Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Waiting for Godot

In "Waiting for Godot" by Samuel Beckett, the characters' lives are full of meaningless repetition. Beckett portrayed them as he would describe human nature in his eyes which is purposeless unless you can find some sort of reason to live on. Most of the characters are stuck in a mindless vortex and can never quite escape it, nor do they seem to notice it's existence. For example, Gogo started and ended the play in the same fashion  with no real progress throughout the plot. He finds himself tied to Didi and the tree waiting for Godot to appear. And even though he expresses the want to move on, he cannot seem to find the motivation to carry out any sort of action. Gogo lacks any sort of conscious or comprehend able thought processes. Didi seems to represent the human race as a species with no outer purpose in life and one of repetitive and circular events. Beckett poses the question on whether or not humans do have some sort of reason for being on earth and living besides one of just existence.

Though it may seem like an easy question to answer based on the play, at the very end of the book Gogo realizes to some extent how absurd his life is at the moment. I think that even though he became aware of his situation, he was scared of how to treat his discovery. He soon reverted back to the bland life of the past. Gogo did not know where to start looking for meaning in life and I think at the time, it may have been a larger task than he would like to have tried to accomplish. Plus, he probably thought it was better to have no meaning in life than to try to find meaning, fail, and be forced to return to a purposeless living style.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Crime and Punishment

      One of our recurring questions in book club was whether Raskolnikov was always crazy or if unfavorable situations sparked his insanity. In the first pages of the book, Raskolnikov started to "mutter something, from the habit of talking to himself" (2) supporting the theory that he was a somewhat crazy man to begin with. However, he remains a decent man until he walks into the tavern and overhears a few people talking about murdering his land lady. "why had he happened to hear such a discussion and such ideas at the very moment his own brain was just conceiving...the very same idea?... This trivial talk in a tavern had an immense influence on him in his later action..." (69) The talk about a hypothetical murder provided Raskolnikov with proof to justify his crime in his mind. Instead of focusing on the fact he was taking a life away, he shifted his stream of consciousness to the benefit he was providing the rest of society. I think he convinced himself he was doing good so that the reality of the murder would not make him feel guilty. Overall, I think had Raskolnikov not committed those murders, he would have been viewed as an anti-social member in society. However, since he did murder two women, I don't think Raskolnikov realized the psychological impact. The murders acted as the catalyst to Raskolnikov's whirlwind of confused and paranoid thoughts.
     Raskolnikov's increasing madness, however, was not without purpose. His crazed mind accentuates Raskolnikov's internal and external battles between morality and logic. One of the prime examples was the actual murder scene. Before he murdered Alyona, he "felt that he was losing his head" (79) and didn't feel like himself until afterwards. However, even though he trembles knowing what he did, Raskolnikov doesn't feel guilty (something he never admits to throughout the entire book). And yet, when Alyona's sister comes in unexpectedly, he loses his head once again and is dominated by fear (similar to that of the previous murder). Unlike the murder of Alyona, Raskolnikov feels "simple horror and loathing of what he had done" (83) after the murder of the sister. The two different reactions depict Raskolnikov as a man who thinks he knows justified actions from unjustified. It also gives a reader insight that evokes a better understanding of the complex ambiguity in Raskolnikov's consciousness.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014


Beloved. Her presence changed the lifestyle of the family in 124 significantly. The story starts with just Sethe, Denver, and a so called "baby ghost" living in an old house where no one dares to visit. While dysfunctional, the family was content and able to live somewhat peacefully together. That is, until Paul D came. His presence shifted the style of household living that was the "normal" before. The ghost no longer wreaked havoc. Denver no longer held Sethe's attention. And Sethe could no longer hold back her repressed memories of her former life in slavery, much of which was connected with Paul D. And the biggest change, for all of them, was when they found a young woman lying against a tree stump.

Her name she said, was Beloved. Slowly, she wormed her way into the lives of the residents of 124 until she was considered a resident herself. Only Paul D was suspicious of her and felt uncomfortable around her. With Beloved's arrival, Sethe in particular started having her memories resurface. All of her past life from slavery to freedom. Some good and some bad, but mostly bad. One in particular was the day she took her baby's life in a shed shrouded by trees. Throughout the story, Morrison alludes to the possibility of Beloved being a reincarnation of the baby Sethe thought was long dead. There are little signs that support this theory such as Beloved asking about Sethe's earrings or humming a song the Sethe only hummed to her dead daughter. The real question is what is Beloved's purpose in the book? 

Many theories are being tossed around about the real reason Beloved makes an appearance at 124, and all of them have multiple instances to support it. If Beloved truly was Sethe's dead daughter, what did she do to influence Sethe? Was she there for revenge? Want? Need? Was Beloved destined to reemerge and alter Sethe's life, reminding her of the past she thought was done for? If Beloved never appeared before Sethe, would Sethe have ever thought to face all those demons? I think in some way, Beloved was supposed to bring some closure to Sethe and her family by letting her know how her decision impacted her daughter. And in a way, she brought the members living in 124 closer to each other and the community by forcing them to relive and come to terms with their past. 

However, there was a passage in the last few pages that made me pause and rethink about who Beloved really was: "Down by the stream in back of 124 her footprints come and go, come and go. They are so familiar. Should a child, an adult place his feet in them, they will fit" (Morrison, 324). In this small snippet Beloved seems to be more of a symbol of slavery and the hard times that come with it because the fact that everyone can fit into her footprints makes her relatable to more people than just Sethe, Denver, and Paul D. Her journey can be traced by all people who try and find it. So maybe, in fact, Beloved was not destined to be the reincarnation of Sethe's long lost child. Perhaps she is just a lost young girl that reminded Sethe of her daughter, but really ended up there on pure coincidence.

I don't think anyone could ever be sure exactly who or what Beloved is. Not even Toni Morrison, the author, is willing to share her thoughts about Beloved. She could be both a symbol and a reminder. Or just a symbol. Or just a ghost. What's great about Beloved is that even though you feel like you have started to figure her out, she can be something completely different. Her purpose is up to interpretation, but one thing for sure is that she forced the characters to drudge up their past and in a sense, brought them and their community closer together when all was said and done. 

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Invisible Man

In Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison, a man struggles with discovering himself and his role in society. One of the biggest factors in the book that can be tied back to fate/destiny is race. The narrator was living in a time period where African Americans were not treated equally nor were they respected in any regard. He struggles trying to find acceptance and finding a place in society where he could fit in and feel somewhat accepted. In the Prologue, he explains why it is that he is invisible: "That invisibility to which I refer occurs because of a peculiar disposition of the eyes of those with whom I come in contact. A matter of the construction of their inner eyes, those eyes with which they look through their physical eyes upon reality" (3). So his invisibility was only his fault truly because he was born not white. The rest of the blame can be put on society's shoulders because they were the ones who chose not to see him and to pretend as if he never even existed. And even though they were not seeing him, he still tried his hardest to become seen. He pushed against the fate of his race to try and define himself as an individual. He first got into college and tried to get a decent job. Then he started to work for the Brotherhood and give speeches to try and get other people noticed as well. However, even with all of his efforts, he was still left alone and unseen.