Saturday, April 17, 2010
“A minute later she asked me if I loved her. I told her it didn’t mean anything but that I didn’t think so” (Camus 34).
The most unsettling thing about Albert Camus’ The Stranger is its lack of emotion.
The story opens with Meursault, our main character, receiving a telegram informing him of his mother’s death. Instead of emotion, instead of grief, Meursault does the unthinkable, and shows no reaction. He goes through the motions of traveling to his mother’s home, attending the funeral, and leaves immediately after. Meursault has no sadness, no anger or happiness, just an emotionless state of being.
Furthermore, while he’s numb to his surroundings, he holds no room for love. Meursault forms a relationship with his co-worker, Marie, but once again, the reader is struck by his emotionless reaction. It’s discomfiting to watch Meursault’s life displayed as devoid of love, uncanny as everything seems to be meaningless to him.
Camus juxtaposes Meursault’s blank state of living with normality. When Meursault shoots a man, his lawyer is disgusted with his lack of remorse, his lack of grief, his lack of any feeling, that which separates us from the inanimate. Meursault is not immoral he is amoral, simply without the ability to distinguish right from wrong.
This idea of “right” and “wrong” relates to love verses fear. Each emotion within itself is not wrong, yet what humans choose to do with each feeling can spin out of control, whether for the better or the worse. Is having neither emotion better than taking the risk of feeling something?
This I believe: no. We were created to feel, we were made to love, and fear can work in wondrous ways.
Theme: Fear and love may be hazardous, but it is far more dangerous to feel nothing at all.
Kafka’s The Metamorphosis is a controversial piece, each scholar offering a different interpretation. A metaphor is taken to the extreme as Kafka makes a point. Yet, what is this point he makes? What is he trying to plead, inform, ask of his readers?
Which is more powerful, fear or love? In such a mysterious piece, it’s difficult to find the trail of fear and love, as they intermingle, sometimes seeming to be one.
Taking a step back from the story, and looking at the bigger picture, one element seems emphasized to me: Kafka’s motif of transformation. Shocking his reader with the physical transformation in the opening sentence of his story, Kafka does not stop there. As the reader walks through Gregor’s eyes, we watch his family become forced to take on bigger roles, holding their fate upon their shoulders instead of their previous constant reliance on Gregor as financial supporter. Although at first they seem frustrated by the insect on their hands, Gregor’s family ultimately becomes stronger through their endurance. Yet, in the end, they seem to be devoid of love for Gregor, pushing him to his death.
But Gregor’s death is not a sad ending! Quite opposite, in fact, as he dies, his family becomes liberated and Gregor himself is freed from the burden of failing his family and constantly being oppressed. He encounters death with a quiet acceptance, dying in peace.
Conclusively, this is a love at the end. Maybe fear ruled his life, but the ultimate transformation was of Gregor’s fear into love, until he becomes so fulfilled that is life seems complete.
Theme: Fear empties our being, but love satisfies, forever.
Do we ask, what is love? Do we wonder, what is fear?
Joyce takes a step into modernism as he writes about Stephen, an man attempting to find himself, through overcoming obstacles, experiencing indulgence, and finally discovering his true question: what is my soul?
The reader experiences Joyce’s writing through a stream of consciousness style; instead of retelling Stephen’s emotions and thoughts, he causes the reader to live them. And so, we walk along with Stephen in his journey, stumbling alongside him as he travels, learns, and makes mistakes.
So what does he discover about love? I believe that it is foreign to him. He searches for the romantic love, even succumbing to the temptation of sex, but finally, he becomes afraid of the unknown. He fears fear itself, and as he runs, trying to avoid it, fear overcomes him until love falls into that which he does not know.
And finally, as an artist, Stephen discovers his need to take flight. To break this grip of fear, to embrace his soul, and hopefully, maybe along in the distant future, to love himself.
Theme: Neither fear nor love can be avoided.
Thursday, April 8, 2010
“We misread the landscape when we think it pastoral or pretty, there's a darker side to it.” --Andy Goldsworthy
Goldsworthy’s motivation lies in the beauty of nature—each day he works, he discovers new miracles. Simple delights, like the smooth, weathered surface of the river stones, or the unique colors of the leaves are his artistic muse.
He does the unthinkable. When we first started watching the movie, a few of us muttered, “Who would think of that?!” Goldsworthy would string about twenty feet of leaves together, then allow them to float along a river. This was his “art,” and furthermore, a company had made an entire video about his work.
So what is his purpose?! This question plagued me as I watched the movie, he took seemingly random objects, and we watched him try to pile them on top of each other. Bewildered, we watched him try time and time again to stack these oddly-shaped rocks. Minutes pass, silence endures, and the rocks tumble again and again. Goldsworthy’s persistence defines perseverance: his passion drives his desire to finish his artwork.
Fear is all over the plate. What if things break, die, catch fire? How much money could he lose?
In the end though, his love for his work trumphs his fears and his “what ifs.”
Theme: Love takes risks.
Sunday, December 13, 2009
Shakespeare is the master of love language, the descriptor of the “fruit of love,” and three words: Romeo and Juliet. Yet, through many of Shakespeare’s works, obstacles stand within Love’s way; whether it be fate, death, selfishness, or pure human instinct, Shakespeare’s tragic heroes seem to become blinded to what lies right before their eyes.
Love plays an interesting role in King Lear, Shakespeare begins his story with the two of Lear’s daughters’ expression of love to their father. However, does love that is expressed solely for self-benefit hold truth?
Cordelia, the one daughter who refuses to profess false promises, is this novel’s symbol of love, while the storm, wealth, death, and each characters’ desires represent fear. Love is blinding, yet so is fear. Outcast from his daughters, his people, and his kin, Lear eventually finds himself wandering and lost, encased within the depths of a massive storm. Slowly, Lear begins to lose his mind, becoming mad, and allows fear to consume his soul.
The ironic part of King Lear is the “If only” part of the story. If only Lear had been smarter about delegating his power, if only he had realized the superficiality of their love, if only he didn’t use material prizes as a “reward” for his daughters’ love.
What does this say about human nature? Humanity is driven by selfishness, yet when we’re caught up in ourselves and our materialistic objects, there’s no room for love. Lear discovered this painful truth as he wandered in the storm, outcast from his “loved” ones. His fear took over—fear is only the absence of love.
This is his major tragic flaw: his desire for love blinds him, until fear’s evil claws grip the surface of his life, suffocating any love that fills the depth of his life.
Theme: Fear is easier than love, but kills the seed of happiness.
Thursday, September 24, 2009
The world has morphed throughout time, yet fear and love are universal throughout mankind. Written in 430 B.C. by the Greek philosopher, Sophocles, Oedipus Rex has been known for 24 hundred years.
It’s your classic tragedy: royal prince is outcast as a baby, grows up with shepherds, accidently kills his dad (the king), then saves Thebes, marries his mother unknowingly, has kids, realizes everything, and gouges out his eyes.
…With so much more meaning and brilliance, obviously. But the underlying factor is the character’s fear of prophecy. There was a divine prediction when Oedipus was born that he would someday murder his father and marry his mother. Terrified and disgusted by this future, his parents have his ankles pinned together, and leaves him on a mountain to die (This is Decision Out of Fear #1). There is a significant absence of love from the beginning of Oedipus’ life.
However, the prophecy becomes true and Oedipus marries into royalty. But there is still a mystifying question in the air: Who killed King Laius? The oracles report that Thebes will continue to suffer from a terrible plague until this question is answered, and once again, Sophocles’ character acts out of fear.
Ironically, his fear was not great enough, for the truth was far worse than plague.
When he discovers that he was the one who committed the unthinkable, his world crashes down around him.
Oedipus’ fear ruled his life and influenced his decisions, ultimately pushing him toward the object of his fear.
Theme: Fear is a greater motivator than love.
In her novel, Redeeming Love, Francine Rivers uses the thin line between fear and love to define them both...and concludes that love does not only cast out fear, but has the power to eternally conquer.
Angel, a broken prostitute with a destitute past has grown to believe that women are worthless, love is nonexistent, and men are cold abusers of power. The she meets Michael.
If Angel represents fear, Michael is the definition of love. Michael believes that God called him to marry angel, and he braves obstacle after obstacle to rescue her from her brothel of slavery. Not only does he take care of her, but he vows to love her unconditionally: “I promise to love and cherish you, to honor and sustain you, in sickness and in health, in poverty and in wealth, in the bad that may darken our days, in the good that may light our way” (Rivers 285).
This kind of love is strange to Angel, and overtaken by fear, she runs. She thinks her “old” way of life is better, more comfortable, when in reality, she is ultimately disgusted by the defilement of her body. So she returns to Michael, the only warmth she has really ever felt.
Then she begins to have feelings for him, and this terrifies her more than discomfort. She runs again…four times total actually, until finally she is broken enough to accept the love Michael offers.
Sorry for the spoilers…but let’s break this down: fear was a roller coaster in Rivers’ book, moving up and down at phenomenal speeds, but eventually crashed. Love remained at a quiet, yet steady pace in the background, unchangeable, unbreakable, and indestructible.
The theme: love is eternally more powerful than fear.
AP Literature & Composition, senior year of high school...saving the best for last :)
To share with the world life's timeless questions, and to delve into the greatest minds of the past and present for our answers.
Shall we embark on our journey?
THE BIG QUESTION:
Which is more powerful, fear or love?