Animal Rights in “Drive your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead”

In Olga Tokarczuk’s novel, Drive your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead, the main character Janina has a special connection with animals that she doesn’t have with people. Throughout the book, the names of animals are capitalized, such as Fox, Deer, Dog, etc. Although they are improper nouns. Also, Janina isn’t able to form connections with people the way that she is able to connect with animals and care for them. She dislikes most humans, but goes as far as murder when it comes to animals. This is very unique because most people don’t even think about things like veganism or using cruelty free products in their day to day lives, but Janina is extreme when it comes to animals. My question is, is Janina truly crazy or do our societal norms dramatize her actions regarding her care of animals? Since animals are seen as less than in our society, many would view Janina’s murders as unjust because humans and animals aren’t equal, so a human shouldn’t be killed for an animal. But looking from Janina’s perspective, she sees animals as equal to or better than humans, so killing people for an animal would make sense for her. It is just like someone feeling okay defending a friend or family member who got murdered, by murdering their killer.

Raise the Red Lantern

“Raise the Red Lantern” is a film based in 20th century China where we follow Songlian as she enters a system of being a fourth mistress in a household.

I found the movie very interesting and I think it connects to a lot of the ideas in the literature we read in class. Gender and class binaries are present throughout the entire film. Songlian brings herself into this system for money. She starts off on the path of university and perhaps a job, but ends up bankrupt because of her fathers death, forcing her to turn to a marriage for money. She falls into a system where the goal is for women to compete for attention from a man (the master) and have their lanterns lit. The women in this system will do anything for the attention of the master. The women often turn against each other or even lie in order for their lanterns to get lit. These red lanterns symbolize wealth and prosperity.

Songlian feels trapped mentally, and physically she never leaves the house, symbolizing her mental state. At the end of the film, she “goes mad” as the other characters say, but this “madness” is what sets her free. She is no longer a part of the cycle mentally because she has freed her mind from the trap she was in. The brutal cycle that this story is, is emphasized in the end as well when a new mistress is married to the master, repeating the cycle all over again. This shows how hard binaries, power, and systems are to be broken sometimes.

Many film techniques are used to highlight these ideas. For example, Songlian is seen a lot being framed by things like windows or doorways. This adds to the idea of her feeling trapped and how as a woman in this time, she is opressed.

How Satires Like “The Onion” Bring Awareness To Real Issues

“The Onion” is a satirical news website that creates ridiculous stories in order to prove a point. The website looks and functions just like a normal news website, except all of the news is fake and is meant to be funny. But beyond being funny, each story points out a different problem in society. For example, in the article titled “New HGTV Show Builds Unhoused Families A Kitchen Island”, it says that HGTV debuted a new show where the host finds homeless families in Seattle and “situates them around a fabulous marble countertop island”. Although this is funny because it sounds ridiculous, it also serves a greater purpose, which is bringing awareness to the problem of homelessness. By putting it in a satirical way, it is more dramatic, so it catches the readers attention to make them think about how big of a problem this really is. Along with the housing issue, it also brings attention to the superficial and selfish ways of big companies. This article brings light to how shows like HGTV entertain people with homes, but some people don’t even have homes at all. Altogether, satire can make people think about things in a way that they haven’t thought of them before. This can be harmful depending on how it is done, but I think “The Onion” brings up issues in a powerful way.

Gender Roles in King Lear

In Shakespeare’s King Lear, the theme of gender roles is clear. In some ways, he brings power to women through his characters by putting them in powerful roles. Specifically, Regan, and Goneril are put in powerful positions because they have been given kingdoms of their own. On the other hand, he implements the idea that women aren’t deserving of power. Although they are in powerful positions, the women are also made out to seem evil and crazy in positions of power. At points in the play, Cordelia and Regan become angry, loud, and violent. For example, Goneril wants Gloucester’s eyes plucked out. The sisters also turn on each other. The women of King Lear can be compared to stories like Snow White, where the Queen is powerful, but evil. In these types of stories there is usually also a more “feminine” character who helps to accentuate the evilness of the one in power. In Snow White, this character would be Snow White. In King Lear, this character is Cordelia. Cordelia is a more ideal feminine character in traditional gender roles. She is calmer than her sisters and not as power hungry. Overall, Cordelia’s “feminine” presence makes her sisters look bad in comparison and helps to push this idea of how women should act.

Mac Miller’s “2009”

Mac Miller is a rap artist who died in 2018 due to drug overdose. I could argue all of his songs are poetic, but “2009”, from his album “Swimming”, has the most poetic features in my opinion.

The song “2009” connects to his death and drug use through the lyrics and rhymes used. The song is slow and features a lot of instrumentals like violin and piano which gives it a heartfelt feel.

First, the rhyming is really emphasized in this song as shown in this verse.

I don’t need to lie no more
Nowadays all I do is shine
Take a breath and ease my mind
And she don’t cry no more
She tell me that I get her high

In addition to the rhyming, the repetition of the line “it ain’t 2009 no more” adds to the poetic feel of the song and makes the listener think about the significance of that year to his life and what happened to make that year stand out. The significance of that year isn’t pinpointed at anything specific, but the listener can make some guesses based on his life. I think writing about a year or a specific time in one’s life is poetic and seen in many poems.

He then uses more rhyming to reference some of his personal issues with drugs.

Yeah, they ask me what I'm smilin' for
Well, because I've never been this high before
It's like I never felt alive before
Mhmm, I'd rather have me peace of mind than war

He also references the struggles of fame.

And sometimes, sometimes I wish I took a simpler route
Instead of havin' demons that's as big as my house, mhmm
Have a ball with a dribble and bounce
'Cause the party ain't over 'til they're kickin' me out, yeah
Isn't it funny? We can make a lot of money
Buy a lot of things just to feel a lot of ugly

Using more rhyme here, he addresses the beauty that having a simple life can bring and the struggles that come with fame. 2009 was right before his release of one of his most popular albums, “Kids”. During this time he was definitely famous.

Althogether, Mac Miller takes us through his life in the year 2009 through powerful verses and intense instrumental, making his song a poem.

Theme in “The Stranger” Goes Beyond Existentialism

In Albert Camus’s The Stranger, Mersault experiences what many can’t wrap their heads around, the idea that nothing matters and all concepts in society are really social constructs worth nothing. The theme of Camus’s The Stranger is that life is what you make of it and experiences throughout life only have meaning if meaning is given to them. Meursault’s character represents this idea as he navigates through different, dramatic life experiences in an unconventional way. The reader learns about Mersault through his relationships, like his mother and Marie, as well as his experience in prison. By putting little value into these experiences, it could actually be a good thing, because he lacks pain. Although some might criticize him and say a life lived like this is sad and that the highs and lows are what bring meaning to life, one could also argue that simplicity and stability are the keys to happiness. Emotional highs and lows often bring overwhelming thoughts and feelings, causing distress, but Meursault’s life reflects a life of peace, and therefore, happiness. This mindset is also reflected in “Myth of Sisyphus” because Sisyphus lives a life of happiness even though he is forced to live a life many would deem boring and painful. By accepting his life for what it was and getting used to it, he finds peace in the cards that were dealt to him.

“The Elephant Vanishes” Reflections

The most intriguing part of the story “The Elephant Vanishes” was how people could interpret the ending differently. Since there was no conclusion about where the elephant disappeared, it can be left up to the reader’s imagination. The story also goes beyond just the elephant, as it takes a dive into the narrator’s personal life with his relationships and thought processes. Throughout the story, it’s revealed that the narrator is very put together, organized, and perfectionist about his life. His fascination with the elephant’s disappearance is something he can’t let go of due to this type of personality, as the elephant was something he loved, and watching it was a part of his routine. As we watch the narrator establish a relationship with a woman, we see a parallel between her and the elephant. Just like the elephant vanished from his life, so did the woman. The symbolism of the elephant is left up to the reader to decide and makes the story more interesting because the author could have just told us how the elephant vanishes but leaves the end of the story up to your thoughts.

Response to Jessica Benjamin’s “Bonds of Love”

Jessica Benjamin’s Psychoanalytic piece argues that society creates hierarchies and that the problems that come with those hierarchies exist because of a lack of mutual recognition. She believes these binaries continue when the dominant individual in the binary uses their power and the submissive individual accepts the dominance and doesn’t stand up. Benjamin values equality and asserts that one’s identity shouldn’t rely on the absence of being something, for example, a man is a man because he is not a woman.

Benjamin’s perspective gave me a new awareness of the binaries in my life. An example of one of them would be the binary of a man and a woman. I took away from Benjamin’s writing that it is essential to not submit to power dynamics and view others as the same, full human being as yourself. Her writing is significant because it can help change people’s views on their everyday behavior no matter what side of a binary someone is on. Silencing the idea of power and who holds it can lead to a much more equal and balanced life for everyone.