Unconditional Love… Or Not

A common reassuring phrase a child will hear growing up is that there is nothing they can do as a person to make their parents love them less. This phrase is usually used after a fight when a parent and child makes up.

In The God of Small Things, Ammu says to Rahel, “D’you know what happens when you hurt people? Ammu said. When you hurt people, they begin to love you less. That’s what careless words do. They make people love you a little less” (107).

This exchange of words from Ammu to Rahel stood out to me especially because it defeats everything most children hear throughout their whole childhood. In this scene, Ammu’s unconditional love is being taken away from Rahel after her careless and hurtful words.

Ammu says this to Rahel after Rahel disrespectfully and sarcastically recommends that she marry the Orangedrink Lemondrink man. This enrages Ammu and deeply offends her. In consequence, she tells Rahel that she loves her less now.

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Throughout the book, Ammu is represented in many ways. Ammu places a lot of emphasis on how her children behave and wants them to be good. When Rahel shocks her with this disrespectful comment, she is ashamed and wants Rahel to know that she must behave better if she wants to be loved. Ammu acts this way because she wants society to see that a woman on her own can raise good children without a husband.

Mulan and Orientalism

As a kid, Mulan was one of my favorite Disney movies. I loved the whole story, the clothes, the colors, and especially the music. Watching it now, I can see clear examples of orientalism portrayed throughout the entire movie.

The most noticeable form of orientalism present in the movie is the combination of Japanese and Chinese culture. This is clearly visible by the clothing (Kimonos), white face makeup, and hair styles present throughout the movie. It is also seen in the song “Honor To Us All” by the way the ideal woman is portrayed.

Mulan is supposed to take place in China and be about the Chinese culture, but instead the creators mashed Japanese culture with Chinese. The idea of viewing many Asian cultures as similar or the same is an orientalist approach, when in fact Asian cultures are all very diverse and unique from one another.

Secondly, the way family honor is portrayed in the movie is a very orientalist view. The movie emphasizes and promotes self-sacrifice in order to keep a family’s honor. While family honor was and is a very important part of many Asian cultures, it does not mean that one should sacrifice their own important values for others. The way this concept of family honor is represented in the movie paints a picture that all Asian people will sacrifice themselves to honor their family and country.

Mulan is a form of orientalism, because the directors thought of Asian culture as one, and disregarded if cultures became mixed. In addition, the representation of self-sacrifice for family honor is seen as orientalism and is not how all Asian cultures are at all.

Wait there’s no guidebook to parenting?

“Anybody Have A Map?”, sung by majority of the cast of Broadway production Dear Evan Hansen, is both poetic and unique.  Dear Evan Hansen is about a high school boy with social anxiety disorder who so badly wants to make a connection with his peers and fit in that he fakes a relationship with a deceased classmate to become closer to the boy’s family. This whirlwind production starts with the the song “Anybody Have A Map” to introduce the characters and plot of the play.

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“Anybody Have A Map” is a clear example of poetry. Poetry has the ability to make the reader feel something, and this song certainly does. A central theme of the play is the struggle to try and connect with others. Throughout the play, Evan’s mom is struggling with how to connect with him and how to help him find friends. It pains her deeply to see her son so lonely and know that there isn’t much she can do. This pain is shown in the song when Heidi (Evan’s mom) sings:

“Another stellar conversation for the scrapbook

Another stumble as I’m reaching for the right thing to say

I’m kinda coming up empty

Can’t find my way to you”

This stanza is very powerful because it illustrates how helpless Heidi feels and how challenging it is for her to connect with her son. The word choice in this stanza also emphasizes the helpless tone Heidi is conveying. The words, “stumble”, “reaching”, “empty”, and “can’t” create a sense of powerlessness and struggle.

The title itself is poetic. The map that is being referred to in the title is metaphorical for a guidebook to connecting with your kids and being a mother. This metaphor adds a multidimensional layer to the song by making the meaning deeper and more up for interpretation after clues are dropped.

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In addition, there is repetition throughout the song of the hyperbolic line:

“I’m flying blind”

No, she is not actually flying blind. What is meant by this is that she is trying her best by guessing. There are no directions for parenting and no guide on how to connect with your child when they feel distant. This line is conveying that parenting has much to do with feeling one’s way through.

“Anybody Have A Map” is a powerful and thought provoking song with many poetic devices, but what makes it poetry is how it makes you feel when reading and listening to it.

Passion of a Mother

In Toni Morrison’s novel, Beloved, the character that is focused on the most throughout the whole text is Sethe. Sethe is a strong, independent women and mother. Her strong motherly instincts are perhaps the most distinct characteristic of her, even leading her to great extremes.

Part I of Beloved ends with Sethe saying, “It ain’t my job to know what’s worse. It’s my job to know what is and to keep them away from what I know is terrible. I did that” (194). At this point in the novel, the reader is beginning to get hints at the big secret of the novel, until it is finally revealed.

Sethe truly believes that when “the four horsemen” came to 124, she did the right thing for her children. She believes that killing her baby and trying to kill the rest of her children would have been better for them than a life of slavery. Her quote on page 194 reveals that she truly believed that this was right.

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The brutality, cruelty, and horrors of slavery pushed a mother, who loved her children more than anything, to do the unspeakable. Sethe believed that dying would be better for her beloved children more than slavery. This scary and astonishing truth, reveals the true and absolute horror of slavery and what knowing the truth about being a slave can push someone to do.

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Woman at War and the Musical Element

The beautifully crafted film “Woman at War” follows the actions of an Icelandic activist, Halla, fighting to raise awareness on environmental issues.

Halla does this by destroying power lines that supply miles of the country with power. This gains a massive amount of news coverage in the country and attracts the attention of other countries. Her goal is to make the government change their ways to better the environment for future generations.

I thought that the visual aspect of the film was truly great. The drone shots from high above of the beautiful country, and the strategic angles and film elements incorporated were amazing.

Although I thought the film was amazing and very inspiring, I do have a few critiques.

I thought that the musical element of the Icelandic band and Ukrainian singers took away from the magic of the movie. In the middle of a powerful scene where Halla is doing something so moving, we are interrupted and distracted by singers and instruments that take away from her actions.

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I know many other people would disagree and say that the music added a new and special element to the movie, but in my opinion it was unnecessary.

Overall, I thought the film was beautiful, inspirational, and amazing. I would definitely recommend it to people and would want to watch it again.

Meursault’s Meaningless Existence

Throughout The Stranger, there is a crucial theme that underlies every passage; existentialism and the meaninglessness of existence. This theme and Camus’ opinions on it are demonstrated in many ways in the book, but in particularly, through Meursault’s character, his words and his actions.

Camus’ background of being a existentialist writer, who believed that humans must make their own meaning in a world that is essentially without meaning, paved the way for Meursualt’s character. Meursault is a detached figure who views and describes much of what occurs around him from a removed and distant position. He is emotionally dispassionate to others, including his own mother and Marie.

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There are many times throughout the book, where Meursault demonstrates existentialist views. The point of the book that stood out to me in this regard was when the magistrate was waving the crucifix is his face. Meursalt’s only response to this powerful scene was, “I was hot and there were big flies in his office that kept landing on my face” (page 68). This complete disregard for a moment that would typically evoke emotion from someone further illustrates his existential beliefs.

Even the murder that Meursault commits is meaningless in his eyes. He provides no reason for killing his victim aside from being bothered by the sun. His actions are without reason. He feels as though he lives in an absurd world in which nothing is governed by reason. 

The whole basis and frustrating reason behind Meursault’s character is the fact that it demonstrates existentialism, which can be both very interesting and complicated to understand.

Sonny’s Suffering

Throughout the story, I noticed a very prominent theme of suffering and loss. I was especially captivated by the narrator, his views on Sonny, and lack of his name ever being introduced. His character was very mysterious, yet very understandable.

The narrator is someone who has suffered from a great amount of pain throughout his life. The narrators father died when he was young, his mother died when he was a young adult, he has been through the horrors of war, and lost his baby girl to polio. On top of all of this, he has also had to watch his brother’s life suffer and fall apart.

The pain the narrator felt throughout his life was portrayed in the story through the tone. Since the story is told from the narrators perspective, we are really clued in to the pain he feels about his brother and how his life has turned out.

There are many time in the story where our emotions are evoked through sympathy. The narrator describes Sonny’s addiction, losing his daughter, and the sadness connected to the loss of his parents in a very painful and devastating way. This greatly increases the sympathy we feel as the audience and allows us to connect this emotion to the story.

Baldwin expresses, “These boys, now, were living as we’d been living then, they were growing up with a rush and their heads bumped abruptly against the low ceiling of their actual possibilities.” This quote beautifully illustrates the pain and suffering. We can even hear it in the tone.