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By Nick Sparrow, IV Form
The Nickel Boys: The Formation and Destruction of Elwood’s Moral Compass
Colson Whitehead’s latest novel, The Nickel Boys, is a story based on true events, which follows a bright and promising African-American boy with a strong moral code growing up in the Jim Crow South. The main conflict of the story is his sentence to a reform school where he finds himself facing a racist and corrupt sovereignty, which uses torture to discipline students. Elwood Curtis was on his way to college when nothing but bad luck and prejudice got him arrested for a crime he didn’t commit. Throughout the novel, Elwood seems to be the only person willing to take a stand and face the system, unable to see that everyone else had already been defeated. After his first week of trying to do good at The Nickel School, Elwood is taken to “The White House” where he is flogged until he passes out. He ends up in this situation as a result of his bravery and nobility, which is what ultimately causes Elwood to lose sense of his moral compass and any hope of escape. This novel tells details the ways in which hate, racism, and prejudice will find a way to take good people down, even when they live sincerely and by the book.(more…)
By Catie Summers, V Form
Tantalizing Taboos: Homoerotic Language in The Great Gatsby
F. Scott Fitzgerald does a fantastic job of lacing taboos throughout The Great Gatsby. The most common, however, is homosexuality and homoerotica. Of course, the outlook on homosexuality and the rest of the LGBTQ+ community has changed dramatically over the past one hundred years. It was quite negative and derogatory during the time of the story, commonly referred to as the Roaring Twenties. F. Scott Fitzgerald incorporates aspects of homosexuality in The Great Gatsby through the narrator, Nick Carraway, and his interactions with other male characters throughout the novel. Specifically, Nick’s descriptive language carries a homoerotic affect, meaning his presence in the narrative invites, at least, a queer reading of The Great Gatsby.
Fitzgerald premiers Nick’s homoerotic tone in his description of male characters, particularly in Tom Buchanan. When Nick first meets Tom, Nick speaks as though in reverence of Tom’s physique by stating, “not even the effeminate swank of his riding clothes could hide the enormous power of that body — he seemed to fill those glistening boots until he strained the top lacing, and you could see a great pack of muscle shifting when his shoulder moved under his coat” (Fitzgerald 7). This passage has a sexual appeal to it, a climax, one might argue. Fitzgerald alludes to this by tantalizingly and purposely influencing readers to anticipate a sexual reference after “he seemed to fill those glistening…” but then dropping off and finishing with the word “boots.” By primarily setting a homoerotic tone for Nick’s description, it is natural to assume that this phrase should be an innuendo or euphemism. Yet, Fitzgerald’s writing is so meticulous and nuanced that by ending the phrase with the word “boots,” he allows an ambiguous reading of the phrase, implying a simple in-depth physical description of a character or a subtle hint as to Nick’s sexual tendencies and a queer side to his character unrecognizable before that point.(more…)
By Lina Zhang, V Form
The Multifaceted Moral Man: Morality and Free Will in Burgess’ A Clockwork Orange
“And what, brothers, I had to escape into sleep from then was the horrible and wrong feeling that it was better to get the hit than give it. If that veck had stayed I might even have like presented the other cheek” (Burgess).
Anthony Burgess’ most famous novel, A Clockwork Orange, debates the essence of morality and the role of free will in achieving the moral man. Through following the imprisonment and release of the novel’s antihero, Alex, the story exposes the flaws and consequences of three different understandings of morality and the importance of free will. Alex’s first significant improvement occurs under the influence of Ludovico’s Treatment, where he finds himself both unable to sin and find pleasure. He then receives a version of liberty by F. Alexander, only to realize that absolute freedom is hypocritical and can only be theoretical. Ultimately, Alex comes to a natural maturation and adopts a morality devoid of any outside influences or expectations. Through providing sharp contrasts between the ideals and realities of morality, Burgess expands on the shortcomings of all three systems of thought while making a consistent strong argument in favor of the individual free will.(more…)
By Grace Kingsbury, VI Form
HER(short)story: Silenced Women in Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Stories
Chimamanda Adichie’s book of short stories, The Thing Around Your Neck, follows African men and women and attempts to explain the ties between the genders. The short story “Jumping Monkey Hill” describes the conflict that a Nigerian writer, Ujunwa, faces during a writing retreat in Cape Town. The head of the writing retreat, Edward, repeatedly ogles her body and makes sexual comments to Ujunwa such as “I’d rather like you to lay down for me” (Adichie 106). The story “The Thing Around Your Neck” depicts a woman who receives a visa to live in American with her uncle. Her uncle sexually assaults her during her stay with him, so she runs away for a fresh start in Connecticut. Besides the obvious gender and race similarities between these two main characters, both women are sexually harassed in their stories. Adichie’s normalization of sexual harassment in “Jumping Monkey Hill” and “The Thing Around Your Neck” reflects the existing culture of silencing women through the unresponsive and accepting women, the bystanders, and Adichie’s cursory acknowledgment of the events.
By creating characters that do not respond to sexual harassment, Adichie demonstrates how women minimize their assault to ignore it more easily. Ujunwa in “Jumping Monkey Hill” “laugh[s]” in response to Edward’s comment “because it was funny and witty… when [one] really thought about it” (Adichie 106). She convinces herself that it is funny to diminish the pain that his comment causes her. In “The Thing Around Your Neck,” the woman “lock[s] [herself] in the bathroom closet, and the next morning” she runs away from home, in response to her uncle’s assault (Adichie 116). This represents the woman physically running away from confrontation with her uncle by putting as much distance between her and the event as possible and refusing to stand up for herself. In both of these instances, the women avoid the conflict of sexual harassment by opting to ignore the problem. By ignoring sexual harassment and sexual assault, the women facilitate further offense because they give their abusers room to repeat their actions.(more…)
By Jake Oblak, IV Form
The Absurd Act of Looking for Meaning in Camus’ The Stranger
What is the meaning of absurdism? How are absurdist people perceived by others? How can someone be impacted by this lifestyle? These are all questions that arise from The Stranger by Albert Camus. This philosophical novel follows a man named Meursault through a portion of his adult life. His experiences in the book range from his romantic relations with his girlfriend Marie to being sentenced to the guillotine after being convicted of murder. Throughout these events, problems emerge as a result of Meursault’s absurdist lifestyle, and personal values. Consequently, Camus delivers an eloquent introduction to absurdism and negative impacts of believing in a counter-cultural philosophy, but based on his own logic looking for a message in his writing would be ignorant.
Absurdism is an uncommon philosophy compared to modern day ideologies, but its outlook on life is unique. Absurdism is defined as “a philosophical perspective which holds that the efforts of humanity to find meaning or rational explanation in the universe ultimately fail (and, hence, are absurd) because no such meaning exists, at least to human beings” (New World). As this definition explains, absurdism is based on the idea that life has no meaning and is completely arbitrary. As a result, looking for any kind of meaning in life would be considered futile. Through an absurdist lens partaking in events in order to fulfill a requirement created by society is ridiculous. This is a common theme which occurs repeatedly throughout The Stranger. Absurdists believe in doing what feels right to them, rather than doing what is right in the eyes of the norm manufactured by society. (more…)
By Cara Mulcahey, IV Form
On Sherman Alexie’s “Clean, Cleaner, Cleanest”
The short story “Clean, Cleaner, Cleanest” focuses on the grueling conditions motel maids face every day. It follows the
life of a motel maid named Marie who despises cleaning but does it for the money it provides. Marie gets physically assaulted by her coworkers, sees horrific sights in motel rooms, cleans revolting messes guest leave behind, and does not complain about the dehumanization she faces on a daily basis. Sherman Alexie, the author of “Clean, Cleaner, Cleanest,” utilizes Marie’s self vs. self-conflict about her job as a way to display the horrors motel maids face every day and why they should be appreciated in society.
Marie loathes being a hotel maid because cleaning repulses her and her coworkers have mistreated her. While she had gotten used to cleaning abhorrent bathrooms, making beds, and vacuuming, the idea of cleaning people’s leftover (more…)