Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Dorian's Character

      In the Picture of Dorian Gray, I believe that Dorian's character remains static during the course of the novel and that, as the story progresses, more disturbing details are revealed to the reader. Socratic Seminar question 11 states, "Did Dorian's character change, or was it just merely truly revealed, by the end of the novel? Was dorian really the naive, young man that Basil portrayed in Chapter 1, or was it just Basil's obsession with Dorian that made him see him in that light? Did Dorian's character really change, or was it just his true personality surfacing throughout the book?"
      While we know that Lord Henry had a huge impact on Dorian at the beginning of the novel and proved to be a bad influence throughout, it is obvious that Dorian's subconscious was tainted with evil even before he is introduced. Because Dorian so willingly embraced Lord Henry's personality, ideas, and interests, the reader can assume that Dorian's character was always flawed. However, the progression from the 'innocent' young man to the evil older man was fairly steady, as shown in his portrait. Wilde shows Dorian's character flaws as his portrait becomes increasingly grotesque and by the events in the story such as rumors and hateful acts committed by Dorian, himself.
      This was fairly easy for me to pick up on because, and I won't use names, I used to have a friend that I was really close with. While I could recognize her flaws, I did not dwell on them or even really acknowledge them because I loved this person and these flaws didn't matter to me. However, as I started pulling myself away from this friend for personal reasons that were beneficial for me, I began to see how much I disliked this person. It was hard for me to understand how I could have felt so attached and affectionate toward them for so long when they had such obvious issues. I realized that they had had these flaws for as long as I'd known them and it surprised me when I discovered this. I feel as though Basil would have felt the same way as me when he discovered Dorian's imperfections and evil-doings.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

A Thousand Splendid Suns

      Though we haven't had this discussion yet, I wanted to expound upon Socratic Seminar question number twenty-three which states, "In your opinion, would a better ending for the novel have been for Mariam to escape with Tariq and Laila and also find happiness? Are you left with the impresion that Tariq and Laila can experience happiness?" In the novel A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini, the character Mariam was brought up in a world filled with hate. Her mother, Nana, was constantly trying to convince Mariam that her father, Jalil, was an evil man and, consequently, Mariam felt torn because she didn't know whether or not she should be loyal to her mother or her father because she loved them both. After Nana died and Jalil sent her away to marry Rasheed, she essentially her father because she hated him for sending her away. Throughout her many years with Rasheed, she was unhappy and lonely and she never felt that she was good enough. When Laila joined the family, Mariam felt that she would be completely forgotten. However, once Laila and Mariam became friends through Aziza, she experiences true and unconditional love which brings her real happiness for the first time in her life. That being said, I believe that, while it is unfortunate, it was necessary for Mariam to sacrifice herself for Laila's safety. Though I would have wanted for everyone to have a 'happily ever after', Mariam was right when she said that if both of them escaped, the authorities would never stop trying to hunt them down for murdering Rasheed. Mariam is an older woman by the end of the novel; she would not have been able to remarry and there would have only been limited job opportunities open for her and it made her happy to know that she was sacrificing herself to ensure the safety of the people she loved. Tariq and Laila, on the other hand, are still on the road to happiness. While their children are mostly adjusted and content by the end of the novel, all of the horrible events that occured throughout Tariq and Laila's lives are going to make it difficult to truly find happiness, again. However, I do believe that, with time, their wounds will heal. This is a question of sacrifice for the greater good and, in reality, Mariam's decision to turn herself in was the correct one. Laila, Tariq, Aziza and Zalmai had full, prosperous lives ahead of them and the children depended on Laila. I, personally, have been in situations where I've either witnessed or had to sacrifice something in order to help someone else out. While I do not want to take the blame, I know that I am doing the right thing and that makes it okay.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Cultural Relativism

      I honestly found this article to be extremely fascinating. While I also found it to be very repetitive (though that may have been to drive the point of the article), I basically agree with the argument the author is presenting. Cultural Relativism is based entirely upon opinions created by members of different societies. There are no set rules when it comes to morality and ethics and no one society has the right or privilege to condemn another society because of their difference. While I do believe that there are "primitive" cultures, that is strictly based on their access to modern technologies; it has nothing to do with their moral practices. However, this does not mean that I necessarily agree or approve of certain practices that are considered "right" by other cultures, it just means that I respect other ways of life and fully believe that everyone else should, too.
      Within the article, the author presents many examples that support his conclusions. First he brings up the instance of Darius, a king of Persia, where the king discovers that two groups of the people, the Callatians and the Greeks, have entirely different opinions on how they honor the dead. The Callatians eat the bodies of their fathers while the Greeks cremate their dead. While I have to say that I would never eat any dead person and that I agree with the Greeks, the Callatians (as well as the Greeks) fully believe that their practices are morally correct and both cultures were equally shocked and disgusted at the others' practices. Another example I found was of Eskimo society. Accepted practices that clash with those of our society include polygamy, infanticide, and a general disregard of human life, among other things. While those in our society would be absolutely disgusted by these morals (including myself), the Eskimos fully believe that their practices are correct and ethical. The line between savagery and just different societal standards is when there is a disagreement within that specific society. If all members of the society are in agreement with their practices, then we have no reason to condemn it or deem it inferior to the way we live.
      As I said in the introduction, I only basically agree with the entire argument. There were a few examples that I disagreed with. The author said that some societies believe that the Earth is flat, while others (modern societies) say that the Earth is spherical. He says that Cultural Relativism is not one hundred percent accurate because it is a fact that the Earth is a sphere and not flat. However, Cultural Relativism does not involve arguments that can be proven, in my opinion. The shape of the Earth is not up for debate, it is a proven fact. However, practices within a culture cannot be proven to be morally correct or incorrect because we do not have any set rules that govern all human beings. Another example made was with slavery and anti-Semitic societies. I believe this example is flawed because, as I stated earlier, there is a line between savagery and difference in society and there were plenty of people (including many people that were not in the oppressed groups in these societies) that disagreed completely with these practices. Therefore, I do not find this to be a valid example.
      To conclude this extremely long entry (I apologize, Mrs. Burnett, I had a lot to say about this), I found this article to be extremely enlightening, thought-provoking and I agree with most of what the author is presenting. One society cannot be truly inferior or superior to another society because there is no proof anywhere that states what is morally right and wrong. Every society creates its own practices and they all have a right to be respected (though it is not required that one agrees with them).

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Wuthering Heights Love Triangle

       In Wuthering Heights, one of the main conflicts present during the majority of the novel is the love triangle going on between Heathcliff, Catherine, and Edgar. One of the Socratic Seminar discussion questions reads: "What do all of the triangulated relationships in the novel suggest about the structure of desire?"
       Catherine loves Heathcliff and Edgar but in differing ways. Catherine and Heathcliff's love is that of ownership, passion, and the mutual feeling of being one with each other. Catherine's love for Edgar is different. Edgar loves Catherine because of her beauty and her strength while Catherine loves Edgar for his gentleness, wealth, and good name. With this love triangle, I believe the novel is stating that desire demands a vast array of things including love, passion, entitlement, and materialistic attributes. However, the fact that Catherine cannot possess all of these things with either of the two men she loves states that desire can never been truly fulfilled because perfection doesn't exist.
       In society today, things are not significantly different. During the Victorian time period, it was common for a man and a woman to marry based solely upon their wealth and social standing. Most of the time, it was arranged by the parents of the two as an almost business-like agreement to strengthen their family names. Today, society deems this type of marriage unacceptable. We like to see true love and the struggle through possible hardship to maintain that love. While the social norms of the two time periods have changed drastically, the structure of desire remains the same. Many human beings may desire to marry someone that they truly love, who is wealthy, and who is popular with others. However, that is usually not the case and they must settle for something less. Today, most people marry solely out of love; wealth and social standing are just perks of the relationship. I agree that, in most cases, we will not spend the rest of our lives with someone who meets all of the requirements in our fantasies.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde

      One of the Socratic Seminar questions for the play is as follows, "The prevalent philosophy that Wilde suggests in this drama is that trivial matters should be treated with greater respect, and less attention should be paid to what is regarded by society as serious. How is this philosophy expressed in relation to: death, politics, money, property, food, and marriage?" In the text, all of these matters are critically trivialized.

      Firstly, death is brushed aside as something that is too common to really deserve much attention. The characters in the drama give death very little respect. For example, in the first act, Lady Bracknell has a friend who's husband just recently passed away. She mentions the death without very much concern and follows the announcement by also saying that her friend is doing quite well and looks much younger. It is obvious that her friend is not upset at all by the death of her husband. Another example is Algernon's friend, Bunbury. Although he isn't real and, therefore, Algy wouldn't have a reason to be distraught at his passing, Lady Bracknell fully believes that Bunbury exists, yet she doesn't seem at all concerned that he passed away after being so ill for so long. Thirdly, there is the part where Jack's fake brother, Ernest, passes away. Even though Cecily, Dr. Chasuble and Miss Prism seem respectfully concerned, Jack brushes it off. Even though Jack knows that Ernest is fake, he was supposed to be Jack's brother and the whole lie would have been a lot more convincing if he had acted grieved over his death.

      Money and property are normally trivial matters. However, in this play, they are made out to be more important than matters such as death and marriage. The most prominent instance where this is seen is when Lady Bracknell is interviewing Jack as a possible suitor for Gwendolen. Even though it is obvious that Jack really cares about her and would be a good husband, Lady Bracknell is concerned only about Jack's finances and social reputation because she wants to make her name look better to the public. When she finds out that Jack does have a fair amount of money and land, that starts to make her want to consider him. However, once Jack tells her that he is adopted and doesn't know who his parents are, Bracknell is turned off from the idea, completely. She doesn't want this sort of uncertainty tainting the family name.

      Food is another trivial matter that is blown up in the drama. The characters put a lot of emphasis on food and use it as a symbol of power. When Gwendolen and Cecily are having their little spat about "Ernest", they try to stay polite and eat the food. Gwendolen asks to have no sugar in her tea but Cecily puts in a whole bunch. When Gwendolen says she would like one of the foods, Cecily gives her the other. It makes Gwendolen angry but, since she is a lady of class, she holds her anger in. Cecily knows this and takes it to her advantage.

      As for marriage, we consider it to be a very important part of life. In the play, marriage is used only to bring wealth and and stronger reputations to families whereas, today, marriage is about two people who love each other. Even though Jack seems to love Gwendolen sincerely, Gwendolen only wants to be with Jack because she thinks his name is Ernest and she is very fond of that name. When Algernon first meets Cecily, he becomes very infatuated with her and tells her he loves her. Because Cecily thinks Algernon's name is also Ernest and she is also fond of the name, she think she loves him, too. Both Cecily and Gwendolen think that Ernest is a very respectful-sounding name. Lady Bracknell will only allow Jack to marry Gwendolen if he finds out who his parents are because she thinks it wouldn't reflect well on her if her daughter married an adopted man. She also only decides to allow Algernon to marry Cecily because she thinks Cecily could be transformed into a society woman and because she has a lot of money in the Funds.

      Basically, if this were real, their backwards way of life would sicken me. I just cannot understand how people could live in such an artificial way. I would be truly unhappy if I was made to marry someone just because they had money and connections and I didn't love them. And though food is important because we would die without it, I found the use of food in the drama to be downright ridiculous. However, because this is a satire (and a very good one at that), I very much enjoyed it. Their idiocy was extremely entertaining to read and I think Oscar Wilde made a very good point in his play.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Individualism and Architecture

Individualism and Architecture
      In the Fountainhead by Ayn Rand, Rand uses architecture as another means of expressing her philosophy. Throughout the novel, there are countless examples of how different methods pertaining to architecture symbolize both collectivism and individualism. We see that most of the architects presented, particularly the ones who work for Francon and Heyer and later Francon and Keating, strictly follow the previously-set standards they learned in school. They either have no interest in creativity or refuse to stray from the social norm out of fear.
       Architects like Peter Keating are frequently praised for their appreciation and usage of specific styles in their designs. They may create tasteful combinations seen from different cultures and periods of time, however they never think to create their own styles because, at that time, it was something unheard of.
       On the other hand, people like Howard Roark are shot down and criticized for their creations. During that time, architects were expected to design buildings using references that were already established. The fact that Roark refused to design anything that wasn't original was taken as insulting. Roark was too innovative and his work was too modern to be appreciated, efficient as it was. When one considers things from a psychological standpoint, most people during that time period disliked change out of fear.
       In today's society, humans still fear change. As human beings, we want to feel like we are accepted. It is rare that we will stray from mainstream concepts because we don't want to be ridiculed. Naturally, people embrace a collective society. Individualism can spell out isolation. For example, many people of faith fear that allowing homosexual couples to wed will ruin the institution of marriage. The idea is different and scary and goes against the social norm, just as Roark's buildings did. Though there was nothing wrong with Roark's designs (or gay marriage), people still fear things that they don't understand.
       I strongly believe that we will never have a truly individualistic society. We, as human beings, are hard-wired to need to be a part of a group. We need other humans for comfort, love, and critisism. However, if no one is innovative, we as a collective society will never progress. It'd be impossible for everyone to follow objectivism as Rand describes it, although I definitely agree that we need put ourselves first in most instances. Luckily, there will always be the Howard Roark's out there that refuse to be main-stream and that means that the world will always be turning.