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.