Monday, September 23, 2013

Wuthering Heights

In  Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte, I found most references regarding fate mostly revolved around the debate of nurture vs. nature. One of the most important quotes I found emphasizing this debate is: "Now, my bonny lad, you are mine! And we'll see if one tree won't grow as crooked as one another, with the same wind to twist it!" (222). This quote resembles a huge concept in the novel. Many of the characters throughout the novel start to change into different people generally when they are facing a new environment. Bronte leaves the reason for their shift sort of up to interpretation. The readers have to decide whether the characters act the way they do because of their genetics, or if they act that way because of the influence the people they grew up around had on them. The other day, I did a venn diagram about this topic and categorized the characters into the different sides. I found it hard because none of the characters are really concrete in their behavior or psyche. For example, Big Catherine was born a wild child, even Nelly says so: "Certainly, she had ways with her such as I never saw a child take up before; and she put all of us past our patience fifty times and oftener in a day; from the hour she came down stairs, till the hour she went to bed, we had not a moment's security that she wouldn't be in mischief. Her spirits were always at high-water mark, her tongue always going...A wild, wick slip she was...and, after all, I believe she meant no harm; for when once she made you cry in good earnest, it seldom happened that she would not keep you company; and oblige you to be quiet that you might comfort her" (83). So, ever since she was a little girl, Catherine seemed to be a wild child, but she still had a sweet and innocent side to her. However, when Heathcliff came into her life, her wild side grew and she was constantly in trouble and it was almost like Heathcliff corrupted her: "The curate might set as many chapters as he pleased for Catherine to get by heart, and Joseph might thrash Heathcliff till his arm ached; they forgot everything the minute they were together again, at least the minute they had contrived some naughty plan of revenge, and many a time I've cried to myself to watch them growing more reckless daily..." (87) The pair grew up together causing chaos wherever they went. Did Heathcliff cause Catherine to live as a crazy person or would she have become one even without his influences? Heathcliff is also a huge character who applies to the nature vs. nurture debate. When he was first found, he was treated as an "it", not even as a full person. Even though Mr. Earnshaw favored him, Hindley abused him because he was jealous. If Heathcliff was treated better as a little kid, would he have chosen the good side instead of embracing evil? But then, even Catherine describes him as a monster when she wanted to warn Isabella away from him: "Nelly help me convince her of her madness. Tell her what Heathcliff is-an unreclaimed creature, without refinement, without cultivation; an arid wilderness of furze and whinstone" (141). Does this mean Heathcliff was always and always will be a figure? Throughout the book, he never really seems to change unless he's around Catherine. I think he was ultimately fated to be an immoral person, however he is allowed to escape all the bad through his connection with Catherine. Some of the other characters were a little harder to place just because Bronte never really specified their upbringings. I think the side a character is placed in could be debatable based on perspective. This makes me wonder if, in the world, whether nature is a larger contributing factor to a person's behavior or if nurture is. Maybe it's a combination of both? I know in my experience, nurture plays a bigger part, but I also know the balance of the two factors could differ between individuals.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Oedipus Rex

Often times in literature the authors refer to the fate versus free will debate. Their thoughts about the answer reflect in their writing style. In Oedipus Rex by Sophocles, Oedipus' parents hear a prophecy from an oracle about their son murdering his father and marrying his mother. They decide the best course of action is to kill him, however, the person sent to rid of Oedipus shows him mercy and leaves him to be found without checking to make sure he was truly dead: "Laius had the feet of this child bound and pinned. Someone tossed it in a mountain wilderness. So there. Apollo didn't cause this boy to be his father's killer. Laios didn't bear the terror he feared from his son. That's what the words of the prophecy defined" (Line 717). Unfortunately, he had no idea that his actions were going to set the prophecy into motion. As Oedipus grows up and hears his fate, in order to avoid the consequences, he leaves his home to stay away from his "parents". Oedipus seems to believe in the prophecy and yet, later in the play, he denies the validity of it. Sophocles plays with the concept of fate versus free will using the character Jocasta, Oedipus' wife/mother. When Oedipus brings in a blind man, Tiresias, to reiterate the prophecy, Jocasta tries to convince him he has nothing to fear because the account was false: "Then thou mayest ease they conscience on that score. Listen and I'll convince thee that no man hath scot or lot in the prophetic art. An oracle once came to Laius declaring he was doomed to perish by the hand of his own son, a child that should be born to him by me... As for the child, it was but three days old, when Lauius, its ankles pierced and pinned together, gave it to be cast away by others on the trackless mountain side...Such was the prophet's horoscope. O king, regard it not. Whate'er the god deems fit to search, himself unaided will reveal" (Lines 707-725). Jocasta convinces Oedipus to disregard Tiresias' warning, but Sophocles cleverly inserted irony into her statement by having her point proven by the use of a prophecy that will eventually come true. In the end, Oedipus realizes his actions caused the prophecy to come true anyways. So was Oedipus' life destined from the start or could his actions changed the outcome? The way in which Sophocles presents the idea suggests that fate played a bigger part and actions could not change the prophecy, just the order or the course it takes. Another factor to consider is Greek culture. Throughout many pieces of literature, prophecies and oracles are prominent and always come true. Generally, this is because the Greeks placed strong beliefs in destiny. One other question to consider is whether the prophecy would have come true if Jocasta and King Laius had no knowledge of what fate had in mind. Could it be possible that they could have avoided the tragic curse? Maybe, maybe not. One thing's for sure, the readers would be just as in the dark as the characters.