The Power of Astrology

The question of explaining our meaning on earth has been present for centuries. People find ways to explain their existence through means such as religion or astrology. The Polish novel translated into English, Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead, tells the story of an elderly Polish woman as she battles the purposes of humanity and nature. 

Throughout the novel, the author, Tokarczuk, employs long passages about astrology. While the passages are asking to be skimmed over or forgotten altogether, they contribute to a much larger argument Tokarczuk is making. First of all, Janina finds extreme comfort in astrology as a way to explain not only the universe, but individuals. She uses astrology as a way to convenience herself that the rest of society that does not share her same beliefs is crazy, and she is not. In the midst of her unethical and illegal actions, they reinforce that she is doing the right thing. Secondly, her astrology provides a framework for one of the novel’s largest questions of whether one should live to be a part of nature or conform to immoral societal norms. Janina strongly believes in the former, and Tokarczuk’s use of astrology as meaning bolsters this overarching tension in the novel.

Age & Power in King Lear

Age and old age play an important role in Shakespeare’s play, King Lear, as it acts as a framework for a character’s power. The main character, King Lear, is an aging monarch who has to come to terms with his own mortality and the end of his reign. Throughout the play, Shakespeare emphasizes Lear’s old age to display his lack of wisdom and to create more emotion as he suffers. 

Goneril and Regan, Lear’s eldest daughters, respect his old age, but view it as a way to manipulate his power. Regan and Goneril consistently use Lear’s age and lost sanity as an excuse to keep him away from any power they were given. Lear’s age and the ambition of his daughters lead them to become enemies, rather than work together. 

His youngest daughter, Cordelia, does the opposite of Regan and Goneril. Throughout the play, Cordelia offers the truth to Lear. From the very beginning, when she would not accept the land, Cordelia has been trying to protect Lear from his downfall. The contrast between Lear and Cordelia’s age and the fact that it was Cordelia with the power to help fix Lear’s poor judgment further illuminates the significance of age in the play. 

In both instances, age directly correlates with power. From this, the play highlights the fleeting nature of both one’s age and power.

In the Sun: Joseph Arthur

In the Sun, by Joseph Arthur is a song created for hurricane Katrina relief efforts. I believe the song has many interpretations and means something different to everyone. Some believe the song is about depression, faith, suicide, or a breakup. Personally, I think the song combines many elements to convey the difficulty of understanding one’s own purpose in life.

The song begins:

I picture you in the sun wondering what went wrong

And falling down on your knees asking for sympathy

And being caught in between all you wish for and all you seen

And trying to find anything you can feel that you can believe in

The narrator has just broken up a relationship with someone he feels deeply about. He pictures her ‘in the sun,’ symbolizing knowledge of the world- She opened his eyes to his own self on his journey to discover himself:

Cause when you showed me myself, you know, I became someone else

It was the girl’s knowledge that allowed him to see himself and ‘become someone else’. It was at this point he understood he must accept who he truly is or become someone who he is not. To avoid the guilt of the effect his dilemma would have on the girl, he decides to continue on his own. Speaking to God, he says,

Maybe you’re not even sure

What it’s for

Anymore than me

May God’s love be with you

The narrator finds that not even God can explain the complexity of life. The line ‘May God’s love be with you’ speaks to a saying that provided him with no substance or answers.

If I find my own way

How much will I find?

The narrator began his story with the line ‘And trying to find anything you can feel that you can believe in.’ He wishes for someone or something to tell him what to feel and believe. However, in the last two lines, he ultimately questions if he will ever discover who he is. To end, he repeats the line ‘May God’s love be with you’ to suggest that he will never know.

Perspective in The Stranger

One of Camus’ central arguments is that perspective towards events in one’s life determines the meaning one receives from life. Examples of different perspectives are shown throughout the story.

Marie eventually asks Meursault if he wants to marry her and he responded that  “it didn’t make any difference to me and that we could if she wanted to” (p.41). Meursault’s perspective toward his and Marie’s relationship is indifferent. Meursault is not affected by a proposal of marriage; he is not affected in life at all. Futhermore, when asked if he felt any sadness the day of his mother’s funeral, “I probably did love Maman, but that didn’t mean anything” (p.65). Meursault didn’t feel anything after his mother’s death. His indifferent perspective causes him to feel nothing in life, he receives no meaning from the happiness of marriage or death of a loved one. Camus brings to light an important question for us all to examine in our own life: how does our own perspective contribute to the way we feel and experience life?

Where did the Elephant go?

After reading a story called ‘The Elephant Vanishes’ I was very disappointed to learn I wouldn’t be given an explanation for the elephants vanishing! I was expecting an explanation to the mystery that would impress me, that I wouldn’t have seen coming.

Only after thinking about the story as a whole did I begin to make my own conclusions about the broader implications of the story and subsequently why the elephant disappeared. In the beginning of the story, the town is in disagreement on whether or not the elephant should be kept. While eventually comprise is made and the elephant is kept, the narrator believes that the disagreement caused an unbalance. The night before the elephant disappeared, the narrator claims that the elephant and its keeper’s “balance seemed to have changed somewhat.”

While I would not believe that a feeling of unbalance causes an elephant to disappear, I do believe it to be significant for the narrator. I believe the narrator uses the elephants vanishing as a way to explain his own feelings towards the world. The narrator tells us, “I often get the feeling that things around me have lost their proper balance, though it could be that my perceptions are playing tricks on me.” Whether or not balance is the reason for the elephants vanishing, it allows the narrator to recognize the balance of his own life, and I believe that can be a powerful realization for an individual.

Critique of Nabokov’s Theory

Although Nabokov presents a fascinating theory about how to be a good reader, I believe his theory is too arbitrary. I believe his theory forgets the fact that people read for many different purposes.

Nabokov claims that in order to truly appreciate the characters in a story, a reader should not relate to them. I, however, believe that motive for reading a story may be to find comfort in relating to a character. From the authors perspective, Nabokov fails to recognize that their purpose in writing may be to connect with a specific audience.

Furthermore, while re-reading is important to fully understanding a book, one may re-read simply to enjoy themselves. To enjoy the world of the book another time, not to probe at the authors meaning.

Whether people want to read to understand the authors full purpose, relate and empathize to characters, or to be taken back into a comforting world, they should still be considered good readers.