In the story Exit West by Mohsin Hamid shows that in the extreme and deadly city Nadia and Saeed seem to fall in love based on normal reasons for example behavior and looks. As the war increases and spreads further into the city causing deaths you see a change in the relationship between the young couple. The relationship becomes more forced like when Saeed’s mother passes away and no one speaks much it began to set a principle for dislocated conversations and communication. When Nadia promised Saeed’s dad to stay with him she made this promise until they made it to a new piece of land through the doors Saeed meets a prests daughter that he began to like and the same went for Nadia; this shows that even though a war and through a promise neither off the two characters actually felt true love but a need to want to be together only to reach a place for them to be able to find their way and be able to leave each other in separate worlds as they were before they meet .
While reading the short story that my group presented on, Bloodchild. I could not help but picture it as a Hollywood major motion picture or an episode of Black Mirror. Black Mirror episodes take a part of human life and criticize it, by dramatizing certain behaviors that humans engage in, and showing how this plays out in an often not so distant future. Bloodchild is the perfect example of this. One of the most important political issues of this generation is abortion rights. A small group of powerful men are making decisions about something that they will never have to experience. They have all the power, and they are often making decisions, (such as restricting abortion rights), that negatively impact others.
The “Tlic”, the alien life forms that have taken control of humans, restricted their rights to drive, own weapons, and many other basic freedoms. This comes most severely at the expense of the men, who are forced to carry the Tlic’s babies, and have them violently removed at the time when they are ready to be born. Sound familiar? This completely flips the script on one of the most heavy political debates of our time.
Existentialists value the rejection of standard social constructs as a pillar of humanity, but this conviction can be extremely ostracizing. Unfortunately, while leading an existentialist life may be personally liberating, it is extremely unpopular. Outside of those who share in the existentialist ideology, an existentialist would have quite a difficult time fitting into society. In The Stranger, Mersault keeps everyone at an arm’s distance. He has some friends (Marie, Raymond), but it is very clear to the reader that Mersault isn’t particularly close to these people. The reason behind this is because Mersault’s outlook on life holds him from coexistence. He can no longer understand conventional societal norms.
Existentialism isn’t an ideology for the social. Its lonely, and besides the perceived personal freedom, it could ultimately be unrewarding. It is difficult to judge whether or not existentialism is truly worth the effort. Sure, you may have a new outlook on life, but said outlook immediately puts you on the outside looking in to society. The norms that existentialists reject are pillars of mainstream society. Existentialism imprisons one in their own mind, as they can no longer willingly be apart of a society that contradicts their beliefs. By choosing a path of existentialism, one creates a cycle of rejection. By rejecting societal constructs and norms, society will reject the existentialist right back.
The movie “Groundhog Day” is about a man, Phil Connors, who has a bad outlook on life. But by some fluke of nature, Phil ends up repeating the same Groundhog Day over and over. At first, Phil is confused, and keeps repeating his actions every day so that they are the same, in case the next day is not a repeat of the last. But then, Phil begins to realize that he can act however he wants and there will be no consequences because there will be “no tomorrow.” He begins to break many social and societal constructs, basically doing whatever he wants because he knows there will be no repercussions. He ends up becoming happier and having a better outlook on life once he begins doing this. He has a new level of freedom that he did not have before.
One particularly interesting thing about “Groundhog Day” is that it portrays a positive view of existentialism. I think it’s easy for many people to say existentialists are simply pessimistic and refuse to see any good in life. “Groundhog Day” refutes all these statements. Phil begins the movie tied to societal constructs meant to give life meaning. After repeating the same day over and over again, Phil is set free from these constructs. He no longer fears society’s judgement of his actions. And only when he gets this freedom is he truly happy in the movie. Although existentialism is, on one level, about trying to shy away from things we traditionally think gives value to our lives, it’s also about the freedom we can acquire from living without these social constructs.
One other connection that I think must be made here is the connection of “Groundhog Day” and Camus’ “Myth of Sisyphus.” Much like Sisyphus, Phil must repeat the same day, pushing his “boulder” up the hill, just for the day to repeat or the boulder to fall back down the hill. But Phil begins to recognize the absurdity of life as he repeats his days, just as Camus says Sisyphus must accept the absurdity of life as he pushes his boulder. Camus says that once you realize how absurd life is, you can find amusement and even happiness in its absurdity. This is why he proposes that Sisyphus is happy, and this is why Camus would also consider Phil to be happy as well.
When reading “The Stranger,” by Albert Camus, the vivid exemplification of existentialism in the novel, and its embodiment in the protagonist, Meursault, reminded me of a recent movie I had seen. Meursault’s complete detachment from social norms and societal constructions was reminiscent of the movie “Dead Poet’s Society” by Peter Weir.
In the movie, Robin William’s character, John Keating, plays an English teacher at a rigirous and strict private school. However unlike the other teacher’s at the school, Keating does not believe in textbooks and rating literature on a graph. He tells the students to take the pages of their textbook and rip them out because they are meaningless. He even disregards the societal rules by telling everyone to stand on their desks.
Just like Meursault, Keating’s unorthodox manner does not go over well with the rest of society. The schoolmaster is offended and upset with Keating for not teaching correctly, or in other words, following the social construct of what a teacher should be. As as result he is fired and the kids are assigned a new teacher. The kids of course were engaged and actually cared about the subject when Keating was teacher, so they were devastated when he was fired.
In both works, existentialism is rejected by society, and they are both worse off for it. If only society could understand and adopt the construct-free way of life then everyone would be better of because of it.
In “the Myth of Sisyphus”, Camus forms the argument that Sisyphus has found happiness within his eternity of pushing a rock up a hill. After finally letting go of his memories of life, he accepts his current situation and finds joy in completing the hard task of pushing the rock up the hill (even though it falls down again).
In the Stranger, Merseaux states that after he lets go of the pleasures of the past and adapts to prison, it is actually quite enjoyable. It takes a bit of time to adjust, but eventually he does.
The question I that I pose is: is finding this happiness an inevitability for everyone? If so, is finding that joy in punishment then just a matter of time?
I would argue that it is not an inevitability for everyone. Some people will never let go of the memories and pleasures that they used to enjoy. They will always reap in their belief that they should be somewhere else.
In “The Elephant Vanishes” by Haruki Murakami, An elderly elephant disappears from a suburb outside of Tokyo, but none of it matters. The elephant came into the ownership of the town through somewhat comedic means, and even though it caused quite the uproar for some time, the elephant was never more than an amusing oddity to the town. When the elephant disappears along with its keeper, the town sinks into a temporary state of mass hysteria, but as blame is thrown to just about anyone, the town slowly forgets about the elephant.
Our main character, despite his passion for keeping up on the happenings on this elephant, unfortunately slips back into the functions of everyday life. In time, it is clearly shown that everyone forgets, or wants to forget, about this elephant. Why do they forget? Because the elephant has no significance to them. It’s an oddity; a conversation starter. What did the elephant ever contribute to the town besides some possible publicity? It was simply an abandoned animal, and why the main character ever cared is an illusion.
At the time of the disappearance, there was a lot of attention given to the elephant. There were multiple high class investigations, and it even led to some political unrest. Even though all of these things seem significant, they made no change on the state of the suburb or those living in it. Our main character still went to his day job just like everyone else, and life moved on. The suburb before and after the elephant was the same. The status quo remained the status quo.