“Because She’s a Girl”

One of the moments, in Act 4 of King Lear specifically, that stood out to me was during Albany and Goneril’s argument during Scene 2. Albany and Gonreil are persistently throwing insults at eachother left and right from calling Albany a “milk-livered man” in line 62 to saying Gonreil is not worth any more than the dust that blows in her face in line 39. However, towards the end of the argument, Albany states “a woman’s shape doth shield thee”, implying the only thing protecting Gonreil from catching Albany’s fists to her face is the fact that she’s a woman.

We see this idea implemented everywhere and even in present day. It has always been an overarching rule of thumb that all of us have grown up with. My brothers used to get bullied by our female neighbor. She would throw things at them, kick them, and punch them but they could never defend themselves and punch back because she was a girl. Is this because females are seen as weaker? Is this because, for some reason, it has been assumed that a man’s defense will always, 100% of the time be stronger than what the female has done? This rings true even in cases of domestic abuse. People always seem to be surprised when the man is the one abused. The woman is the one that caused the blacks, blues, and broken bones. Why have we been taught this?

In Albany’s case, his wife was found having an affair with sneaky little Edmund and even after all the offenses and the fact that she was cheating on him, he feels as though he cannot “get her back”– solely because of her gender.

Am I saying that females deserve to be able to be slapped back? Not at all. But, am I saying that there should be more level-headedness when it comes to allowing males to express emotion and feel revengeful? Yes. I look at OPRF as another example. Females are taught self defense our sophomore year. A week dedicated to defending ourselves against particularly men that have the potential to abduct us. Not once was it said during my week of self defense class that the person trying to abduct us could potentially be female. Not once was my 100% female P.E. class shown the “target spots” for defending ourselves against a femle abductor, only taught how to knee a big scary man in the balls. The police that were brought in for the demos, all men.

Then I look at my brother again. He is in what is called “step back” in his P.E. class. Are the boys here taught self defense? Nope. Are we assuming that all teenage boys know how to defend themselves already and just need to be taught how to “step back” from conflicts? I guess so.

Regardless, I believe that there is extreme discrepancy and inconsistency in the power dynamic when it comes to gender and all things revolving around this idea of women being weaker than men. And the fact that it has been occuring long enough for Shakespeare to write it into his plays and it still rings true to this day calls for nothing but acknowledgement and change.

Not Such a Friendly Friend

Famous for being the lead vocalist and guitar player in the 90s grunge band Nirvana, Kurt Cobain is a musical legend. From Nevermind to In Utero, Nirvana was without a doubt busy releasing amazing music throughout the decade. From Nirvana’s album Nevermind, however, one song, “Polly“, stands out to me specifically.

The song is written from the point of view of Gerald Friend, the rapist of a 14 year old girl from an abduction that occured in Tacoma in 1987. The girl’s name, Polly, was released along with details of the crime, including the fact that she was whipped, cut with a razor, and blowtorched. The way the song is written allows us to be inside of Freind’s head, sharing with us his thoughts about the girl and the crime. While many other of Cobain’s lyrics can be seen as extremely personal to him, this is blatantly written from the point of view of someone else.

Cobain begins with the line “Polly wants a cracker”, a common saying used when people try and get birds to talk or do something. The girl in the song, referred to as Polly, is being starved and raped by Friend so asking her if she “wants a cracker?” is an extremely eerie allusion to the starvation and coercion that she is being put through. Cobain proceeds to sing “I guess I should get off her first”, showing that she is being actively raped as Friend has these thoughts. He continues with “I think she wants some water / to put out the blow torch”, referring to the aforementioned blowtorch used in the girl’s torture.

Perrine defined poetry as the communication of experiences that we haven’t had ourselves, which is clearly what this song does for us. Putting the listener into the mind of the rapist, specifically in the chorus of the song, while Freind talks to both himself and the girl, is extremely disturbing, yet allows for the listener to create new experiences in their head based around the details that Cobain uses.

The chorus of the song is perturbing, with multidimensionality oozing from every word performed by Cobain. Starting with the lines “Isn’t me, have a seed / Let me clip, dirty wings” , they each could be considered to have double meanings. By “having a seed”, Cobain describes the small amount of food being given to the starving girl but this can also be a reference to the “seeds” that Friend is planting in her physicially (semen) by raping her. He follows by singing “let me take a ride, cut yourself / want some help, please myself” , directly reflecting Friend being on top of and torturing the girl while she cries out for help.

Cobain’s use of extremely disturbing multidimensional language to put the listener in the mind of a child rapist is not something that one may consider sterotypically “poetic”, however, in the words of Perrine, poetry is sometimes meant to be ugly. The lyrics in this song intending to bring the listener out of their comfort zone with detailed descriptions of rape, starvation, dehumanization, and torture relay new experiences to (at least I would assume) most people listening to it.

A Captain Must Always Go Down with his Ship

When reading the section of the novel when Nadia and Saeed decide to leave Saeed’s house (pages 95-98), and end up leaving Saeed’s father behind, the first thing that popped into my head was the scene in Titanic when the captain was standing in the flooding room just waiting to die.

Watching the movie on repeat growing up, I was always confused on why the captain never tried to escape the sinking ship and was displaying nothing but external relaxation as his life is slowly taken away from him but as my dad used to say,

“A captain must always go down with his ship” .

Whether he feels it is his duty to accompany the ship as it perishes because it is his job or because he feels some sort of unexplainable connection to it in that he does not want to let go, a captain must always go down with his ship.

I feel this same vibe when reading this section of chapter 5. There are violent outbreaks occurring and intrusive militia ivading the houses in Saeed and Nadia’s city and because of this, there is no question in why people would do everything in their power to get out as soon and as safe as possible. However, Saeed’s father refuses to leave. When questioned by Saeed, he justifies his decision with his feeling that his wife’s presence remains in the city.

‘”Your mother is here.’

Saeed said, ‘Mother is gone.’

His father said, ‘Not for me’ (95)”.

These few lines on their own demonstrates Saeed’s fathers exceptional connection to the city in which he raised Saeed, solely because of the memories made and time spent there with his recently deceased wife, who was his best friend.

When Rose approaches the captain in the Titanic scene, the captain expresses his connection to the ship and although it may seem hard for Rose to comprehend, similar to how Saeed’s father’s desire to stay in the crumbling city would appall Saeed and Nadia, when one feels such a strong bond to a person/place/or thing, nothing has the potential to break that bond, unless it physically is destroyed (i.e. the ship sinking with the captain inside or Saeed’s house being demolished with his father inside). However, these connections and associations that we form are what allows a place that may be just a plot of land for someone to mean the world to someone else. Relationships to places that make us happy, content, and comfortable are all part of human nature. And in some cases, maintaining that relationship with the risk of death transcends the guarantee of a life ahead without being able to foster that relationship.

Harmony and Happiness?

When reading the last few sections of part one of The Stranger, I was alarmed as to how some of the last few sentences were phrased.

After pulling the trigger of the gun on the Arab man approaching him, Mersault states “I knew I had shattered the harmony of the day, the exceptional silence of a beach where I had been happy” (59). This immediately caught my attention. Mersault’s decision to use the word “harmony” to describe the day is not something that I had expected. Sure he had had some good experiences on the beach that day with Marie and their friends, yet, the whole last few pages of part one of the novel were dedicated to Mersault complaining and fussing about the heat and how miserable it was making him feel.

He describes pulling the trigger and shooting the man as “Knocking on the door of unhappiness”(59), and this is the last sentence of this section. This also was interesting to me because it seems that Mersault was never happy as it is. When he does express that he is experiencing happiness, it seems forced, or fake, none of his emotions ever seem true to him. He doesn’t really seem to ever be genuinely happy. This is why it struck me when he acknowledged the killing of the Arab man as the insinuator for the unhappiness starting, when in reality it seemed to just catalyze the misery he’s already experiencing.

Throughout the whole last few pages of part one, Mersault never fails to let the reader know that the sun and the heat emanating from it were literally killing him. He then ties the experiences he is having in the beating sun on the beach to the sun on the days that he buried his mom. “The sun was the same as it had been the day I’d buried Maman, and like then, my forehead especially was hurting me, all the veins in it throbbing under the skin”(58-59). This immediately had me questioning how Mersault could attach and associate the word harmonious, claim that he was happy, with something so painstaking and sad. Granted, he did mention that he never shed a tear at Maman’s funeral but the scorching heat of the day he buried her definitely could have been a motivator for his misery under the sun that he makes sure we, as readers, feel like we are experiencing with him.

Because of all of this, it just leaves me in a bit of a confused state at the end of part one on the mention of the beach where he “Had been happy” (59), when it seems to me like the whole day was really just soaking in complaints.

Verboten

When one is asked to think about an act they consider “forbidden” I am not sure standing in their house barefoot rather than in clean socks would come to mind. However, for Kyle, one of the three main characters in George Saunders’ “Victory Lap”, simple things that annoy parents could cause an uproar.

Throughout the section of this story that highlights what is going on inside Kyle’s head, we are never blatantly told, but can reasonably infer that his parents imply some element of neurosis, specifically OCD, onto everything that he does.

Kyle describes leaving small pieces of dirt that fell of of his shoes after a cross country practice as being “way verboten” which translates from German to “way forbidden” (11), followed by him mentally rehearsing “what if” statements in his head to mentally prepare himself for consequence if his parents returned home.

After racing to the garage to grab something to clean up the specks of dirt, he realizes he simply threw his shoes into the garage instead of placing them “on the Shoe Sheet as required, toes facing away from the door for ease of donnage later” and tore off his socks, leaving him standing barefoot in the living room, another act that he considered “absolutely verboten” (12).

Moments like this cause Kyle to do something that is a large part of how he handles situations; by swearing in his head. Arguing with himself about whether or not he is allowed to swear in his head because he is not allowed to swear out loud, we can see how his parents’ rules are driving him mad Phrases such as “crap-cunt shit-turd dick-in-the-ear butt-creamery” surround Kyle’s mind, simply because he does not feel he can express emotions and feelings that his parents cause him to have out loud.

Enacting extreme regime in a household, whether parents think it may be beneficial or not, tends to have a very large affect on children. From shows such as “The Strictest Parents in the World” on TLC to the words of George Saunders, we see the impact that reprimanding one’s child can have on their mental well-being.

The disregard of his passion for cross country because “anyone can jog” and credence that “if he [Kyle] wants the privilege of competing in team sport, he must show that he can live in our perfectly reasonable system of directives designed to benefit him”, shows us that Kyle seems to lack any sort of intimacy that a normal family household should possess (14).

There’s a saying that every house is a house but not every house is a home, which seems to ring true in this situation. Home should be somewhere where accomplishments are celebrated, memories are made, and relationships are fostered. In a home where the parents seem to believe that they had children for the sole purpose of their children serving them, a true societal binary nowadays when discussing involuntary submission and dominance, the lack of, in simple terms, love, causes extreme hardship, which can really drive some children to the point of exhaustion.

“Honor” vs Honor

When reading, on page 73, I noticed that after Jeff and Abnestri were talking about how Heather just died due to the Darkenfloxx, he said that they “all did terrific” watching her suffer, meaning Jeff, Abnestri, and Verlaine. This struck me as a surprise, 1.) because Abnestri and Verlaine really didn’t have to do anything and 2.) because he then proceeded to say that he “honors” Heather. Heather did not choose to get Darkenfloxxed, which is apparently what Abnestri is honoring her for.

Personally, when I think of people that I honor or respect, it was for great acts of duty that they have done out of their own selflessness and respect for others, not people who were being unwillingly forced into a fit of insanity and rage. You honor people like soldiers, who risk their lives for us or people whose dedication is very present from their past doings but not in situations like this.

Saying that he is “honoring” Heather is Abnestri acting like he was the administrator to this great act that changed the world, but he really just drove her mad.