Watchmen and my first impression on comic books

This is the first time ever I am reading a comic, and I am wondering what took me so long. Watchmen has changed my entire perspective on comics. I never thought they could actually deal with serious matters, have highly complex characters and the dynamism and detail of a well-crafted story.

The text itself (dialogue, journal entries) is fantastic. It is witty, at times funny, full of voice and most of all, the comic book structure allows for a very fluid sense of dialogue. In a book, it is annoying how usually when someone says something, the author has to make it clear who said it. Yet, in a comic book the dialogue flows from square to square and you can tell instantly who says what. It seems much more real.

Since the text is already so good it could be a novel all by itself, the drawings then become such a treat. It is kind of like if Northanger Abbey or Heart of Darkness came with illustrations for every single scene. Not only are they fabulous from an art perspective, but they are also full of information that is just as valuable as the text. Seeing how well text and image work together to create a cohesive story really makes me understand the idea that a comic is “co-creative intermedia”. It is truly a work of art.

Furthermore, I can see how the book is irresistible to translate to film. Yet, as mentioned in lecture, it would leave no room for self-interpretation. With books sometimes I feel there is not enough descriptive information, while with movies, there is an overflow. So with comic books, it is a great balance between showing you implicitly what is happening, yet leaving enough room for you to interpret it as you wish. The use of stock colours (no shading) and that you obviously cannot hear the voices leave it up to the reader to imagine. The result is a much more personal story that will probably resemble the spaces and voices of your life.

Although the end of studying Watchmen is nigh, I don’t think it will be the last time I pick up a comic book.

Misogyny in Things Fall Apart is not too different from Conrad and Racism

It is difficult to read Things Fall Apart without being very disgusted with the gender roles and the attitudes towards women in Umuofia. Okwonko’s treatment of his wives as lesser, weaker, stupid beings is unacceptable. His behaviour is very reminiscent of Blanca’s abusive husband in Until the Dawn’s Light.

Coming to terms with the misogyny in the novel, I am confused as to what Achebe is doing. Ultimately you could say the book is simply being historically accurate. Gender roles were probably just like that in Nigerian villages of the 1890s. Instances of misogyny are just part of the setting or “context”. However, wouldn’t he be doing the same thing as Conrad, whom he criticizes extensively?

Achebe did not like how Conrad depicted black people as primitive beings, “not inhuman” or sometimes mere body parts. Achebe says it is wrong for Conrad to use this racism as a background for his own story about European colonization. It seems to me that Achebe is then doing the same thing: using sexism as a way to tell his story about Okwonko’s damaged personality.

Apart from this, I am not even sure if either are wrong. If you write about something horrible taking place (racism, misogyny) is that the same as advocating for it? What does worry me is how quotes like “the birth of her children, which should be a woman’s crowing glory…” sound like statements of fact (77). This is said not by Okwonko, a character who we know is flawed, but the narrator.

Overall however, the novel has a lot to offer and I have enjoyed learning about Nigerian tribal culture in a very close-up and detailed way.

The Mill on the Floss and Floods and Evolution

After the lecture, it was clear to me that there are so many things going on in this book! The Mill on the Floss deals with the topics of gender roles, marriage, bildungsroman (coming of age), history and religion. What stood out to me the most, was the theme of natural history and evolution. I never thought a novel could deal with topics like evolution and natural selection. I think it is really cool how Eliot took scientific ideas of her time and put them into a novel that deals with normal people and daily life. The Mill on the Floss then becomes a way to understand evolution/natural selection in a personal, daily life kind of setting.
We see it occur in Maggie and her brother, herself being the smart one while her brother is not. The one who should reproduce and is “fittest to survive” is therefore Maggie. The question of whether or not she will marry and have kids becomes connected with evolution. What Eliot does is the equivalent of taking a modern-day scientific/history theory like for example Hacking’s “looping” theory and writing a novel showing how it takes place in the lives of some normal people.

On another note I was also intrigued by the recurring theme of ‘the flood’. I could not help but connect it with the biblical story of Noah’s ark. This story, although religious, is also a story of survival of the fittest. God decides to save Noah and his sons because they are good people and therefore “the fittest” to father humanity, while the rest do not survive due to a natural cause – a flood. I thought it was interesting how the book deals a lot with religion, in particular Maggie’s faith, and then ends with a flood – a classic Christian motif that it is also inherently scientific and connected to evolution and natural selection.

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