Beloved Symbolism

Beloved is a very intriguing book, as Toni Morrison shows her incredible writing technique. One of Morrison’s many impressive writing skills is her ability to weave many different narratives together. Beloved’s story is particularly well crafted and hints to the message of the entire novel.

In her own chapter in part two of the novel, Beloved begins to recount events that seem totally random to the reader, given the rest of the story. She says, “I am Beloved…there will never be a time when I am not crouching and watching the others that are crouching too…the man on my face is dead…we are all trying to leave our bodies behind,” (248).

It becomes clear to the reader that the experiences that Beloved is describing her experiences with slavery on the middle passage, which at first was confusing to me because those events seemed to occur at the beginning of slavery, whereas the story told in the novel occurs at its’ tail end. When Beloved started to describe the relief of death from these circumstances, it reminded me of Sethe’s own reasoning for killing her children. She believed that death was less painful than living in captivity. Clearly, Beloved shares the same mentality as she is on the middle passage when she is longing to die as the other slaves on the middle passage had. The fact that Beloved is Sethe’s dead daughter that Sethe killed for the same reason, makes Beloved representative of the greater trauma that black people as a whole have experienced in America at the hand of slavery. These people would rather die than suffer in captivity, explaining Sethe’s actions in the novel.

Exit West: A Deep Dive

Exit West is a very intriguing book because of everything from its plot, to the magical doors, to the unique writing style, to the message that it is conveying. Today, I wanted to take the time to analyze one specific line from the novel to do a deeper analysis.

My favorite line that we have read so far is, “The dead neighbor bled through a crack in the floor, his blood appearing as a stain in the high corner of Saeed’s sitting room, and Saeed and Nadia, who had heard the family’s screams, went up to collect and bury him, as soon as they dared, but his body was gone, presumably taken by his executioners, and the blood was already fairly dry, a patch like a painted puddle in his apartment, an uneven trail on the stairs,” (85).

First, I want to analyze the syntax of this passage. This whole passage is just one sentence, which is something that is quite prevalent throughout the novel, but its use here is especially interesting. Most of the time, when Hamid uses these types of long sentences, he is referring to the experiences of the main characters to make them even more real. However, he uses this technique here to describe the aftermath of a tragedy that happened to the upstairs neighbor. I believe that he uses this tactic to not only force the reader to feel the emotions with the characters, but to breathe reality into this situation. The long sentence conveys a sense of hopelessness. Not only that, but it also conveys the urgency of this world because as soon as they witness it, the main characters are not only forced to accept it but also forget about it very quickly. Within the span of one sentence.

Another significant aspect of this sentence is its foreshadowing. Not long after this sentence, Nadia and Saeed get the opportunity to go through one of the famous doors that so many immigrants were forced to go through as their last option. I believe that the imagery of blood in this passage conveys something more. The wet blood seems to represent their current, terrible situation in this city that is overtaken by militants. The dry blood seems that it might be what they have to leave behind, and their past once they leave. When Saeed and Nadia leave, they’re forced to leave Saeed’s father behind, like the trail of blood. They lead a better life but have to leave things behind. The dried blood might represent the past, in that it is over now, but still lingers.

Existentialism in 500 Days of Summer *some spoilers*

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500 Days of Summer is one of my favorite movies, so I was happy to find an existentialist perspective in it. In Mr. Heidkamp’s lecture, he asked us to forsake all of the constructs of life, and just to embrace the absurdities of life. And I think 500 Days of Summer addresses this in a few different ways.

At the beginning of the movie, Tom is immediately established as a hopeless romantic. Working at a Hallmark-esque company, he is praised as one of their best employees. He dreams of the day that he will meet his perfect soulmate. One day, Summer gets hired at the company, and he immediately identifies her as his soulmate. By doing this, he falls into one of the binding constructs of society: love.

Summer makes clear from the beginning that she thinks true love is bs, and is looking for nothing more than something casual (sounds a bit like Meursault). Many see Summer as a stuck up jerk. But many viewers fail to realize that Tom isn’t in love with Summer, he’s in love with the idea of being in love. With the construct of love. As they get closer and closer, and Summer began sharing her more intimate secrets with him He saw these intimate moments more as accomplishments and milestones in what he thought true love was, rather than actually becoming more and more fond of Summer. He starts out the movie with his own idea of what love is based on movies, TV shows etcetera, showing how the “love as a social construct” plays into the movie and to its commentary on existentialism as a whole.

Where 500 Days of Summer gets the most existential is near the end where–spoiler alert– Summer breaks Tom’s heart. Tom becomes very depressed; not eating, drinking excessively, and underperforming at his job. Finally, he snaps and quits his job, which seems to him to be too ironic for someone falling out of love, to become what he had always dreamed to be: an architect. He spends time developing his portfolio and improving himself. When he goes to the interview, he is waiting with another woman named Autumn. Unlike when he asked Summer out, he does not build himself up, he does not declare Autumn his soulmate. He just spontaneously asks her out.

The essence of the message of existentialism in the movie is in how Tom has broken out of what he thought of love to be, the constructs that society built for him. That one person is meant for another. That there are destinies. Once he breaks out of this construct, he is able to embrace the absurdities of life, such as spontaneously changing careers, or spontaneously asking Autumn out. Through his relationship with Summer, Tom was forced to change his perspective on what society told him what love meant. By embracing absurdities rather than confining himself to constructs, such as love, Tom was set free.

 

Mental Health Symbolism in “The Elephant Vanishes”

We started discussing the symbols in “The Elephant Vanishes,” especially with the elephant. Different people all had different theories, but what I want most to expand on is Murakami’s exploration of mental health, and potentially mental illness.

It is very clear in the story that the narrator’s mental health deteriorates throughout the story, as time goes on without the elephant being found. The narrator indicates that since the elephant disappeared, he started smoking again, which he had stopped many years prior. He also finds it very difficult to think or talk about anything besides the vanishing elephant after it disappears.

I have a few different ideas of what the elephant can symbolize. First I view as the situation with the elephant as perhaps an allegory for grief somehow. Obviously losing an elephant is losing something in itself, but I think perhaps Murakami was trying to illuminate a truth about grief. It may be obvious that someone is experiencing grief, and at first, everyone is attentive and compassionate to the people affected by the loss. But, eventually everyone moves on, and the people most affected by the loss still are going through the motions of grieving, while it seems that no one is there to go through the motions with them. Then, the grieving can start feeling isolated and alone.

Because the narrator was so invested in the elephant, its disappearance almost felt like he was losing a part of himself. Being involved in the search for the elephant might have helped him feel better for a bit. The media coverage may be similar to consoling family and friends as I mentioned earlier, and the way that the news stopped covering the elephant might symbolize how someone with mental health issues or those who are grieving can feel isolated like the world is moving too fast. This becomes clear when the narrator feels angry at this lack of coverage.

Another way of interpreting the elephant as a symbol for mental health, specifically mental health care, is the way in which the elephant might serve as a distraction to the narrator. At first, I wasn’t sure why Murakami included the information about the narrator’s job, because I found the details boring and unnecessary. It then registered with me that was quite possibly the point. The narrator was living such a mundane life, that the elephant was the only thing to distract him for a while from how perhaps pointless his life might have seemed.

I feel that if what Murakami was trying to make a statement about work-life, he made a very powerful one. No one should work their life away, and everyone should have something that they are passionate about outside of work. There should be a balance that many cultures don’t value.