A Love Song For Sethe

If you had to describe the relationship between Sethe and Paul D in one word, I think it would be safe to call it complicated. No relationship is perfect, but not every day do find out that your significant other has murdered their child. It’s hard to argue that either party in the relationship was mentally healthy enough to engage in a committed relationship. Both Sethe and Paul D carry extreme emotional baggage that often seeps into their present lives. This is not to say that they both don’t deserve a loving and committed relationship, but maybe they owe it to themselves to find another individual with a healthier outlook on life. I think that Solomon Burke sums it up perfectly in his classic You’re Good for Me. In this 1963 release, Burke sings about a complicated relationship with a woman he loves, but is constantly let down by. Burke begins with the melancholy lyrics, 

"You're a bad little girl, it's true/ But I'm not gonna walk out on you/They say you're a good for nothing, girl/But I'll stand up and tell the world."

When Paul D was informed that Sethe had murdered her youngest child, he fled the 124 household. Sethe’s moral image had become tainted. The lyrics depict Burke standing up for his mistress despite the fact that he’d already been informed about her toxic attributes. Though Paul D initially flees the house and falls into a drunken haze, he returns later, months after Beloved disappears. In addition, Paul D was originally hesitant to even admit that Sethe could have possibly committed the heinous act of murdering her own child.

Burke later laments,

"You're no good for yourself/You're no good for nobody else"

Not only did the decline of Sethe’s mental health take a toll on both Paul D and Denver, but her obsession over pleasing Beloved additionally caused her own physical appearance to decline. As Beloved became larger and uglier, Sethe seemed to wither away. Her physical strength and natural beauty began to fade.

 In the following lines, Burke changes his tone again.

"But you're good for me/Oh, you're good for me/Oh, sugar dumpling, can't you see/You're good for me"

Similar to how Burke seems to be trapped in a cycle of manipulative behavior, Paul D was once trapped between Beloved’s vendetta for her mother. As Paul D carries a heavy load of emotional baggage, he becomes an easy target in the crossfire.  

Burke finishes his tribute with the lines,

"That's all I'm living for/'Cause you're good"

After Paul D settled down in the Ohio home, his life began to reform around creating a stable home life. Though this would seem like an inherently positive change in his primarily independent life, it created an unprecedented interdependence between himself and Sethe. This subtextual dependence ultimately causes Paul D to return to the estate. For Paul D, there can never be too much water under the bridge.   

Dead Dogs

The song Dead Dogs was written and performed by the Memphis based artist, Annie DiRusso. About four months ago, Annie DiRusso appeared on my recommended music playlist. I found that she was a relatively up and coming artist that had a small, but dedicated fan-base. I soon fell for her two singles that showcased her lyrical expertise, and her ability to describe the pain of unrequited love. A month ago, DiRusso released the first single of her new album, Dead Dogs. Coincidentally, this single bore the same name as her yet, unreleased new album. What struck me first about this new single, was the captivating album cover. Personally, I judge artists heavily based on their album covers. Now I understand that this may be arrogant and dismissive of the actual quality of their music, but an album cover should set the tone for the proceeding work of art. Therefore, it should be thought out and expressive. The art itself should add to the poetic style. DiRusso’s cover is a vibrant watercolor, that depicts dogs of different breeds stretched out and configured so that they spell the words Dead Dogs.

Image result for annie Dirusso dead dogs

In terms of the music itself, the lyrics and accompanied heavy chords hit right off the bat.

I feel insane/talking at the sky/ trying to send love/ to my dog that died/ Don't know what I think, or a reason why/ Bella would be up there, just chilling with the big guy. 

The first time I heard these lyrics, I was genuinely confused. Is she actually going to be singing about her dog? I realized then, that both her album and song title should be viewed literally. Even though DiRusso presents this song as a pretty typical Indie Rock song, the lyrics invoke a more melancholy feeling that creates a sense of nostalgia in the hearts of listeners. DiRusso began her career by belting our chords about the loss of a lover. Now, DiRusso earnestly shares her despair over the death of her beloved dog. When she describes singing to the sky, she creates a more child-like persona. She innocently misses the company that her dog once provided. Through this, a central theme of the song itself is introduced. DiRusso doesn’t postulate over complicated love affairs, but instead, defends an idea of pure love that has been formed through loving companionship. Poetry is supposed to help individuals expand their experiences or perceptions of the world. By providing her honest remorse, DiRusso allows listeners to build on their own feelings of loss. In essence, she provides a safe space for listeners to process their grief-related emotions, and earnestly assess how they feel. In addition, DiRusso challenges her listeners to not necessarily place value on aspects of life that society tells us to, but instead, to value relationships and bonds that bring us the most personal joy. If that joy is centered around your pet, then so be it. As the song progresses, DiRusso sings

Well, dead dogs don't talk to me, and neither does god/I guess it's free therapy I'm in need of.

This set of lines highlights DiRusso coping with the confusion and loneliness of grief. DiRusso herself seems to be undergoing a sort of existential crisis. It appears that not only has she been stuck by the loss of her dog, but now she feels she’s been abandoned by God himself. These references to God add a comedic layer to the song that alleviates some of the dark tones. Her request for some variation of therapy is essentially a request a platform to share her emotions. 

In her next section of lyrics, DiRusso sings,

No one sees clearly/ we all just play along/ Well, I need some answers please, the world is going wrong.  

This final section of the song describes DiRusso’s dissatisfaction with society’s changing values and morals. It seems that instead of valuing the important relationships of life, society has become obsessed with materialism. In this haze of grief, DiRusso has become privy to the effects of losing something of importance, and only being left with lifeless material objects. Instead of breaking free from these destructive habits, individuals continue to feed their indulgences, and buy into this consumeristic culture. Though this is not the only reason the world is going wrong. Going back to the religious component of this song, DiRusso is questioning how God could have cut short the life of her beautiful dog. Why is it that everything good and pure, is ripped away from the world too quickly? 

Not only does this song meet all of my personal music specifications, but it truly is a work of poetry. DiRusso takes a specific personal incident and uses it to address greater themes of grief. By doing this, she address how individuals prioritize different areas and relationships in their own lives. Her song is short and concise, which allows listeners to focus deeply in on the lines she provides. Though DiRusso currently resides in a relatively niche area of the indie music genre, it is ballads like these that I believe with soon attract a wide fan base.     

Exit West: The Antithesis Of The Stranger

It’s not hard to notice the stark differences between The Stranger and Exit West. At a fundamental level, we as readers are no longer following a possibly deranged sociopath. On a more literary level, we as readers have been charged to forgo our new found ideas of existentialism. In an unnamed war-torn region, Nadia and Saeed spend their days in the constant knowledge that these may be their last. Balmy sunny mornings are not an opportunity to go to the beach with one’s lover, instead, Nadia and Saeed spend their quiet moments to secure emergency supplies and the means of escape. See, Nadia and Saeed can’t afford to be existentialists. The “life has no meaning” attitude doesn’t really fly when people are depending on you. The idea that existentialism is a luxury isn’t quite noted in The Stranger. From Exit West, you realize the deeper purpose of some of our social constructs. You always can say that religion, family structures, and relationships have been used to oppress others in the past. But when we take a closer look, these are also the structures that push us to stay alive. When Saeed’s mother is senselessly killed, Saeed and his father turn to one another and their shared religion to grieve. These societal pillars allow the two to move forward and progress with their lives. You could make the argument that if Saeed’s father was an existentialist, then he would have been able to move on from the absence of his wife. If he didn’t feel such a loving connection to his lost wife, he could have made the more rational decision, and made the passage through the doorway. But by refusing to accept this existentialist rational, Saeed’s father may have saved Nadia and his son. Saeed no longer has to be entrusted with the safety of his father. A burden that may have slowed him down in the long run. Saeed as a character somehow manages to keep a positive outlook on life, even in the midst of all of the chaos he has experienced. You could make the argument that his strong faith has allowed him to perceive the world in this light. He clings to the loving relationship he shares with Nadia and his religious views to get him through each day. In contrast, Mersualt rejected religion and a traditional relationship. Two aspects that may have prevented him from making the choices he did. And in the end, where does he end up? The gallows. 

Why Do I Empathize With Meursault?

When I began this novella, I had an eerie feeling in my stomach. I could tell that something was disconnected about Meursault, but I was starting to wonder if there was something off with me. The problem was, I felt bad for Meursault. Even after his heinous murder, I felt a twinge of remorse for him. In his sun saturated state, I recognized the isolation of his character. After finishing part one, I was ready for a dynamic class conversation. I found it frightening that I kept coming to the aid of Meursault. I blatantly was defending him. How could I be so defensive of a character who had vouched for someone who had physically abused their partner? How could I defend someone who took the life of another without a second thought? How could I like a character who was more alarmed by the beads of sweat on his forehead rather than the passing of his own mother? I believe this sympathetic view didn’t stem from being an internalized sociopath, but instead emerged from something much different. At least I hope…

I honestly was jealous of Meursault’s carefree attitude. I began to empathize with him. Meursault was not confined by any social systems. He acted on his own pure will. High school students specifically are controlled by an array of power systems. Students have to conform to social standards that have been created by some unnamed force. At the same time, we are expected to pursue secondary education and find steady employment. We are expected to make all of these major life decisions as mere teenagers. Though only a few years ago, we weren’t allowed to operate a vehicle or even see a rated R movie on our own. The Stranger is such an impactful book to read in high school, because the absurdity of life that Camus recognized, seems to be bursting from the seems here. I will never concede that Meursault is a hero, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that we can’t learn from Camus’ message. My sympathy for Meursault is due to his understanding of life’s absurdity. Part of me believes his death represents the death of the greater population of individuals who died as outcasts of society. The other part of me recognizes the literal reasons for his death. Needless to say, I find my emotions toward Meursault frustrating and conflicting. Who knows, maybe I’m just a borderline sociopath.

Can a Mask Reveal a Person’s True Identity? A Deeper Analysis of The Multi-dimensional Narrative “The Secret Woman”

The underlying theme of this narrative is deception. As the reader progresses through the story, they are keenly aware that both the husband and the wife are deceiving one another in different ways. The husband in the narrative describes his own actions as a “school boy lie” (Colette 327). He disguises himself in costume to remain anonymous at the opera. I think the reader too often jumps to the guilty actions of Irene, and fails to observe the distrusting behavior of her husband. As he judges her seemingly split personalities, he fails to reflect on his own shortcomings as a husband. These shortcomings are exemplified by his perception and description of his wife. On page 327, he depicts his wife’s face as “pink, matt and long, like a delicate sugared almond.” In this moment, he is clearly objectifying Irene. In his mind, she is the beautiful entity that can be fully controlled and understood. As soon as she wavers from his personal image of her, she becomes “like the conger-eels”. It’s interesting to assume that as Irene adds to her elaborate costume, more of her true identity is revealed. Her goal in this story is to achieve “the monstrous pleasure of being alone, free, honest in her crude, native state.” (Colette 331). In essence, she wants to be herself. In order to achieve this blissful state, she approaches the battle field of constricting gender norms by wearing her own suit of armor. Her lace mask and purple hood give her confidence that allows her to strive for her own sexual desires. I think what conflicts her husband the most, is that she only desires to “collect some other passer-by, forget him, and simply enjoy”(Colette 331). He wants to view this dramatic adulterous event, but is instead left dumbfounded by her uncommitted affairs. He is left unsatisfied and confused by the complexity of his wife’s character.