Edgar the Shapeshifter

In the beginning of King Lear, Edgar is established as a legitimate son and Edmund as a bastard son of Gloucester. This forms a conflict of power between the two brothers that ignites after Lear gives away his land and begins his slow demise. Edmund convinces Edgar that he has been banished by Lear, then accusing Edgar of a violent crime in order to receive inheritance.

Before this, Edgar had been trying to find purpose as a loved and wanted person as opposed to his brother according to societal standards, motivated by the promise of money. Because Edgar does not have any control over Edmund’s inheritance, Edmund sees no other alternative other than to kill his brother.

“Who gives anything to Poor Tom … that hath laid knives under his pillow and halters in his pew, set ratsbane by his porridge, made him proud of heart to ride on a bay trotting horse over four-inched bridges to course his own shadow for a traitor?”


Then, disguised as Poor Tom to avoid being killed, Edgar clearly sees the shadow of power his brother has lived in and how he has been taken advantage of by Edmund. As someone born into wealth, he would be deemed a traitor and judged. However, disguised as a beggar, he is pitied and free from judgement or societal expectations.

While Edgar is in disguise, he plays the role of a peacekeeper amidst the conflict started by Lear. He helps his father, Gloucester, who was condemned as a traitor and had his eyes plucked out for his compassion towards Lear, die at peace.

By the end of King Lear, Edgar is able to take revenge for the suffering Edmund has caused him. He escapes the shackles of societal expectations and is able to save himself while other characters perish. This gives him the opportunity to get a second chance at approaching life with a fresh perspective on the impact of power and social constructs such as class.

So Poetry Goes

Mac Miller’s album, “Swimming”, was released only a month before the artist was found dead in his apartment from a drug overdose. The album was Miller’s fifth release and – being composed in the aftermath of a breakup – focuses on self love, healing, and growth. The last song, “So It Goes”, however, is a humble acceptance of the end. It expresses both satisfaction with life and an exhaustion that welcomes finality.

“So It Goes” is simultaneously haunting and guiding. The song broadens the listener’s experience through multidimensional language by allowing them an insight into Miller’s life in fame and in the music industry. In the beginning, he states, “You could have the world in the palm of your hands / You still might drop it / And everybody wanna reach inside your pockets.” The image of Miller carrying the entire world in his hand yet dropping it illustrates both his satisfaction with success and the overwhelming feelings that came with it. While Miller had achieved the goal of sharing his art, he was inhibited by others who only focused on fame, jealousy, and the responsibility that came with his name. He goes on to say, “My god, it go on and on / Just like a circle, I go back where I’m from.” This simile further conveys Miller’s comfort with coming to an end. He has found himself in success, but desires to return to his values, which are found in art rather than fame. This description of an end can be seen as beautiful, but it is not limited to beauty and rather serves to counteract the glamour that many associate with the life Miller was living. 

Furthermore, Miller references drugs throughout the song, expressing his resorting to substances as a way to cope with his life. In the second verse, he writes, “My eyes on the enterprise / Nine lives, never die, fuck a heaven, I’m still gettin’ high / Nevermind, did I mention I’m fine?” This complex portion of the song conveys Miller’s persistence and determination to succeed in life, however the quick shift to a hopeless tone reveals a desperation for change. The question after reverts to his previous obligation to put on a mask of satisfaction as a way to please others, which his listeners may otherwise not see. Similarly, Miller expresses that, “It’s like, in every conversation, we the topic / This narcissism, more like narcotics, so it goes.” The alliteration in “narcissism” and “narcotics” serves to conflate the ideas. It references both the addicting nature of fame and the actual drugs that Miller mentions throughout the song.

Ultimately, Mac Miller’s use of multidimensional language in his song “So It Goes” serves to deepen the listener’s perception of resolution and personal discovery while broadening their experience by providing insight into Miller’s life and welcoming of an end.

Marie is Happy too

Albert Camus’ The Stranger exhibits the way that societal expectations serve to uphold a system in which everyone’s aim is to reach an ideal and is, therefore, never satisfied. These ideals are merely constructs, however; irrational and absurd. Camus asserts that the only way to truly seek happiness is to avoid seeking control over what is random and to embrace one’s agency to determine their own fate. 

Of the characters through which Camus demonstrates the theme of his novel, Marie acts as somewhat of a contradiction. She chooses to follow societal norms, unlike characters like Meursault and Salamano, who are disconnected from judgment and expectations. Marie illustrates what is expected of a romantic relationship when she asks Meursault if he wishes to marry her (41). The motivation behind this as well as her subsequent questioning of whether he loves her seems to be because Marie assumes this is what should happen in a romantic relationship like theirs. The widely accepted image of love that she embodies merely serves to establish a need for perfection in the construction of an expected passion for romance.

Despite striving to follow in the image of society, Marie is the most joyful character in the novel. This is in part because of her naivety, but also because she is the most open-minded and accepting. When Meursault responds to her question, he is contradictingly dispassionate. Marie is not upset by this, but comes to understand Meursault’s seemingly shallow view of her. While one might argue that this only proves her naivety, it also allows her to fully enjoy her relationship with Meursault because she is not overly attached to any one idea or expectation.

Double Standards in The Secret Woman

This short story, written by Colette in 1924, is indeed short, however it is packed with rich language that reveals underlying societal understandings of female sexuality that drive the main character’s thoughts. Irene, the wife of the character whose perspective the story is told through, is at first portrayed as fragile and dependent. When her husband suggests that he might not be able to attend the ball with her, Irene expresses her discomfort with the idea of being alone at such a social function. Throughout her reaction, which insinuates dependence on her husband, her husband observes her “delicate hands” (328). Later on – after witnessing his wife take liberty and control over her sexuality – they are described as “satanic.” This implies that because Irene took control over herself and others, she was somehow impure.

At the same time, Irene’s husband finds power in his own sexuality. While his exact motives are unclear when he lies to his wife to arrive at the ball in disguise, it seems as though he has come to meet someone with the assumption that because of his wife’s dependence on him, she would not be going alone. At the beginning of the story, he is seen with another woman, however his agency is never described as impure or monstrous. This creates a double standard as the main character views his power with indifference while his wife’s – although liberating – is unexpected and threatening.

The suppression of female sexuality at the time of the story’s writing in 1924 was oppressive and apparent. In today’s world, while strides towards normalization have been made, traces of it remain. In the context of politics or even in private spaces, women are often looked down upon for taking up too much space and being self-sufficient. Colette’s portrayal of a woman trying to find liberty and power outside of the male sphere remains true and relevant.

Benjamin’s Theory and Saviorism in America

In Bonds of Love, Benjamin elaborates on the mutual aspect of power dynamics that involve a dominant and submissive side, explaining that in order to fully access their productive potential, equality must be achieved. This can be observed in the typical American “savior” attitude. The United States and the majority of European countries are generally considered to be a part of of the “developed” world. Even in elementary school, I can recall presenters flipping through slideshows of malnutritioned children. “Believe it or not, this child in Africa is a kid – just like you!” From a young age, my peers – no matter our varied statuses in our own society – have been instilled with the suggestion that as a developed nation (superior, powerful), the rest of the developing world (inferior, helpless) needs our help. While this dynamic may seem one sided, as Benjamin explains, such power dynamics of superiority and inferiority are mutual, although not mutually beneficial. Current projects and foreign aid – while accepted – usually only serve to corrupt nations and provide them with what we think they need. Instead, according to Benjamin, these nations should be recognized as equals. Their decisions and policies should be acknowledged and aid should be considered in accordance with their that. The mindset of superiority and separation in many Americans must be broken down in order to identify equally with others.