Metamorphosis

Metamorphosis displayed a very clear theme to me, one which I found to recur throughout the text. This was the importance of money. As Gregor awakens to find himself turned into an insect he does not appear to be overly concerned. His largest concern is how he will handle his work situation, lacking a valid excuse for not arriving on time. The fact that this job as a salesman is of greater importance, seemingly, than being transformed into a gigantic bug demonstrates the importance of money in this story.

The same is seen of his family members. Gregor was counted upon by his family to put food on the table and provide for the family members’ monetary needs. Once he falls into his bug state, he can no longer work and forces his father and mother into finding lines of work in order to maintain this seemingly pitiful lifestyle. By finding work, the structure of things appears to improve. The father appears to stand straighter and have a higher sense of order in his life. This is attributed to the work, and pay which he receives. A statement could be made that money is the basis by which the family finds new life, all of which is at the expense of Gregor.

The theme of money can also be seen with Gregor and his sister Grete. He continually mentions the need and his desire to send Grete to art school. However he needs money in order to do so. This shows that progress is halted without an adequate amount of money. Gregor would love nothing more than to send Grete to art school but he has no option because of his state. Once he can no longer work and earn an income, he becomes disrespected and humiliated  Gregor is no longer treated as a family member and is left to his room, listening to the rest of his family. If money were available, Grete would be able to make advancements towards a more prosperous life. She would be able to fulfill her dream of going into art school, propelling her into her own, independent, and prosperous life.

At the very end of this story, upon the death of Gregor, the family finds a disturbing level of solace upon discovering their financial stance is better than they had once predicted. This further shows the effect of money as the structural norm and guiding force in the lives of every member of the story. I believe an argument could be made that each and every character in this story is directly affected and driven primarily by money.


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The Waste Land

Could this be the most confusing work we have read in arts one to date? I would have to agree with that statement. From the beginning of the poem onward, I found myself scratching my head and heading back a few lines to see if I had missed anything. It seems as though the purpose of this poem is that there is no purpose. The ideas appear to bounce from one vague and confusing concept to the next. This could be almost to show that what has happened so far in the world is, for the most part, disorganized.

It’s as if Eliot is attempting to show just how disorganized the world can be. That is his wasteland, and he attempts to recreate it with various bits of stories and poems. By doing so, the ideas are no longer transmitted through the actual words and text. Instead, the concept is driven home by sheer structure of the poem.

I have noticed a few names reoccurring in this poem. For example, Tiresias has found a way back into my life. Of course I remember Tiresias from Oedipus as the prophet who warned of the destruction which awaited Oedipus as he threatened and mocked the blind prophet. In the Waste Land, Tiresias is found, with breasts for a reasoning I am not quite certain. But regardless, Tiresias views the interaction between a typist and her lover. The typist appears to be taken advantage of by the man. She seems content with the situation and simply feels relief upon his departure. This sort of seemingly random event occurs continuously from different characters which are not properly introduced.

I simply hold from my deciphering of this poem that Eliot is not impressed by what has been accomplished. He sees this world as a wasteland, using bits of text as examples to his thesis.


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Civilization and its Discontents

I have been exposed to Freud only in psychology class, hearing his strange concepts on the importance of sex and the rather interesting idea of incestuous relationships. I was surprised to see this jawless, cocaine-addicted psychologist delving into the depths of religion, and philosophy in general. Personally I am not a fan of religion, actually scratch that, I’m against the restrictions it indiscriminately places on the individual. Therefore, I was intrigued to read the argument made by a psychologist regarding the fallacy he considers religion to be.

He states that there are many mediums by which happiness and pleasure can be found. These methods depend on the individual. Some will find happiness internally, some will find it externally, etc. He argues that religion is detrimental towards happiness by blindly categorizing everyone under guidelines which do not cater to the individual. This is the first time i have heard such a Humanistic argument made by the King of Psychoanalysis. However, I completely agree with the idea he presents. Under a society religious congruence  the level of happiness will be unequal. This is destined because some individuals will find more happiness through the religious medium than others who are equally forced into the way of living. It is only by separating ourselves and putting emphasis on the individual that happiness and pleasure can be maximized.

I disagree with Freud stating the Roussea-like idea of civilization and science not aiding in the happiness of society. He says that in the thousands of years of scientific improvement, there lacks an improvement in the happiness of society. He states that we are no closer to happiness despite the improvements of technology, science, and health care. However, those past issues are no longer the issues of today. Infections are no longer a life-threatening issue, but simply a easily solved issue for humanity. There are still many problems which remain in society, however, many of the past issues have been resolved. This is not a matter of perception or taste; what is questioned is if this does or does not create new problems for humanity. To that, my answer is uncertain.


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Hyde and Go Jekyll

First of all, I actually found this to be one of my favorite books we have read so far. It was simple, concise, but most importantly, exciting! The thrill of uncovering the mysteries of Dr. Jekyll as Utterson and Poole break into the lab was engaging and made the reading of this story incredibly enjoyable. The lingering ideas of what plagued Jekyll, which is which, and the nature of denial all came to mind upon the completion of this text.

I was drawn to the idea that perhaps Jekyll’s potion was never actually effective. It seems as though Dr. Jekyll never fully has a grip on his situation. He finds himself questioning the time he has left and the state of his sanity and self perception. I believe that the problem was specific to Jekyll, and he looked for ways to explain, or at least blame his conflict with his alter-ego. He describes how the newer batches of salt he receives no longer contain the impurity required to fabricate his elixir. I believe that he never actually had a effective potion to battle his ailment. He used the drug as a barrier between himself and Hyde. He does not want to accept this monstrous part of himself. The potion is a way of circumnavigating around what Jekyll considers his bad self. Reaching his death, the potion no longer seems to work because it has never worked. Jekyll has lost control of the situation, but he is not willing to blame himself. Claiming an impurity in the salt displaces the responsibility away from Jekyll.

Another interesting idea is whether Jekyll or Hyde represents the individual. Simply because we are exposed to the milder tempered individual known as Jekyll, it is not fair to assume he is what the being is identified by. Hyde also can be present within the body of this doctor. The identity cannot be identified since both personas inhabit this body. I personally like to think that Jekyll is inhabiting the body, as it is suggested in the story. Jekyll seems to be the one creating the initiative to cure himself as opposed to Hyde maintaining his evil state. However I cannot be certain due to the mysterious nature of each character.


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The Genealogy of Morals

I’ve noticed an unsurprising trend on the blog posts for this book. It appears as though members of the class (including myself) do not take fondly to Nietzsche’s style of writing. I could write the entire post on how inconsiderate Nietzsche was in the delivery of his philosophical arguments and ideas. But I won’t do that, I’m sure you can find it scattered across the site. 

I do think that Nietzsche makes a very intriguing point in The Genealogy of Morals. He picks at and probes the concept of morality. What we take to be assumed as right and wrong in society could be completely inaccurate and merely a flawed basis of judgment. I didn’t quite follow on his argument based in grammar. I believe that “bird of prey” and strength are separate for a very simple reason. One is not the other; birds of prey may be present with strength, but strength is present in more than just birds. Strength can be used to describe many animals and characteristics of both physical and abstract. the same can be said of his analogy of lighting and flash. Nietzsche attempts to say that without the flash, there is no lighting. That is true, however, the flash is not the only distinction to be found with lighting. Lightning is a very specific act in nature, one which is composed of yes, the flash of light but also the electricity and all the other scientific stuff that I, as an arts one student, do not really understand. Therefore it’s important to realize that lightning has a flash but a flash is not necessarily lightning.

I did however, find it very interesting to see how Nietzsche went about telling the historical contexts of morality. Although I do not agree on his views of slavery (assuming I read that properly) in which slaves have falsified peaceful treatment of other humans as “good”. The stark contrast to me between the lamb and the bird of prey is that human beings enslave each other, that being of the same race. On the contrary, birds and lambs are of a separate species and are therefore not to be labelled under the same code of conduct as humans towards other humans. There is no biological tool humans possess to use in slavery. There is no requirement by mother nature to enslaved one’s fellow man, unlike hunting animals which must kill in order to survive.

 


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Frankenstein

This story was extremely grim in my opinion. It appears as though every single family found in this book has been hit with some sort of death or loss of sorts. This consistency of misfortune can be seen with the monster as well. the monster is equally detached from his family as Justine and Elizabeth are. It could be that Mary Shelley is attempting to draw a parallel between the establishment of the families in this book. Each family has problems and dysfunctional attributes that are not to be seen in a standard family. They find themselves disarrayed by orphans and adopted children. This could be attempting to show the unjustified hatred felt by society towards the monster. The monster would obviously not fit into a standard family due to his physical appearance. This shows the Hypocrisy of Frankenstein and the other members of society towards the misunderstood monster.

The monster does not fit into the same category as those that I have previously knowledgeable from my readings in arts one. what I have not seen from previous monsters is this level of intelligence. In Frankenstein, he is able to learn to speak very quickly. Not only does he learn language, he masters it, becoming extremely eloquent and able to make cohesive arguments. These arguments are sound and too effective in my opinion to have come from a monster.

Perhaps my idea of a monster is similar to what Sam has stated in class. A monster is simply a creature which cannot argue its point whether it is because of a lack of intelligence or too radically different. Because of this, we feel a disconnection from these “monsters” and lose empathy for them. When one reads Frankenstein they do not have such sentiments towards the monster. Instead, they look at the monster and feel remorse for him. They see his point of view more fully over Grendel’s because of language. Without such a strong ability to communicate, the monster in Frankenstein would be much more monstrous. He would not be perceived with the same light if he was unable to argue his point. This is  the reason many do not view Medea as a monster. She was able to in over the views of some through her strong argumentative skills and intelligence. By having these characteristics, she was able to be seen as less monstrous.


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A Discourse On Inequality

Rousseau sets out on a task to explain the most fundamental questions we ask ourselves. That oh so familiar phrase, “why do bad things happen to good people?” this questioning of fairness and equality is tackled philosophically by Rousseau. While I do think that the ideas he conveys are very original and intriguing  I cannot say that I am convinced. Rousseau appears to create and utilize conjecture as his basis for the book. As one who attempts to interpret everything through a scientific perspective, I have some issues with what he states. I will say that he is ahead of his time scientifically speaking, however, he does not base any of his claims on evidence of any sort. He bases his many points and arguments around what he seems to believe and what could be possible. This, although interesting, disconnects me from his argument as this mere idea is proven wrong in today’s scientific knowledge.

Rousseau also appears to make a distinction between humans of his day and humans that reside in a natural habitat. This idea is that man would be naked, removed of all of his tools, weapons, and clothing. I strongly believe, however, that by removing items such as clothing, weapons, shelter, etc, you no longer present humans in a natural light. This is the exact opposite of natural; it is the perversion of humanity. By dictating what humans may have, it eliminates the purity that accompanies nature.

Consider a bee hive for example. One would be fully inclined to consider this as part of nature (I assume that Rousseau would agree with this statement as well). However, this bee hive is similar to a city, highly populated with humans. This is to show that a city is quite similar to a bee hive, the only difference is the complexity. A bee hive has structure and function similar to a city, but lacks in the complexity that human brains can create. This shows that there is no severing from the natural world, the natural world is everything around us, humans have simply learned to manipulate nature, not destroy it. It would appear as though Rousseau is guilty of the gripes of human emotion in his distinction of what nature is.


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Leviathan

Well, I can surely say that I found the argument in Leviathan much more compelling than anything Plato sent out on in The Republic. I am not saying I adored this book or anything, I just thought it went a bit deeper than The Republic did. I did however, find a few comparisons between the texts. One formidable example of this was the discussion of speech. Both show the dangers of arts and specifically language. Plato argued that language was a destructive creation. It allowed for the diluting and destruction of exact meaning. Words, being so subjective and interpreted, were considered bad by Plato’s standards. He hoped to build a world of certain truths, removing all possibilities for mistake from it. Hobbes argues similar ideas, but not to the extreme extent that Plato does. Hobbes says that language is of great importance. He identifies the four effective uses of speech. He points out each idea, stating how they each work to produce “speech” as a whole. this is a difference from Plato’s argument. Hobbes does not banish the art form of speech altogether, he presents a more level-headed and introspective view of his form of communication. He is certain, regardless, to bring forth the negative facets of speech. He points to things such as lies and misinterpreted words as negative aspects of language.

On another note, I really enjoyed and agreed upon the idea of wit. Hobbes states that there are two types of wit, being natural wit and acquired wit. I fully agree that there are two types of wit present in society. One, being the creations which we, as a society, have deemed important, and therefore learned by the individual seeking to acquire wit. However, this is very different from natural wit. This is a type of wit that is biological. It is found present and ingrained in the human at birth. This is what Hobbes would argue, makes one “smart” or “stupid”. This is the same phrase which I heard growing up as “street smarts” or “book smarts”. In my mind, these two notions go hand in hand. Streets smarts is the common sense and logic found naturally in the form of “natural wit”. “Book Smarts” are the opposite, being the type of knowledge which is acquired rather than naturally present.


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Robinson Crusoe

I can’t say I necessarily loved this novel. (And I’m very happy to finally be able to use the term novel after so much of walking on egg shells to avoid this familiar word) Perhaps my reasoning is the absolutely dense text. But I liked the ideas it conveyed in the book. I clung to the idea of boredom as it guided Crusoe on his ventures. It seems as though this idea can often times be related to every one of us. It is what drives people to do things they have never done before. This extends all the way into humanity, as innovation and new ideas are brought forth through history, in essence, these ideas originated through a sense of boredom. Boredom, as it did for Crusoe, brought forth the idea of challenges. When we are bored, we attempt to repair this feeling through accomplishment and activity. Robinson Crusoe appears to show just how important boredom can truly be in our productivity. Without it, we would not advance in any regard, as our lives would always feel complete.

Another point that I found most interesting was the idea given by Crusoe at the beginning of the novel. He states in his initial overview of his story that he was lectured by his father regarding the many roles and classes of society. His father stated that men of desperate fortune and men of aspiring, superior fortunes were the only individuals who went about on journeys. This is an interesting idea and it seems to coincide with the above notion regarding boredom and accomplishment. His dad appears to show how, through desperation we look to adventure as a remedy and a way of finding an answer to our desperation. It is only through doing this that we find something of substance and importance, in his view. On the other hand, those who seek adventure may also be doing so out of great aspiration. I consider these one and the same. The one who seeks out adventure  through the means of aspiration is in the most basic sense, doing so for the hopes of receiving something from the action. I see no difference between the end result of the two individuals. They both work to reach an end goal, the aspiring one simply has a more defined idea of what he is seeking on his journey.


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The Tempest

Another attempt at deciphering Shakespeare began for me a few days ago when I finally sat down and read this. The form of writing is so very different from what I am accustomed to reading. Shakespeare writes in a very poetic and intangible way. It seems as though everything is given a new meaning, leaving a lot of room for my confusion. However, it was not all bad, I eventually began to adapt to the style and found myself comprehending it! What I noticed in the way Shakespeare wrote The Tempest was the use of personification. The description of the storm gives detail through human characteristics. I believe this was brought forth because of Ariel and the other Nymphs seen throughout the play. By Ariel being an entity, with very human-like characteristics such as the ability to talk, walk, and be seen as a normal man, it allows for that to carry over to the storm for example. Magic is expressed through human mediums.

I also feel as though deception was the theme of the play. I wasn’t able to pull out as much as
I usually do after reading texts, but I felt that deception was a large basis of the reading. Many people are deceived in the play, whether it is Prospero deceiving Caliban into being imprisoned and losing rights to rule the island, or Ariel causing mischief and leading the many survivors of the boat crash astray. If we accept the theme of deception as being consistent throughout the play, we can begin to pull out other, less observed forms of deception. One that comes to mind heavily, is the use of alcohol. It appears as though alcohol manipulates and significantly alters the role of many of the characters in the play. In their drunken state, they begin to believe in absurd realities, such as a two-headed fish on the ground.

On a final note, many could try to show Caliban as being a figure for monstrosity, however, he appears to simply be the victim of circumstance. He does not present himself to be unintelligent, as one could likely associate a monster to be. He is able to outwit Prospero in their exchange regarding who has rightful ownership of the island. He appears to be harassed continuously by the drunken survivors. Caliban does not attack or bring forth any sentiments which could be taken as monstrous. He simply attempts to be out of the way and docile.


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