Pride and Prejudice—-”Radical Jane” by Edward Ahearn

The focus of Ahearn’s argument is on the connection between the relationships of characters in Pride and Prejudice and the evolving social hierarchy of England at the time.  He discusses how the mingling and eventual marriages of both Jane and Elizabeth to Bingley and Darcy (respectively) represent a new shift in societal thinking as class lines shift and the old class lines (especially) around the aristocracy dissolve into the (then) modern world.  Ahearn notices some interesting instances of symbolism in the novel, such as the sickness of Anne de Bourgh and Georgiana Darcy and how the intended uniting of the two families was ill-conceived and impossible to execute.  According to Ahearn, this shows how the aristocracy is failing and that the idea of nobility mixing only with nobility is flawed, not only in the book, but also in the real world as well.  Ahearn identifies more examples of the slow, but steady downfall of the aristocracy through an analysis of  Lady Catherine de Bourgh’s actual aristocratic ties.  Her name comes from the word “bourgeois”, which represents the working upper-middle class, not the elite members of high dignified society.  He also says that “The verbiage [of Lady Catherine's speech] cannot hide the fact that neither Darcy nor her daughter comes from absolutely noble lineage; aristocracy in the novel as in history turns out to be a pseudoconcept.”  And this is illuminating because her purity and nobility are the attributes that the pretentious Lady Catherine most clings to, and yet, even these are not true.  This is further evidence of the dwindling “pure” aristocracy and how the masses have now entered the once-fortified home of the nobility.  In Pride and Prejudice, being of a lower class is not something to be ashamed of (according to Austen), in fact, it should not define one at all.  The Gardiners, who are technically “below” Lady Catherine, are presented as much nicer, friendlier, and altogether more worthwhile characters than the powerful and controlling aristocrat.  And although England was still driven by its social hierarchy, Austen uses her novel to showcase some of the progressive societal change that is slowly affecting the country, whether it likes it or not.

I Search A Word Beginning

Security

1. Why did you choose the word?

–I chose the word security because I think that it is a word that has a ton of subtle, nuanced meanings, as well as broad definitions in our modern world.  It is used a lot in many different contexts, ranging from home defense to national interests.  Also, it was an important concept in previous eras, which lends itself to being a word that encompasses a lot of human thought throughout many generations.

2. What does the word mean to you right now?

–I have always been interested in the concept of security and the trade-offs people make between being free and being “secure” in our society.  Do we really want those infringements upon our civil liberties in exchange for more supposed safety?  Some people will argue vehemently for one side as much as others will do the same for the other side of the argument.  Also, being a fan of dystopian fiction has made me rethink my ideas on  security, safety, and stability.  This is why I thoroughly looking forward to delving into the may meanings, denotations, and connotations of the word security.

3. Is there a specific moment or incident or association you have with your word?

–In literature, the moment that I most relate to security is in 1984 when in order to maintain and increase security, the totalitarian government detains anyone who speaks out against the state, an action that hypothetically ensures security, while at the same time, extremely restricting civil liberties.  In my everyday interactions with the rest of society, I find that I have my most intense interactions with security at the airport.  Civil liberties seem to disappear the closer and closer one gets to the runway as strip searches, X-Rays, and arrests all become definite possibilities.  Maybe dystopic fiction and reality are closer than we had once thought.

Frankenstein Modern Criticism

Susan Winnett –Coming Unstrung: Women, Men, Narrative, and Principles of Pleasure

1. Works to deconstruct Peter Brooks’s “Freud’s Masterplot”, an article that emphasizes the male as the dominant sexual being and subsequently that the composition of a literary narrative is centered around the details of masculine sexual intercourse.

2. Discusses the idea of relating sexual intercourse to a novel’s progression, such that the build-up and climax of the sexual act is directly linked to the literary ideas of the same name.

3. Talks about the novel of Frankenstein and the idea of Frankenstein as a mother and how the novel focuses on the “after-birth”, a more feminine concept, rather than the initial conception, which is a more masculine-dominated area.

4. Discusses the replacing of a male sexual model as it corresponds to the narrative with a female one that focuses on female climax and its difference from that of a man (with regards to the theme and story as well)

5. Encourages a paradigm shift in though in literary criticism in general from male-dominated (and male-assumed) criticism in every sense to a more gender-neutral or feminine look into literature and the narrative

Similarity of Romantic ideas on virginity as related to the current usage and subsequent prohibition of marijuana

One concerns the placing of a woman’s maidenhead on a virtuous pedestal, while the other involves an illegal and potentially harmful drug.  No resemblance right?  Well actually, a comparison reveals a lot of interesting and intriguing similarities between the two that can work to alter one’s way of thinking concerning what is “right and what is “wrong”.  The logical antecedent to the ideal of maidenhood is purity, which is a fair distance away from marijuana usage and its subsequent ideas of curiosity, rebellion, and experimentation.  So, why are these so similar then?  I believe that the answer lies in the particular context and viewpoint that one looks at the two through.  Both are social constructs of their respective societies that reflect either the values and virtues or the fears and misunderstandings of the public itself.  Two good examples of romantic literature that demonstrate both the author and the populace’s highly ideological view of the woman and virginity are Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and the Wife of Bath’s story in The Canterbury Tales.  Both emphasize the medieval spirit of chivalry, with the elevation of maidenhood being a natural corollary to the grand chivalrous ideal.  This view is perpetuated both orally and by literature throughout the society at the time.  This view runs the entire gamut of class in Medieval Europe, as everyone from the lowliest peasant to the most powerful ruler will know of the virtues of chivalry, courtesy, and the sanctity of the body of the woman.  Likewise, marijuana (besides mainly those who use it) is considered by all different sections of society to be detrimental to one’s health as well as evidence of one who is more “alternative” and not as “respectable” as modern-day society.  This negative connotation for  marijuana users is almost eerily parallel to the social and legal stigma for those who abuse the near-inviolability of a lady’s virginity and purity.  However, although rape is certainly included in the violation of a lady’s virginity, most of the time maidenhood was held to so sacred a level that even mere consensual sex was considered to be crude.  In terms of both marijuana usage and the infringement upon a lady’s delicacy, these acts are highly frowned upon and in some cases, illegal.  There is extreme pressure involved on both sides of either issue.  For instance, in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, the lovely Lady Bertilak (although not a virgin) is directed by her lord husband to try to seduce Gawain and in turn, challenge his knightly honor.  Lady Bertilak then attempts multiple times to sway Gawain from his courteous roots and entrenched principles.  This plight faced by Sir Gawain is similar to that faced by many teenagers across the nation today who are faced with peer pressure concerning the usage of marijuana and other drugs.  It is much easier to be seduced by a temptation when one is in the minority and is faced by the collective power of a majority who threaten to ostracize said individual.  In the story Gawain not only faces that pressure from the external source of the lord and his lady but also internally he fights to maintain his grace and nobility of purpose.  Throughout the novel, Gawain is lauded with praise from both the narrator and other characters who speak of his dedication to virtue and his saintly conduct. He exemplifies this as he holds off the advances of the beautiful Lady Bertilak one morning as “[t]hey exchanged fair words, and much happiness was therein, yet was there a gulf between them, and she might win no more of her knight, for that gallant prince watched well his words–he would neither take her love, nor frankly refuse it” (Gawain page #).  In his succeeding of his fending off of the Lady Bertilak’s advances, Gawain is further immortalized as a bastion of virtue whose respect for the purity of the female form is unparalleled.  Although centuries apart, his action can provide a model for those dealing with an inner struggle of their own concerning drugs.  But why is there so much pressure in both situations in the first place?  The answer is that once again society, through literary and other media propaganda, everyday communication, and legal processes, has created then appeal of the “forbidden fruit” for both.  Because the lady’s purity is elevated to such an esteemed height in Medieval Europe, the lustful knight in the Wife of Bath’s story wants to take the woman even more.  And similarly, because marijuana is (mostly) illegal, there is a certain “cool” allure as one feels that they are rebelling against  the mainstream.

Mini-Presentation–The Feminity of Ships/Languages

Ships–

  • Ships are related to as “she’s” because (first of all) the word for ship in most Indo-European languages with grammatical gender is feminine.
  • Sailors call their ships a “she” because the amount of time they spend on the ship is akin to marriage..Divorce rates are subsequently higher among sailors for this reason
  • To the sailor, the ship is his feminine companion that he loves, lives, and cares for.
  • Also the saying, “Respect a ship like you would a lady” may have had some influence in ship gender choice
  • Mother Nature-”she”-sailors depend upon good relations with her (relate her to the ship)

Languages–

  • The earliest Proto-Indo-European language had two genders (animate and inanimate) and the animate later split into masculine and feminine   (inanimate-neuter)
  • All languages come from one parent family (mother)–common descent–German (mother)–English (daughter)
  • French and Italian, which are 89% similar, are called sister languages
  • Origins of femininity-Most likely similar to ships, in that since primary users were mostly male, referring to language as female was more appealing to them
  • Modern English that we speak today is considered to be gender-neutral and there have been calls to simply refer to the language as “it”
  • El Fin

Want to travel to North Korea?

Thanks to the Korean Friendship Association (haha) and the International  Korean Business Center (hahahaha North Korean business), North Korea will be inviting–not tourists, but–”friends” to come and see North Korea on some spectacular dates.  These dates include the Worker’s Part of Korea Anniversary, Kim Jong-il’s 70th anniversary, and Kim Il-sung’s 100th anniversary.  There are two trips for each date: one fore everyone but U.S. citizens, and the other for just U.S. citizens.  Hmmm…something’s fishy here.  Anyway, if you’re interested you can find this great “deal” here at the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s national website.  Enjoy!

CM #4: A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess

I chose A Clockwork Orange from the summer reading list because it was one of the better dystopian books that I had not yet read and it had been on my radar for a long time.  Also, I had heard of its innovative style and intriguing colloquial language, so that piqued my interest as well.  The book, both throughout my reading of it and after I had finished it, reminded me a little bit of A Catcher in the Rye.  Although Alex’s mischief is much more extreme and cruel than Holden’s, both are troubled young souls wandering around the capitals of their respective countries (London and New York).  Both however, amid their streaks of poor decisions and confusion, strongly hold on to a single vestige of purity and elevate it to a noble pedestal above the rest of their muddles lives.  For Holden it is his innocent younger sister, Phoebe, while for Alex it is the music of Ludwig van Beethoven and other talented classical composers.  However, the books differ from that point as Holden travels on a personal journey, while Alex is forcefully directed by the state onto a path of “righteousness”.  A Clockwork Orange is one of the most incredible experiences in storytelling in my opinion because of the language style and usage.  It is unique in the fact that it the only book written in English that I have had to translate the majority of narration and dialogue as I read along.  Burgess creates a dystopian future set in London where young malchicks (adolescent gangsters) rule the city at night.  These young thugs partake in acts of “ultraviolence”,which can range from looting to rape to murder.  To the adults of the city, these teenagers are nefarious menaces who speak an almost foreign dialect and live to cause mayhem.  However to the malchicks themselves, these sinister activities are almost a game to them.  They are incredibly casual about their violence, and treat it as just another way to pass the time.  For this reason among others, A Clockwork Orange appealed to me as I was interested in how the strong state control and its current atmosphere could so change the sentiments of the youth to lead them to consider violence a part of their daily routine.  An example of this excellent storytelling can be found in this ironic passage that shows the lack of understanding of the youth by the adults.  In this passage Alex talks about his appreciation of classical music contrasted against his observation that adults  want the youth to be more civilized and that the medium to do this through is music.  The irony is of course that that Alex truly loves beautiful, cultured music, yet he is one of the most violent teenagers on the street.  Here is the passage itself:

There was music playing, a very nice malenky string quartet, my brothers, by Claudius Birdman, one that I knew well.  I had to have a smeck, though, thinking of what I’d viddied once in of these like articles on Modern Youth, about how Modern Youth would be better off if A Lively Appreciation Of The Arts could be like encouraged.  Great Music, it said, and Great Poetry would like quieten Modern Youth down and make Modern Youth more Civilized.  Civilized my syphilised yarbles.

As one can see from the passage Alex has little respect for his “elders” and this feeling is reflected in the rest of the youth in London.  The story itself is divided into three parts, the first deals with Alex’s criminal actions, the second with his arrest, imprisonment, and  experimental “re-education” by the government where he is conditioned to become sick at even the thought of violence.  The title itself reveals the most interesting bit of storytelling, as a clockwork orange means that the person whom this term is describing seems full of life and emotions but really he is only a clockwork toy that can do right or wrong and is controlled by the state.  The state effectively takes his willpower (however bad it was in the first place it still did belong to him) and manages to make his life more difficult than it was before his imprisonment and “operation”.  For instance one of the doctors transforming Alex says this after Alex says that he will no longer do ill after days of his torturous reeducation, “‘The heresy of an age of reason,’ or some slovos. ‘I see what is right and approve, but I do what is wrong.  No, no, my boy, you must leave it all to us.  But be cheerful about it.  It will soon be all over.  In less than a fortnight now you’ll be a free man.’

The state has completed taken away Alex’s decision-making process and he effectively becomes a pawn in their sprawling and convoluted political game.  These themes are some of the more interesting ones throughout the novel, and are the reason that I enjoyed the book as much as I did.

CM #3: My 10 (23) Most Memorable Books

1. 1984, George Orwell.  My first dystopian novel and also the first book that caused me to sit and think about the changing state of the world after I had finished reading it.

2. Brave New World, Aldous Huxley.  While Orwell’s classic talks of a totalitarian government that gives its people nothing, Huxley’s novel describes a state where the people are distracted into an existence of mind numbing passivity.  Possibly a more likely path for America at the rate we are going.

3. Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury.  A thoroughly depressing novel for librarians, Bradbury’s work is both poignant and possibly a slightly bit prescient as we stare into a future dominated by social media and the Internet.

4.  Atlas Shrugged/The Fountainhead, Ayn Rand.  My literary introduction to parts of my current libertarian political philosophy, these two books differ in plot line and character development, but concur on the same theme of individuality and the value of one’s own work.  While in my my opinion The Fountainhead is better written on account of Rand’s rather cardboard cutout characters in Atlas Shrugged (you can tell who is good or evil depending upon how attractive their physical appearance is), both have had a monumental impact on my beliefs.

5. The Hyperion Cantos, Dan Simmons.  An excellently woven space opera that bestowed upon me a dual feeling of regret (at having completed the series so quickly) and admiration (for the wondrous storytelling).  This series has everything from space-faring combat priests to a galactic leader who gives speeches that combine the rhetoric of both Abraham Lincoln and Winston Churchill.

6. The Other End of Time, Frederik Pohl.  This story blew me away As the title suggests this novel has an almost unprecedented scope as the story travels to pretty much the end of time.  Amidst this massive scale is an intriguing story of a budding colony that struggles, survives, and thrives.

7. The Egyptian Novels, Wilbur Smith.  Another fantastic tale of four novels that tells the story of several generations of Egyptian rulers and their struggles against enemies both foreign and domestic.  The series is fictional as many of the ruling families in this series are guided by a super eunuch who is at once a scribe, accountant, steward, magician, as well as being much more.

8. The Long Walk, Stephen King (Richard Bachman).  A harrowing story that really impacted me because of how close the age of the competitors in the “race” was to my own.  Any story in which the “winner” goes insane at the end is most certainly a memorable one.

9. The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood.  Yes, there is kind of a dystopian theme here, but I really believe that these novels are some of the most critical in terms of understanding the oppressions and repressions of past governments (of their citizens) and how to avoid similar totalitarian states in current and future times.

10. The Harry Potter Books (#1-7), J.K. Rowling.  They have to be on here, no matter the objection.  They flew with me through childhood and into teenage adolescence and like millions of other people I rushed to my nearest bookstore the second thy claim out in order to claim my copy.  The triumphs and failures of Harry and his friends have so impacted me that I almost cried when I finished reading the last one.  There was just so much anticipation and joy associated with each one that for them to be over was simply devastating.  But they were strong and enchanting throughout (even magical one might say) and they concluded well, and in the end that is all that really matters for this particularly memorable series.

CM #2 The Picture of Dorian Gray: A Novel of Fine Storytelling

The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde is a well-crafted story of extreme beauty and even more extreme hedonism.  It is also a story filled with psychological analysis, both of Lord Henry analyzing Dorian and of the reader analyzing all the characters and the story in general.  Art is a key theme in the book, and the artist and his subject also play important roles in showcasing the beauty of youth, as well as beauty in general.  A passage from the book that I believe epitomizes the entire story and its feel is the conversation backstage between Dorian Gray and Sibyl Vane after her first listless performance.  She is an exquisitely talented and lovely actress whose skill upon the stage leads Dorian to fall in love with her.  He goes to see her every night and marvels at her ability to play multiple characters so beautifully.  However, one fateful night, she acts without feeling or emotion, and confused, Dorian goes backstage to discover why. She says that she did it because her work and subsequent “loves” on the stage pale in comparison to the actual love that she has for Dorian.  This infuriates him and thoroughly disappoints his image of her as an actress.

She says: “Don’t be cruel to me, because I love you better than anything in the world.  After all, it is only once that I have not pleased you.  But you are quite right, Dorian.  I should have shown myself more of an artist.  It was foolish of me; and yet I couldn’t help it.  Oh, don’t leave me, don’t leave me!”  A fit of passionate sobbing choked her.  She crouched on the floor like a wounded thing, and Dorian Gray, with his beautiful eyes, looked down at her, and his chiseled lips curled in exquisite disdain.  There is always something ridiculous about the emotion of people whom one has ceased to love.  Sibyl Vane seemed to him to be absurdly melodramatic.  Her tears and sobs annoyed him.

This passage is an excellent example of good storytelling in the novel because it shows the theme of pleasure that consistently reappears throughout the novel.  Because of Lord Henry’s (his friend) influence, Dorian becomes more and more hedonistic and believes his life to be like a Greek or Shakespearean play in which he is the perfect Greek sculpture and everyone around him must live to suit his romantic fancies.  And his simple discarding of Sibyl Vane after she has ruined herself in his eyes because she has forgone her art is a prime indicator of the future path this interesting novel is taking.

A New Outlet

As of today I will also be using my blog as a medium for some of my AP English assignments.  Thank you and enjoy the first hand look at the American private education system.