Family Dynamics

In our world today, family is considered very important to most people. When people have bad relationships with their family members, they try and fix them if it’s possible. In other words, a lot rides on healthy relationships. In Shakespeare’s “The Tragedy of King Lear,” things are a little different. To begin, Edmund is the “bastard son” since he was born out of wedlock. In modern day, someone is not considered any less than their sibling since because they have a different mother or father than them. Not only is the concept of family different by calling a son illegitimate because they were born by two people who were not married, but Edmund completely ruins the relationships he has with his father and brother to obtain money and land. Edmund is so furious at the fact his brother Edgar will get everything, he goes to great lengths. He first turns his father against Edgar with a fake letter and then betrays his father, later in scene 3, by telling Cornwall details about the French army helping the king. I find it interesting how much Edmund will do to receive money and fortune, and it says a lot about how important the title someone had was during the time of the play.

Not only does Edmund’s situation tell a lot about family dynamics during that time, but so does the main conflict regarding King Lear and his daughters. His daughters rebel against the king after getting sick of Lear abusing his power. Although many believe they did the right thing by standing up to their dad, some may also argue it reaches a point where enough is enough and it would have been a good idea to help Lear, before he went mad. It’s clear family dynamic back then was very different from how it is now. My question is if Edmund’s and Lear’s daughters acts are justifiable, and did Lear, Gloucester, and Edgar deserve what they got?

Dreams of Independence

Fleetwood Mac was a band formed in the late 1960’s. The band’s hit “Dreams” was released on their 1977 album Rumours. Although that was almost 45 years ago, the song remains a classic and is making a comeback with another generation. It is the perfect song to belt, but when you really listen to the lyrics, you hear the story Stevie Nicks, Fleetwood’s lead singer, tells while singing. The song sold over a million copies and reached #1 on the Billboard Hot 100. Was it a success? You could say so, but it is also a poetic work of art telling the story of a failed romance.

The speaker of “Dreams” is Stevie Nicks, a woman going through a breakup, but she is also speaking for other members of the band. Two members were going through a divorce and one separating from his wife at the time, so she feels their loss and pain. Nicks begins with “Now here you go again, you say you want your freedom / Well, who am I to keep you down?” By saying “you,” we know she must be talking to someone, that person being her ex-boyfriend Lindsey Buckingham, lead guitarist of Fleetwood Mac. She wrote the song very soon after their break up, and writes about it to gain perspective and release her emotions. Through poetic language, Nicks’ demonstrates that although loss is hard, realizing what’s truly best for you is what matters most.

“Dreams” has a hopeful tone, because Nicks is hopeful she’ll benefit from her breakup. In verse 2, Nicks sings “Now here I go again, I see the crystal visions / I keep my visions to myself.” The crystal visions symbolize coming to a realization, like one might when looking into a crystal ball. Nicks’ realization refers to her relationship with Buckingham, because it was not satisfying her anymore, and she realized it’s best to end it. By saying she is going to keep her visions to herself, Nicks means she doesn’t feel the need to explain herself for wanting something different. She has a positive attitude towards their ending, and is hopeful she’ll come out of it even stronger. Although the song is telling the story of a failed romance, it is upbeat and powerful, not sad.

She sings “Like a heartbeat drives you mad / In the stillness of remembering what you had / And what you lost / And what you had / And what you lost.” Nicks sings “And what you lost” twice to illustrate that although she respects his freedom, he will realize losing her isn’t going to be easy. She says the phrase once to let him know she’s not coming back and says it again to demonstrate that feeling isn’t going to go away. The repetition elaborates on her stepping into a new chapter since it shows Nicks knows her worth. Instead of asking her ex to work things out, she’s accepted moving on is the best thing for her, and if he’s going to let her go he isn’t getting her back.

The chorus of “Dreams” goes, “Thunder only happens when it’s raining / Players only love you when they’re playing.” She creates a metaphor to compare thunder to their break up and rain to their problems. She illustrates the break up, thunder, only happened because of the problems, rain, she couldn’t escape from. The comparison makes it clear they both knew the break up was coming, because it had already been “raining.” The next line is a metaphor comparing Buckingham to a player. She claims he is a player, and although she never talks about him cheating, the listener understands he wasn’t the right man for her. Talking about players broadens the meaning of the song since the listener realizes the severity in their break up. It also leaves the listener wanting to know exactly why they broke up.

Lastly, Nicks includes multidimensional language. She sings, “When the rain washes you clean, you’ll know.” The word “rain” doesn’t have it’s usual meaning of rain from the sky, but instead the “rain” is feeling resentment, because he messed up.”Rain” could also be the feeling of getting over Nicks, and he’ll know this because she has hope he’ll grow as a person. Either way, Nicks believes Buckingham will regret losing her.

Stevie Nicks’ poetic language in “Dreams” can be heard as a grieving heart, and although it’s clear she is sad her and Lindsey Buckingham broke up, the song’s upbeat melody and powerful lyrics illustrate her newfound independence and hope for the future. She knows her worth and has faith her ex-lover will soon realize his loss.

A Trip From Normality

In Exit West, a novel by Mohsin Hamid, two main characters find each other. Saeed and Nadia live in an unknown city full of danger and violence. Barely getting to leave their homes, they find their own ways to have fun.

Early in the novel, Saeed travels to Nadia’s apartment building. Nadia asks Saeed if he’s ever taken psychedelic mushrooms, and one thing leads to another and they try them. After hanging out under the moon Hamid writes, “They did not hold hands until Saeed’s perspective had returned, hours later, not to normal, for he suspected it was possible he might never think of normal in the same way again” (47). After taking the psychedelic drug, Saeed realizes his mind may be altered forever. His realization spans much larger than a experience with a drug, but also with his city. The things Saeed and Nadia witness will change them forever, and they will perhaps never see “normal” again. Violence and destruction are very hard things to witness and experience, not to mention on a day to day basis. Hamid does not sugar code how bad things get in their city: “…had Saeed’s mother not been killed, a stray heavy-caliber round passing through the windshield of her family’s car and taking with it Saeed’s mother’s head” (74). Hamid tells the reader “Saeed had wept only once, when he first saw his mother’s corpse and screamed” (80). Saeed’s reaction to his mother demonstrates the extremities of her injuries. Saeed’s mother’s death is just one example of a far from “normal” event many people will never have to see or experience. Exit West contains tales that are so far from “normal,” the characters may question what “normal” means to begin with.

After Awhile You Can Get Used to Anything!

In Albert Camus’s novel The Stranger, Meursault’s mother passes away before the book begins. A series of events occur, including Mersault shooting a man, which result in a prison sentence. To most, prison is probably not the most ideal place to live. With no freedom, Meursault has to give up his job, women and cigarettes. To Meursault, prison is not so horrible after awhile. Camus writes, “So, with all the sleep, my memories, reading my crime story, and the alteration of light and darkness, time passed” (80). Meursault realizes life is meaningless, and everything is up to the choices he makes. When he explains his time in prison, he does not complain about losing the freedom to visit his job, girlfriend, or friends. He decides to live life in prison by using what he has, and not missing what he used to have. Meursualt creates games, digs out old memories, and reads the same crime story over and over. He doesn’t believe being in prison is a bad thing, because he has no other hopes or dreams. He is where he is, because he has done what he’s done, and now he must pay the consequence for it.

Living life this way can seem depressing, but ultimately, it means Meursault is not unhappy. He does not wish for anything and in fact, even when Marie comes to visit him, he doesn’t display affection or happiness to finally see her. While many people pray they will never have to spend a day in jail, Meursault has a different approach. As Maman used to believe, “after awhile you could get used to anything” (77).

All Kinds to Make the World Go ‘Round…

In the short story “Good Country People” by Flannery O’Connor, Mrs. Hopewell repeats a phrase throughout the story: “It takes all kinds to make the world go ’round” (4). Mrs. Hopewell typically sees the best in people. Her daughter, Hulga, on the other hand, is the complete opposite. Hulga keeps to herself, hates talking to others, and never misses a chance to be rude.

The two have a very interesting mother-daughter relationship. Although Mrs. Hopewell makes it clear she dislikes the way Hulga acts, she fails to see that it is going against her own saying that it takes different people to make the world go ’round. She also preaches that nothing is perfect, but wishes Hulga was. Although Mrs. Hopewell might live by the sayings she often says, she does not apply them to her own daughter. The story reads, “Whenever she looked at Joy this way, she could not help but feel that it would have been better if the child had not taken the Ph.D…Here she went about all day in a six-year-old skirt and a yellow sweat shirt with a faded cowboy on a horse embossed on it. She thought it was funny; Mrs. Hopewell thought it was idiotic and showed simply that she was still a child” (3). Mrs. Hopewell is obviously conflicted about her daughter’s life choices. Hulga has even gotten her Ph.D. and her mother is still dissatisfied. Mrs. Hopewell believes it takes different people to make the world go ’round but that Hulga should be just like her.

Science vs. Morals

In the short story “Escape from Spiderhead,” Heather is put on the depressant drug Darkenfloxx and passes away. Jeff doesn’t love her romantically but still feels shaken after seeing what she did to herself. Abnesti understands his sadness but tells Jeff, “‘Look, Jeff, these things happen,’ Abnesti said. ‘This is science. In science we explore the unknown…I hated it. I’m a person. I have feelings. Still, personal sadness aside, that was good'” (72). Although Abnesti recognizes seeing Heather die was deeply saddening, a part of him does not care about the well being of the criminals and will do anything it takes to determine the validity of a drug. I thought this was interesting because Jeff has more feelings about Heather’s death than anyone else. Although Abnesti seems to claim he feels sad, he is eager to test the Darkenfloxx on Rachel next, showing he is okay with the effects. This brings up an important question asking whether it is okay or not to disregard all morals for the sake of science.