The Real Superhumans

Wow. I cannot believe that we are on our last book of the year. And what a horribly depressing way to end off. Why couldn’t we have just read something else? Why did it have to be Watchmen?

I thought comics were supposed to be fun. I thought superheroes were people you could count on and look up to. I thought I would enjoy this book. I thought wrong.

Instead of being a break from reality and societies falling apart and people killing themselves and racism and moral monstrosity, reading Watchmen was like waking up from a good dream into a nightmare.

I think Alan Moore tried extra hard to make sure that none of the characters were at all likeable. They weren’t like your classic Superman. They were old, out of shape, grumpy, cynical, arrogant, and just plain violent. They were like superhumans in the sense that they were amplified versions of everything bad about the average person.

Well, you know, maybe they were just fed up with it all. Maybe they were just tired of looking after people and cleaning up after their “moral lapses”, knowing that it was all only a temporary solution. People were bringing about their own destruction, and why should it be the heroes duty to stop it?

Okay, but still, that’s no reason to be bombing people with weird poison gas grenades to calm them down…

Honestly, I don’t know how to feel about the characters in Watchmen. On the one hand, they are amplified versions of all that is wrong with us – all our lousy attitudes and self-righteous, unempathetic actions. Some of them, especially The Comedian, are absolutely terrible people. But on the other hand, you can see how much contempt they have for the way society is going. And you kind of have to agree with them.

But no. I like my Supermans nice and heroic. After all, we need someone to look up to.


Okay, don’t ask me anymore about Watchmen. I have to go take a walk. Clear my mind…


Masculinity in Achebe’s Things Fall Apart

Wow, this book is hard to understand. I mean, it’s wonderful to read and imaginative like an old folk story, but when I look back on what I’ve read, it’s insanely complicated.

One of the main things I wanted to explore in this blog post was the different representations of gender roles in the novel, and the attitudes of different characters towards them. I would also like to ask where these attitudes fall in the context of what is traditional view of masculinity vs. femininity.

The first character we meet is of course Okonkwo, and it is pretty clear where he stands on the issue of gender. According to him, masculinity equals virtue, femininity equals weakness. Everything about him screams an obsession with being masculine – an obsession for power, reputation, wealth, and the ancient ways where men were men and women were women.

Okonkwo seems to have a certain contempt for the feminine, which is mostly due to his father, who had failed in his manly role and brought shame upon the whole family. This contempt is reciprocated onto his son Nwoye, whom Okonkwo thinks weak for spending too much time with his mother, and also for joining the Christian missionaries.

However, I do not think it is possible to say that Okonkwo’s views are exactly congruent with the views of the rest of the tribe. For example, he believes that to be manly, one must be aggressive and exert one’s power over others. He takes this view too far, though, on several occasions, namely beating his wife, almost killing her, killing his “adopted” son just to show he was not a coward, and killing someone at a funeral (albeit by accident). The other members of the tribe do not approve of this kind of behavior, and generally think that he is a violent and dangerous man. He also rarely thinks about things, and instead acts based on instinct and anger.

His exile provides him with an opportunity to “get in touch with his feminine side”, but instead, he reassures himself that his manliness is his virtue and that all his unmanly children are the ash from his roaring fire. He also grows contempt for the more diplomatic nature of his maternal tribe, and stubbornly refuses to accept the need to change his attitudes.

I’m stuck wondering whether there is some meaning in Okonkwo’s failure to change – what is Achebe trying to say about traditional (or ultra-traditional) attitudes?

And also, if the tribe’s attitudes are not quite as radical as Okonkwo’s, then is Okonkwo in some way defying tradition, or just overexaggerating it???

Is Achebe commenting on masculinity, or just drawing out a problem?




I think I’m losing my mind.

Evolution and Situated Freedom in George Eliot’s The Mill on the Floss

Our lecture yesterday was wonderfully insightful… but my god was it complicated! So much to think about on so many levels! I think my head will explode as I write this blog post.

The one thing I think I understood well enough to reflect on is the idea of evolution and how it is portrayed in the novel. Specifically, I’d like to focus on that very last slide that we were shown in lecture, the quote by Karl Marx, and how this relates to ideas in The Mill on the Floss.

Here’s the quote, for your convenience:

Men make their own history, but they do not make it as they please; they do not make it under self-selected circumstances, but under circumstances existing already, given and transmitted from the past. The tradition of all dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brains of the living.

The first thing that comes to mind through this quote is the idea of “situated freedom”. Yeah, that phrase didn’t come up until Beauvoir, but it nevertheless applies to The Mill on the Floss, and I think it’s useful to understanding how the concept of evolution applies.

So here we have Tom and Maggie, one who is kind of “thick” and the other who has unlimited intellectual potential. But because of their respective genders, they are both forced into different niches in the community. Tom (the “thick” one) is expected to do well in school and become the next breadwinner in the family. Maggie (the smart one) is not supported in her education because she is a girl, and has to be confined to her traditional role as a female. Their randomly inherited traits of gender and intelligence, as well as the environment they are born into, become their situation, under which I believe they can exert some control, or try to “adapt” their lives in a new direction.

It is interesting to contrast this view of the individual with the view of society at large under a similar light. Maggie especially, being more intelligent than most, is seen as an unexpected variation from the “emmet-like” (ant-like) people around her. They are said to operate with collectivity and instinct, as though they were mindless animals travelling on the path of evolution. Whereas they stick to tradition, Maggie is more willing to go against it, and thus would be a more adaptive person than others.

By all Spencerian logic, she should be among the “fittest” in her society – she is smart, literate, resourceful – and should therefore survive. But both she and her brother (who may be considered “unfit”) die in the flood, along with many other people. Were her traits undesirable? Was there no place for her in this world? No. It was just random, like Darwin said. Even though her variation made for a better individual, it did not survive in the greater population due to the chance happening of a disastrous flood.

So there we have it that the next generations would not have Maggie’s traits or her brother’s, but the traits of the others, who though individually worse-off, were collectively better-off in terms of number and establishment of their own niches.

Much like this blog post, it’s all just random…

Reflection Time… Yay…

Oh these wonderful reflections! I simply love evaluating my own “improvement” and reminding myself of all those things I promised to do back in January! What fun!

Actually, all in all, I’ve been pretty happy with my essay writing this term. I was kind of afraid that I might slack off and start procrastinating as with other things. But surprisingly, I’ve managed to keep up my routine of starting and finishing early which has been really useful in giving myself enough time to develop my ideas.

As for my promises, I don’t know if I’ve fulfilled them – though I’ve certainly tried. A major focus has been on the “flow” of my essay from point to point and presenting information in a clear and logical sequence. I think I’ve addressed this issue by working on my thesis statement – making it precise and understandable – and the topic sentences (and concluding sentences) of my paragraphs. My aim was to make it so that the most important information was summed up adequately in just a few well-written lines. As a result, my paragraphs have also gotten much more concise, and hopefully less of a bother to read.

Also, I’ve been working really hard on keeping my discussion relevant to an overarching thesis, and linking my individual points back to it through single sentences near the ends of my paragraphs. My earlier essays really lacked this technique, which may explain why they seemed to miss the “bigger picture” argument. I feel that implementing this is something that has really aided the general effectiveness of my recent essays.

Finally, the last promise I made was to obtain more textual evidence in my essays and better use it to illustrate my ideas. It used to be that my textual evidence was quite skimpy and not always entirely related. But I feel I’ve stepped it up and really tried to find the perfect quotes to fit into my discussion.

Of course, each of these things can be further improved on, which will continue to be my goal until the end of the term. That, and being a faster reader. Because it seriously takes me forever to read books. I think I’m just too easily distracted.

Well… that’s that! I don’t feel too bad, I guess. I think I did improve to some extent.

There’s still two essays left to prove myself!

Wish me luck!

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