Denver's Agency

As I read Beloved, I kept expecting a romantic interest for Denver to be introduced. However, as I kept reading, I noticed there is a lack of romantic love throughout the book. Sethe and Paul D. get together, but even that relationship seems to blossom out of the need for an escape, the need to remember the past, not just love for each other. Even Halle and Sethe’s relationship is described as familial, not romantic. I think that Toni Morrison chose not to give Denver a romantic interest because it would take away her agency.

A romantic interest would have hindered Denver’s growth and made her arc shallow. If Denver had a romantic interest that swept her off her feet, that boy would have been the reason she separated from Beloved and Sethe. She would not have had to make the conscious decision to get help without knowing that she would have anyone to return to. Denver’s power comes from her actions. Without a boy, she is only influenced by her mind, not someone else.

Religious Autonomy

In Exit West, Saeed says that “He asked to learn [prayer] before his parents had yet thought of teaching him” (201). This sentence struck me because it was the first time I have read or heard of parents choosing to wait to indoctrinate their child into their religion.

Most people I know who are religious have been religious their whole life, and they have practiced the same religion, which is usually the religion their parents practice as well. Religion is such a strong influence on people’s actions. Most parents pass their religion onto their children without considering the child’s agency because that is “how it is done.” Children grow up knowing only the one religion and are not given a chance to experiment with what religion they connect with. If they question their inherited religion, they run the risk of being shunned (to varying degrees).

In Exit West, Saeed and Nadia respect each other’s religious expression. Nadia rejected her family’s expectations and Saeed followed his family’s practices, and they are both happy with the way they choose to express their beliefs. Saeed is happy with his choice to continue practicing his religion because it strengthened his bond with others. Nadia chose to not follow her family’s religion because she could not find a reason to keep practicing it. Why should she lose her family for that?

Life and Death in Existentialism

I do not understand why life gives life purpose. As soon as Mr. Heidkamp said that in class, I questioned it. How can life give life purpose?

We as humans value our lives because we know that one day they will end. In some cases, people who know they are dying soon adopt and Existentialist point of view. In an episode of Grey’s Anatomy, a patient is diagnosed with lung cancer. After she is diagnosed, she realizes that she never really enjoyed life. She never smoked, drank, and always watched what she ate. Once she comes to this realization, she orders a dozen cakes to eat, shoplifts chocolate from the hospital gift shop, and gets drunk at a bar. She was motivated by death.

In the Percy Jackson book series, Percy is offered immortality by the gods at the end of the last book. To everyone’s surprise, he turns it down. He doesn’t want immortality because it would take away the value of life.

I think that death gives life meaning. Death motivates us to make the best use of our lives. If we never died, we would never value our life experiences because we would always be able to repeat them, and that does not seem like a life worth living to me.

Playing Into Gender Stereotypes in “Black Box” and the Real World

In “Black Box”, women are taught to use how they are perceived as weapons. They purposely act clueless and obedient. This technique works because it plays into the preconceived notions that men have of women.

The “Beauties”, women contracted by the government to seduce and gain information from men, justify their actions by telling themselves that the information they are gathering is of the utmost importance and will save America. They do what they do because they think it is for the greater good.

By purposely acting ditzy and obedient, the Beauties are reinforcing negative stereotypes about women.

When I think about negative, harmful stereotypes, my mind immediately jumps to Hollywood. In film and television, stereotyping runs rampant. The girl who walks into the dark basement to investigate a mysterious sound dies, a woman who is focuses on her career doesn’t have time for love, businessman realizes he was in love with his secretary after she left him. There are a plethora of movie/TV stereotypes about women.

Although famous actresses often champion feminism, many of them continued taking one-dimensional roles. In Grease, Sandy changes everything about herself for a boy. In Jurassic World, Bryce Dallas Howard plays a career-oriented woman who is cautious of love. Actresses may only see the role as a part to play, they are helping perpetuate harmful stereotypes.

Instead of gaining power, women are giving power to demeaning stereotypes, which in turn allow men who believe in those stereotypes continue with their actions.