made me think of routine. Meursault describes a Sunday morning, finishing by saying “It was Sunday all right” (22). The old man and his dog have a routine of abuse, as do Raymond and his girlfriend. The “strange little woman” described has an odd and specific routine that she’s done so many times she seems “robotlike” (43).

I don’t really know yet what the importance of routine is to the story. Meursault’s entire life seems like a routine. I think that in part two of the novel we’ll learn what Albert Camus is trying to say about routine. I’ll definitely pay attention to coffee and other symbols of routine while reading the rest of the story.