Monday, December 7, 2009

Beloved: Motherhood

With slavery behaving as a common theme in Beloved's unraveling plot and having a female as the main character, the idea of motherhood becomes natural. One of the cruel parts of slavery is how it effects the bonds of love, particularly those between mother and child. Sethe continually expresses the pain of separation from her mother. In class on Thursday we took a quiz and I responded to question number one that addressed if you think Sethe is justified in killing her baby. Was it motherly? This is an intense idea to toy with, because of all the extenuating factors of oppression, slavery and danger. Some one brought up a really interesting question at the very tail end of class, "What is more free, slavery or death? Is it the mother's right to make that choice?"

That really got me thinking about the boundaries of motherhood. Naturally, the boundaries are changed due to slavery, because it is an entirely different institution. After the events the happened with Sethe killing her child, there is a lot of repressed feelings, "she [Sethe] was frightened by the thought of having a baby once more. Needing to be good enough, alert enough, strong enough, that caring - again. Having to stay alive just that much longer" (155). It is interesting to analyze Sethe's motive towards having children, after losing one. I could interpret her intentions as her being scared or her finding that being motherly with a child as a burden. I think it has to do with a little bit of both, but mostly because of her fear of losing another child.

I really wonder what Morrison meant by "having to stay alive just that much longer" Is she referring to Sethe staying alive or the child? I think it means that Sethe wants to die or is anticipating death. She does make reference to living is a reason to be a mother. Maybe, because Sethe's child is dead because of what she did to her mind she has reversed the roles of life and death. That death is where she will be joined with her daughter and her life is where she will struggle. Sethe switches off between different mentalities when it comes to coping with the death of her child.

I took the side of not looking down on Sethe for killing her child. She chose to have her child not take the chance in growing up in slavery, but to hopefully die in peace. What is more worse, death or slavery? The child does not get the chance to answer that question, the mother chose. I think her intentions were in the right order, because she only wanted to provide the best that she could. I think she intended on dying too, but needed to take care of Denver after all was said and done.

It is a very stick subject when it comes to a solid conclusion about the justifications of Sethe's actions, but Morrison succeeds in providing a twisting, compelling plot for her readers to disect.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Final Paper Idea Continued

Woops! I posted my final paper idea last week, so I need to adjust it to meet the requirements. Here is a quote from Frankenstein to contextualize what I want my final critical analysis to be about. "I (the creature) perceived the words they (the family) spoke sometimes produced pleasure or pain, smiles or sadness, in the minds and countenances of the hearers. This was indeed a godlike science, and I ardently desired to become acquainted with it" (74-5).

I want to tie the idea of the creature discovering humans in nature to relate to how the narrator in Walden Pond reacts to nature. The narrators/character in both stories provide observations of their interactions between themselves and nature. I want to compare and contrast these two to tease out the controversy is if the creature's being. Can he become natural if brought into this world in an unnatural way? What holds higher, nature or nurture?

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Final Paper Idea: Frankenstein

Earlier this semester, I wrote my paper on Frankenstein and how the theme of nature is prevalent throughout the novel. I wanted to extend my research on the novel Frankenstein , the creature and Thoreau's Walden Pond.

Walden Pond by Henry David Thoreau is a witty, refreshing book about a man at peace with the natural world around him. This is a bit in contrast with how the creature interacted in the natural world, he was not necessarily in peace with it, because he was rejected due to his "unnatural" creation.

Thoreau makes references to many varied subjects, and many different kinds of readers will find ways to relate to what he says. He refers to mythology, history, poetry, knowledge of plants and wildlife and carpentry, then comes full-circle and tells us what he is doing, but finally tells us that none of those things matter as much as living life in the present without pretense.

I find that there are correlations between the text of Walden Pond and Frankenstein through the theme of nature. The creature discovers nature on his own and learns from it as well by observing. This is the same for the narrator in Walden Pond. However, these two characters ultimately have different outcomes with their experience in nature, they do have similarities in learning to coincide with nature.

My plan is to use the content of Walden Pond to provide further analysis as to how the creature discovers himself and nature. I think Walden Pond will provide significant content in order to contextualize the theme of nature in Frankenstein.

What do you think? Any further ideas on where I could take this analysis?

Blood Relations

Candace Benefiel's critical analysis of the evolving idea of the vampire brings light to why Rice's novel is such a significant contribution to vampiric literature, "This breakthrough novel (Interview with the Vampire) focused not on vampire hunters, but on the vampires themselves - and what a different breed they are" (1). I find this conclusion to be true of Rice's work, because the main characters, Louis, Lestat and Claudia all have varying depths to their character. The reader really gets an opportunity to relate to the Vampire. For example, Louis's character provides a lot of room for analysis and interpretation, because so much content is provided on him. You learn a bit about him when he was mortal, how he learned to hunt and become a Vampire and through the structure of the novel (interview style) you learn his personal thoughts and reactions to the events that are unraveling.

I think another imortant Benefiel is making about Rice's work with the Vampire as a character is that focusing more personally on the Vampires has been tried before, but Rice was the first one to succeed, "they (Louis, Lestat and Claudia) may not have been the first sympathetic vampires, they were the first successful ones in their initial publication, and they have been followed by a host of others" (2). Rice paved the way for sympathy and Vampires to co-exist in a certain medium.

The idea of nuclear family among the Vampire characters is a theme that I recently dicussed in a previous blog and it has also been a topic of conversation in class. Benefiel also addresses this topic, "Rice, however, expanded on this considerably in Interview with the Vampire, making the nuclear family of vampires a major theme in her novel...The vampire family, incestuous and blurred as it is, presents a subversive alternative model to the nuclear family" (3). I agree with the idea of the vampire family being incestuous, because Lestat plays a dominant fatherly role, but he also played a nurturing mother role when raising both Louis and Claudia. Louis also intially harnesses a paternal role with Claudia, but then he develops a relationship that is romantic. I find that people's reaction to the sex and incest of vampires is not really questioned. It seems to me that these ideas can be safely teased out when addressed to the character of a vampire. I think this suggests that what is so captivating about vampires is they resemble a human (since they once were human) and are therefore capable of behaving in manners that, if we as humans behaved like would be revolting, but when a vampire does it - it is thrilling, exciting and fearful. I think they almost serve as outlet where forbidden human ideas can be exercised safely and constructively.

I think Benefiel also touches on this idea of the reader being able to act out irregular scenarios, "The family group of Interview with the Vampire, as well as subsequent iterations of the vampire family, allows the reader to explore issues of alternative family structures and incestuous attraction within the family, and to play out the consequences for good or ill of these imagined scenarios. The vampire, aloof from human considerations, nonetheless stands in for the reader" (10). Rice and other authors provide a world where the reader can experience such controversial, untouchable ideas in a safe, imaginative environment.

I found this essay to be extremely helpful in beginning to analyze and understand why vampires are so captivating for our culture; what it is about their role that attracts people to them. They have been a character that has evolved over the generations and is given other dynamics, but it is a character that never grows old (literally).

Monday, November 16, 2009

Interview with the Vampire: Slavery

The theme of slavery is an interesting theme in this novel. It exists in the human nature and translates to the vampires' lives as well. Who is master and who is the slave is interchangeable among the characters, whether they are vampire or mortal.

In the beginning of the novel, the slaves on the Pointe Du Lac property are referenced. The Vampires are the masters to the slaves and have them maintain the property. The slaves do rise against their masters, because they suspected danger, " 'The slaves, they must go to the cabins and keep watch' "(53). This is soon after Louis killed the slave boy that came to check upon the house whom caught a glimpse of Lestat's vampiric teeth. Louis knew by the expressive reaction on the boy's face that he knew what they were. Louis played a master role by dominating the slave.

However, Louis is rarely master-like or dominant in this novel. I find that he mostly plays a slave to Lestat, his master that made him a vampire. Louis continually discusses his feelings that he desires to get away from Lestat, however, he never takes the initiation to do such a thing. He stays with Lestat, despite mostly disagreeing with Lestat's raw, gruesome nature. "I hadn't thought of it, dreamed of it in so long; I'd grown accustomed to him, as if he were a condition of life itself...I thought of what I always felt when I heard him coming, a vague anxiety, a vague need" (117). Claudia is a psuedo-master to Louis when she convinces him that they can run away from Lestat, that they can take back their freedom from him. But Louis does mention the "need" he felt for Lestat.

I think this idea of slavery also relates to what I wrote in my previous blog about family. Even though Lestat is a dominant, parent-like figure for Claudia and Louis, there is the idea of who is the master and who is the slave? Can ideas of family and slavery relate? Maybe they correlate together and tease out the idea of how dominance and hierarchy is contextualized in relatonships?

I definitely think the idea of "control" in relationships is addressed through the ideas of slavery and family in this novel. I think it is intriguing, because it makes you think why do you stay in a relationship even if you don't like it? Why do you defend those that may not treat you with kindness? How far does loyalty really travel in a relationship and how come? What justifies ceasing relations?

Monday, November 9, 2009

Interview with a Vampire: Family

The ideology of the nuclear family is an interesting theme when compared to Rice's backdrop in Interview with a Vampire. Family values vary across the characters. However, I find that Rice really sends a message about family through the Freniere family. The compassion that Louis bestows on this family does coincide with how Lestat is "raising" him.

Louis demonstrates sympathy and character when he takes notice of the boy of the Freniere household and Louis describes it as, "Their position was agonizing. And I felt for the boy...He knew full well if he fell under the rapier at 4 a.m. the next morning, his family would fall with him" (43). I think Louis is expressing genuine concern for family. Rice vicariously uses the leading Vampire characters to address family. Louis and Lestat have conflicting ideals, however, they both demonstrate compassion for family.

Lestat shows his compassion in more of an unforgiving "tough love" manner, because he cares for his old, dying father and takes good care of him. But Lestat is boastful, bold, mean and unforgiving towards his father. I still think unconditional love is expressed here for family, because even though Lestat resents his father, he provides for him. Also, Lestat makes sure he is not the one to kill his father when the time comes.

Louis goes on to attempt providing further protection for the Freniere family. He tells the sister Babette to take over the household and to not sell-out, "You must take this place. If you do not, the land is lost and the family is lost" (47). She does what Louis tells her and is rewarded with success and maintains her family. I think this demonstrates Louis care for the traditional nuclear family, he wishes for them to survive.

I do not find instances of Rice displaying poor imagery about families throughout this novel. Family seems to be portrayed as an innocent, sacred entity that is to be valued and not betrayed. Family is represented as unconditional and the exception when crossing the lines of relationships between vampires and humans.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Dracula: Stephen D. Arata

What I find interesting in Arata's analysis is the definition of "What is Gothic" is addressed in comparison to Dracula. The first couple chapters were rewritten to change the setting for Dracula's castle. Moving the castle from Styria to Transylvania. "By moving Castle Dracula there, Stoker gives distinctly political overtones to his Gothic narrative" (463). I remember the first couple days of class we defined what the Gothic is and where the setting is presents a huge staple for the rest of the novel. Stoker acknowledges the use of a creepy, vexed region should be used as Dracula's quarters to appeal to his audiences.

Arata's analysis of how Dracula views himself and vampires is, "there is hardly a foot of soil in all this region that has not been enriched by the blood of men, patriots or invaders" (33). His subsequent question is thus: "Is it a wonder that we were a conquering race?" (41). "The 'race' in which Dracula claims membership is left ambiguous here. He refers at once to his Szekely warrior past and to his vampiric present" (463). Which is Stoker trying to address? Is it being suggested that vampires or vampiric characteristics are in relation to warriors/soldiers?

That would be a pretty bold statement for the time that this novel was released. The dichotomy of European races was prevalent at the time. Perhaps Stoker was using Dracula to stand as a symbol of a warrior that has returned from war. That a part of someone has to die before they can return home. Dracula still continues his life with energy and routines much like the lives of humans, however, he is different due to his past and character state.

I think it would only be a minor characteristic of the novel if Stoker would be addressing Dracula as the role of a soldier. The idea of the Vampire has been appealing to the masses for years, but I do think perhaps Stoker tailored Dracula more to the demographic of what was occuring. For example, where a Vampire originates when portrayed now-a-days is not as relevant as it was in Stoker's time. Stoker wanted to instill the ambiguous nature of Dracula and he started it with the location of the Count's castle. The Vampire always represents what is estranged, different and fearful in humans. Throughout literature, I am sure the Vampire is tailored to represent different unsettling human events (i.e. war, politics, religion).