Emotions during loss

In “The Stranger”, we see how emotions change when you lose a loved one. The book introduces Salamano and his dog, and readers quickly believe that Salamano is aggressive, violent, and shows immense hatred towards his dog. In the book, Salamano calls his dog a “Filthy, stinking bastard!” and constantly yanks the dog, beats the dog, and swears at the dog. From Salamano and the dog’s daily relationship, you would think that Salamano has no emotion and care towards his dog. However, when Salamano’s dog was lost, he showed different emotions. When his dog was missing, Salamano was anxious to find his dog, talking to Meursault about ways to find him. Salamano even said that when he hears other dogs bark, he thinks it is his own dog. Salamano’s actions show care and compassion towards his dog, which is a stark contrast from how he acted towards his dog during everyday life. This was confusing to me. It made me wonder if our true emotions and feelings are shown in our everyday life, or if they are shown when we lose the people/animals that we love the most? I don’t know the answer to my question, but it was very interesting to think about.

The Importance of Ambition

Throughout the entire first part of The Stranger, the thing that sticks out to me the most is how Meursault views each situation he is placed in with what I would describe as nonchalance. I have found that, in most stories, there is almost always an end game for the protagonist; there is always some ambition that is striven for, whether it be based on personal gain, the defeat of a greater evil, emotions, or the betterment of society. However, in this story, it would appear as though Meursault has no end game. When his boss offers him a job in Paris and he says he doesn’t care either way, his boss tells him that he has no ambition. To me, this indicates that Meursault’s lack of ambition is part of the theme of the story. To have an antagonist who doesn’t have an ambition, who doesn’t truly desire anything, makes for an intriguing read because you can’t see the ending. When you have a main character like Mearsault, who isn’t driven by any one thing, it can be almost impossible to predict his actions. For instance, when he shot the Arab man at the end of Part 1, it wasn’t an act of revenge, but rather a kind of instinctual response to his exhaustion and disorientation. As the narrator says, “everything began to reel”. What I think Part 1 is trying to express is the danger of the unpredictability that occurs when a person has nothing to drive them, or to ground them.

into self discovery

The book I read over summer break was called “Don’t wait till I die to love me” which is about of poems. The poems are poems of self discovery which involves poems about love heartbreak and moving on. What I liked most about the poems were that they were relatable and I have been on a journey of self discovery myself. I read the book three times to take notes on the poems. Something I took from the book is there are ups and downs on this journey which I also personally know. People will come and go contributing to your journey. It is okay to love and to hurt but you have to remember life goes on. Everyone has there own paths and you will cross paths with people you don’t want to lose but everything happens for a reason. On your worse days it is important to try to think positive because it won’t last forever, you will get trough it. One thing I disliked was some poems were too short and needed more said. There was short simple ones that made sense and were powerful in there own way. I do recommend this book to everyone especially those who are struggling with self discovery.

Binaries and Humanity in Escape From Spiderhead

Jeff and Abnesti display a clear binary relationship, in which Abnesti power over Jeff. Jeff, a criminal, has to submit to submit to the scientific experiments conducted by Abnesti. Yet, Jeff and Abnesti interact as friends would, exchanging friendly banter and joking around with one another. While their relationship is friendly on a superficial level, one must wonder what Abnesti’s motivation is for his kindness. Regardless of how he interacts with test subjects, they still must participate in the experiments. He does not gain anything from being kind, and he wonders about the superficiality of his actions. He wonders if he is kind for kindness’ sake, or if he is “a monster” (Spiderhead, 68). Abnesti’s openness about his feelings makes him appear human to Jeff, which contrasts with Abnesti’s own wonderings about his humanity. Jeff views Abnesti as an equal, and although Abnesti treats Jeff as an equal, Abnesti is aware of and ok with the binary that gives him power.

Manley Pointer is a Very Smart Kim

The fake bible salesman who goes by Manley Pointer in Good Country People shows a lot of similarities to Kim, Brian’s stalker ex-girlfriend, in  A Conversation About Bread. To begin, Pointer is a little bit of a stalker himself. He has gathered information about the Hopewell family somehow. He even tells Mrs. Hopewell “you’re a good woman. Friends have told me” (4). Like Kim, Manley seems to have been stalking this family to learn information about them to manipulate Hulga. This is seen when he talks about having a heart condition and only a few years to live. He only lies about this because it gives him something in common with Hulga, who is in that exact situation. Another more important similarity is the fact that they were only interested in Brian and Hulga because of their disabilities. This is seen when at the end Manley reveals himself and mentions “One time I got a woman’s glass eye this way” (9). This shows that like Kim, Manley is interested in people with disabilities only because of their disabilities. Even worse, he connects the objects that they need to help them function by stealing from them. So while Kim was a stalker, Manley is a stalker and a thief.

What this all shows about Manely and Kim is that their characters are not able to mutually recognize other people. They both push the power dynamic of ABLE/disabled because they do not see those different from them as equals. As a result of seeing Hulga and Brian as less than them they do awful things like stalking and theft of things that they need. These two characters serve as examples of what not to do. If Kim and Manely had the ability to mutually recognize others these stories would be very different.

Learnt Lesson

The end of “The Lesson” by Tomi Bambara is very open ended. Sugar and the main character race to “Hascombs”, and Sugar “get’s ahead”. Which, the main character responds with “O.K. by me”, “ain’t nobody gonna beat me at nuthin”. In my opinion, this shows that the main character has understood the lesson Mrs. Moore was trying to teach the children. The lesson Miss Moore taught, is that American society isn’t as fair as it’s portrayed. Some people start well off, and others don’t but make it work. That lesson is very similar to the end, a race to something, and someone started better off. Except, the main character takes it a step further, and says no matter what nothing can stop him, implying he will become wealthy.

Fans failing to mutually recognize

Football is back. Football is back. Football is back. No, Mr. Heidkamp, I am not trying to increase the length of this blog post but I am merely highlighting the importance of the statement “Football is back”. In the midst of a global recession, pandemic, social injustice and climate disasters, we all needed to blow off steam by watching 300 pound men run full speed and tackle each other. Nobody can deny that football is action packed and entertaining especially in the Lamar Jackson and Patrick Mahomes era. But what some fans of the NFL seem to abhor is connecting politics with sports. Since the beginning of 2020, a spotlight has been put on America’s racial injustice and specifically police’s racist and violent actions towards people of color in America. From my perspective, it seems to be a divided issue although it clearly should not be. This division of opinion is due to one side lacking the willingness to view the other with mutual recognition. Particularly white people who fail to mutually recognize people of color and the racism they are facing. NFL players among other professional athletes have been a strong voice supporting the BLM movement while also speaking out against systematic racism and police brutality. For example, at the season opener the Chiefs and Texans teams spread across the field and joined arms for a moment of silence to bring awareness to racial injustice. Sidelined players wear Black Lives Matter shirts, some kneel during the National Anthem while many wear the names of Breonna Taylor and Jacob Blake on the back of their helmets. I think professional athletes using their platform, popular voices and celebrity status to bring awareness to racial injustice is a positive message that NEEDS to be spoken on. But what is truly sad is many peoples rejection of the players actions. I continually see comments on NFL posts saying “leave politics out of sports” and “nobody cares about your political opinions, your athletes”. Not to mention the limited fans in attendance that could be heard actually booing the Chiefs and Texans during their moment of silence. Such disrespect is sad and unacceptable. Athletes and players are humans just like fans yet fans fail to mutually recognize them as full human beings leading to fans categorizing racial injustice as a political issue while disregarding the players right to voice their opinions. Racial injustice in America is so much bigger than politics, its about human lives and ALL Americans pursuit of happiness and equal opportunity.

If you are viewer and fan of the NFL but can’t respect the players using their voices to speak out on racial injustice then shut up, stop complaining and stop watching. Also, reconsider what it means to be a human if it’s so difficult for you to hear your fellow humans and Americans fight for their safety and rights. Get over yourself and develop some empathy, compassion and mutual recognition.

“A Conversation about Bread” and the double-consciousness writing struggle.

As Eldwin attempts to write his ethnographical assignment based on Brian’s school experiences, he finds himself trapped in a creative rut. As he and Eldwin are two of the few black students in the overwhelmingly white UCLA, Eldwin feels pressured by Brian into writing his essay in specific ways. Should he write his essay without sacrificing his creative vision, which could potentially be misinterpreted as conforming to or reinforcing racial stereotypes? Or should he sacrifice his vision and conform to how white people want to see his work? Can a story be told without treating the subject as an object? This struggle continues throughout the story, and spurs many revisions of his essay.

As Brian puts it, “There’s no real way for you to capture the regional differences without getting all stereotypical. … Like, why would you want to tell this story about a bunch of black Southern guys discovering bread anyways? What purpose does it serve unless it’s to show yourself as somehow better than them?” (178)

Eldwin responds “Because it’s a good story, about cultural differences, racial differences, class differences. It’s more about how many different kinds of black people there are than it is about making everyone but Junior seem like a type.” (178)

Both of them make good points here. At the end of the story, a compromise is not reached. Where should the line be drawn? How can this issue be overcome?

Themes of “Escape from Spiderhead” in Other Media

While “Escape from Spiderhead” covers numerous themes, the one I want to focus on is the somewhat forceful use of drugs in order to control people (especially emotionally). This idea is reminiscent of a videogame I’ve played called We Happy Few. The game is set in city in a 1960’s dystopian version of Britain where there was a traumatic event, called the “Very Bad Thing”, that occurred from a German invasion and occupation in WW2. In order to prevent citizens from feeling guilt and depression, the government invents a drug called Joy that suppresses all unhappy memories and leaves its user in a chemically-induced euphoria. The citizens are also required to wear white masks that form their faces into permanent smiles. As the Joy depletes, the citizens see the city as it really is after the war: trashed, poor, and ruled by a police state. The police state forces the citizens to take the Joy in order manipulate the population and keep the city in order. Those who don’t take it are either killed, banished, or force-fed the drug. Although “Escape from Spiderhead” is set in a much smaller scale, lab vs city, the implications of their uses are very similar. The Joy from We Happy Few is almost identical to ED556 by putting their users in a euphoric, entranced state.

The White Gaze reveals…

In “A Conversation about Bread” by Nafissa Thompson Spire there is a white woman watching the two main characters. She helps show the readers the staunch differences between Eldwin and Brian. She doesn’t really affect Eldwin. His philosophy is to act as if he can’t see white people staring at him. She affects Brian though, in the way he is afraid to talk or say certain words too loud. She helps show us how the different backgrounds of these two characters help shape them in completely different ways. How Eldwin grew up going to a multiethnic school and a very liberal college where he didn’t ever feel he need to hide unlike Brian who not only had a liberal California background but also the Southern background he gained from his time in Mississippi. Brian is a little more reserved and defensive especially when talking about race. Eldwin is not afraid or reserved about anything; he embraces his heritage in everything he does.

“The Lesson” is a story within a story

After reading “A Conversation About Bread,” I have thought about how many stories have other stories within them. “The Lesson” does not conventionally convey a story within a story, but I think that it has a deeper meaning. In my opinion, the story in the passage is about the inequality within the United State’s economy. It describes a poor neighborhood that discusses the rich lifestyle. I think that the whole story is meant to symbolize the result of corrupted capitalism. The entire story is the story within a story. The text reads, “Thirty-five dollars would pay for the rent and the piano bill too. Who are these people that spend that much for performing clowns and $1000 for toy sailboats?” (114). I think this quotation shows how these kids can’t even comprehend a lifestyle in which money isn’t a problem. I think the writer shows us this field trip because it is just an example for how impoverished colored children think about the rest of the world being unfair.

Cultural Anthropology, the Middle East, and White Women in the Library

The field of cultural anthropology, especially the study of subjects in the present, has significant value to understanding our civilizations and how communities form in different areas of the world around different ideologies. However, the lens through which historians (particularly white, Western historians) view other cultures may serve as a thin, unconscious veil for validating misconceptions and maintaining a power structure. In the 1980s, the late historian Edward Said proposed that Western cultures adopted an “orientalist” attitude towards the Middle East, dictating that it was barbaric, homogenous, violent, etc. Particularly, he received pushback on his assertion that scholars of the Middle East from the West committed a certain type of damage: though under the veil of scholarship and objective observation, their conclusions were influenced by their Western biases, and the scholarship itself was an assertion of the power structure with the “Orient” as the subjects for the West’s observation. Thus arose the question, “Does cultural anthropology of other cultures ever capture an accurate description of subjugated ethnicities/cultures, and does it even benefit those it studies?” Similar questions arise in “A Conversation about Bread”, as Edwin questions his role as a ethnographical storyteller for an experience that is not is own. Yet, what I think may be more telling is the role of the white woman in the library. The woman takes notes, presumably as another ethnographical academic exercise, on the interaction between Edwin and Brian, two black scholars. Notably, her reactions to their conversation and the notes she takes reveals certain prejudices she harbors towards her subjects; note her surprise at Brian’s correct use of “monolith”. Therefore, this character may serve as an allegory to the Western cultural anthropologists Said warns against: maintaining a power structure of subject vs. object under the protection of scholarship, despite her clear biases, and never benefitting those she studies.

O’Connor’s Definition of a Good Story

Flannery O’Connor’s definition of a good story is one that needs “every word in the story to say what the meaning is” and “involves, in a dramatic way, a mystery of personality.” When I first read this definition, I didn’t understand what she meant in any concrete way, but after reading her short story “Good Country People,” I agree that these aspects are what make the story so engaging. 

The story had a really interesting structure, beginning with who was narrating the story/who the story was about. At first, I thought that the story was being told from Mrs. Freeman’s point of view, but she turned out to be more of a background character. Then, I thought the story was about Mrs. Hopewell, but while it is told partially from Mrs. Hopewell’s perspective, in the end the story is really about Hulga. When combined with the twists and turns of the plot itself, these narrative misdirections give the reader a sense that the story is unfolding before them and anything could happen next. I felt like I didn’t know where the story was going until the very end, and so the story really did need every word to get its final meaning across.

“Good Country People” also creates a “mystery of personality” in the character of Manley Pointer (or whatever his real name is). The innocent country Christian persona he presents turns out to be a disguise he uses to take advantage of people and steal from them, as he does with Hulga and her prosthetic leg. This mystery creates intrigue throughout the story but also continues once the story is over, with the reader left wondering who this character really is and why he acts the way he does.

Perspectives in “A Conversation About Bread”

The short story, “A Conversation about Bread” by Nafissa Thompson-Spires, starts off with an interesting story that was being told that seems to be interesting to most readers (including me). However, it is shown in the story that the person reading it, a man named Brian, has a different perspective and opinion on the story. He sees the story as “fetishization” and that he is treating the people in the story as “fragile-like”. The reason Brian thinks this is because of his own personal experiences, he is a disabled man, and his past ex-girlfriend treated him like he was “fragile” as well. Multiple times throughout the story he tells Eldwin that he is “acting just like her [his ex]” (180). However, Brian did not have the intention to have his story “fetishize” the race in any way. He states that, “Didn’t every story provide a narrow representation at best and fetishize someone at worst?” (183). His story never had the intent of doing that.

It is interesting to see how having different personal experiences in life can effect how someone interprets a story. I had found nothing wrong with what Eldwin wrote but as soon as I saw that Brian had a problem with it, I had felt it was wrong to like the story. This can apply to today, any story can seem okay to some, but to others with different experiences, it can feel way differently.

Lessened Lesson

The short story, “The Lesson” written by Toni Cade Bambara, compares the mindset of the lucky and the not so fortunate lifestyles but doesn’t reach any sure conclusion. Throughout the story we witness much commotion and seemingly there is to be some cause and effect, but I beg to differ. There is no singular point between any two characters that we will notice to have an everlasting impact. Sylvia and Miss Moore both seem to bump heads through most of the passage. Sylvia constantly wants to be better than her so she won’t have to listen to what Miss Moore has to say. However, we don’t really note any relationships being made, or any ground being covered among the kids. They both try and get the better of each other over aggression and force, but none change. For instance, in the last line of the piece, “But ain’t nobody gonna beat me at nuthin.” This sentence can be interpreted in many ways, but I take it as something good used for nothing good. Sylvia never wants to be beat, she always wants to be the best, but what stands in her way is her perspective of what’s important in life. She has great ambition and wants to be at the top, but because of her background, she won’t ever use her motivation for the betterment of herself. Yet, she will use her drive to do things like fighting her friends or getting away with stealing and that’s what I think will keep her at the social level she resides in currently.

Follow Your Own Destiny

This summer I started watching the Avatar the Last AirBender series, which takes place in a world where people can bend the 4 elements; water, fire, earth, and air. It follows a group of friends helping an all powerful bender, called Ang, the Avatar. This story shows the kids powerful growth and strength as individuals, and lessons about choosing your own destiny. From this series the most powerful quote I can pull is from a wise character, “it’s time to look inwards and begin asking yourself: who are you? and what do you want?” 

This series shares similar overarching greater human truths with Escape From Spiderhead. That which argues that humans are innately empathetic and are against conflicting pain on another innocent human. In this story we follow a group of teens who’ve committed crimes, and are sent to a facility that unethically performs out of body tests on them. Readers find the struggle in an unequal power dynamic, of the oppressed and oppressor. While the characters struggle with their emotions and inability to inflict pain on other patients. In the end of the story where Jeff refuses to give consent to take the drug and start the trial. This scene shows your ability to choose your own destiny and that the path our basic human principles (compassion and family) that we follow unknowingly. As Jeffs suicide to escape the system, lays way to a underlying greater human truth, that humans have a inhearit deposition to follow compassion. 

Similarly the actions and tests all these characters face shows us how empathy and freedom drive humans. As both these stories fight for freedom from oppression, driving a final question to question.  What side of the conflict are you on, good or evil? Additionally start wondering, are you following your destiny? Or someone else’s destiney for you?  

And Exit I Shall

For my summer reading book I chose “Exit, Pursued by a Bear” by E. K. Johnston. The story is split into 4 parts each surrounding a the main character Hermione Winters and the trauma she endures at summer. Johnston is able to create a new world in her writing but is unable to enchant, which Nabokov says is the most important part of storytelling. I also think that for the simplicity of the plot Johnston does not take the story anywhere new (or make better than nature). The message of the writing is the most important part but her writing does not add anything to the meaning, it just relays it. Johnston’s writing lacked a lot of imagery which was another reason the book was unable to enchant. I think imagery is really important in captivating an audience. Much like Sydney, I also chose it just because of the cover so I have no one to blame but myself for reading this book. I think if Johnston was to add a plot twist it could’ve made this read a lot more enjoyable and I defiantly should read the back cover of things next time I decide what book I’m going to read.

Four Dollar Democracy

Imagine, if you will, a nation divided by race and dominated by the wealthy upper-crust of society. That’s not very hard, you live in it. Now imagine exploring it from the eyes of a child. That’s Toni Cade Bambara’s “The Lesson.”

Especially if you’re white, you probably remember a specific set of doctrines learned from your childhood. The United States is a democracy, money comes from hard work, and poverty is the product of laziness. If you didn’t learn it in the classroom, you learned it in the national anthem, in gated neighborhoods where the roads don’t run straight, and in hands holding cardboard signs by highway exits. This is normal. You shouldn’t be angry. Just keep moving. Stay in your place.

The field trip that Ms. Moore leads refutes this by crossing the usually unspoken boundaries. She wants the kids to be angry, and so she leads them to a toy store full of decadent wonders. When she suggests they go into the extravagant store, Sylvia thinks she’s “got as much right as anybody” (113) to enter the toy store, but “somehow I can’t seem to get hold of the door” (113). It’s this contradiction between what’s theoretically true and whats realistically true that causes the anger. The kids walk “on tiptoe” (113) in fear of something undefined. In other words, a class and race boundary. They are somewhere society says they don’t belong. A place where a simple toy sailboat is given the same value as a year’s worth of food for all the children present. A place made for people with that kind of resources to spare.

Sugar, one of the children, reaches the crux of the expedition. “I think that this is not much of a democracy if you ask me” (115). Sugar is right. The United States, a self-proclaimed democracy, may be the wealthiest country in the world, but close to half of all Americans cannot afford a $400 emergency. Three individuals hold as much wealth as the lower half of the country, while these same wealthy elite buy our politicians and silence what should be majority rule. If Bambara’s critiques were relevant in 1972, they’re now more true than ever before.

American/Americanized

Come August this year, I knew it was time to crack open the long awaited summer reading book. But this time, instead of writing it off until the last second, I was actually excited to get into the memoir I had chosen. Author Sara Saedi quickly captured my full attention with her memoir, Americanized, in which she takes her readers through her childhood, her angsty teen years, all the way to her adulthood. But more than just simply putting her life story on paper, Saedi emphasized the struggles of living in America undocumented.

Looking back, there are many Benjaminian undertones throughout Saedi’s story. Her life was tattered with binary after binary, even if they weren’t explicit or publicized. As an undocumented family, the Saedi’s lived with the crippling fear of deportation; of being the other, illegal, less than fully human.

Immigration has become an increasingly polarizing and controversial topic in American politics. To many the conversation has become CITIZENS/aliens, a dehumanizing perspective which makes justifying extreme border security and inhumane reform the “best” option. But to neglect the rights of a human being on a basis of legal status, eliminates the possibility of achieving mutual recognition. This mutual state is necessary if we, as a country, are ever to build a healthy perspective on immigration. Saedi brings to light the current flaws in our system for those trying to gain citizenship. With her testimony in mind and Benjamin’s reminder of the necessity of a mutually recognized society, we must evoke change and empower a difference.

“Mutual Recognition”

While we have discussed before the many benefits of mutual recognition in our everyday lives. But what about the negatives? Would a mutual recognition classroom be in our best interest? I don’t think so.

If the teacher is brought down to the same level as the students, nothing would be accomplished. The classroom needs a figure to drive discussion and the flow of ideas. The classroom has to be a binary dynamic, where the teacher shares knowledge with the recipients. How could a mutual recognition function without a figure with significant knowledge on a topic before meeting with the group? The classroom would fall into complete chaos, which in my opinion could be worse than a “boring” lecture. While it is good to acknowledge the everyday usefulness of the mutual recognition perspective, it does have its flaws, such as in the classroom setting.