Existentialism, the root in all our readings

Existentialism, the idea that every person has the power to determine what has importance in their life, because you are the person in power of your own choices and actions. Both King Lear and The Stranger dance around the subject of existentialism, but they both do it in different ways. Meursault’s approach to life is very different from Lear’s but they both went through a major change in terms of what concepts impact their lives. Lear’s identity crisis results in a total change of how he approaches life. The old Lear, naively believed in typical family hierarchy, placing himself at the top, and putting his daughters below. These ideals lead him to expect his daughters to listen and obey to all his commands. Once Lear discovers that his life will not play out how it does in his head, his existential crisis begins. 

Lear put so much blind faith into things like family, power, and wealth, that he structured his whole identity around it. This is similar to how characters in The Stranger were comforted by similar concepts. Marie’s fixation with finding love, the prisoner’s hold in religion, and Salamano’s use of friendship. When Lear lost everything that identified him, he was lost. He realized that ”Man’s life is cheap as beast’s” (2.4.307), marking the start of his character change. Out in the storm he felt that he lost everything that was important to him, so he felt he had lost who he was as a person. As his journey went on, he learned to prioritize other things.

While Lear did not come to the same conclusion as Meursault, he does grow as a person, his priorities shift, he starts to care about others, he cries “O, I have ta’en/Too little care of this” (3.4.37-38) when talking about the poor, homeless people he encounters once banished from his home. Where Meursault came to believe that everyone is born to die, so nothing in life really matters. Lear grows to think that these man made ideas are not always the things that should take priority in our lives. Lear acknowledges that, “The art of our necessities is strange/And can make vile things precious” (3.2.76-77). Emphasizing that everyone’s life is different, and everyone is in control of what gives their life meaning.

Lear goes through a transformation from King Lear, the narcissistic, power hungry man to Lear, a man who puts others before himself, and cares for those who he deems deserve it. After his existential crisis, he no longer identifies himself based off of what he has, but who he surrounds himself with. Lear gave his life a new meaning, and it turned him into a better person.

The Infinite Cycle

The song “Wurli” on Dominic Fike’s recent album What Could Possibly Go Wrong is a short, but substantial song. The 2 minute 31 second song is about a toxic relationship and the emotions that come with it. The first lines of the song are,

Steppin’ outside for you
Then I put links on both wrists
‘Cause you got control over me

Right from the start of the song, the listener knows that this relationship is not mutually beneficial, or healthy. The concept of the song goes along with Perrine’s idea that purpose of poems are “sometimes to be ugly rather than beautiful” (6). This poem’s focus is on a rather dismal topic, and the first words pack a punch to the reader. The links even have multiple meanings, leaning to the “multiple dimensions” in poetry. Links could be bracelets that he wears to look good for her and not himself. Or it could be Fike alluding himself as a prisoner when stating that he has links, or in this case handcuffs on his wrists. Showing feelings of powerlessness in this toxic romance. Dominic Fike also describes how much one sided effort is put into this relationship,

This is not love, I’m a glorified doorstop
Stickin’ my foot out for you
And that’s not all I would do

These lines show feelings of being unwanted in this dysfunctional relationship. The way that Fike does it emphasizes the fact that this song is a poem, Perrine states that poetry “enlarges our perspectives and breaks down some of the limits we may feel” (4). The song may bring back familiar feelings of being stuck in this toxic cycle, or inform other listeners how it may feel to be in such relationship. Widening the perspectives of the listener much like reading a poem about an unknown topic can do. While Fike is doing all he can to fix things, he is viewed as a measly doorstop. Later in the song he contrasts what he previously said to emphasize that while this relationship is knowingly toxic, it is “sort of like love” so the actions being made will continue, causing them to be stuck in this bad cycle.

This is not done, this is sort of like love
When I’m stickin’ my foot out for you
But it’s not all I would do

The repetition of the lines with the slight change spotlight the idea of how one sided the relationship is, the change in the lyrics show that regardless of these things they will continue to put up with it. Perrine states that poetry is “the most condensed and concentrated form of literature”(8). While Fike could have spent more time and words writing new lines about how while he is aware of the toxicity in the relationship, he still feels and wants this connection. He knew the power of his words, and with switching around the words, it still conveys the message, and produces the same if not an even stronger impact upon the listener. In this 2 minute 31 second song Dominic includes a multitude of emotions and feelings into the lyrics. The way that Fike is aware of his word choice, conveys a strong message in so little words, and brings important ideas to the listeners awareness highlights the fact that “Wurli” is not only a song, but a poem.

What makes a home a home?

In Exit West by Mohsin Hamid the story of Saeed and Nadia’s migration story and how it differs for the two very unalike people. Nadia’s past life experiences, moving to live on her own, being open for moving through door to door despite having to “murder from our lives those we leave behind” (98) allow her to find a home easily. Contrasting from Saeed who once going through the door “wished maybe to reverse course and return through it” (105), creates more difficulty for finding a home rather than a place that he is living. Their distinct ideals and approaches to their journey makes a reader wonder what it takes to make a home a home. Nadia was very open to the idea of leaving her home in hopes of going to a better place. While Saeed was reluctant to leave his father, and to continue going to other doors once they found a livable place. Once moving Saeed often found connections and joy in the people that reminded him of the home that he left behind.

When Saeed and Nadia are in London Saeed prayed with a group of people who instantly brought him comfort, he wished to move there even if it mean losing the home that they currently had.

“‘Why would we want to move?’ she said. ‘To be among our own kind,” Saeed answered. ‘What makes them our kind?’ ‘They’re from our country.’ ‘From the country we used to be from.’ ‘Yes.’ Saeed tried not to sound annoyed. ‘We’ve left that place.’ ‘That doesn’t mean we have no connection.'” (153)

This passage goes to show the difference of a home to Saeed and Nadia, and how a home could have endless definitions. Nadia exemplifies the idea that once you go through a door you “murder” those from your past life. While Saeed often mentions his old home and past life. To Nadia, it seems that a home is a place to live, she does not get emotionally attached to her residences making it easier for her to pick up and leave. For Saeed a home is a place where he finds comfort. Is it possible for Saeed and Nadia to find a place that both can call a home?

Can Meursault experience deep emotions?

Whether it is mourning the loss of a loved one, evaluating right vs. wrong, or opening up about love, Meursault tends to respond in an unusual way.  In The Stranger by Albert Camus, the main character Meursault does not seem to be capable of having a deep, meaningful relationship with the people around him. His supposed romantic relationship with Marie is passionless, and when asked about marriage Meursault responds in a lackluster way, “It didn’t make any difference to me and that we could if she wanted to” (41).  Providing no emotions or thoughts on the idea of something as important as marriage shows insight on Meursault’s ideas on love or relationships. His descriptions of Marie also focus on her body, as of now, the reader does not know much about Marie as a person other than when she was wearing a striped dress, Meursault could observe, “The shape of her firm breasts, and her tan made her face look like a flower” (34).  When talking about Marie, it is always in a sexual way, Meursault talks about her in a surface level way.

Is this casual approach to relationships a way to ensure that Meursault does not get himself hurt? Or is there something else behind his detached approach to life?

Reverse Relationships in Emergency Contact

The summer reading book option, Emergency Contact by Mary H.K Choi was about the relationship between a Penny and Sam. But the relationship that I want to write about today is the relationship between Penny Lee and her mother Celeste Yoon. From the start of the book the reader is aware of the strange dynamic between Penny and Celeste. In the first chapter we see how Penny is often embarrassed of her mom and wishes that she could be a “normal mom”. They do not have a tight knit relationship, nor do they completely hate each other. They are share a home and have some good moments, but also share a lot of rocky moments. At one point of the book Penny complains to a friend “She’s the mom. I’m sick to death of looking out for her and being paranoid she’s going to do something dumb.” (359) At this part of the book, the reader learns a lot about how Penny thinks and feels about the relationships in her life.

This relationship is an interesting relationship because it has reversed the normal PARENT/child binary. Usually the parents are the ones who have charge over the child, while the child is in the submissive role. And while Penny does not exactly control her mother, her mother was no parent to Penny either. Penny does not feel that she was able to live her life as a kid because she was busy taking care of her mom. You notice the sacrifices that Penny has made in order to ensure that her mom is okay, one being her choosing a college that is close to home despite wanting to go far. Penny accounted that Celeste is a single mom living on her own, so she stayed close for her mom in case she was needed at home.This reverse in the normal binary was a very interesting aspect to the book. It is also seen by noticing that Penny refers to her mom by her first name, Celeste, because she does not feel that “mom” is appropriate given their relationship.

Throughout the book Emergency Contact, Mary H.K Choi wrote about many relationships and connections. Penny’s relationship with her mom was one that stood out because she went against the typical binary that we see between a daughter and her mother.

Escape from Spiderhead-Relating it to life.

Throughout Escape from Spiderhead, the story mentioned some very thought provoking ideas that apply to the lives of both those in the story and the readers. A quote that really stuck with me was towards the end of the story, “At birth, they’d been charged by God with the responsibility of growing into total fuckups.” (79). This quote was very striking to me. They way that it challenges an idea that we often hear while growing up made made me think whether it is true, or just something that we are told as kids. A predetermined destiny is often something that we are not taught. While growing up, we are taught that we can accomplish anything that we want if we work hard enough. And while this may be true to a certain extent, hard work can only go so far, some people are dealt with bad cards and it is nearly impossible to turn them into a winning deck. All of the people in Escape from Spiderhead study were ex-convicts. While we do not know all of their stories, it can be questioned if they were all determined to end up in this life, or if other things are factored in. Jeff was only nineteen when he killed his Mike (76), was Jeff born a killer or did he just get too angry and aggressive in that moment. Many moments in this story make you think deeper into the story.