Deciphering the Truth

The novel Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead is narrated by a middle age Polish woman, Janina, who lives near the Czech-Polish border. She believes she has the answers to all the dead bodies in her village: animals. Janina repeatedly states that the animals are taking revenge on humans for abusing, hunting and killing them. She strongly advocates for animal rights and believes them to be equal or better than humans.

Throughout the novel, Janina goes on tangents, sometimes pages long. This leads readers and people within her village to question the woman’s state of mind, but often times dismiss her as a “silly old bag” or “madwoman,” in other words not someone to take seriously. However, by the end of the book we realize that the second label may be more accurate.

As readers become more immersed in Drive Your Plow, it often becomes difficult to determine fiction from reality, which makes it a worthy mystery. Janina seems to progressively go off the rails to the point that it seems she’s lost complete awareness of everyone and everything around her. She’s so focused on “solving” and convincing the authorities of the actions of the animals, that she’s strayed from her true intentions. Despite, nobody believing her to be credible or accepting her ideas, she stands strong.

Outside voices and questions and Janina’s total separation from society forces readers to doubt their own theories and her sanity.

10 Things I Hate About You

10 Things I Hate About You is a classic romantic comedy set in Tacoma, Washington. The film stars Julia Stiles as Kat Stratford and Heath Ledger who plays Patrick Verona. Kat is adverse to mostly anyone and anything, including her sister, Bianca Stratford, who is the complete opposite of her. A new student, Cameron, is enamored with Bianca, however, her father has a strict rule on dating (unless Kat has a boyfriend she is not allowed to date), which is where Patrick comes into play. Patrick has girls falling at his feet with his bad-boy air and Australian accent, but these (of course) do not appeal to Kat. The movie is centered around a plan Cameron has, where he would pay Patrick to date Kat, to ultimately date Bianca.

According to Aristotle, “A comedy is a story of the rise in fortune of a sympathetic central character.” In this movie, that character would be Kat, her mother is no longer in the picture and she’s struggling to find her identity, not to mention the overwhelming decision about where she’s attending college in the fall, which her father is of no help. If that’s not enough, Joey, a boy from Kat’s past is trying to get with Bianca, which leads to the central conflict in the story. At the prom, Kat learns that Patrick was paid to date her, resulting in their “break up.” The movie title is from the title of the poem that Kat writes for her English class about Patrick, who is also a student in the class; the scene ends with her in tears and rushing out of the classroom. In the final scene, Patrick gifts Kat her dream guitar and confesses he’s fallen in love with her. This ending is representative of a romantic comedy as, “The… two sympathetic and well-matched lovers are united or reconciled.”

Kat and Patrick coming back together at the end represent the power of vulnerability, the acceptance of differences and a valuable character strength: forgiveness. Stiles plays a strong female lead, who acts according to how she wishes and does not back down to other males in the movie, although viewers learn that she was once heavily influenced by her peers and society’s expectations. Now, Kat has broken out of that shell and despite Patrick only being interested in her for the money at the beginning, he never criticized or judged her character or interests, unlike others in the film. Many people can relate to the ups and downs that Kat and Patrick face in the film, whether it be their relationship or the personal discoveries and challenges they experience.

While this film is not necessarily realistic, a romantic comedy is not meant to be. The ending is always supposed to be a happily ever after, which this one definitely is. When people choose to watch this genre, they are not looking for a tragedy or mirror of real life, but rather a feel-good ending.

America’s Privacy Curtain

The Onion is an online newspaper widely known for its satirical stories. They coin themselves as “America’s Finest News Source,” which is comical. An article that stood out was, “Nation Installs 2,000 Mile Long Privacy Curtain After Mexico Sees It Naked.”

The article mocks former president, Donald Trump’s notorious statement about building a wall on the border of the United States and Mexico. However, in this rendition, the U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security has declared that a red privacy curtain now spans 2,000 miles long, separating the two countries. In the speech, Mayorkas explains, “Starting today… when America showers, there’s no way Mexico can see,” because that’s the overwhelming concern. This statement is an over-exaggeration and the author’s way of ridiculing Trump and supporters of the wall because when it’s worded this way, it sounds absurd. While the article is criticizing Americans who want the wall for privacy from Mexico, it’s actually highlighting deep-rooted problems within America like racism, anti-immigration and xenophobia.

The final sentence pulls the whole column together, stating, “At press time, the U.S. population had reportedly hopped in the shower, pulled back the privacy curtain, and asked all 129 million Mexican citizens if they liked what they saw.” This flips the script and rather than Americans criticizing Mexicans, the whole population of Mexico now has a voice to express their opinions about America. The author is mocking Americans for being completely self-absorbed, without a care in the world for people outside their country. This piece forces people (Americans) to reflect on themselves by using satire to present some of America’s monumental issues.

And Then There Were Three

At the end of the play, the only characters who survived were Albany, Edgar, and Kent (though it can be inferred that he commits suicide not long after). The survivors share a common denominator; they are all men. Throughout the play, the desire for power is heavily discussed and displayed through the characters’ actions, which ultimately cause tragedies for many. Even though some women held positions of power, their demise sent the overarching message that power is not meant to be in the hands of women. Instead, men are the ones who are more capable, righteous, and suitable to have total authority and control.

Another similarity between the men was they disguised themselves throughout the play. Edgar and Kent both formed new identities to escape their deaths, while Albany created a facade in front of Goneril and rarely shared his genuine opinions. While they are not the only characters to use disguises and be deceptive, they are the only ones with moral and true intentions.

One might wonder why Cordelia did not survive, as she was virtuous and well-intentioned, which seems to be the requirement. However, Cordelia had a misstep. She defied Lear at the beginning of the play, reclaiming her power, which is not intended for women. Having men survive furthered the message that only they are capable of maintaining order and rising above the rest.

champagne problems

On December 10, 2020, Taylor Swift announced her 9th studio album, evermore; released at midnight as a “sister album” to folklore. Swift’s last few albums have departed from her own experiences and delved into those she’s crafted stories about and imagined. The song “champagne problems” is the second track on evermore, composed by Taylor Swift and William Bowery, who fans have pleasantly learned was the pseudonym for her adored boyfriend, Joe Alwyn. The knowledge of these lyrics having both a female, Swift, and male, Alwyn, perspective helps listeners better understand both parties in the song.

The story is set in a pristine estate, filled with family and friends who are anticipating a marriage proposal. Little do they know that the fiance-to-be will turn down her long-time lover. The song takes us through unrequited, lost love, the damage it causes and the hope that one day it can be mended. Mental illness is also touched on in this song which Swift has spoken out on, including her own battles with it.

You booked the night train for a reason

So you could sit there in this hurt

Bustling crowds or silent sleepers

You’re not sure which is worse

It’s clear in this first verse that someone is running away from something that has caused them tremendous hurt. Listeners learn that this is the person who was rejected. The first two lines suggest that they’re deeply ashamed, embarrassed and disheartened which is why they’re on the night train, fewer people, yet possibly knew all along that this would be the outcome. He was easily able to escape from the pitiful eyes of his loved ones by having this ticket. The last two lines, however, make it seem that he’s questioning whether being on a quiet train was the right decision because it allows him to wallow in his sorrows and contemplate everything.

Your mom’s ring in your pocket

My picture in your wallet

Your heart was glass, I dropped it

Champagne problems

The narrator now takes us back to before her partner proposes to her and when he has the world or his future in his pockets. It’s certain that he’s intending to propose and not just that, but with his mother’s ring which illustrates how important she is to him. Additionally, he has a picture of her with him wherever he goes, driving the point of his love for her even further. The tone shifts in the third line because this is the moment when she denies the engagement. The narrator held his heart in her hands but ultimately shattered it, leaving him in despair and everyone else in utter shock. The last line and title of this song make reference to the problems and issues of the upper-class, nothing in comparison to what others face on a daily basis. Swift reiterates the line throughout the song, suggesting the ability to overcome the ordeal, yet not discounting the man’s feelings because this is probably the largest problem he’s faced so far.

One for the money, two for the show

I never was ready, so I watch you go

Sometimes you just don’t know the answer

‘Til someone’s on their knees and asks you

The first line dates back to a children’s rhyme and signifies a countdown. In this context, it might be the narrator counting down the time left with her ‘lover.’ In the second line, the narrator seems to allude to a battle that she’s had with herself for a long time, being mentally checked out and yearning to leave, but not physically being able to commit and take that step forward without him. She seems to get that clarity and strength when he finally proposes and she’s left with no other choice but to stay in a one-sided relationship or take that leap of faith despite all odds and voices surrounding her. In this story, the narrator makes a heartbreaking decision for all parties, but one that she believes is best for everyone in the long run.

But you’ll find the real thing instead

She’ll patch up your tapestry that I shred

The narrator essentially closes their relationship by ensuring her past lover that he will find someone who’s right for him and will say “yes” when he proposes. This new person will fix all of the cracks and fill all of the holes in his heart that the narrator left. She understands the situation she left him in and the sadness she caused and hopes this small piece of assurance will be enough.

This song, despite not having a happily ever after, leaves listeners wondering what could have been and what will be for these two characters. There are so many possibilities for both of them which is what happens when you close a chapter in your life.

New Perspective on The Stranger

Albert Camus’ novel, The Stranger, follows the timeline of the death of Meursault’s mother to his execution. The first part of the book was extremely difficult to read because of how boring I found him. He spoke in concise and simple sentences, yet his disregard for everyone and the events that surrounded him created a disconnect and frustration within me. Nabokov would argue that this is a good thing – as I wasn’t able to relate and was forced to look at the story objectively, however, I would disagree.

My attitude towards the book changed once we had a discussion in class and I was better able to understand Meursault’s outlook on life. I found that I agreed with some of his points to a certain extent. Social constructs are everywhere in our daily lives so when someone deviates from or challenges them they are deemed a stranger or an outsider. The Stranger illustrates a person who experiences similar events to others but differs drastically in how he reacts.

Beauty in Good Country People

In “Good Country People” many power dynamics are presented which help shape the story and allow a better understanding of each character. A particular one I picked up on was BEAUTY/ugliness. Mrs. Freeman constantly boasts about her daughters’ attractiveness, how one is already married and the other has a line of suitors. In contrast, Mrs. Hopewell’s daughter, Hulga, is not particularly attractive. Rather, she’s focused on her education and being successful academically, though she’s limited in these advancements due to her weak heart and prosthetic leg.

Further, Mrs. Hopewell believes and states that beauty extends to the personality and characteristics of a person not just their physical appearance. Again, Hulga would not be deemed beautiful under this definition because of her negative outlook on life and behavior towards others.

During and after reading this, I believe that Mrs. Freeman often brings up the beauty of her daughters and Glycene’s endless options of men because it makes her more equal to Mrs. Hopewell; as Mrs. Freeman works for her so there’s a BOSS/employee dynamic and a WEALTHIER/poorer one. It’s possible that in some way it’s enjoyable for Mrs. Freeman to discuss them because she knows Mrs. Hopewell won’t have a response and will simply agree or compliment them. This also renders the question of, does Mrs. Freeman talk about this because she knows Hulga can hear them?

Ultimately, we will never know Mrs. Freeman’s true intentions or the raw feelings on either womens’ side, but it is something to contemplate and consider.

Benjamin’s Mutual Recognition and the Role of Age

Benjamin’s Bonds of Love is a psychoanalysis in which she introduces mutual recognition and its cruciality in maintaining relationships. She presents this theory in many forms, especially in gender polarity and relationships within a family. This book gives people an understanding of how these dynamics in relationships occur and why they’re accepted. There are many constructs to which this can be applied, age being one of them.

Age has always played a significant role in if or how much people recognize, give credibility or listen to another person. It’s preconceived that the older someone is, the more education and wisdom they have because of their experiences.

I have always recognized the power dynamic between myself and another person because of our difference in age. (Others must have too or else our society wouldn’t be largely structured on it.) From when you are young, the respect and obedience towards those older than you are instilled and many times ingrained in your head so much so that it’s a habit to defer power. This practice creates a distinction between the two parties and the roles each fill in the relationship. The older of the two typically holds the power while the younger one usually steps into their role as compliant and subservient. Although these binaries make us separate from others which Benjamin believes we need, it also creates an imbalance of power that many (older or those with power) use to their advantage. Benjamin’s theory of mutual recognition, if applied, could help to reset this present problem in relationships.