In Act IV Scene III, Kent and the Gentleman converse over Cordelia and her reaction to Kent’s letters to an extent that one might think both men were completely infatuated with her. Before this moment, The Tragedy of King Lear consistently demonized and dehumanized the women of the play. So to have a scene completely devoted to praising and complimenting a women is an extremely significant moment. The Gentleman notes how Cordelia was a, “queen/Over her passion, who, most rebel-like,/Fought to be king o’er her” (4.3.15-17). This control that Cordelia showed over her own emotions emanated strength and patience to all onliikers including the Gentleman. In juxtaposition to her sisters, Goneril and Regan, who constantly loose their tempers, make rash decisions, and are driven by greed, Cordelia couldn’t have been a better daughter to Lear and Queen of France. After enduring such a humiliating disowning from her father, this scene reminds the readers of how compassionate, wise, and truly loving Cordelia is. This moment also affirms that women in power can achieve success and make great leaders, as long as they don’t tie anyone to the stalks all night or order the gouging out of anyone’s eyes.
We have all undoubtedly experienced the deep lasting sensation of grief in one way or another. Whether through the loss of a childhood pet, and death of a grandparent, parent, close relative, or even a close friend. The searing, gut wrenching effect it leaves with us with is sure to stay for quite some time, arguably forever.
In 2015, indie artist Sufjan Steven released his album Carrie & Lowell, a dedication to his late mother, as a way to cope with his own personal grief, and use his platform to normalize the influence death has on us all. The sixth song on the track, “Fourth of July“, simulates a made up conversation between Sufjan and his mother before she lost her battle with stomach cancer. The song begins on the night of her death:
The evil it spread like a fever ahead It was night when you died, my firefly
The “evil” that spread both describes his mother’s uncontrollable cancer as well as his indignation towards the disease that he cannot stop, like a fever. Sufjan then compares his mother to a firefly, who died in the night, leaving him in utter darkness. The verse continues:
What could I have said to raise you from the dead? Oh could I be the sky on the Fourth of July?
As the night prolongs, feelings of desperation creep into his thoughts. He is left to question if he could have done anything to save his mother. And then he wishes he could bring back the light his mother left behind. He longs to brighten the sky as she once did his life, with fireworks, like the Fourth of July. The motif of light and darkness scattered across this song reflects the desperation of death and the simultaneous hope of life.
In later verses, the song’s voice becomes Sufjan’s mother speaking back to him:
Shall we look at the moon, my little loon Why do you cry? Make the most of your life, while it is rife While it is light
She knows his grief and comforts him with both words of assurance and alludes to the light he may have forgotten in his despair. The moon symbolizes hope, even in the dead of night. She assures him that though she is gone, he must continue, and make the most of it, while there is still “light” meaning the temporary vitality of his youth and the light of each day he is still alive. After another verse, the song ends with the repetition of:
We're all gonna die
And while this may come off as morbid, it is actually just a reminder that all our lives will end in the same way. Here Sufjan is affirming what grief has taught him: that life is short and must be taken care of, parents (even in Sufjan’s case in which his mother left him when he was young) are people we must learn to love and forgive, and seasons of depression are not permanent, for somewhere, there will always be light.
The poetic theme of this song describes an ugly, painful experience. Yet we can all learn from Sufjan’s testimony that it is okay the grieve, matter in fact it is good to grieve. It is also good to hope, and remember that however dark the night may seem, there is a dim flicker of hope somewhere beyond the cloud marred sky.
In many ways, novelist Mohsin Hamid’s book, Exit West, is a universal story, not bound to time or place but rather to the story of humanity on earth.
With our facade of geographical boundaries, it can seem like our world is efficiently divided in such a way that everyone is born where they belong. But to suggest that humanity has ever been permanently sedentary is to reject our history. Hamid challenges the predominantly western perspective of migration. He exposes the privilege we all hold from remaining where we are. Yet, he intentionally creates a kind of portal of understanding, a sort of relatable take on the very real story of main character’s Saeed and Nadia.
Hamid incorporates a fantastical element to his story through the use of doors. Not regular doors, but doors that are a means of escape, a transportation system that simultaneously speeds the story of migration while also slowing down the significance of the journey. He uses this detour to focus on the undeniably human story of Saeed and Nadia. We have a lot to learn from Hamid. This book alters our notions of migration and questions the idea of the global other. We ought to consider that as a migratory species, spread farther across the globe than any other living being, we are stewards of the earth. Thus, it is our responsibility to let go of our geographical entitlement and treat the world as the shifting, immigrated, and emigrated planet it is.
I believe that we can all take away great values from this book. This is not just a story, but a lesson of empathy, faith, suffering, and movement. This is the human experience.
In Albert Camus’s essay, “The Myth of Sisyphus,” he argues that there has been a great misconception in regards to the mental state of the former king of Corinth. Rather than believing Sisyphus to be a miserable being imprisoned by his own fate, Camus notes that this fate might just be his liberation.
Now how might a former king trapped by an eternal condemnation have control over his fate? Well, that’s where Camus points to the part of Sisyphus’ punishment that we might not ponder as much. He claims it is in the, “hour of consciousness” that Sisyphus is “stronger than his rock” (2). That is to say that his descent is not a symbol of his tangible failure, but rather the moment in which his fate belongs to him.
By definition, existentialism as a philosophical principle requires one to assume absolute responsibility over individual free will. And, Sisyphus has accomplished just that. Instead of succumbing to his damnation, he thwarted the gods intentions and became the ruler of his destiny. Just as Meursault rejected the priest’s desire for him to repent on death row, Sisyphus similarly challenges his immortal captors by finding true happiness within his fatalistic condition.
Come August this year, I knew it was time to crack open the long awaited summer reading book. But this time, instead of writing it off until the last second, I was actually excited to get into the memoir I had chosen. Author Sara Saedi quickly captured my full attention with her memoir, Americanized, in which she takes her readers through her childhood, her angsty teen years, all the way to her adulthood. But more than just simply putting her life story on paper, Saedi emphasized the struggles of living in America undocumented.
Looking back, there are many Benjaminian undertones throughout Saedi’s story. Her life was tattered with binary after binary, even if they weren’t explicit or publicized. As an undocumented family, the Saedi’s lived with the crippling fear of deportation; of being the other, illegal, less than fully human.
Immigration has become an increasingly polarizing and controversial topic in American politics. To many the conversation has become CITIZENS/aliens, a dehumanizing perspective which makes justifying extreme border security and inhumane reform the “best” option. But to neglect the rights of a human being on a basis of legal status, eliminates the possibility of achieving mutual recognition. This mutual state is necessary if we, as a country, are ever to build a healthy perspective on immigration. Saedi brings to light the current flaws in our system for those trying to gain citizenship. With her testimony in mind and Benjamin’s reminder of the necessity of a mutually recognized society, we must evoke change and empower a difference.
In a world where prisoners are guinea pigs and love quite literally is a drug, George Saunders explores the daunting realities of life, death, and the ultimate sacrifice.
As Saunder’s story concludes, we are met with a bittersweet end to Jeff’s life, that reveals much more than his mortality. When Jeff decides to release the Darkenfloxx, a deadly, mind-altering drug into his system, his intentions are actually driven by life, not death. Jeff realizes the systematic manipulation and corruption he has fallen into at the hands of “scientist” and “family man” Abnesti. He now understands that the only way to save fellow inmate Rachel, and others from a deadly fate, is by sacrificing his life. We see Jeff’s immediate regret as his, “arm was about a miles down the heat vent,” where he hurled the remote that activated the Darkenfloxx. Jeff indeed had a will to live, but his will to protect others was ultimately stronger.