The Women of King Lear

The portrayal of women in Shakespeare’s King Lear at first glance seems very progressive. Once you start to read further you notice that the progressive nature of the women is only used to further the gender norms of the time. Goneril and Regan who are the most progressive female characters in the book are portrayed as villainous even though if they were men they would only be perceived as taking what’s theirs. On the last page of act 3, when the servants are talking about Regan and Cornwall, they say that they don’t care what they do as long as Cornwall advances in life however discussing Regan they say that women will all turn evil if justice isn’t swift upon Regan for what she has done. This discussion is very telling of the true nature of how women should be viewed in King Lear. One may argue that Cordelia is another strong female character in the play and I can’t dispute that however, she is not portrayed as progressive like Goneril and Regan. The one time Cordelia truly stands up for herself and speaks her mind she is ridiculed and disowned by her father. She comes back later in the play to help defend that same father who disowned her, once again serving the men of the play. She resumes her “rightful” place by her father’s side, respecting him as her better even though he was so awful to her. 

Rise Up

Andra Day’s song “Rise” from her album Cheers to the Fall is a power ballad that seems as if it was made for Covid times. Doing the same things day in and day out with no reprieve brings the feelings of hopelessness to a new level. Day’s song acknowledges these feelings but then uses her song to inspire resilience and hopes for the future.

Day starts her song with a metaphor:

You’re broken down and tired
Of living life on a merry-go-round
And you can’t find the fighter

The song starts off slow with an emphasis on strategically placed minor chords and then the lyrics start… The metaphor of a merry-go-round right from the get-go perfectly captures the feeling of hopelessness that Day wants to address. It captures the feeling of doing something over and over again but never feeling as though you can do it right so you just keep doing it again only to yield the same results. 

When you move into the melody she features multiple different literary devices singing:

I’ll rise up
Rise like the day
I’ll rise up
I’ll rise unafraid
I'll rise up 
And I’ll do it a thousand times again

The melody comes in with a progression of chords picking up the pace giving off an uplifting tone. The simile in the first part of the melody compares getting back up again to the day rising. This inspires resilience and hope in the listener that the next day will be better. She moves on to the repetition of “I’ll rise up” which also inspires resilience. The way she repeats it illustrates to the readers how many times one needs to get back up again, which is every time. Lastly, she finishes the melody with hyperbole, this serves to depict the resilience Day is trying to inspire in her audience. 

Throughout Day’s song, she uses perspective so that she talks directly to the audience. She uses you a lot so then the listener feels like she is talking directly to them and encouraging them to keep going. It inspires the listener because it feels like someone understands their feelings of hopelessness but believes that they will make it through. At the end the perspective changes a bit and Day begins to use we, “We’ll rise up/ Rise like the waves/ We’ll rise up/ In spite of the ache/ We’ll rise up/ And we’ll do it a thousand times again.” This makes the listener feel as though they are not alone but they have someone to fight with them. When one starts to feel hopeless having someone to just be with them is often one of the best things for them.

The whole song is an anthem designed to lift people up when they are at their lowest. The message that even when you are at your lowest to get back up again and that you are not alone is powerful and endlessly impeccable to almost any situation.

The Melting Pot

In Exit West, one of the common themes is borders and border security. This issue is still very relevant today. Borders are not real; they are a social construct that society accepts. In Hamid’s novel, there are so many migrants that the borders get more and more blurry throughout the novel. When Saeed and Nadia were in London you saw people get violent over their fear of the other as more migrants flooded in through the doors. In today’s America, the issue of border security is a very hot button issue. Some people are very concerned about illegal immigrants and border security which is seen in some of the natives in Exit West. The violence in London is something you could see happening today in the US. What we see in Exit West, though is something we need to remember, is everyone is a migrant. America is a country made up of migrants which is why when we talk about border security it almost seems funny since 90% of our country is made up of migrants or ancestors of migrants.

Existentialism in life and death

Albert Camus explores the mindset of an existentialist throughout his novel, The Stranger, through the character of Mersault. He is a textbook example of an existentialist. He doesn’t believe in love or have ambition or a desire to help others. He forms really no opinions of his own. His mindset is really, it is what it is, that life is random or absurd.

I read another work about existentialism by philosopher who is one of the most famous existentialists, Jean Paul Sartre. In his play, Huis Clos or No Exit, he perpetuates the idea of existentialism quite effectively through three main characters who all happen to be dead. This novel perpetuates a different philosophy of existentialism than The Stranger does. It perpetuates the existentialist notion that, “Hell is other people.” 

The Stranger perpetuates the notions on how existentialist view life whereas Huis Clos educates us on how existentialists view death, and or hell. Both of these novels help their readers understand existentialism on a deeper level through character experiences and are thus for the best method to learn about this philosophy.

The White Gaze reveals…

In “A Conversation about Bread” by Nafissa Thompson Spire there is a white woman watching the two main characters. She helps show the readers the staunch differences between Eldwin and Brian. She doesn’t really affect Eldwin. His philosophy is to act as if he can’t see white people staring at him. She affects Brian though, in the way he is afraid to talk or say certain words too loud. She helps show us how the different backgrounds of these two characters help shape them in completely different ways. How Eldwin grew up going to a multiethnic school and a very liberal college where he didn’t ever feel he need to hide unlike Brian who not only had a liberal California background but also the Southern background he gained from his time in Mississippi. Brian is a little more reserved and defensive especially when talking about race. Eldwin is not afraid or reserved about anything; he embraces his heritage in everything he does.

Power vs Free-will

In Escape from Spiderhead, there is an inherent power dynamic in which the scientists have power over the inmates however, I found it interesting how the inmates always had some degree of free will and how the scientists tried to manipulate that. Whenever Abnesti performed an experiment he had to request permission to administer the drugs and the inmates had to say acknowledge to allow the scientist to administer the drugs.

Abnesti works hard to gain the inmates trust so they think of him as a good person and listen to him. Abnesti uses the goodwill he has garnered to try and persuade Jeff to allow him to administer the new round of drugs when Jeff originally refused to do so, by saying “do I remember birthdays around here? When a certain individual got athlete’s foot on his groin on a Sunday, did a certain other individual drive over to Recall and pick up the cream, paying for it with his own personal money?”(68). This shows us that the scientists aren’t all-powerful in the Spiderhead and Abnesti knows this so he manipulates the inmates including Jeff into thinking that he is good and the inmates are bad. Abnesti realizes that Jeff wants to be better so he uses the fact that he is supposedly “good” to his advantage when trying to manipulate Jeff.

Later in the story Jeff doesn’t acknowledge again only this time Abnesti asks Verlaine for the obedience drug, which oddly enough, needs permission for use. This reinforces the idea that even though the scientists have power over the inmates the inmates still have some degree of control and free will.