The Effects of Ignorance

According to Edward Said’s Orientalism theory, western culture promotes a mindset where aspects of Middle Eastern cultures are perceived as strange or inhumane. Specifically Europeans and Americans contribute to this trend, as they are largely disconnected from Asian and Middle Eastern cultures. Ironically, these are the areas of the word where knowledge and awareness of surroundings are said to be highest. Proper information about these cultures is scarce in America and Europe, which pushes the foreign culture even further away, contribution to Orientalist mindsets.

The consequences of such a mindset are clearly represented in daily events. The ignorance toward other cultures has disadvantages that negatively effect relations between countries. In situations of foreign affairs, militaries act in response to the unknown, to protect their country. Ignorance is the primary reason for a majority of negative relations between countries. America’s portrayal of Middle eastern countries in the media after the events of 9/11 are an example of this. For some, the sight of anyone representing similar Middle Eastern cultures triggers a sense of threat. This fear is reflected in the political debates regarding immigration laws over recent years in America. Ignorance of the culture causes some Americans to generalize everyone of those cultures, and exclude them from their definition of an ‘American’. This is just one of the many issues that can and do arise from Orientalist mindsets in modern day.

To move beyond this burden, it will be most beneficial to incorporate knowledge of foreign cultures into daily activities in America and Europe. As it is, there is little representation of these cultures in positions of power, which makes it difficult to spread information about it. If people and artifacts of Middle Eastern and Asian cultures are shown and represented as much as American and European national achievements in every day life and politics, the world will be a much more educated and peaceful place.

Honest Lies

Over the course of King Lear, my favorite character was Edmund. This is due to how consistently unpredictable he is throughout the book, along with his multiple switches in portrayal of character, and cunning plans of action.

Near the beginning of the story, Edmund expresses his feelings about not being included in the will of his father, Gloucester. In his soliloquy, he explains his resentment for society’s treatment of illegitimate children, like himself. His sincere trouble with his societal role induces the reader to feel sorry for him, since he is seen as an honest and unlucky person. However, this does not last long, as he also lays out his plan to deceive Gloucester and his brother Edgar, and gain land for himself. With his plan of pitting his father and brother against each other with a fake letter, Edmund’s character has already gone through significant change, from honest to insincere. Edmund continues this deceit with a fake sword fight, self-induced wounds, and eventually, the murder of Edgar.

Another example of the dynamism of Edmund is his treatment of the sisters, Goneril and Regan. In the process of leading both of them on romantically, he drives both insane, which leads to their death at the end of the play. Each of Goneril and Regan had a positive image of him initially, but in reality, he was deceiving both of them. Again, Edmund is seen in two different lights during an act of the play. Arguably, the sisters inevitably got what they deserved in regards to their disloyalty to their father, Lear. It is interesting to me, though, how Shakespeare uses Edmund to deliver it to them, which increased his general depiction as evil and deceitful.

In regard to Edmund, Shakespeare decided to portray him in multiple different lights, to the other characters and the audience, which kept him in the middle of most of the drama in the play. He was a key component of the story, and a main source of entertainment throughout. This intrigued me and made me constantly wonder what his next move would be, making the play very enjoyable. The combination of these factors made him my favorite character in the play by far.

The Root of All Evil

p r i d e. i s . t h e . d e v i l” is a well written, layered song by J. Cole from his album, The Off-Season. While it can be perceived as an elegant piece of poetry, its low key, melodic nature allows it to be widely enjoyed by listeners with varying tastes in music. J. Cole delivers his message of what he believes is to blame for a lot of the bad things that happen to people: pride. He enhances the impact of the message with layered personification, a double entendre, and use of realistic examples throughout the song.

During the post-chorus, J. Cole personifies pride by saying,

Terrified, paranoid, I’ll put you over everything

to fill the void And when you’re gone, will I have

anything or will I be destroyed?

He calls pride ‘you’, and explains how in bad times, he is fulfilled by his pride and self-achievement. He also signifies its importance by suggesting he could be ‘destroyed’ without it. By personifying it, J. Cole allows for a better understanding of how people value pride by relating it to a person that he is conversing with. If the audience perceives this situation as conflict between two people, it lets them relate to it better and more easily, which enhances the song’s meaning to them.

At the end of the first verse, J. Cole employs a double entendre when he says,

Slowly realizing what the root of all my problems be

It got me feeling different when somebody say they proud of me

He gives the word ‘proud’ a double meaning, as it can be perceived as positive or negative. What initially springs to mind is the more common, positive way that people think of the word, the feeling that usually comes after something good has happened. However, he also links in his negative perception of pride by referring to it as the root of all of his problems. He voices his own reaction to this by saying it makes him think twice when people say they are proud of him, because while it initially seems positive for someone to be happy about something he has done, he believes that the sentiment behind pride is negative and generally causes problems. The multi-functional nature of the word makes the audience deeply consider his claim about pride, since it makes them think about the line more than they usually would. This improves the overall impact of the song to the audience.

The use of examples during the song are very important to communicating the central idea. J. Cole spreads them around the song, but many are loaded into the first verse. He says,

Make you have to use your last resort and pull a robbery

Pride be the reason for the family dichotomy

Got uncles and aunties that’s too proud to give apologies

A variety of examples are given, ranging from issues that he has witnessed first-hand in his hometown of Fayetteville, North Carolina, to problems specific to his life. In the first line of the quote, he explains how in situations such as poverty, where people often need to ask for help, pride can block that pathway for people and lead them to committing crimes such as robbery. He then switches to personal examples that explain how some of his family members have pride, which prevents them from resolving issues with other family members. These examples are common situations that many people have experienced, so the use of this technique enhances the meaning of the song by pushing the audience to think about similar things that have happened in their life, and how pride could have been involved in them.

This song is multidimensional in the way it attempts to pitch the theme that pride is the root of problems. The personification, double entendre, and realistic examples, provide the literary sophistication that J. Cole is renowned for, while truly amplifying the meaning of the song. This, along with the complexity of the lyrics and story telling, are reason enough for me to stand by this song as worthy of being poetry.

Two Stories in One

While reading the story, it came to my attention that in the text, Hamid develops two stories at the same time. He builds the story of immigrants’ journey from their old country to new, as well as a love story between two people that were seemingly perfect for each other. From the beginning, the reader follows the story of people trying to escape from their destroyed native land, while having to make difficult choices like leaving behind family. Saeed has to leave his family behind, and pursue a place that is best for him and his values. He and Nadia encounter multiple different living situations after leaving home. They keep searching until they find a place where they are comfortable. These are the usual events of a classic immigrant story.

In addition, from the beginning of the story, Hamid builds the relationship between Nadia and Saeed, to form a love story that seems to be like every other. The two stay with each other through multiple obstacles, while exploring themselves to find what they really want from life. However, this generic love story takes an unexpected turn when Nadia and Saeed begin to grow apart. Even after everything they had been through, the decided it was best to go their separate ways since they were looking for different things in a relationship. This turn transformed a generic love story into an intriguing and unfamiliar one.

The fact that Hamid was able to merge these two great stories into one, shows just how skilled he is in writing. This, combined with his unorthodox sentence style, keeps the reader engaged throughout the book. It also exemplifies the intricacies of being an immigrant, such as how much their life changes in such a short period of time.

Mersault and society

In Albert Camus’ The Stranger, the main character, Mersault’s relationship with society throughout the text is virtually nonexistent. There is a disconnect between the two that defines his obscurity in the story. This includes many incidents such as his unbothered response his mother’s death, his willingness to murder someone with no hesitation, and his feelings toward death at the end of the text.

While people who were not related to his mother were mourning, he was more interested in smoking. When threatened with a knife, he shot and killed the aggressor, even shooting him four more times after. His reasoning was that the sun was bothering him. He reasoned himself into not being afraid of death, and actually looking forward to it. All of these moments contrast what one would expect from a common member of society, since they are seen as morally wrong. However, the disconnect between Mersault and societal values, leads him down a unique path in life, ultimately leading to his premature death in jail.

Doesn’t Matter

My thoughts on Part One of The Stranger, are that it is a very well-structured story, which connects the reader with the characters, and portrays Mersault’s personality very well. His actions evince his character throughout the story.

Mersault is portrayed as a peculiar person. He does not fit in society in that he shows indifference in every situation he’s in. He doesn’t care about the things that happen, since he believes that they don’t matter. This can be shown in his relationship with his ‘love interest’. When she asks Mersault if he loves her, he responds, ” I told her it didn’t mean anything but that I didn’t think so”(35). During a significant moment in his life, he reacts with indifference, as per usual in the story. The moments that show Mersault not caring about anything are constant. This builds his character for the readers, making it so that they know what to expect every time Mersault is faced with a problem. This is intentional from the author.

Then the author ends Part One by showing a contrast in Mersault’s character from what they showed before. Mersault kills someone who is looking to attack him, but after he is already dead, shoots him 4 more times. This shows emotion from Mesault, since even there was no reason to keep shooting, he felt anger that he needed to let out. This is where Part One ends, leaving the reader on the cliff hanger of finding out the reason for Mersault having a sudden change of character. This draws the reader into Part Two. The order of events and the structure of the story make for an intriguing read for the audience, a success for the author.