The Question:

What impact does family have during the different stages of our lives?

Friday, February 25, 2011

Twisted Love

Family tends to be the main force in shaping a child, in molding them into the person they will grow up to be. But what happens when a family is disconnected and unloving? What happens when a mother kills her own daughter only for her two sons to run away? Sethe’s life is not one her children would ever really be able to relate to. She was a slave and they were able to escape, she tried to avoid love and they craved love, she was a killer and they were dead. In chapter three of Toni Morrison’s Beloved, the narrator explains, "To Sethe, the future was a matter of keeping the past at bay. The 'better life' she believed she and Denver were living was simply not that other one." This is also why she killed Beloved, to give her a better life and protect her from love and hurt. Denver too, has been protected from these humanistic feelings as she first heard of her sister’s murder from a boy at school. Now, I can’t say that I would ever be able to tell my daughter that I killed her sister, but Denver never seemed to learn about life itself. She has no friends and her relationship with her mother is not based on love and concern. Beloved, on the other hand, still acts as a baby. She is constantly in need of her mother’s love and attention. Neither of these girls are capable of leading a normal, independent life and the only common factor in their lives is that of their mother’s twisted protection.
In this novel, Sethe is a likeable character, but her ideas are perverse. In chapter 21 Denver says, "All the time, I'm afraid the thing that happened that made it all right for my mother to kill my sister could happen again. I don't know what it is, I don't know who it is, but maybe there is something else terrible enough to make her do it again. I need to know what that thing might be, but I don't want to. Whatever it is, it comes from outside this house, outside the yard, and it can come right on in the yard if it wants to. So I never leave this house and I watch over the yard, so it can't happen again and my mother won't have to kill me too.” She is genuinely scared that her mother might try and kill her. What kind of relationship is that? This fear of her mother’s protection pulls them apart and has shaped Denver into the woman she is today. Beloved, has not had a life to develop. She is a ghost of the dead child and has never had the chance to grow and develop any sort of relationships. What I find most interesting though is the ability these three have to overcome death and brokenness and come together and love. Chapter 22 shows us their connection through this quotation, "I am Beloved and she is mine. I see her take flowers away from leaves she puts them in a round basket the leaves are not for her she fills the basket she opens the grass I would help her but the clouds are in the way how can I say things that are pictures I am not separate from her there is no place where I stop her face is my own and I want to be there in the place where her face is and to be looking at it too a hot thing." These family members are able to conquer their hurt and become one family again. Death is powerful, but a family’s love has proven to be even more so.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Childlike Honesty

“I was listening, and I could hear that I was being judged intelligent. But I couldn’t quite understand how an ordinary man’s good qualities could become crushing accusations against a guilty man” (100).
In The Stranger, Albert Camus presents the character, Meursault, as having childlike honesty. He seems not to have the capacity to lie or understand lies. This section when Meursault is being tried for the murder of the Arab draws many parallels to a child’s reaction to evil in the world. I believe that Meursault’s life with his mother was one in which lies were not told. The truth was all that was necessary and nothing beyond that. The two of them ran out of things to say to each other because they already knew the truth.
Meursault is a rather misunderstood character. The way in which he goes about his life, not caring about much of anything, is perceived in our culture as obscure and worrisome. This, however, is exactly what Camus was trying to illustrate in his novel. Albert Camus states in a preface to his novel that “…[Meursault] is foreign to the society in which he lives…And this is why some readers have been tempted to look upon him as a piece of social wreckage.” Camus raises the question of how Meursault refuses to play the game of society to which the answer is simply: he refuses to lie. I believe this principle is one Meursault obtained from his Maman. We, as readers, do not know much about their relationship, but I do not believe it is entirely fair to state that he did not care for his mother. After all, she raised him and helped him become the man he came to be. This relationship may have been a reflection of Camus’s relationship with his own mother. As a deaf woman, she could not hear lies and therefore Camus could not tell her lies. Lies are completely verbal and cannot be acted out which allowed for complete honesty, which is exactly how Meursault refused to play the game.

An Extraordinary Son

“It’s two months since I last had a talk with you by letter, which has distressed me and even kept me awake at night, thinking…You know how I love you; you are all we have to look to, Dounia and I, you are our all, our one hope, our one stay. What a grief it was to me when I heard that you had given up the university some months ago…” (24).
Raskolnikov’s relationship with his mother and sister has led me to believe there is more to the story than we find out. It seems as though Raskolnikov was possibly his family’s ticket out of whatever rut they were stuck in or perhaps just to a better life. His mother sent him off so that he could pursue his studies and he continued that even further by tutoring to bring in income. This plan, however, did not seem to please Raskolnikov and he completely abandoned that way of life. His mother addresses in the letter she writes him that she is disappointed that he decided to give up the university, but goes on to apologize for not being able to provide him with more roubles. This odd relationship in which it seems that Raskolnikov’s mother and sister depend on him, but do everything they can to save him when he fails them puzzles me. What is so great about this man anyway? He wrote an article on all the exceptions an extraordinary man possesses in society to the point that they have the right to kill. We then see him kill two innocent women and wonder what possessed him.
I believe that this relationship between Raskolnikov and his family has possibly led to his initial belief that he is an extraordinary man. Though not all this information is presented in the text, I believe Raskolnikov’s mother to be very doting of her son. So much so, that even when he disappoints her and lets her down, she is willing to use all her resources to make sure he is taken care of. There is a point in one’s life that they must go out on their own and learn some responsibility and how to take care of themselves and others for a change and I believe Raskolnikov to have been denied of this opportunity. The early and constant doting by his mother has caused him not only to be unsuccessful in his own life, but has involuntarily led him to destroy two other lives in murder as well as the lives of those he most deeply cares about such as Sonia, Dounia, and his mother.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Like the Sun

Henry IV Part 1 is a superb example of redemption between family members. When it comes to disagreements within a family, we have all had our fair share. As much as we hope for peace at all times within our families, this never occurs. Hal and his father, Henry IV, are very distant in their relationship with each other. Hal is rebellious and runs with the wrong crowd. He is expected to act as an honorable young man who is capable of leading the country when he father passes it on to him. At the beginning of the play, Hal presents a soliloquy explaining how he imitates the sun. Hal says in Act 1 Scene 2,
“Yet herein will I imitate the sun,/Who doth permit the base contagious clouds/To smother up his beauty from the world,/That, when he please again to be himself,/Being wanted, he may be more wondered at/By breaking through the foul and ugly mists/Of vapors that did seem to strangle him.”
This passage really leads in to the rest of the play because of its foreshadowing and the pun Shakespeare uses. Hal says he will imitate the sun; I feel that this is a very interesting pun in the play as Hal is the son. He is the son of the king and should be shining like the sun, but he is hidden by clouds like the sun allows itself to be. It is important to note that Hal does not just say that clouds cover the sun, but that the sun allows the clouds to cover it. Hal’s clouds are the pub crawlers and he allows them to cover his glory and capabilities because he chooses to spend his time with them.
He goes on to say that “…when he please to be himself,/Being wanted…breaking through the foul and ugly mists…” This is later seen at the end of the play when Hal comes through and saves his father from Hotspur. Hotspur is the son Henry IV never had and Henry IV wishes that Hotspur were his son instead of Hal. This all changes at the end of the play though when Hal feels appreciated and demonstrates what he is capable of as a leader and that he really can shine like the sun. This act at the end of the play allows for the redemption between father and son illustrating how family impacts us in different ways at different times in our lives. Though a family is distant at one point, does not mean it will always be like that.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Crazy People

A violent separation and an intimate reuniting-not a “normal” family.

Reading Oedipus Rex put a spin on what I thought was the impact a family has on one’s life. I always thought there were different dynamics in different families and no, not all of them are good, but surely I had not thought of this as a possibility of family dynamics.

I believe a family is meant to build you up and make you into the person you are meant to be-not to the point where you are controlled by your family, but enough that you are willing to take their thoughts and considerations into account because you know they have your best interest in mind. Again, this thought process was turned upside down after reading Oedipus Rex.

This play puts a spin on everything I have ever thought about families and the impact they have on our lives. Families may not always treat each other very nicely-we all know that. There are different reasons for this, ranging from something like sibling rivalry all the way to abusive relationships inside a family, but never have I heard of a child, an infant even, being sent off and ordered to be killed. There is a possibility this has happened, but what I doubt even more is that that child was in fact not killed, and came back years later to marry his mother. Now, in the play this makes sense due to the prophecy, but this does not happen in real life!

The only conclusion I can draw is that this play, Oedipus Rex, does not answer my big question of what impact family has during the different stages of our lives.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Adopted Family

The family is a haven in a heartless world. ~Attributed to Christopher Lasch

What is a person to do then, if they have no family? What other haven could compete with a family?

This is the case for Virginia Woolf’s character, Lily, in her novel To the Lighthouse. Lily’s family is never mentioned and even though she is a grown woman, she has never been married. Lily seems to find her haven in her art, but I believe that only offers partial satisfaction for Lily.

One of the main motifs the reader sees presented in this novel is that of Lily’s painting; this is what truly brings peace to Lily and brings meaning to the chaos seen between all the characters. Lily’s painting was inspired by Mrs. Ramsay and her family and would not have been created if it were not for the impact the Ramsay family had on Lily.

Even though Lily was not a member of the Ramsay family, she was impacted by them enough so that most of her thoughts had to do with none other than the Ramsay family.

Why was she so interested in the Ramsay family?

I believe it is because of the impact they had on her. She watched them interact every single day and learned so much from them. So much, in fact, that she arguably became part of their family. Family doesn’t always mean blood relation; I believe family has more to do with the social connection shared than by whether or not you share the same DNA. Family is important to everyone because of the impact it has- it undoubtedly had an impact on Lily.

I Miss You…?

Friend, you have done me
Kindness, like a father to his son,
Book I
Lines 355-356

The son paused by a tall pear tree and wept.
Then inwardly debated; should he run
Forward and kiss his father and pour out
His tale of war, adventure, and return,
Or should he first interrogate him, test him?
Better that way, he thought-
First draw him out with sharp words, trouble him.
Lines 259-265

What were ancient Greek families built on? Kindness from a father to a son, but not from a son to a father? Where did this theme of hospitality we dissected throughout this epic vanish to?

Telémakhos did not know his father growing up, he knew only of his father. The impact that Odysseus may have had on Telémakhos as a young boy was a missed opportunity because Odysseus was not around. Telémakhos knew not of the relationship between a father and a son, or, at least, had not experienced one.

The impact Odysseus had on Telémakhos was not one he was aware of. In “The Odyssey” we see Telémakhos change in order to be more like his father. He works to be a better leader, to be strong, and to be brave. When Telémakhos and Odysseus are reunited they work together to beat suitors showing that even though they had been apart the impact they had on each other was strong enough to bring them together as if they had been for all their lives. This is what I believe family to be- that uniting force that means you’ll never be alone.