Women in Watchmen

The characters in Watchmen are all psychologically interesting and complex. The Comedian, Rorschach,and Jon all have a complicated and tragic past. The book starts with the death of The Comedian. At the end of the first chapter Laurie says there doesn’t seem to be “many laughs around these days” and Dan replies “The Comedian’s dead”. I wonder if this signifies that things are getting worse and more serious, as the Doom’s Day Clock starts ticking. The Comedian is described by Jon as “deliberately amoral”. Jon says “as I come to understand Vietnam and what it implies about the human condition, I also realize that few humans will permit themselves such an understanding…Blake’s different. He understands perfectly..and he doesn’t care”. From this, what parallels can we draw between Edward Blake and Kurtz from Heart of Darkness? It’s said that Blake understood the truth about the twentieth century and made a joke out of it. In Vietnam we catch a glimpse of his hopelessness. He even kills a pregnant woman who was his former lover. He is ruthless, yet this is supposedly how he reflected and made a parody of his times. Before he dies, we and Moloch witness his breakdown…
Rorschach is another character that is introduced in the very beginning. He has a double identity which we don’t find out until later. He first appears as the guy holding up the sign “the end is nigh” and as Rorschach in his journal. When he gets arrested, we delve into his past, the horrors he has seen. “Once a man has seen, he can never turn his back on it.” From Rorschach, we learn that life is dark and full of trouble. Even his psychologist becomes troubled. He thinks to himself: “in the end, it is simply a picture of empty meaningless blackness. We are alone. There is nothing else.” What does this suggest about our present reality and the way we perceive things?
I noticed that a lot of the male protagonists are portrayed as tough, stoic and destructive. What about the female characters? Sally, one of the crimefighters, is tough but also embraces her sexuality at the same time. Laurie is probably the most relatable and human character in my opinion. She is strong, independent and she also cares about the world and its people. The characters in The Watchmen are definitely portrayed with a realism even though some of them have superhuman characteristics like Dr. Manhattan. I wonder what you all think about Moore’s portrayal of his male and female characters in Watchmen and what this says about humanity.

Ibo Word of the Day: iyi-uwa

Achebe’s Things Fall Apart is a novel in which the author writes about his own people to us. I thoroughly enjoyed reading Things Fall Apart and learning about the stories, customs and people of Nigeria. I found it interesting, as mentioned in lecture, that by the end of the novel the narrative voice suddenly transitions to that of the District Commissioner, who is an outsider and does not understand the Africans. Thus, in the story told from his perspective, Okonkwo becomes “this man who had killed a messenger and hanged himself” where all of Okonkwo’s accomplishments as a great wrestler, warrior and successful farmer and the shame and hardship he’s gone through with seven years of exile would be wiped out, same with the fascinating tribal ceremonies, stories and beliefs. Thankfully Achebe has already written about these things or we’d miss out on so much if we were to read the white man’s story. I find this satirical, tragic yet true, that Okonkwo’s life should be reduced to a “reasonable paragraph” by the white man’s ignorance. Through this last bit of the novel, I can also see Achebe’s underlying intention in bringing out African voices. Fanon would be pleased with this.
Another thing I found fascinating was the gender roles. Okonkwo constantly wishes that Ezinma had been a boy because she has the “spirit”. This reminds me of Eliot’s Mr. Tulliver who sees the cleverness in Maggie being bad for her because she’s a girl. Okonkwo also becomes extremely ashamed of his eldest son Nwoye whom he thought was not manly enough and because he betrays his people. I see this with Tom in Mill on the Floss, though he can be masculine and firm and he does not betray his family, his intelligence was shallow and could not match Maggie. One thing that I’m slightly puzzled about was the night when Ezinma got carried by Chielo the priestess all the way to the cave. At the time Ekwefi and Okonkwo made such a fuss about it, being worried about Ezinma, but we never find out what happened in the cave. Maybe what happens in the cave is not known because the spirit of Agbala does not allow it to be told.

Eliot and Human Nature

After the lecture, it seemed clear to me that The Mill on the Floss is very much a social commentary on the everyday lives of English people in the 1830’s. Eliot portrays all her characters with an astute realism; she seems to understand human nature and the social and political conditions of the time so well that her book reads quite intelligently and perhaps even didactically. At times, Eliot’s humour reminded me of Dickens. When describing Tom’s painful experiences with education, she writes it is “as if he had been plied with cheese in order to remedy a gastric weakness which prevented him from digesting it [the classics and geometry]” (139-140). Descriptions such as this show Eliot to be a clever woman. Throughout Eliot’s novel, I found that all characters are portrayed with such depth that they really seem like living, breathing people, such as Mr. Tulliver with his profound love for Maggie and similarly his sister Mrs. Moss as well as his stubbornness and perplexity to the changing times. I find it impressive that none of the characters are ‘flat’ or uninteresting in any way. Mrs Tulliver, although is apparently not as smart as her husband, still has her own philosophy to life, such as that she cares about Tom being fed well and being washed, which is important, and she foresees Maggie being “drownded” one day which comes to be true. One of the things that I find interesting in the novel, is the theme of education. While Maggie seems to represent the bookish type of education, Tom on the other hand, embodies the practical kind. Is it any good for a person suited for the hands-on, practical type of education to be opened (if not forced) to learn from books–Latin, the classics, mathematics and abstract thinking? What about the other way around? What does this say about adaptability, survival and common sense?

de Beauvoir and Gilman’s woman

From the moment I began reading The Second Sex, I had the impression that de Beauvoir is a very intelligent woman. Starting her introduction with tactics of rhetoric, she asks questions such as ‘what is a woman?’ ‘why is it that women do not dispute male sovereignty?’ These are provocative questions that we can still ask today without receiving a complete and satisfactory answer. I believe that the answers to these questions are indefinite and are always changing in the progress of time. That said, Simone de Beauvoir was a woman who was well ahead of her time.
In ‘The Data of Biology’, de Beauvoir examines the relationship between men and women in terms of their biological assets. Most extensively, she brings into comparison the female-male relations in numerous species in the animal kingdom, illustrating the sexual behaviour, reproduction and maternity/paternity of species varying from mammals to marine invertebrates. I am impressed at the extent of de Beauvoir’s knowledge and how evidently well-researched her presentation of facts is. Through this information, she underscores the fact that biology has put women in danger or alienation for the greater purpose of perpetuating humanity, yet stating that this “fails to explain why woman is the Other” and how these biological facts do not “establish for her a fixed and inevitable destiny” (34). In the next section, she criticizes Freud for basing his psychoanalytic views on a masculine model and how he “was forced to invent strange fictions” (46-47). In summary, de Beauvoir is pushing forward the argument of the woman being able to choose, as we can see from the fact that biological differences have no significance on their own, but once put into social/economic interpretation by men the woman is at a disadvantage. She defines woman as a human being in quest of knowledge and values that have economic/social consequence, to be able to take the world by storm, so to speak. Overall I’m really in awe of de Beauvoir. I found this Youtube video of an interview of her. It’s long but really insightful: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KRQIm1ug3q4 A lot of the times she’s just ‘in your face’ at the interviewer. She’s the grandmother that we all would have liked to have.

In drawing connections between The Second Sex and The Yellow Wallpaper, both argue for the autonomy of women in different forms of writing–non-fiction vs. short story part autobiography and part fiction. The Yellow Wallpaper is about a woman breaking out of her bonds after being confined domestically by the male/husband/doctor figure and having her writing vocation and independence taken away, but in order to break the bonds she had to become or at least appear to others as mad or insane. This makes me wonder how much agency women really had that they did have to be driven mad to at least get out of their psychological confinement.

The Simplicity in the Lyrical Ballads

After attending the lecture on Wordsworth and Coleridge, I’m fascinated by a number of things:

1. How exactly do the words and rhythms of poetry work together so cleverly to produce a) raw emotion b) a sense of calmness and c) simplicity + beauty ? –>It must require certain skills, such as a vocabulary, good grasp of language, understanding the meter–how it works and how to use it in the most effective way which sounds challenging– and “organic sensibility” –ability to be sensitive towards nature and emotions.

2. Reading for therapeutic purposes: I never thought that reading could be like therapy, but now that I think of it, it makes sense to me. Sometimes when people get bored with life I guess they pour over novels so they can immerse in the world of fiction. (One bad thing with that, is what Wordsworth warns us, which is the “frantic novels” that make us “gross and violent”). To mediate the violent emotions prose generates, Wordsworth proposes that poetry, with its metrical system, gives a pattern to the ideas expressed, and this pattern has a continuity which calms the reader. I find this meter analogous to a person’s heart beat. I once heard from somewhere that hearing the clock tick before you sleep is calming because the clock’s tick is supposed to resemble the beating of your mother’s heart which you listened to when you were still in the womb. So I guess this is why a beat / meter has a calming effect.

3. I wonder if Wordsworth thought his poetry as the start of a movement, because in the preface he calls his poems “an experiment”, something like the impressionist or avant-garde movement. With Wordsworth and Coleridge, I really like the simplicity of language in their poetry. I don’t find anything really flowery that can sound pretentious in their poems, which is what’s appealing about them. This is the point that Wordsworth tries to get across. Because it’s simple, it says a lot more.

My favourite poem has to be “We Are Seven”. It’s just so sweet and sad at the same time. It seems so real too, like a daily feature of 1700 rural life–a girl playing in the fields counts her dead siblings as if they were still alive. Overall, I’m fascinated by how emotions are immediately produced in poetry, because the lines, the words are right there, and they do generate fluxes of sensations. I don’t think I’ve read poetry that hasn’t made me feel anything, unless it’s just too abstract and hard to grasp.

History is biased

Trouillot is very much like a story-teller. Throughout his book, I’ve noticed that he shifts from one writing style to another. In the beginning, he starts kind of in the middle of nowhere and jumps into a factual account of the Alamo. Then his story becomes a sort of discussion, where he distinguishes the many aspects of history. He seems to know that he is writing for North-American undergrads, that we are his audience. Therefore in his presentation of facts, story-telling and discussion he is selective about what is presented and what is silenced. He tells us that, from page 56- 57, in considering who his audiences are, he chose to insert and omit certain facts. In a sense, there are also silences in Silencing the Past, and Trouillot admits that. I like how he argues that history is biased by telling us that he is biased too, which makes his argument very convincing. There is no doubt that history is like a chronicler providing a play-by-play account of a game, as it cannot be inclusive of literally every thing that happens. But what gets told and what doesn’t get told is dependent on who has power. Can a white male write African history? Trouillot introduces many on-going debates about power and the production of history in this book. It is therefore useful to know that the silences in history is also a part of history, and by acknowledging those silences, we are making history as well. In the lecture on Monday, the idea of ‘reparations’ came up at one point. This relates to the ‘disneyland of slavery’ in the book. I guess the question isn’t whether or not we can repair the damage, but whether or not it’s appropriate, and what’s the point of it. A similar case is First Nations of British Columbia. We all know that by saying “the unceded land of the Musqueam people” means that we are acknowledging that we are technically ‘illegal immigrants’. Power and hegemony play a huge role in creating history and also ‘what is reality’. I think Trouillot wants us to find the marginalized part of history.

Hobbes blog post – Correction

To correct a mistake in the post ‘Hobbes makes sense’, Leviathan was first published in 1651 in English (not Latin). The revised Latin edition came out in 1668. Both versions were written by Hobbes. My apologies to anyone who was confused by the error. Thanks to Christina for the correction!

Hobbes makes sense

…if you take it in little bits at a time. When I first started reading Hobbes, the language (somewhat Shakespearean) kind of put me off, and I just wanted to be done with him. But as I forced myself to read on, I found that Hobbes actually has some very interesting ideas that are coherent; although his scientific knowledge might be a bit off, it is still a tolerable and interesting point of view. I liked how he started everything from its beginnings and origins, and then moved a step at a time to the bigger picture. He started with an analysis of man, where and how sense, thoughts, imagination, and reasoning as well as emotions are produced. Then, having built up his argument, he expands from man to society, how desires and aversions of each individual impact society, and how society should be governed so that everyone can live together in peace. Overall, I like Hobbes and I appreciate that he advocates for society’s commoners. He has some good intentions in that he doesn’t want us (ordinary people) to be fooled by any authoritative figure such as priests and philosophers cough Plato cough. We should be able to think for ourselves and not repose our trust on someone else interpreting the material for us. Even though I admit that Hobbes means well, I can’t help thinking that if he really wanted us to not be confused or fooled, then why write such a complicated text that is so annoying and discouraging to read? He wrote the text in Latin so it can be translated into English. At one point Hobbes does say that ‘incorporeal ideas’ such as “the trinity” can’t be translated correctly between languages. Maybe that’s why he writes in Latin, to show us that since his ideas can be translated without error, he must be reliable. Still, I wish he could have written everything in short and concise sentences, but I think that’s up to the translator. Even then, that would really serve Hobbes and the publishing company well and gain popularity for the text and expand its audiences.

The Tempest is a political play

After learning about politics in Shakespearean England from the lecture on Monday, it isn’t surprising that Shakespeare’s writings would be heavily influenced by the times he lived in.

The Tempest can be interpreted as a ‘play of plays’ and a commentary on colonization, and evidence of both views can be found in the play.

There’s so much to The Tempest. The play is reeking of plots, plots of usurpation (Prospero’s right as duke of Milan, the king was almost usurped by his men), plots to kill and to deceive (Antonio and Sebastian almost usurping the king, Caliban wanting to kill Prospero, Prospero deceiving pretty much everyone). There’s also comedy, romance, and more.

Evidently, the king’s men has plenty of time to tell jokes (2.1), even when they’re about to drown (1.1). Also, Prospero has a hard time getting Miranda to listen to his woeful tales. Miranda comments, “Your tale, sir, would cure deafness” (Act 1.2,  107), after Prospero’s multiple attempts to get her attention. Then there’s Trinculo and Stephano, the party animals of the play, who bring a lot of rowdiness and drunkenness to the island. The beginning of The Tempest with shipwreck resonates with the shipwreck in Twelfth Night. In The Tempest the father and son are separated and in Twelfth Night the twin brother and sister are separated, and both situations are resolved happily in the end.

The bitter part of the play is where Caliban gets verbally abused by Prospero and Miranda, tricked by Trinculo and Stephano, believing that they’re ‘the men in the moon’, but nevertheless realizing that he’s been tricked in the end. Although Shakespeare doesn’t give any solutions to the colonization issue, he does show the human condition and problems involved, therefore raising awareness, which is good.

Aside from The Tempest, Shakespeare seems to have written a lot of political plays: Macbeth, Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet has a political backdrop/civil mutiny. Probably all of his plays have something to do with politics, now that I think of it. After all, it is a writer’s job to respond to the society he/she lives in through writing.


Antigone is a Greek tragedy by Sophocles. It contains many lessons in a short drama.

In the opening scene with Antigone and Ismene we learn about the Theban political situation in the play and how that relates to what Antigone is going to perform. Antigone’s father Oedipus, the former ruler along with his wife and two sons are dead. Ismene says that Oedipus was “hated, infamous, destroyed; found his crimes, broke his eyes, that hand that murdered, two in one” (23), the “two in one” refers to his wife, who was both Oedipus’s mother and wife. The number two is recurring here, two being both mother and wife, two brothers who caused the civil war, and two sisters–Antigone and Ismene. Antigone next announces that she is going to disobey the new law that was established by Kreon, the new king of Thebes. The law forbids anyone from burying Polyneices or they will be penalized with death. Polyneices is Antigone’s brother and she cannot leave him unburied because she loves him. It is also the Greek custom to bury the dead and Antigone is serious on that. On the other hand, Ismene, who is “sensible” decides not to be involved with this, her excuse being “the whole country refuses to help”. But Antigone is strong-willed and devoted to her love for her brother, and she would rather die.

In the next bit we see Kreon, the Theban king. Kreon carries himself like a tyrant, the state is at his disposal, like Koryphaios, the chorus leader says. The conversation between the sentry and Kreon can be read like a comedy. The sentry reports that someone has disobeyed his law and buried the dead body. Kreon is obviously irritated, especially by the way the sentry talks. He says “Don’t you know yet your talk irritates me?” “Does it hurt in your ears, sir, or in your soul?” The sentry asks. “What is this? Anatomy?” Kreon says.

When Antigone is caught, she shows her strength through her speech. “But if I had let my own brother stay unburied, I would have suffered all the pain I do not feel now” (39). Both Antigone and Kreon are stubborn. While Antigone does it out of love, Kreon out of ego. Kreon’s son Haimon criticizes him, saying he must relent and listen and that Kreon is “talking like a boy”. The role of father and son switches here. The son speaks out of wisdom while the father whim.

Throughout the play, Kreon appears to be a nasty person, fooled by his power. In the end, when he has to pay the price of his foolishness with both his son and wife, it is hard to know whether to pity him or not. He realizes his mistakes and cannot live anymore; death is what he wants.

Who is most pitiable in the play? Antigone & Haimon? Kreon? Everybody basically? Why? What can we learn from each character?

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