Ohio State Lima 2010
Writing Center Award
Writing Center Award
The Power of Women In Hamlet
In an action-riddled rendition of William Shakespeare’s infamous tragedy Hamlet, Franco Zeffirelli challenges past conventions and gives to his audience a special twist on the classic tale, giving more importance to the women in the film. Rather than the simpering, clueless women of the 1948 film done by Laurence Olivier, this version brings to the stage women that are more in control of the men around them. In her article, “Franco Zeffirelli and Shakespeare,” Deborah Cartmell confronts this shift of female representation in the Zeffirelli and Olivier Hamlet films. According to Cartmell, it is apparent that Zeffirelli explores new avenues for the Hamlet women, creating a more equal female role in the unfurling tragedy of Denmark. Cartmell’s suggestion of the “prominence of women,” (Cartmell 219), is one that can be soundly formed through close examination of the female roles in this particular adaptation of the play. Beyond other films, Zeffirelli manages to create a version that bestows importance on the women. Indeed, women gain confidence and status, and claim a new authority in this particular version of the story of Hamlet.
Zeffirelli casts Helena Bonham-Carter as his angel-faced Ophelia. Her pale face dramatically contrasts with her dark eyes and plaited brown hair – a look that is quite different than other Ophelias, such as Olivier’s bright-eyed platinum blonde choice. Her striking looks urge the viewer to give Ophelia a second glance, and consider the quiet intelligence in her eyes. This Ophelia, though notably thinner and more frail than others before her, appeals to a more stubborn type of woman. The viewer is first introduced to her as she converses with her brother Laertes previous to his departure for France. Laertes questions his young sister about the Lord Hamlet, advising against any romantic feelings; all the while, Ophelia dismisses his words through her body language. She laughs at his admonishing judgment, and paces as she half-listens to what he tells her. This Ophelia fiddles with the stray threads on the weaving loom, and fidgets with her hands, avoiding her brother’s opinions. Moreover, Ophelia refuses to look Laertes in the eye; she glances down, up, even out a window to evade the negative things she doesn’t want to hear about Hamlet. Although she hears him, she bites her lip absentmindedly thinks of other things as Laertes beseeches her not to pursue the affections of Hamlet. This sort of mini-rebellion is in itself an initial signifier of Ophelia’s strength and depth of character, and impels the viewer to consider Ophelia with more regard throughout the film.
Zeffirelli’s Ophelia continues in her tenacious spirit as she confronts the same subject with her father, Polonius. She protests against him, persists in following him, and retorts to every excuse he gives her to defend the infatuation she has for the prince. Further than her outward defiance, Zeffirelli’s Ophelia is very much an internalizing character as well. At the end of this scene as she enters the castle with Polonius, she declares to her father, “I shall obey, my lord.” Contrary to the words spoken, however, are her face and her tone. She speaks the word obey, yet she says it almost angrily, while her face portrays something perilously close to insubordination and nothing of submission. In her next appearance, Ophelia walks in on Hamlet, in his first attempt at fake insanity, and seems almost wickedly delighted to find herself in his company, alone. Her smirk is flirtatious, and she dominates the scene as she closes the gap between them, searching his strange face for reasons unfound to explain his sudden change of mood. Most importantly, Zeffirelli stages Polonius to witness this exchange from an above landing in the room. This omits Ophelia’s direct account, and leaves the viewer to believe that Ophelia, in her quiet defiance, may not have mentioned the event at all to her father, would he not have seen it for himself. This was a chance that Zeffirelli took to delete some of Ophelia’s foolish, dramatic ways and present her as a self-aware woman capable of holding a secret.
Zeffirelli’s woman also possesses a bit of cheek and strength that others lack. While directors, such as Olivier, stage their Ophelia to collapse, destroyed by Hamlet’s exclamation, “Get thee to a nunnery,” the Ophelia of Zeffirelli’s film stands firm, staring ahead and taking her dismissal head-on. As Cartmell asserts, “although hurt, she is not destroyed by Hamlet’s violent rejection,” (Cartmell 219). She accepts what is thrown at her, either denial of love, or pointed remarks; during the play within a play, Ophelia is seen rolling her eyes at Hamlet while he lays his head in her lap making crude comments.
Ophelia’s madness in Zeffirelli’s film, although the lowest point for Ophelia, is yet an indicator of her feminine strength. The viewer looks on as she crawls and creeps up the stone steps on white, bare feet. Her hair is a tangled mass, her clothes are tattered and wet, and yet through her madness, the audience detects an anger. Though obviously insane, Ophelia’s face is scrunched, twitchy, and tone threatening, giving her power. Rather than seeming helpless and distraught, she adopts a crazy rage. The near molestation of the court sentry is rough, almost violent, and Ophelia finds force through her sexual power as well as the strength of her anger. As Gulsen Sayin Teker writes in his essay, “Empowered by Madness: Ophelia in the Films of Kozintsev, Zeffirelli, and Branagh,” Bonham-Carter gives a special twist on Ophelia. He emphasizes, “Her innocence is mixed with intelligence, keen perception, and erotic awareness,” (Teker 116). This breakthrough for Ophelia’s character in Zeffirelli’s film is one that sets her apart, one that gives her more of an intriguing role, and more feminine strength in this version of Hamlet.
More than Ophelia, it is the Queen’s character that has the greatest transformation, the greatest show of power from the previous interpretations to this of Zeffirelli’s. Zeffirelli’s film begins with a non-existent scene in the written play – the funeral of King Hamlet is presented. This blatant addition is initially peculiar, yet serves an infinitely important purpose: to introduce the character of Queen Gertrude, and to establish the place of power she maintains throughout the film. The audience is taken down to the depths of a tomb, behind stone columns and through shadowy spaces to behold the corpse of the King. The first figure to come forward is that of the Queen, channeled by Glenn Close, draped in folds and veils of black, her pale skin and pale hair a beautiful contrast. Concern swamps her face while her lip quivers in her attempt to hold back tears. The viewer watches as Gertrude wars an inward battle, losing as she gives in to grief, clutching at Polonius’s hands. All the while, the camera cuts back to Claudius’s face, grim and aggressive, his eyes dark caves beneath his brow. As Hamlet enters, the viewer sees him step aside to comfort his mother while the stone slap is placed over the coffin. Here the music swells, climbing in great, sinister steps, climaxing as Claudius places the sword on the stone, and ultimately, as Gertrude throws herself against it, making herself the figure of attention, the center of the scene. Zeffirelli allows the camera to cut to Hamlet’s face, his brooding eyes locked on his mother. Beyond expressing grief, Zeffirelli manages to determine a particular relationship between mother and son. Hamlet stands, tied to his mother, unable to dispel her tears and visibly lost himself as to how to help her. This frustration of how to handle Gertrude, and his submission to her wants is only touched on here, a brilliant hint for the rest of the film.
Along with establishing this power over Hamlet, Zeffirelli reveals his Gertrude to have power over another man, the dark, menacing figure opposite her by the dead body, Claudius. She weeps in a seemingly inconsolable manner, face down against the stone. As the music shifts, however, the viewer hears strains of violins, stroking change into the scene. The Queen raises her head, and the audience captures the moment of the glance exchanged between her and grim Claudius. Her eyes shift, expressing almost a hopeful gleam, just as the camera cuts to the wedding celebration of the two. This addition allows the viewer to realize Gertrude’s willingness, and perhaps instigation, for her second marriage. The staging in this particular frame is essentially important also. Gertrude is situated at the feet of the dead King, while Claudius is at the head. They are positioned opposite one another with only one thing separating them: King Hamlet. By this point, however, he is dead, and is no longer a boundary between his wife and his brother. In the immediate scene following, this limitation is gone, and as nothing stands between them, Gertrude and Claudius are wed.
This opening scene also makes available to the audience proof of Gertrude’s effect on Claudius. In the crypt, he scowls and looms menacingly; after the wedding, however, Claudius appears almost jolly, and certainly more carefree. It is Gertrude’s influence, her glowing happiness in the new marriage, and her ultimate power over men that is unique to Zeffirelli’s film, which makes this opening scene one of utmost importance, despite its lacking in the original play.
Beyond the beginning, Gertrude continually displays her strength and power throughout the film. When the Queen finds Hamlet in the study alone, she dismisses Claudius with her eyes – she commands the room without words and moves the men around her like pawns in order to have a private moment with her son. Despite Hamlet’s sullen attitude, Gertrude has only to smile winningly and whisper in his ear to have him submitting to her wishes. He even falls to his knees at her feet, hugging her body close to him in a compliant, obedient motion that visually presents Gertrude in the dominant position in the relationship.
The pair touch and kiss often in Zeffirelli’s film. Before departing the study, Gertrude kisses Hamlet on the mouth, slightly lingering, only to rush off to embrace and kiss Claudius. During the bedroom scene, Hamlet confronts his mother with his knowledge of the late King’s death. He pulls and pushes Gertrude on her bed, thrusting against her body simulating sexual activities between her and the murderous Claudius. Hamlet screams his anger, seemingly uncontrollable in his madness of fury; yet, as Gertrude grabs his face amid the violent yelling in a zealous kiss, the viewer’s ears are slashed in sudden silence. Gertrude is able to stifle Hamlet’s anger through her embrace, cutting off his words and bringing an end to his extreme violence.
Whether she is controlling or ignoring the men around her, Zeffirelli’s Gertrude defies all other standards for Hamlet’s Queen, and blazes a new path for feminine roles. Her brief scene with Polonius alone shows her character strength; as the old man blabbers on about Hamlet, Gertrude sits in a throne-like chair, assuming authority and control already, and although thoughtful, rolls her eyes at Polonius and his bumbling. She puts up with his nonsense, and in the end, walks away from him when she has heard enough, taking control of the situation and effectively ending the conversation as she pleased.
The Queen’s possession of control is displayed up until her death. At the end of Zeffirelli’s film, Gertrude and Hamlet exchange smiles and a wink before the duel, an otherwise flirtatious move here shown between a mother and a son. And as she reaches for her son in her death throes, Gertrude once again reminds the audience of their unique relationship, providing evidence of a stronger relationship, a more powerful influence of Gertrude over Hamlet, than any other film has shown. As James Simmons writes in his essay, “‘In the Rank Sweat of an Enseamed Bed’: Sexual Aberation and the Paradigmatic Screen Hamlets,” Close brings something extra to her role that makes it extraordinary. He declares that her portrayal of Shakespeare’s Gertrude, “elevates her character to a whole new level of complexity,” (Simmons 116). With Zeffirelli’s direction, this Gertrude is certainly more complex with a multifaceted personality that is unparalleled in any other version of Hamlet.
Franco Zeffirelli most assuredly presents a very distinctive view on Gertrude and Ophelia in his 1990 film Hamlet. Rather than a fluttery Queen, or oblivious Ophelia like some others, Zeffirelli gives his women stronger, more powerful qualities that grant them more equal, pivotal roles than before. Deborah Cartmell affirms that Zeffirelli “enlarges the roles of the women,” (Cartmell 219). Beyond enlarging, Zeffirelli significantly develops his female characters. Armed with strength of character, and even persuasion, the women in Franco Zeffirelli’s Hamlet exhibit a growth of feminine power that no other interpretation allows them to possess, and give an interesting twist on the timeless tale of the tragedy of revenge.
Cartmell, Deborah. “Franco Zeffirelli and Shakespeare.” The Cambridge Companion to Shakespeare on Film. 2nd ed. Ed. Russell Jackson. Cambridge: CUP, 2007. 216-25.
Hamlet. Dir. Franco Zeffirelli. Icon Productions. 1990. Film.
Hamlet. Dir. Laurence Olivier. Criterion Collection. 1948. Film.
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Teker, Gulsen Sayin. "Empowered by Madness: Ophelia in the Films of Kozintsev, Zeffirelli, and Branagh." Literature Film Quarterly 34, no. 2 (April 2006): 113-119. Film & Television Literature Index with Full Text, EBSCOhost (accessed June 1, 2010).
Cartmell, Deborah. “Franco Zeffirelli and Shakespeare.” The Cambridge Companion to Shakespeare on Film. 2nd ed. Ed. Russell Jackson. Cambridge: CUP, 2007. 216-25.
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Rutter, Carol Chillington. “Looking at Shakespeare’s Women on film.” Shakespeare on Film. Ed. Russell Jackson. 2nd ed. Cambridge: CUP, 2007. 245-266.
Scolnicov, Hanna. "Gertrude's Willow Speech: Word and Film Image." Literature Film Quarterly 28, no. 2 (2000): 101-111. MLA International Bibliography, EBSCOhost (accessed June 1, 2010).
Simmons, James R., Jr. "'In the Rank Sweat of an Enseamed Bed': Sexual Aberration and the Paradigmatic Screen Hamlets." Literature Film Quarterly 25, no. 2 (1997): 111-118. MLA International Bibliography, EBSCOhost (accessed June 2, 2010).
Teker, Gulsen Sayin. "Empowered by Madness: Ophelia in the Films of Kozintsev, Zeffirelli, and Branagh." Literature Film Quarterly 34, no. 2 (April 2006): 113-119. Film & Television Literature Index with Full Text, EBSCOhost (accessed June 1, 2010).
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Hawke, and Lester All Take a Stab at the Original Man in Black -- "Where be your gibes now? Your gambols? Your songs? Your flashes of merriment that were wont to set the table on a.." Bright Lights Film Journal no. 51 (February 2006): 13. Film & Television Literature Index with Full Text, EBSCOhost (accessed June 1, 2010).
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Writing Center Award
Writing Center Award
The Rub: Anti-Immersive Techniques in Almereyda’s Hamlet
If you go to IMDB.com and type in the name “Hamlet,” 73 exact title matches are returned of film and television adaptations of what it widely considered Shakespeare’s masterpiece. The filmic adaptations stretch back literally to the year 1900 when a French adaptation called Le duel d'Hamlet became the first filmic adaptation of Hamlet on record. Since then, such great actors as Laurence Olivier, Orson Welles, Derek Jacobi, Kenneth Branagh, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Mel Gibson, David Tennant, and Ethan Hawke have taken on the role of the prince of Denmark. These adaptations exist in English, French, Swedish, German, Italian, and even Indian. Even more impressive is that each of these various reproductions was made with a purpose in mind. Each of the directors sat down and considered the question of what they could bring to the table that had never been done before. For example, Zeffirelli saw himself as a “popularizer” of Shakespeare, and to that end he cast recognizable stars as the main characters and rearranged the dialogue to make it more accessible to a modern audience (qtd. in Hapgood 80). Olivier’s thesis and purpose was to emphasize the idea that Hamlet “…is the tragedy of a man who could not make up his mind,” and brought about his purpose in part by making the set a series of precarious ledges and banisters without edges (Hamlet Dir. Olivier). Branagh showed Hamlet’s indecision by using the hidden doors in Elsinore castle as a metaphor for the many possible and occult decisions he could make (Shawver 4).
While each of these productions is interesting in its own right, one of the most interesting and provocative adaptations of Hamlet was directed by Michael Almereyda and released in the year 2000 (a type of poetic symmetry to be released 100 years after the first adaptation). The thesis of Almereyda’s Hamlet is the very last spoken line in the film. A news anchor, ostensibly covering the bloody multiple homicide in the upper echelons of the Denmark corporation and its effects in the corporate world, ends his broadcast by saying, “Our wills and fates do so contrary run that our devices still are overthrown, our thoughts are ours; their ends none of our own.” In short, Almereyda’s thesis is, despite our greatest efforts and plans, in the end, we are not in control of our own fate. Typically the goal of a filmmaker is immersion. They want to create an experience that draws the viewer into the universe of the film and makes them forget they are watching a movie. But in order to convey the lack of control that Almereyda considers so crucial, he constantly reminds the audience that they are watching a movie. By reminding them of that simple fact, he also reminds them that the ending of the movie is fixed and out of the protagonist’s control.
One way that Almereyda reminds the viewer that his film is a film is in the very way that he transplants Hamlet into the 20th century. He could have used any number of situations as a backdrop for the action of the film, but he chose to transform the state of Denmark into a massive corporation, and the prince of Denmark into an independent film maker. The result of these two decisions is that there is video equipment all over the place; Hamlet, in fact, is rarely seen without a video camera or a portable video player. He is not the only one with cameras or surveillance equipment however. In an essay written about the technology in Almereyda’s Hamlet, Mark Thornton Burnett says,
An overriding preoccupation in Almereyda’s Hamlet is the variety of communicative equipment available at the present historical juncture. The director’s Manhattan environment is overwhelmed by listening devices, laptops, cell phones and recording instruments. At pertinent instances, one can cite the bugging of Ophelia with a wiretap and the duel between Hamlet and Leartes…in which every movement is tabulated on an electronic score counter. (53)
All of this technology gives the feeling that everything the characters do is being watched; but on occasion, as is the case with Ophelia’s wire tap, it also shows that there are things going on that are outside of the character’s control.
A scene that shows off the theme of unexpected surveillance is the scene where Polonius confronts Hamlet to find the source of his madness. While the dialogue is not greatly changed (they do of course include the famous “you are a fishmonger” line), twice during this scene the camera flashes briefly to a closed circuit security (CCS) monitor. The first time it just shows Polonius and Hamlet talking, but as they enter the frame it is as Hamlet is saying the end of this line: “To be honest as this world goes is to be one man picked out of ten thousand” (Ham. 2.2.178-179). This does not necessarily mean that either of them are honest (in fact they are both being deceitful), but it does compliment the idea of the security camera picking individuals out of a crowd. The second time the shot changes to the CCS monitor is much more interesting, however. The shot changes as Hamlet walks away from Polonius. In other versions of the play and in other film adaptations, Hamlet walking away simply triggers an aside by Polonius. In this adaptation however, his aside is delivered to the security camera. This simple action makes the audience aware that Polonius knew of the security camera and very likely set up this little conversation for the benefit of someone watching on the monitor (maybe Claudius or Gertrude). In any case, it shows that Hamlet, for all his careful planning, is not in control of the situation. The simple fact that there are so many cameras and other means of surveillance is a constant reminder to the audience that this is a film; and because it is a film Hamlet’s actions and the actions of every character are scripted and they have no control over the eventual outcome.
Maintaining the Shakespearean language is another way Almereyda breaks immersion and reminds the audience that Hamlet is a film. Watching the Olivier version of Hamlet, it is easy to get lost in the language and the setting because they match so perfectly. On the other side of the coin, it is easy to get lost in the setting and language of Fight Club, once again, because the language and the setting match so perfectly. Almereyda mixes the sides of the coin by taking a modern setting and applying Shakespearean language. It is important to note that this had been done before. In 1996, Baz Luhrmann provided a model by releasing Romeo + Juliet, which mixed a modern setting with Shakespearean text. This adaptation was still quite immersive despite this juxtaposition because effort was made to reconcile the language and the setting. The most notable change was making the “swords” and “daggers” the brand names of the different pistols they were using. As a result of these updates to the modern setting, the Shakespearean language is more potable. In contrast, Almereyda’s Hamlet makes a few accommodations, but leaves many anachronistic terms in place for no other purpose than to jar the viewer. The Claudius figure is the new CEO of the Denmark Corporation, but he is constantly referred to as “King” and “Lord,” just as Gertrude is referred to as “Queen.” This anachronistic juxtaposition jars the viewer out of immersion almost every time. Another anachronism that is not really related to the language is the duel at the end of the film (as if anyone fences anymore). These anachronisms are left unchanged, partially to maintain the purity of the text I am sure, but largely for the effect of jarring and dislodging the audience from the fiction of the universe and reminding them once again that they are watching a film.
Maintaining the Shakespearean language also works in reverse. While Almereyda makes a point of maintaining the anachronisms of Shakespearean text, he also makes it a point to confuse the matter even more, by inserting bits of modern English from time to time. The first place we see this is in the opening shots of the film while the text is explaining the background of the story. Each caption is in modern English. It is confusing for first time viewers who are expecting Shakespearean language, and that confusion breaks immersion (in the very first scene). There are other parts of the film where characters speaking in Shakespearean English interact with diegetic sound spoken in modern English. There is a scene in which Ophelia calls “moviefone” and interacts with the menus. Also, in a short segment preceding the first iteration of the “To be, or not to be” speech, there is an Asian man on television that delivers a speech that could be titled “To be, or inter-be,” but does so in modern English. The recorded voice in the taxi after the screening of The Mousetrap is in modern English as well. It is odd that aspects of Shakespearean English and every occurrence of the modern English are also jarring and anti-immersive. They both serve as reminders that what the audience is watching, is a film and hence out of the control of Hamlet or any other character.
In a chapter entitled “Wide Angle” from Shakespeare and Film, Samuel Crowl finds the beginnings of the next anti-immersive technique used by Almereyda:
Almereyda traps Hawke’s Hamlet in the prison of Manhattan’s glass and steel skyscrapers and the city’s ubiquitous neon jungle. Almereyda’s Manhattan is soundless and sinister. It is a looming presence, from the film’s opening frames…to the final duel…Almereyda’s camera catches the cold blues and grays of those glass towers and transforms them into one vast glittering mirror, refracting light and reflecting images. (93)
In this passage, Crowl calls attention to two aspects of the film: the camera angles and the color palette of the film. He suggests that the city “is a looming presence” and makes reference to the cold blues and grays. While this is important, and he is correct in asserting that the stark environment and the color palette create a prison-like atmosphere, it falls short of the true import of these cinematic elements, which is to draw attention to the fact that they are cinematic elements. In Almereyda’s Hamlet these two elements are taken to such extremes that they draw attention to the fact that they are exaggerated conventions of filmmaking.
First, the vast majority of the film is shot in tight interior spaces from slightly low angles so you can very often see the ceiling. Being able to see the ceiling in films has a tendency to create a sense of entrapment and oppression, but these are shots that are commonplace in films. What are really important for the idea of anti-immersion are the exterior shots. The most iconic exterior moment comes immediately after Claudius gives Leartes leave to return to France. This sequence features low angle shots that juxtapose Hamlet against skyscrapers, making obvious the size difference and calling attention to the cinematic technique that was used to create the shot. A similar shot can be seen in the very opening shots of the film looking through the moon roof of a limousine while driving under the hulk-like buildings.
The color palette is another way Almereyda draws attention to the cinematic techniques used to create the film and by doing so reminding the audience of the futility of Hamlet’s and other characters’s desire to control the events of the play. As Crowl pointed out, the color palette for the film is largely gray and blue. The dominant grays and blues, likely the result of a filter over the lens, are done in such a way that it appears stylistic, but not distracting (like Jerry Bruckheimer films). Clothes are black, gray, or dark. Vehicles are mostly black (except for taxis). Buildings are gray. Water is blue. There are very few places that vivid color is used, but when it is, it is distracting and breaks immersion. There are a few examples of exceptions to this rule: the press room at the beginning of the film, Claudius and Gertrude’s bedroom, the bar that Hamlet visits with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, but the most significant divergence from the muted color palette is Ophelia. The reason Ophelia stands out as an exception is the rest of the examples are places and they break the rule as a whole, it is different and breaks immersion for a moment, but it goes away quickly. Ophelia, in her red outfits, stands out because she exists in contrast to the dreary color palette (it is also interesting to note that the title screen of the film is just “HAMLET” in big white block letters on a red background).
The last anti-immersive trick that we are going to look at is perhaps one of the more subtle, but one of the most effective ones that Almereyda uses: casting Bill Murray as Polonius. He does a great job. There are moments of such intense believability that it is easy to forget how Bill Murray made his career. Bill Murray has starred in movies like Ghost Busters, What About Bob, Groundhog Days, Stripes, and (of course) Caddyshack. The last thing someone would think of when they see Bill Murray is “Shakespeare.” I can only speak for myself, but every time Bill Murray came on screen, one of the characters from one of the movies listed above jumped into my head for just a second. Bill Murray is the ultimate anti-immersive device because he is the last person the audience expects to see.
Michael Almereyda’s Hamlet is a piece of art. Like the film, television, and stage versions before it (and after it), it had a thesis. Almereyda created a version of Hamlet that emphasized the fact that, despite his planning and scheming, Hamlet has no control over the outcome of his situation. He did this by ignoring one of the primary rules of cinema and breaking immersion on purpose in order to make the audience aware that, as a movie, the story is written in stone (or at least plastic discs) and the characters have no control. Almereyda’s Hamlet has a compelling vision. It has great actors. It is beautifully presented. It is a worthy addition to the collection of 72 other filmic adaptations of Hamlet and the hundreds of other film versions of Shakespeare’s plays.
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Hippocratic Hypocrisy: Torture and Medical Complicity in the "War on Terror"
Torture is not a mistake. The genesis of American perpetrated torture, that which was scandalously witnessed at the detention facilities of Guantanamo Bay, Bagram, and Abu Ghraib, and which has been unethically facilitated and perpetrated by medical professional complicity, resulted from the determinative will of the most senior members of the Bush administration. Following the terroristic attacks of September 11, 2001, administration officials authorized the military and intelligence agencies to implement programs of coercive interrogational torture against detainees captured during the prosecution of the so-called “War on Terror.” The Machiavellian Vice President Cheney offered as rhetorical justification for this policy the argument that the United States no longer lived in a safe world, and, in order to preserve domestic security, the nation would have to embrace “the dark side” (Gibney). Yet the “dark side” had a cost. Coercive interrogations, a utilitarian euphemism for torture, had, along with other forms of inhuman and degrading treatment, been internationally prohibited by long established international conventions and resolutions, of which the United States was a signatory. These resolutions and legislative acts had resulted from shocking revelations exposed during the Nuremburg trials, in which genocidal crimes against humanity were shown to have been perpetrated by the Nazis (Miles 31). Torture and other abusive behavior were also prohibitively codified within the United States federal code. However, in seeking indemnification from potential future prosecutions, the Bush administration’s Office of Legal Counsel (OLC), colluding closely with the politicized Justice Department, exclusively redefined the domestic threshold which constituted torture, thereby “legalizing” policies the administration had already begun to implement. The OLC argued that torture denotations were permissively ambiguous; interpreting U.S.C. §§ 2340-2340A, those codes which pertain to torture, administration attorneys made the dubious legal conclusion on 1 August 2002 that not only must acts which rise to the level of torture be specifically perpetrated with malicious intent, but that they must also directly cause “death, organ failure, or the permanent impairment of a significant body function” (Bybee). Furthermore, these legal operatives declared that the president’s national security authority “could not be constrained by the UN’s Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment and the U.S. Torture Victims Treatment Act of 1987” (147). The elastic conclusions by OLC counsels Alberto Gonzalez, Jay Bybee, and Jonathon Yoo, tantamount to reconstruction of the federal code, enabled the Bush administration to recruit medical clinicians into their coercive programs, both to directly facilitate its implementation and also to further legitimize its “legal” policies.
Despite the enthusiasm with which members of the administration approached inefficacious and unproven coercive interrogational processes, most notably Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, significant administration dissenters were extant. Indeed, unaware that Rumsfeld had already suspended the protections for detainees outlined within the Geneva Conventions, and several months before the OLC’s extralegal conclusions, Secretary of State Colin Powell implored Gonzalez to affirm the sanctity of the Geneva Conventions, asserting that anything otherwise would jeopardize the safety of our own troops by exposing them to retributive action, alienate our allies, open administration officials to prosecution, and “reverse over a century of U.S. policy and practice in supporting the Geneva conventions” (qtd. in Miles 145). Powell’s opposition was notably joined by State Department Counsel Howard Taft IV, who conclusively declared that, legalistically, detainees were indeed privileged to Geneva protections (146). Despite these well rationed and principled appeals, the predetermined hard-liner position was maintained. America had officially become a torture nation.
In early 2002, the CIA contracted two former Department of Defense (DOD) psychologists, James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen, who had been assigned to the Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape Program (SERE), relative to collaborating in the development of the interrogational processes. Mitchell and Jessen had already collaborated with the DOD in designing “countermeasures” for Al Qaeda interrogational resistance tactics (Clarckson). The SERE program had been established following the Korean War in order to train military aviators and personnel to resist the various torture techniques employed by the Chinese communists to provoke propagandistic false confessions (Clarkson). Among the coercive techniques utilized in SERE include: restraint, exposure to extreme temperatures, desecration of religious icons, and simulated drowning (Miles 188). Mitchell and Jessen, influenced greatly by the “learned helplessness” experiments conducted by former APA president Martin Seligman (who barbarously electrocuted dogs to the extent that they stopped or were unable to resist such torture), reverse-engineered defensive SERE techniques to be employed as offensive tools to fundamentally “break” American prisoners (Soldz). The coercive methods were quickly “field tested”; in the spring of 2002, the CIA expropriated the interrogation of Abu Zubaydah from the FBI, under the latter’s protest. Terminating the proven rapport building tactics employed by the FBI, Mitchell advised that Zubaydah be treated “like a dog in a cage” (Miles 187). Zubaydah was subsequently renditioned to Thailand (itself an illegal act), whereupon he was aggressively interrogated by the “enhanced” techniques developed by Mitchell and Jessen; in the month of August of 2002 alone, Zubaydah was waterboarded no less than 83 times (Fink). From Thailand, the coercive techniques travelled to Cuba.
By November of 2002, the use of the brutal “enhanced interrogational techniques” had escalated to the point that military attorneys on the ground at Guantanamo deemed that the presence of monitoring physicians was necessary not only for the supposed safety of the detainee, but also to assist in facilitating the torture process; submitting her proposal to Sec Def Rumsfeld, Army counsel Lt. Col. Diane Beaver averred that the presence of a physician would allow for the possibility of utilizing death threats against detainees, as well as “exposure to cold weather or water…with medical monitoring” (qtd. in Miles 148). Still more disturbingly, Beaver advised that: “The use of a wet towel to induce the misperception of suffocation would also be permissible if not done with the specific intent to cause prolonged mental harm and absent medical evidence that it would” (qtd. in Miles 148). In this proposal submitted to, and ultimately approved by, the United States Secretary of Defense, the illicit technique of waterboarding through clinician facilitation was notably recognized as acceptable interrogational operating procedure. Despite the unquestionable brutality of waterboarding (for which the United States had formerly prosecuted Japanese war criminals at the end of WWII), Mithcell and Jessen’s arsenal of abusive techniques was not so narrowly constructed. According to journalist Frederick Clarkson, Guantanamo Bay became the “battle lab” for coercive techniques. Among the abusive tactics perpetrated include: shackled suspension, beating, sexual humiliation, chest compression, sleep deprivation, food deprivation, drugging, exposure to the elements or extreme climate manipulation, denial of medical care, verbal abuse, threats against the life of the detainee or his/her family, the performance of unnecessary medical procedures, isolation, sensory deprivation, canine attacks, religious denigration, and rape (Miles 9).
However, before these tactics were even initiated, some interrogational and intelligence experts articulated their strict opposition to the adoption of Mitchell and Jessen’s unproven coercive strategies, expressing their skepticism relative to their intelligence gathering efficacy and condemning the ethical compromise they would engender. Following an exhortative DOD e-mail circulated within Iraq, which echoed the utilitarian language of Cheney, an unidentified military intelligence major responded forcefully, declaring “those gloves are…based on clearly established standards of international law…We are American soldiers, heirs of a long tradition of staying on the high ground. We need to stay there” (qtd. in Miles 47). Furthermore, in embracing the torture techniques as an interrogational tool the CIA and DOD rejected long established intelligence gathering knowledge demonstrated by years of their own experience and study; this tragic irony is exemplified by the conclusions of the CIA’s KUBARK interrogational manual, which states that “pain is quite likely to produce false confessions, concocted as a means of escaping from distress. Time consuming delay results while investigations are conducted and the admissions are proven untrue” (qtd. in Miles 16). But just as in the case of Powell and Taft, these principled and rationalized objections were consciously disregarded.
Once begun, torture’s gross “metastatic tendency,” as described by Shue, was practically demonstrated (58). Initially conceived as being a policy restricted to “high-level” suspects detained at Guantanamo, the use of “enhanced interrogation techniques” quickly and indiscriminately radiated to the war zones of Afghanistan and then Iraq, where it was perpetrated largely against innocent civilians. The escalation of torture came as a result of the Pentagon’s pressure for “better intelligence on the organization, strategy, and tactical priorities” of an organized and determined insurgent resistance (Miles 46). Ignorant of the culture, history, or tradition of those whom they were occupying, the innocent were predominantly indistinct from the “guilty.” Indeed, of those interminably incarcerated at Abu Ghraib alone, around 80 to 90 percent of prisoners are acknowledged by intelligence officials to have had no connection to Al-Qaeda, the insurgency, or to have possessed any valuable intelligence (Miles 49). This troubling fact did not prevent the administration’s aggressive pursuit of “enhanced technique” escalation. In 2003, Rumsfeld assigned Major General Geoffrey Miller, the former interrogational commander at Guantanamo, to administer the policy changes in Iraq; Miller, over the objections of the base commander, immediately sought to “GITMO-ize” Abu Ghraib, revolutionizing it from an overcrowded and undermanned detention facility (whose infrastructure was extant below third world standards) into the central interrogation compound for all of Iraq (48-9). Reflecting the profound influences of SERE psychologists Mitchell and Jessen’s application of Seligman’s abusive “learned helplessness” canine experiments, Miller chastised Gen. Janis Karpinski for her stipulated objections, “You have to have full control…you have to treat these detainees like dogs. If you treat them any differently…you’ve lost control of the situation” (Qtd. in Miles 48). Miller’s superior, the commander of all coalition forces in Iraq, Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, evinces further the apathetic, if not supportive, position of DOD leadership relative to the employment of abusive coercive tactics; despite the overwhelmingly innocent character of the prisoner population, Sanchez declared, “Why are we detaining these people; we should be killing them” (qtd. in Miles 50). The beyond-the-pale rhetoric of Sanchez and Miller elucidate the shared common interest between the civilian Bush administration and the commissioned officer infrastructure in support of “enhanced” techniques. Rather than being the consequence of a “few bad apples,” torture, perpetrated overwhelmingly against the innocent, was the official policy designated at the highest leadership levels.
Miller, instituting Gitmo “reforms,” and following the directive of Rumsfeld, established clear roles for clinicians within coercive interrogational processes. Miller, conforming to the Cuba model, established Behavioral Science Consultation Teams (BSCT) to coordinate with interrogators relative to both macro and micro interrogational activities; BSCT’s, comprised of psychologists and psychiatrists, “played a central role in designing interrogation plans to exploit prisoners’ psychological and physical weaknesses” (54). Designated under the command of military intelligence, and not health affairs, the BSCTs were conceived to “facilitate the harsh interrogations that the administration had elected to employ” (xiv). Mental health clinicians assigned to BSCTs monitored and evaluated interrogations, providing psychological instruction to interrogators. These BSCT psychologists and psychiatrists relied upon medical records of detainees, privileged information which they shared with interrogators, to individually exploit and break down detainees. According to Miles, such unethical facilitation of criminal interrogational operations included divulging personal vulnerabilities, medical conditions, or phobias so as to be fully “exploited for ‘Fear Up Harsh,’ ‘We Know All,’ or ‘Environmental Manipulation’ techniques” (55).
The public revelation of American clinician support of coercive interrogational activities has stimulated passionate debate within the medical community. The practice of modern medicine traces its origin to ancient Greece, and was based on two founding principles: medicine is based on science rather than superstition, and medicine is a “moral enterprise” in which its practitioners must comport to a strict ethical code (168). All practitioners, whether physical or psychological, must therefore swear the oath attributed to Hippocrates: “I will use my regimens for the benefit of the ill in accordance with my ability and my judgment, but from what is to their harm or injustice I will keep them” (qtd. in Miles 168). In addition to their fundamental Hippocratic obligation to “do no harm,” clinicians submit to the ethical codes of their various professional associative bodies.
Medical complicity or support in the perpetration of torture is nearly universally prohibited by these medical associations. Medical associations have based their governing ethics codes upon the fundamental principles outlined within the 1948 United Nations Declaration of Human Rights (30). The UN Declaration of Human Rights resulted from the revelation of Nazi atrocities which were depravedly perpetrated through the complicity of clinicians. Within Article 5 of that resolution, all people, irrespective of nationality, are granted freedom from being subjected to “cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment” (32). In 1975, the World Medical Association, an international congress of medical societies, adopted this language into its own landmark decree, the Declaration of Tokyo. Within the resolution, the WMA reaffirmed the transcendent obligation of the physician as a healer, declaring that no “personal, collective or political” interest shall compromise this fundamental duty (34). The Declaration of Tokyo unequivocally declared that no doctor shall engage in practices of “cruel, inhuman or degrading procedures,” irrespective of the supposed guilt of the victim; it furthermore prohibited doctors from facilitating such torture by providing torturers “premises, instruments, substances or knowledge to facilitate the practice of torture or other forms of human or degrading treatment” (34-5). In addition, doctors were prohibited from performing any act which would compromise or “diminish the ability of the victim to resist” such torture (36). In 1996, the World Psychiatric Association echoed this determination in the Declaration of Madrid, asserting that its members could not engage “in any process of mental or physical torture, even when authorities attempt to force their involvement in such acts” (36). Likewise, the AMA’s ethics committee decreed that physicians “must oppose and must not participate in torture for any reason”; the committee prohibited doctors from treating torture victims so that the torture process could be perpetuated and from “providing or withholding any services, substances, or knowledge to facilitate the practice of torture” (36). In addition to declaring that its member physicians must oppose torture by reporting cases of its perpetration and providing support for its victims, the AMA’s ethics decree specifically forbid physicians from being present where torture is conducted or even threatened (36).
Besides providing clear governing codes prohibiting clinicians’ involvement in torture, the medical associations, in strict opposition to the legal brain-trust within the Bush administration, established strict and non-permissive denotations of torture. The WMA’s Declaration of Tokyo identifies torture as being any act(s) of “deliberate, systematic, wanton infliction of physical or mental suffering by one or more persons acting alone or on the orders of any authority, to force another person to yield information, to make a confession, or for any other reason” (5). Given the established tradition of the “do no harm” ethos, and the unequivocally prohibitive strictures laid out by the governing medical associations, the exposure of substantive clinician involvement in torture processes following the 2004 Abu Ghraib scandal has been met with an overwhelmingly negative response. The fundamental contradictory dynamic of clinicians involved in abusive interrogations has led many to question to what extent clinicians were involved, and how the blasphemous and compromising relationship between complicit doctors and the military-intelligence apparatus developed.
Miles reveals that doctors were incorporated at nearly every level of the abusive process. Psychologists conceived and developed individualized interrogation plans, shared confidential records with interrogators, attended and/or oversaw abusive sessions, instituted an array of sensory assault or deprivation, established food or sleep deprivation programs, withheld their identities to subject detainees, denied therapeutic medical care (even in the circumstance of grievous bodily injury), utilized mind-altering drugs against prisoners, engaged in experimentation programs, and encouraged an atmosphere wherein force drift was a natural tendency. According to Dr. Eric Anders, the presence of psychologists in coercive abuse not only “legitimates whatever’s happening there,” but additionally engenders within an unempirical process “some sort of sense of being a scientific endeavor” (Rubenstein, et al). Psychologists proactively engaged in torture processes recommended regimens of “sensory deprivation, stress positions, isolation, and dependency on interrogators” for the sole purpose of psychologically deconstructing detainees (Arrigo and Long). Physicians have performed needless abusive procedures such as enemas, force fed detainees protesting their inhumane incarceration conditions, denied medical care, concealed detainee suicide attempts, concealed severe physical evidence of torture, altered or withheld death certificates and other documentary evidence of detainee homicides, and destroyed or “lost” forensic evidence of torture. Miles indicts doctors for negligently “failing to see abuse for what it is” and “failing to act when abuse is seen” (120). Further complicating clinician culpability, the egregious abuse processes have been documented as being brutally perpetrated against innocent women, children, geriatrics, and the physically/mentally disabled. In addition to these grievous indictments, any one of which constitutes a severe breach of medical ethics, clinicians failed to protest the DOD’s utilization of Abu Ghraib as a detention facility; besides being an ironic symbol connecting Bush imperialism to Saddam’s despotism, Abu Ghraib consisted of severely overcrowded and unsanitary tent colonies, and served as a breeding ground for debilitating and pestilent diseases. Indeed, tuberculosis, left untreated, ravaged the 8,000 prisoner population (114). Still more troubling, the prisoners, the preponderance innocent of any crime, were left totally exposed to frequent mortar, rocket, and sniper fire. Citing an unnamed nurse in Stars and Stripes, Miles reveals that an estimated 100-120 prisoners died due to these routine attacks (112). Clinician culpability here is especially clear given the fact that both the Geneva Conventions and U.S. Army regulations specifically prohibit the establishment of a prisoner detention facility where ongoing conflict persists (113). Just as in the case of individual detainee abuse, the macro torture of detainees was facilitated by complicit clinicians, and the abuse was ignored.
The revelations of torture caught the medical associations flat-footed. According to Miles, they were “unprepared for the possibility that American military medical personnel might be complicit with prisoner abuse” (127). The AMA was focused upon legislation relative to Medicare compensation and malpractice limits. The AMA rejected a proposal to call for independent investigations into reported abuses, instead offering to assist the DOD in its internal probes (128). In light of the abuses, the AMA only reaffirmed pre-existing ethics codes relative to member involvement in coercive tactics, while failing to hold its violators accountable; even the editorially separate medical periodicals of the AMA did not cover detainee abuses for more than a year following the release of Abu Ghraib photographs, long after the British Lancet and The New England Journal of Medicine had published extensive editorials and exposes detailing American medical involvement in torture (129). The American Psychiatric Association responded to reports of its own members’ involvement similarly, expressing concern but exercising no decisive punitive or preventative action.
In 2005, a watershed event altered the trajectory of the professional ethical debate: the severely flawed PENS report was released by the APA, which permitted, if not encouraged, the continuation of psychologist involvement in abusive interrogations. Dr. Nina Thomas reveals that, as a response to the report of egregious abuses witnessed at Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib by Dr. Michael Gelles, a civilian psychologist employed by the Navy, as well as the implication of psychological involvement in facilitating abusive interrogations by the Pentagon’s Inspector General, the American Psychological Association established the Presidential Task Force on Psychological Ethics and National Security; the articulated goal of the PENS group was to evaluate and determine APA policies relative to interrogational involvement moving forward (Rubenstein, et al). Dr Jean Arrigo, who, like Thomas, was a member of the task force, reveals that the voting committee was stacked with military-intelligence psychologists, some of whom had directly overseen the execution of the very policies they were supposedly evaluating (Rubenstein, et al). Arrigo postulates that, for those military psychologists not directly involved in the SERE programs, the DOD command structure transcended any ability to express their professional “expertise and judgment” (Arrigo). Indeed, six of nine voting members, a controlling quorum, held such compromising conflicts of interest. These military psychologists included Colonel Morgan Banks, commander of all SERE psychologists, and Captain Bryce Lefever, who, among other things, instructed interrogators SERE techniques in Afghanistan in 2002 (Miles 191-2).
The processes, in addition to the composition, of the task force were similarly irregular. Though such committees do not usually include more than one APA liaison or observer, and such individuals are prohibited from intervening in the course of the proceedings, the PENS group had multiple observers (Rubenstein, et al). Two of these “spectators” violated this more and improperly influenced the committee. Gerald Koocher, the President-elect of the APA, forcefully prevented the board from adopting the international denotation of torture, rather than the permissive laws the administration favored and had already abused. According to Arrigo, with no such authority, Koocher “exerted strong control over task force decisions…and he censured dissidents” (Arrigo). In addition, the head of the APA Practice Directorate, Russ Newman, whose wife was additionally a SERE psychologist, violated the benign observer obligation, and unduly influenced the committee’s debate. According to Arrigo, Newman declared that the purpose of the task force, rather than being to determine the ethical validity of interrogational cooperation, was to, in light of the Abu Ghraib abuses, “put out the fires of controversy right away”; Newman recommended that the composition and deliberations of the task force be kept confidential, that the task force should decisively express unity, and that only a few individuals should represent its findings: courses that were ultimately adopted (Arrigo). In addition to Koocher and Newman, several high-level DOD contract lobbyists for the APA were present during the deliberations. Furthermore, Arrigo reveals that she was verbally chastised for her attempts at note-taking, underscoring the fact that the only records kept of the proceedings were those officially maintained, but not reviewed, by an APA authority (Rubenstein, et al). Arrigo reveals that the committee’s hands were effectively tied because they were instructed to work within the constraints of existing APA ethics policy, rather than establishing new guidelines (Arrigo). The board, according to Dr. Leonard Rubenstein, Director of Physicians for Human Rights, ignored the actual processes which psychologists had been involved: “They didn’t discuss the fact that severe humiliation, sexual humiliation, isolation, threats, all kinds of horrors inflicted on people were really at stake, and that scientists, behavioral scientists, had somehow become implicated in torture” (Rubenstein, et al). In the end, Arrigo reveals that the committee spent the preponderance of its three day assembly correcting the language, through five drafts, of the PENS report, which had been entirely drafted by the APA Ethics Director, Stephen Behnke (Arrigo). This opportunity squandered resulted in the task force’s inability to provide APA members a casebook of practical scenarios; the casebook responsibility was deferred to the Ethics Committee, but never completed.
The sum effect of all of these irregularities was that the findings of the APA PENS task force were effectively predetermined. The PENS task force reaffirmed UN CAT and the Geneva Conventions Relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War, declaring that these resolutions applied to all prisoners (Miles 130). Additionally, it declared that psychologists had an obligation to report cases of “cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment” (Miles 130). However, such ethical principles, according to Arrigo, constituted mere “high-sounding platitudes” (Rubenstein, et al). The task force departed from international resolutions and codes of medical ethics in its determination that psychologists could continue collaborating with interrogators, divulging privileged medical records when such action ambiguously and contradictorily maintained the “safety” of the interrogations (Miles 130). In addition, the APA Task Force undermined the APA’s own medical ethics code in its decision that a psychologist could withhold his/her professional identity from a detainee (130). The report practically constituted an official endorsement of the confidential utilitarian recommendations proffered by APA President-elect Gerald Koocher, namely that psychologists have a role in national-security interrogations, wherein the client is the United States, and that “The goal of such psychologists’ work will ultimately be the protection of others (i.e. innocents) by contributing to the incarceration, debilitation, or even the death of the potential perpetrator, who will often remain unaware of the psychologists involvement” (qtd. in Arrigo and Long). Perpetuating the cooperation of psychologists with the DOD in abusive situations, the APA’s ethics task force was a practical example of how “breaches of ethics can be covered by inquiries that sound earnest but lead nowhere” (Arrigo and Long).
As already stated, the permissiveness of the 2005 PENS task force report was a watershed moment in the debate of clinician involvement in interrogational techniques: it was perceived as being a blight against medical ethics, an abdication of its primary directive to establish and maintain the practice of the highest level of psychological ethics. Its release effectively galvanized individual doctors, psychiatrists, and psychologists, and even formerly sedentary professional associations into action. These critics charged that the APA was severely undermining the professional ethics of which it was guardian in the interest of preserving lucrative government contracts. Four months following the report, under pressure from the Physicians for Human Rights (PHR), Dr. Robert Jay Lifton, and others, the American Psychiatric Association officially articulated its condemnation of the APA’s PENS report; the American Psychiatric Association unambiguously dissociated its membership from coercive interrogations, concluding that “Our position is very direct; psychiatrists should not participate on these biscuit [BSCT] teams” (qtd. in Miles 132). In addition, PHR established a petition for medical leaders to advocate for an independent investigation into medical ethics violations. Among the APA protestors were former executive officers and APA honored awardees (194). The WMA responded to the PENS report by strengthening its ethical guidelines prohibiting medical collaboration in coercive interrogations (133). The AMA quickly followed suit, leaving the APA alone as the single medical professional body in the United States advocating member involvement in DOD interrogations. Reflective of the power of such unwavering and determined protest, the Pentagon subsequently declared that they would, in future, exclusively utilize psychologists as opposed to psychiatrists in staffing BSCT interrogational teams. In addition to these measures, individual psychologists have resigned their membership from the APA, withheld their dues in protest, or organized with other dissenting voices. Other outspoken critics include Psychologists for Social Responsibility, the APA Divisions for Social Justice, six collegiate psychology departments, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, Human Rights First, the British Medical Association, the Australian Psychological Society, and the Norwegian Psychological Association. These groups were influential in their support of the passage of Senator John McCain’s 2005 amendment to a defense appropriations bill which prohibited the “cruel, inhuman, or degrading” treatment of prisoners (Miles 132). These principled opponents of APA policy have called for the annulment of the PENS task force findings. Punning on the SERE psychologists’ construction of the abusive pseudo-scientific “learned helplessness” tactics, implacable critics have charged that the APA leadership, in failing to either hold members complicit in torture accountable or to prohibit involvement in coercive interrogations, has engaged in a conscious policy of “strategic helplessness” (Soldz, et al).
In response to this overwhelming criticism, the APA attempted to amend the PENS findings in 2006, 2007, and 2008. In the 2007 revision, the APA advocated for the government’s cessation of 19 internationally defined “abusive interrogation techniques,” including waterboarding (APA). The PENS amendment of that year additionally recognized the inherent torturous nature of incarceration in inhuman “conditions of confinement,” and furthermore expressed “grave concerns over settings in which detainees are deprived of adequate protection of their human rights” (qtd. in APA). However, the APA core position remained unchanged; the most outspoken members of the leadership, Gerald Koocher and Stephen Behnke, reaffirmed the supposed necessary and ethically proper involvement of psychologists in developing and administering the “learned helplessness paradigm,” in which prisoners are “deprived of due process, independent human rights monitors, access to attorneys, and habeas corpus” (Miles 195). These utilitarian officials within the APA attempt to justify their position by differentiating the role of psychologists as being either “therapeutic clinicians” or “behavioral scientists.” According to Koocher, “psychologists involved in human service delivery and health care delivery” of those who are incarcerated are not involved in coercive interrogations or the release of medical records, a position which has widely been disputed; contrarily, Koocher argues that “behavioral scientists” continue to have an important role to play, in situations where the “fog of war” exists, in preventing “behavioral drift and abuse on the part of people who are confining these prisoners” (Reisner, et al).
Despite Koocher’s reassurance, the presence of doctors, rather than being a deterrent, appears to have an escalating power relative to the perpetration of torture: a doctor’s presence adds seeming legitimacy to torture (a perception which the Bush administration relied upon). According to Dr. Leonard Rubenstein, the director of PHR, the presence of doctors “leads directly to torture, because it tends to validate the worst interrogation techniques” (Rubenstein, et al). Indeed, Koocher’s analysis of the beneficent “savior” psychologist seems fundamentally deconstructed by the characterizations provided by Capt. Bruce Lefever, one of the SERE psychologist members of the APA PENS task force. Given Lefever’s firsthand experience with such harsh interrogations, his chilling depiction of their ruthless character is infinitely more credible; according to the unrepentant and utilitarian Lefever, BSCT psychologists were patriotically and proactively engaged in breaking down the “enemies” of the United States, his client argued: “You know, the tough nut to crack, if you keep him awake for a week, you torture him, you tie his arms behind him, you have him on the ground – anyone can be brought beyond their ability to resist” (qtd. in Spiegel). Lefever declares that, like many of his associates, he “has no love for the enemy,” and is therefore not obligated to provide for their mental health services; by supposedly contributing to the preservation of national security, Lefever avers that he maintains a higher imperative of “do no harm” (Spiegel). Critics such as Dr. Eric Anders postulate that, by perverting their fundamental obligation as healers, an imperative which cannot be separated from psychological practitioners, complicit psychologists and physicians such as Lefever descended into the “Stanford Syndrome” trap, sadistically contributing to the physical and psychological destruction of individuals (Rubenstein, et al). Dr. Robert Jay Lifton, an authority relating to doctors engaged in the atrocities of the Nazi regime, argues that this descent was enabled, if not encouraged, by the gross negligence of the APA; Lifton asserts that the APA withheld from psychologists, exposed to the “intense psychological situation of adaption to military policy,” the ethical tools necessary to respond to veritable “atrocity producing situations” (Mayer et al). In the final analysis, the protesters of APA policy argue that psychologists have no place in national security interrogations, and that interrogational and psychological imperatives exist as fundamentally mutually exclusive; indeed, according to the chair of ethics committee of the BMA, Dr. Michael Wilks, for those tasked with healing minds can it in no fashion be deemed “ethically acceptable to be engaged, even at a distance, in training people in techniques that damage minds” (Mayer, et al).
By fall of 2008, three years following authorship of the original PENS report, the unwavering principled opposition of dissenting psychologists, physicians, medical associations, and human rights organizations was vindicated. In September of that year, a grassroots insurgency of APA members who desired ethics policy reform introduced, despite firm opposition from the executive leadership, a referendum which sought to end the unnatural and unethical relationship between psychologists and coercive interrogations. According to Rubenstein, the referendum was a response to the APA’s intractable pursuit of the fundamentally impossible goal “to carve out a role that enables psychologists to participate without being engaged in violations” (Olson, et al). The referendum was closely contested, passing in a final tally of 8,792 to 6,157 (APA). As a result of its passage, APA member psychologists are prohibited from any involvement within prisons where “persons are held outside of, or in violation of, either International Law (e.g., the UN Convention Against Torture and the Geneva Conventions) or the US Constitution (where appropriate)” unless they are providing direct clinical therapy for the persons detained, working for a third party human rights organization on behalf of the incarcerated, or providing treatment for military personnel (qtd. in APA). As a result of the passage, sitting APA president Dr. Alan Kazdin officially informed President Bush by letter of the significant policy change on 2 October 2008. Kazdin, righteously condemning Bush, explains the professional divorce: “There have been many reports, from credible sources, of torture and cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment of detainees during your term in office” (Kazdin). Kazdin additionally calls upon the chastised Bush administration to conform to the Geneva Conventions and the UN Conventions Against Torture: to “safeguard” the human rights and psychological wellbeing of those incarcerated at “Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and at so-called CIA black sites around the world” (Kazdin). The principled dissenting voices within the APA and without had finally been acknowledged.
Retrospectively, the unholy marriage which developed between the APA and involvement in abusive coercive interrogations was the result of a larger overreliance upon the resources of the DOD. According to Arrigo and Long, the APA became “institutionally intertwined with the DOD” over the course of many years; the single largest provider of grants for psychological training, internships, and early psychological career opportunities, as well as providing massive research grants and contracts, the DOD indeed maintains tremendous influence over the APA agenda. According to Kaye, the actions of the APA has demonstrated its unsavory dedication to “serving the interests of the American government and military, to the extent of ignoring basic human rights practice and law.” Indeed, the CIA and DOD have, as a matter of routine, utilized the APA and its members to conduct its seedy research. In a Senate investigation of 1977, it was disclosed that the CIA, through clandestine front organizations, had subsidized more than 80 universities, hospitals, and other research institutions unwittingly engaged in its MKULTRA Behavioral Modification Project (Soldz, et al 3). The national security apparatus perceives the scientific clinician as a tool to be exploited rather than a healer. Warning of the consequences of unethical and unprincipled psychological practice, Dr. Jeffrey Kaye, an ardent opponent of the DOD and APA symbiosis, cites the dystopian warnings of Skinner: “If behavioral scientists are concerned only with advancing their science, it seems most probably that they will serve the purposes of whatever individual or group has the power.”
In order to reclaim for posterity, therefore, the sanctity of the Hippocratic “do no harm” therapeutic principles, it is not enough to repudiate the crimes which resulted from such an unnatural and unethical relationship as existing between the APA and DOD. It is furthermore necessary to sever these ties, and to prosecute psychologists who are inarguably guilty of perpetrating internationally recognized war crimes. As of this day, though the APA has officially ended its member involvement in coercive interrogations, no ethics violators have been pursued (in spite of official complaints). Despite protestations otherwise, in all likelihood, torture continues unabated, perpetrated against victims with no faces or names; as in the past, cases will doubtlessly involve both rape and murder, and will be facilitated by physicians and psychologists. These heinous abuses will occur in Cuba, Afghanistan, Iraq, and “black site” prisons across the world. Arrigo, Soldz, Olson, Reisner, and Welch conclusively argue that the restoration of the clinicians’ role as protector from abuse, torture, or inhuman and degrading treatment requires the APA to “hold violator psychologists accountable for developing the widespread and systematic moral failures in the organization’s infrastructure…if we do not do this, then we, too, are complicit with torture.”
APA. “APA Members Approve Petition Resolution on Detainee Settings.” apa.org. American Psychological Association. 17 Sept. 2008. Web. 28 Jan. 2009.
Arrigo, Dr. Jean Maria. “APA Interrogation Task Force Member Dr. Jean Maria Arrigo Exposes Group’s Ties to Military.” Democracynow.org. Democracy Now. 20 Aug. 2007. Web. 25 Feb. 2009.
---, and Dr. Jancis Long. “A Lesson for World Psychology: Denunciation and Accommodation of Abusive Interrogations by the American Psychological Association.” ICRT. 2.5 (Sept., 2008) : 1-7. Print.
Bybee, Jay C. “Standards of Conduct for Interrogation under 18 U.S.C. §§ 2340-2340A.” Memo to Alberto Gonzales, Counsel to the President, 1 Aug. 2002. TomJoad.org. n.d. Web. 13 Jan. 2010.
Clarkson, Frederick. “The Psychologists of Torture: Medical Professionals Designed and Helped to Implement Bush Administration Interrogation Practices.” Inthesetimes.com. In These Times. 23 Apr. 2009. Web. 29 Apr. 2009.
Fink, Sheri. “Do CIA Cables Show Doctors Monitoring Torture?” Salon.com Salon. 28 May 2009. Web. 29 May 2009.
Gibney, Alex, dir. Taxi to the Dark Side. Velocity/Thinkfilm, 2008. DVD.
Kaye, Dr. Jeffrey S. Letter to Dr. Alan E. Kazdin. “Why Torture Made Me Leave the APA.” Alternet.org. Alter Net. 6 Mar. 2008. Web. 16 Feb. 2009.
Kazdin, Dr. Alan E. Letter to George W. Bush. 2 Oct. 2008. Print.
Mayer, Jane, Dr. Stephen Behnke, Dr. Michael Wilks, and Dr. Robert Jay Lifton. Interview by Amy Goodman. “Psychological Warfare? A Debate on the Role of Mental Health Professionals in Military Interrogations at Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib and Beyond.” Democracynow.org. Democracy Now. 11 Aug. 2005. Web. 16 Feb. 2009.
Miles, Dr. Steven H. Oath Betrayed: America’s Torture Doctors. 2nd ed. Berkley: U California P, 2009.
Olson, Dr. Brad, Dr. Leonard Rubenstein, Dr. Stephen Soldz, and Sen. Mark Ridley-Thomas. Interview by Amy Goodman. “Referendum on Torture: Debate Over Role of Psychologists in Military Interrogations Comes to a Heat at APA Annual Convention.” Democracynow.org. Democracy Now. 18 Aug. 2008. Web. 23 Feb. 2009.
Reisner, Dr. Steven, Dr. Gerald Koocher, and Dr. Stephen Xenakis. Interview by Amy Goodman. “Calls Grow Within American Psychological Association for Ban on Participation in Military Interrogations: A Debate.” Democracynow.org. Democracy Now. 16 June 2006. Web. 25 Feb. 2009.
Rubenstein, Dr. Leonard, Dr. Jean Maria Arrigo, Dr. Nina Thomas, and Dr. Eric Anders. Interview by Amy Goodman. “’The Task Force Report Should Be Annulled’ – Member of 2005 APA Task Force on Psychologist Participation in Military Interrogations Speaks Out.” Democracynow.org. Democracy Now. 1 June 2007. Web. 16 Feb. 2009.
Shue, Henry. “Torture.” Torture: A Collection. Ed. Sanford Levinson. Revised ed. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2004. 47-60. Print.
Soldz, Stephen, Brad Olson, Steve Reisner, Jean Maria Arrigo, and Bryant Welch. “Torture After Dark.” Counterpunch.org. Counterpunch. 22 July 2008. Web. n.d.
Spiegel, Alix. “Military Psychologist Says Harsh Tactics Justified.” NPR.org. National Public Radio. 4 May 2009. Web. 8 Feb. 2010.
The Scrivener’s Rebellion- An Essay of Herman Melville’s "Bartleby, The Scrivener"
The corporate world has often been viewed as dehumanizing and given a dark existence, victimizing its workers with machine-like jobs for low wages. These employees are constantly reminded how easily replaceable they are and are forced to work as much as possible in order to maintain job security. No matter what may be occurring in the worker’s life, they are expected to show up early in the morning and stay late in the evening. This description is not new, but when Herman Melville wrote Bartleby, the Scrivener in 1853, this socially progressive short story is the first to show the budding corporate world and the effects of capitalism on workers in a negative and inhumane way.
The characters of this story work on Wall Street, the heart of the corporate world, in offices that isolate them from nature. The narrator describes the scene from his window as “commanding an unobstructed view of a lofty brick wall, black by age and everlasting shade…pushed up to within ten feet of my window pane” (Melville 1094). The black wall, with the effect of no sunlight, would make the observation dark, as though there wasn’t even a window there in the first place. With no vegetation or nature to enjoy, it would be easy to feel disconnected from the outside world. This also creates an atmosphere of imprisonment. The author describes Bartleby’s view as “a window…commanded at present no view at all, though it gave some light” (Melville 1098). This description of Bartleby’s corner conjures up an image of a prison cell, especially after he is isolated even further by a high green folding screen set between him and the narrator. Bartleby could be seen when he was needed and locked away securely the rest of the time.
Corporate ownership of employees is shown when Bartleby is discovered living at the office. On his way to church one Sunday the narrator drops by only to be surprised when Bartleby answers the door, proclaiming to his boss that he “preferred not admitting him at present…he was deeply engaged,” suggesting to his boss to take a walk and return later (Melville 1103). Upon returning and inspecting the Bartleby-free office, the narrator discovers “a blanket…blacking box and brush…a tin basin, with soap and a ragged towel…a morsel of cheese”-evidence that the man is squatting there (Melville 1104). What a miserable existence, to be property of the corporate world. Living in an empty, desolate office after hours is pitiful. Having to share your most personal belongings with the space you work in is humiliating. There becomes no separation from work and home life. This lack of privacy takes a toll on the human spirit.
The nature of the work at the law office exploits each character differently, yet in a way that connects them as mirror images. The job of a scrivener is a “very dull, wearisome, and lethargic affair” (Melville 1098). Their duty is to copy law documents by hand, then verify the accuracy word for word. So not only must they copy an already existing document, they must mindlessly chant it out loud to make sure it has been transcribed correctly. Imagine the monotony of this job in a dark, isolated corner of an office. Anyone could do this job, but who would want to?
Two of the scriveners, Nippers and Turkey, develop poor working skills and health issues due to the pressure and stress of working uncreatively. Neither man could adapt to a full, meaningless day of joyless work. Nippers is a unambitous young man who suffers from indigestion and nervousness in the morning but feels well enough by the afternoon to work to his potential. On the flipside, Turkey, an older gentleman, is more productive in the morning than in the afternoon when he creates incredible messes of inkblots. As the narrator puts it, “their fits relieved each other like guards” (Melville 1096). The narrator and Bartleby are also like double sides of the same coin. The narrator’s name is never given in the story, making him anonymous and giving him no strong individuality or personality. With the motto of “the easiest way of life is the best,” he goes to great lengths to avoid conflicts. This motto also carries over to his field of work. The narrator is a lawyer that refuses to fight for others in the courtroom. When faced with the closure of his job at the Master of the Chancery, he adapts by accepting his current position in the matter of bonds, mortgages and title deeds. He is a conformist, in part to maintain peace and in part for self survival. Bartleby is the opposite. At first appearance in the story, he is given a “pallidly neat, pitiably respectable, incurably forlorn” appearance, creating a half-dead air about him as if he has endured something that drained the life out of him (Melville 1097). Not much is known about the cadaverous man who prefers not to answer any questions. All that we know about Bartleby is how he performs at work, which is machine-like, copying documents at an amazing pace. But not even the best-oiled machine can run at top speed forever. Exhausted to the point of near death, he begins to rebel. Instead of conforming as the narrator would have, Bartleby tells his boss that he ‘prefers not’ to do any work. This is a “pure act of power and free will” (Giles 89). He rebels against the corporate world because he refused to adjust to something as horrible as the life he is now living. To have partiality and the determination to act on them in front of the boss is the “ultimate realization of freedom and selfhood” (Giles 89). His actions eventually get him placed in the court system (referred to as the “Tombs”) as a vagrant for not working or leaving the office after the narrator relocates. This is where Bartleby stages his final act of rebellion. He “prefers not” to dine, wasting away until he is found “strangely huddled at the base of the wall…his head touching the cold stone,” the world of Wall Street claiming another victim (Melville 1117). Bartleby’s refusal to become a victim of the corporate world leads him to the ultimate freedom that only death can offer.
At the end of the story, we learn of Bartleby’s former employment as a subordinate clerk at the dead letter office. A change in administration resulted in his unemployment, and instead of adapting, he simply shuts down in his feeble attempt as a scrivener. Many letters of importance, such as charity or declarations of love, only made it to the flames. As the narrator says: “on errands of life, these letters speed to death” (Melville 1118). The work at the dead letter office was so soul-crushing, burning letters that have no destination by the cartload that Bartleby was already near death by the time he came to work for the narrator.
Herman Melville drew on personal experiences to write Bartleby, the Scrivener. As a writer, he knew how the corporate world treated artists. Melville was quoted as saying:
What I feel most moved to write, that is banned-it will not pay. Yet altogether, write the other way I cannot. So the product is a final hash, and all my books are botches. (Melville 1090)
Throughout his career he had many failures, even burning his own work in disgust. In 19th century America, jobs were scarce and when a person found one career, it was hard to change to a better or more rewarding job. Being stuck in a dead end job with no foreseeable way out can dehumanize a worker into feeling like a mindless drone, controlled and owned by whom he works for. The dead letter office can be interpreted as a metaphor for the artists’ struggle. Originality and creativity are not welcome. In Bartleby, Melville portrays the corporate world in that light. Death permeates throughout this short story. The description of Bartleby, the job of scrivener, the view from the offices, the health of the employees, Bartleby’s imprisonment in the “Tombs,” eventual self starvation and death are the effects of working in an environment that deny the human spirit what it needs to survive - nature, nurture, and human contact. By creating a uniform, solitary, and life-less environment for employees to produce as much as inhumanly possible, corporations take away the connection with the outside world and with other humans, which can lead to a personal rebellion when one refuses to trade originality and creativity for job “security.”
Melville, Herman. “Bartleby, the Scrivener.” The Norton Anthology of American Literature 7th Ed. Ed. Nina Baym. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2008. 1093 – 1118.
Giles, Todd. “Melville’s ‘Bartleby, the Scrivener.’” Explicator 65 (2007) : 88 – 91. MLA International Bibliography. EBSCO Host. The Ohio State University Library, Columbus. 28 Jan. 2009.
"Break a Leg"
How wonderful it would be if our greatest fears and regrets could be hidden in the untouchable depths of the subconscious with just the influence of a strong imagination and some persuasive theatrics – Or would it? Richard Hughes has created a character, ten year old Emily Thornton, who does just this throughout the novel, A High Wind in Jamaica. Young Emily, who is kidnapped (along with her siblings and friends) by a mild bunch of pirates, stands out as Hughes’s most complicated and interesting character; after all, considering her knack for catching lizards – with their tails still in-tact, of course – and her flair for snuffing off a Dutchman aboard a pirate ship at the ripe old age of ten, Emily is quite the fascinating little girl. So how does Emily manage when she has the guilt of killing a man poking at her conscience? Emily’s ability to submerge her conscience within her theatric imagination allows her to avoid coping with mature issues such as death, sin, and ultimately, her loss of innocence.
Death and tragedy are often utilized as theatrical tools to extract sympathy from the audience, but Emily bypasses the reality of tragedy in her own life and handles the death of her beloved cat, Tabby, by remembering the earthquake she survives as her very own life-changing performance (35). Emily could not bear to think of poor Tabby’s fate; the cat that once seemed invincible (After all, how many cats could survive the bite of a rattler and live to “meow” about it (7)?), was taken from her by a crew of wild cats in a chaotic display of reality. Instead of coping with Tabby’s death by listening to her mother recite Psalms, Emily “held an actual performance of the earthquake” in her head (35). Until the dreadful thought of Tabby reentered her thoughts, she relived her earthquake anecdote in a variety of different genres to “the awed comments of her imaginary English audience.” Then, “as an only remaining straw,” she examines the world around her, trying to “fix her interest on every least detail of the scene” (36). The narrator’s word choices – performance, audience, scene – throughout Emily’s struggle to cope with Tabby’s death indicate that she aches to escape from that moment into her own drama where she may become the director of her own reality. Especially considering “it was her first intimate contact with death,” Emily naturally adjusts her attitude in a way which suits and calms her mental wellbeing. Though her theatrical approach at life seems to alleviate her pain for now, it leaves Emily refusing to accept her reality, leading to a very naïve perception of her life and the consequences of her actions.
When Emily overreacts in a fit of panic and stabs the practically helpless Dutch captain to death (175), she commits a crime against God and against her religion. Many references to Christianity exist throughout the novel to support the idea that the Thorntons actively practice Christian moralities: “[The negros] were, of course, Christians, so there was nothing to be done about their morals” (9). This once innocent little girl now carries one of the strongest of moral crimes on her conscience, but later she copes with her sinful deed by acting as though she is going to kill her little sister Rachel: “Emily picked up a piece of iron . . . ‘I’m going to kill you! I’m turned a pirate, and I’m going to kill you with this sword’” (202). She rationalizes killing the Dutch captain by putting on her own performance which includes chasing poor Rachel around with the gigantic “sword” (203). Afterwards, “Emily went on chuckling for some time at the memory of her sport” (203) which seems odd since the reader knows that Emily actually has killed someone with none other than a less imaginative form of a sword: a knife. Emily reenacts her murder scene but adds imaginative details that put her conscience to rest; she converts her act of slaying a man into nothing more than a silly play, but that is not to say that she does not at some level internalize the consequences of life, as her more intimate soliloquies suggest.
It could be argued that Emily could not quite grasp the concept of Tabby’s death, or death in general, but she certainly internally struggles with the concept of dying. When remembering her life in Jamaica, Emily most clearly recalls “the death of Tabby, she would never forget that as long as she lived . . . that awful night when Tabby had stalked up and down the room . . . his voice melodious with tragedy” (150-51). Through the narrator’s direct discourse, the reader now knows for certain that Tabby’s death has registered with Emily. Therefore, when she questions her father after the trial, “‘Father, what happened to Tabby in the end, that dreadful windy night in Jamaica?’” the reader knows that she has buried the hard truth of Tabby’s death to avoid having to deal with such a nightmarish performance of reality (277).
Emily also displays her internal struggles with her guilty conscience after killing the Dutch captain. The prospect of her being God, once so possible, was now out of the question for someone who felt that “she was the most wickedest person who had ever been born” (187). With these slight glimpses into Emily’s ten and a half year old mind, the reader may perceive Emily as less naïve than her theatrical, imaginary mindset implies. In a perfect metaphor to illustrate Emily’s awareness yet reluctance to accept reality, the narrator explains, “Emily lay in the bunk below, her eyes shut – conscious again, but her eyes shut” (177). She has shut her eyes in an attempt to block out reality, but all the while her conscious still remains aware. When Emily seems totally oblivious to Tabby’s death and the fact that she murdered the Dutch captain, the reader may refer to these glimpses of Mature Emily and understand that she has hidden these grown-up thoughts so deep within her subconscious that she successfully kills her fears and buries the truth, consequently hiding the permanent damage she has inflicted upon her childhood innocence. As for the concept of “innocence,” how does A High Wind in Jamaica define such an abstract word?
Close to the end of the novel, the reader is presented with an unexpected, unfamiliar protagonist, a negro cook from the pirate ship, who reveals how to define innocence in this novel. The cook declares gratitude for his innocence in the face of his hanging as he speaks to the rest of the crew who also await the deathly gallows: “You know that I die innocent: anything I have done, I was forced to do by the rest of you”; in other words, he claims that any injustices he has committed were commanded of him by the pirates (278). This statement reveals a central viewpoint of innocence that may be applied to the entire novel: those who lack a sense of personal responsibility towards any sins they have committed are considered innocent. Of course, who can really identify any one, absolute definition of innocence? Though because of the commanding tone this unfamiliar character presents, and because of the placement of his speech in the book (after the climactic trial and right before Emily returns to “normal” life), the reader may perceive his attitude as Hughes’s fundamental idea of innocence.
Nowhere is the subject of innocence more important than in a court room as Emily proves while she presents her rehearsed testimony in an atmosphere brimming with theatrical drama. Emily “sang out her responses” and describes the costumes of the court: her attorney “in fancy dress,” the “old wizard,” and the “wigged men” (274) which furthers the reader’s perception that this trial is nothing but a performance to Emily. The moment Emily breaks down in tears in the court room, it almost seems as if her conscience has finally gotten to her; she is finally going to accept responsibility for her sins and thus her lack of innocence. But the words audible through her tears indicate that she does not associate her hand with the Dutchman’s death: “’He . . . died, he said something and then he died!”. She distances herself from his death by only recalling that he has died, and never revealing that she has played any part in his death (276). Once again she avoids reality through an act; she hides within the theatrics of the court room to rationalize her guilt away.
In addition to continuing her pattern of avoiding reality, Emily shines as an actress in this court room performance that would undoubtedly win an Oscar for “Best Portrayal of Innocence.” After her short-lived display of hysteria, “she became herself again with surprising rapidity,” much as an actress would after playing a role (276). Hughes also provides us with an earlier parallel between Emily and her knack for acting: the theatrical vernacular for “good luck” – “break a leg” – cannot possibly be ignored, especially considering Emily suffers from a deep cut to her calf that leaves her literally and figuratively immobilized through much of her journey on the pirate ship (166); Emily cannot physically or emotionally move from her current state. “Break a leg” is often said before an actor or actress steps on stage to perform. This analogy further establishes the overwhelming presence of theater in Emily’s life, and her use of it to displace her reality. The fact that she hurts her leg is also another indication that she is playing a part, a role she has carefully rehearsed.
Emily is merely going through life playing the part of an innocent little girl, and everyone holds sympathy for the corruption she has apparently witnessed. Everyone’s inability to recognize Emily’s lack of innocence suggests that children are most often assumed to possess this inherent goodness that adults cannot perceive; everyone, that is, except for her father, the theater critic who can see right through Emily’s theatrical façade.
Emily has reduced her life to such an elaborate performance that the narrator openly admits that he no longer knows what is in her mind, and her father, the theater critic, becomes the only one who holds any promise of deducing her thoughts. The narrator “can no longer read Emily’s deeper thoughts, or handle their cords” because Emily has become such a talented actress whose conscious is no longer evident (271). One night Mr. Thornton watches Emily sleep and “he realized, with a sudden painful shock, that he was afraid of her” (271). The narrator gives further credibility to Mr. Thornton’s newfound fear of his daughter by saying, “To his fantastic mind, the little chit seemed the stage of a great tragedy” (270). Being a theater critic, he continues to analyze his daughter, much as one would expect him to analyze the elements of a performance. Emily’s once childlike technique of separating herself from the sadness she felt for Tabby has progressed and consumed her so much so that only her father can see through her act – her act which has evolved into an entire theatrical production.
Emily has turned her life into a theatrical spectacle in order to avoid responsibility and maturity. So why is it such a problem that Emily employs her imagination to help cope with traumatic events? Emily has inflicted a figurative growth stunt on her maturity; even after all she has seen and experienced, Emily still remains no more grown-up than the girls she mingles with at the end of the book: “Looking at that gentle, happy throng of clean innocent faces . . . perhaps God could have picked out from among them which was Emily: but I am sure that I could not” (279). Emily buries all of her experiences surrounding death, sin, and responsibility ultimately denying the basis of human nature in its entirety: the ability to grieve, to learn, and to feel. As a result, her sensibility has been lost in a world where everyone’s lines are scripted and their parts carefully rehearsed; a disfigured reality where the phrase, “break a leg,” means nothing more than a figurative vernacular for “good luck,” but as she lies practically helpless with her own wounded leg, Emily shows no indication that she realizes the dangerous extent to which she has manipulated her reality into nothing more than a theater show.
One major cause of Erythroblastosis fetalis or Hemolytic Disease of the Newborn (HDN) is Rhesus (Rh) incompatibility. Symptoms of HDN caused by the Rh factor (RhHDN) include jaundice, anemia, erythroblastosis, enlarged liver and spleen, and hydrops fetalis. This life threatening disease led to an explosion of research in the field of hematology, discovery of the Rh factor, and prevention of the disease.
The symptoms of HDN were documented hundreds of years ago, but doctors at the time did not realize that the symptoms had a common cause. The first case of HDN was documented in 1609 by a French midwife when a set of twins was born. One twin was stillborn and the other died from severe jaundice after birth (Gabbe). Such sudden, tragic deaths piqued the interest of scientists and the search for the cause of fetus and infant deaths began. In 1910 Schriddle was one of the first doctors to suggest that there appeared to be a link between the symptoms of edema and abnormal erythrocyte formation. It was discovered that the erythrocytes were being destroyed somehow, a symptom that became known as erythroblastosis. Rautman coined the term erythroblastosis in 1912 (Taylor, 1). In 1932, Diamond became the first doctor to recognize that the symptoms of edema, anemia, and jaundice were all symptoms of the same disease (Gabbe). Discovering the many symptoms of one disease, HDN, led to further research in hematology. Darrow was the first to hypothesize that the numerous symptoms of HDN were due to an immune reaction to an antigen in 1938. Levine and Stetson reported a case in which a woman had a reaction when transfused with her husband’s blood. The strange thing was that the blood she received matched her blood type (Taylor 2). Alexander Wiener and Karl Landsteiner discovered the reason for such a transfusion reaction in 1940. They were conducting an experiment in 1937 in which they immunized guinea pigs and rabbits with blood from rhesus monkeys. Then they mixed the resulting antiserum with human blood and found that 85% of the blood samples agglutinated, clumped together (Levine 4-5). Landsteiner and Wiener’s experiment discovered the Rhesus (Rh) factor, which was later found to be a major cause of HDN.
The Rh factor refers to an antigen found on red blood cells. There are five Rh antigens: D, C, E, c, and e. The genes for Rh factor have eight possible haplotypes made up of 3 alleles: Dce, DCe, DcE, DCE, dce, dCe, dcE, and dCE. The d allele refers to the absence of the D antigen. The D antigen is responsible for most cases of Rh factor HDN (RhHDN) (McPherson and Pincus). People that have the D antigen are said to be Rh+ and those without the antigen are Rh- (Derrickson and Tortora 369). Rh+ is a dominate trait, meaning two recessive genes are required for someone to be Rh-. Eighty-five percent of Caucasians, 95.5 percent of African Americans, and nearly 100 percent of American Indians, Chinese, and Japanese are Rh+ (Levine 5-7). Therefore, Caucasians are most affected by Rh incompatibility. When Rh+ blood comes into contact with Rh- blood, powerful immune responses take place.
Erythroblastosis fetalis occurs when an Rh+ fetus is attacked by its Rh- mother’s immune system. However, the immune response typically does not attack the fetus of a woman’s first pregnancy. During birth, abortion, or problems during pregnancy, the baby’s blood can leak through the placenta and into the mother’s bloodstream. When the Rh+ blood of the fetus comes into contact with the Rh- mother’s blood, an antibody-mediated immune response occurs in the mother’s body. B cells ingest the Rh antigens by phagocytosis. Digestive enzymes break down the antigen into peptide fragments while major histocompatibility complexes (MHCs) are produced and packaged in vesicles within the B cell. The vesicle containing the MHC fuses with the vesicle containing the peptide fragments. The peptide fragments and MHC molecules bind to each other to form antigen-MHC complexes. Then the vesicle releases the antigen-MHC complexes so they can insert into the plasma membrane of the B cell. Next, helper T cells bind to the antigen-MHC complex and secrete proteins that activate the B cells. The B cells proliferate and differentiate to form plasma cells, which secrete anti-Rh antibodies, and memory B cells which help make a swift attack if the immune system encounters the D antigens again. The antibodies attack and destroy the Rh antigens (Derrickson and Tortora 448-451). The mother’s first encounter with the Rh-antigens causes the production of immunoglobulin (Ig) M, a class of antibodies (Abbas). Since IgM is unable to cross the placenta (Derrickson and Tortora 444), HDN typically does not occur in the firstborn.
Subsequent invasions of a fetus’s Rh antigens in the mother’s body will elicit a stronger, faster immune response due to the increase of memory B cells. Repeated exposure to the D antigen produces IgG, a class of antibodies that can cross the placenta and attack the fetus’s red blood cells (RBCs) (Abbas et al.).
Rh incompatibility can lead to many problems for fetuses and infants such as anemia, jaundice and edema due to the destruction of erythrocytes (Behrman et al.). Erythrocytes are mature blood cells and they play a major role in gas exchange for the body. When the oxygen levels within the body drop, the kidneys produce erythropoietin, which stimulates the production of RBC (Derrickson and Tortora, 362). However, the fetus is unable to produce enough RBCs to combat the destruction of its RBCs by the mother’s antibodies and develops the symptom known as anemia. Blood smears from infants suffering from RhHDN show a large number of nucleated red cells and reticulocytes (Snelling 47). Some of the RBCs that are actually able to survive the immune response become spherocytes. These cells swell, forming round cells, rather than concave cells (Dameshek 44-45). Neither the immature RBCs nor the spherocytes are capable of carrying oxygen, making them useless. Since the oxygen levels in the newborn’s body continue to drop, the kidneys keep cranking out more erythropoietin and RBCs continue to be produced in the bone marrow, spleen, and liver. The high production of RBCs leads to a buildup of fluid, causing these sites to swell (Abbas et al.). The large amounts of fluid also accumulate in skin, placenta, amniotic fluid, and body cavities such as the pleural, pericardial, and peritoneal cavities. Fluid in two or more of these areas is called hydrops fetalis. Fluid in the lungs of a fetus can cause asphyxia at birth. The extra fluid in body cavities can also put pressure on the organs and cause heart failure. Severe cases of hydrops fetalis result in reduced production of platelets, causing hemorrhaging, and increased pressure on the right side of the heart, causing heart failure (Behrman et al.).
After birth, an infant can encounter liver problems such as jaundice as a result of RhHDN. When a RBC is destroyed by the anti-Rh antibodies, macrophages from the spleen, liver, and bone marrow engulf the destroyed RBCs through phagocytosis. The hemoglobin is split into heme, iron, and globulin. Globulin and iron are recycled for RBC production and stored in the liver and spleen. The iron-free heme is converted into a green pigment called biliverdin and then into a yellow-orange pigment called bilirubin (Derrickson and Tortora 361-362). The bilirubin is unconjugated in fetuses. After birth, the infant’s body tries to conjugate the bilirubin and get rid of it (Behrman et al.). In a normal functioning body, the liver secretes the bilirubin as bile into the small intestine. The bile winds through the small intestine and enters the large intestine where bacteria convert it into urobilinogen. Finally, the urobilinogen is either converted to stercobilin and excreted in feces or converted to urobilin and excreted in urine (Derrickson and Tortora 362). However, this process of excreting bilirubin is unsuccessful in many infants who battle Rh incompatibility. The infant’s body is overwhelmed by the large amounts of unconjugated bilirubin. Jaundice can be observed as yellowing of the skin caused by the accumulation of the bilirubin under the skin. Further problems can occur as a result of jaundice if the bilirubin travels to the brain through the blood. Unconjugated bilirubin is a nonpolar, lipid-soluble substance; therefore, it can bind to lipids in the brain and pass through the blood-brain barrier. Deposits of bilirubin in the basal ganglia and brain stem nuclei result in damage to the central nervous system. This is called kernicterus (Abbas et al.).
Due to the many life threatening symptoms of RhHDN, treatment focuses on immediate treatment of the baby before and after birth. One treatment for RhHDN is a blood transfusion which helps with the symptoms of severe anemia. Exsanguination is a procedure that removes the baby’s Rh+ blood while replacing it with Rh- blood at the same time. By removing and replacing the blood at the same time, shock is prevented. It is also important that the infant receives Rh- blood, not Rh+ blood as was once hypothesized. If the infant receives Rh+ blood, the anti-Rh antibodies will continue to attack the erythrocytes of the newly transfused blood. There is no immune reaction to the Rh- negative blood, allowing the infant to have mature, functioning RBCs (Wallerstein 170-173). Exsanguination is a transfusion that occurs after a baby is delivered. Fetuses can also receive blood transfusion. This risky procedure is used if an ultrasound shows signs of severe hydrops fetalis. The intravascular fetal transfusion gives the fetus Rh- blood via the umbilical cord. The procedure has an 89 percent survival rate. Complications of this potentially risky procedure include preterm delivery, infection, fetal distress, and perinatal death (Behrman et al.).
Jaundice is another potentially life threatening symptom of RhHDN. It is treated by phototherapy, the use of high intensity visible light from fluorescent lamps. The light causes photochemical reactions that change the unconjugated bilirubin to another isomer that the body can pass without being conjugated. Phototherapy also reduces the number of repeated blood transfusions for severe cases of jaundice (Abbas et al.).
Newer, preventative treatments for RhHDN focus on preventing RhD sensitization in the Rh- mother. John Gorman and Vincent Freda proposed using Rh immune globulin (RhoGAM) to prevent women from being sensitized to the RhD antigen in the early 1960s (Gabbe). William Pollack made an intramuscular injection called RhoGAM. The injection was made from human plasma that contained anti-D antibodies (Gabbe). Gorman and Vincent’s research showed that RhoGAM had 100% success rate in preventing sensitization to the Rh antigen in human beings. It was also successful in preventing sensitization in Rh- women when it was used after they delivered an Rh+ baby. RhoGAM destroys any Rh antigens that may enter the mother’s body, stopping immune responses since there is nothing left to attack. RhoGAM was accepted for clinical use in 1968 by the Division of Biologics Standards of the National Institutes of Health. In 1970, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists proposed the use of RhoGAM at twenty-eight to twenty-nine weeks gestation in addition to its use postpartum (Gabbe). The number of cases of RhHDN per number of births dropped from 40.5 in 1970 to 14.3 cases per 10,000 total births in 1979 (Adams 1031). Finally, the Food and Drug Administration approved its use in 1981 (Gabbe). The RhoGAM is now used at twenty-eight weeks gestation and within seventy-two hours after delivery or abortions in Rh- mothers who are carrying Rh+ babies (Abbas et al.). As a result, RhoGAM has reduced the risk of Rh- mothers producing anti-Rh antibodies to less than 1 percent (Behrman et al.). Research is being done now to make a vaccine like RhoGAM that can be produced from synthetic material instead of human plasma (Gabbe).
Thanks to Landsteiner and Wiener, Rh incompatibility and its symptoms are better understood. It is amazing what the immune system can do. One expects a mother’s body to care and nurture a fetus, but with exposure to the Rh antigen, an Rh- mother’s immune system can turn against her fetus. Jaundice, anemia, and fetal hydrops are some of the symptoms that result from the vicious attack of the anti-Rh antibodies. With new technology, the risk of having a baby with RhHDN is greatly reduced. Treatments such as phototherapy and blood transfusions help alleviate some of the life threatening symptoms of RhHDN. RhoGAM prevents the immune response of Rh incompatibility, and thereby, prevents RhHDN from occurring. A once terrifying disease is for the most part under control due to the better understanding of Rh incompatibility and immune responses in the human body.
Abbas, Abul K., Jon C. Aster, Nelson Fausto, and Vinay Kumar. Robbins and Cotran Pathologic Basis of Disease. 8th ed. Philadelphia: Elsevier Inc, 2009. 7 Nov. 2009. <http://www.mdconsult.com.proxy.lib.ohio-state.edu/das/book/body/169734196-2/0/2060/1.html?tocnode=57529131&fromURL=1.html>.
Adams, Melissa M., Joann Gustafson, James S. Marks, and Godfrey P. Oakley. “Rh Hemolytic Disease of the Newborn: Using Incidence Observations to Evaluate the Use of Rh Immune Globulin.” American Journal of Public Health. 71.9 (1981): 1031-1035.
Behrman, Richard E., Hal B. Jenson, Robert M. Kliegman, and Bonita F. Stanton. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 18th ed. Philadelphia: Elsevier Inc, 2007. 7 Nov. 2009. <http://www.mdconsult.com.proxy.lib.ohio-state.edu/das/book/body/169734196-4/0/1608/1.html tocnode=54474738&fromURL=1.html>.
Dameshek, William. “Hemolytic Mechanisms. The Rh Factor in the Clinic and the Laboratory. Ed. William Dameshek and Joseph M. Hill. New York: Grune & Stratton, 1948. 43-56.
Derrickson, Bryan, and Gerard J. Tortora. Introduction to the Human Body: The Essentials of Anatomy and Physiology. 8th ed. New York: John Wiley & Sons Inc., 2009.
Gabbe, Steven G., Jennifer R. Niebyl, and Joe Leigh Simpson. Obstetrics: Normal and Problem Pregnancies. 5th ed. Philadelphia: Elsevier Inc, 2007. 3 November 2009.
Levine, Philip. “A Survey of the Rh Factor.” The Rh Factor in the Clinic and the Laboratory. Ed. William Dameshek and Joseph M. Hill. New York: Grune & Stratton, 1948. 3-26.
McPherson, Richard A., and Matthew R.Pincus. Henry’s Clinical Diagnosis and Management by Laboratory Methods. 21st ed.Philadelphia: Elsevier Inc, 2007. 3 Nov. 2009 <http://www.mdconsult.com.proxy.lib.ohio-state.edu/das/book/body/169734196-4/0/1393/1.html?tocnode=51747920&fromURL=1.html#4-u1.0-B1-4160-0287-1..X5001-0--TOP_1 >
Snelling, C.E. “The Rh Factor and Erythroblastosis.” Canadian Medical Association Journal. 56 (1947): 47-51.
Taylor, Jane Frances. “The Rh Factor, Its Application in a Pre-natal Testing Prognosis.” Diss. Ohio State University, 1949.
Wallerstein, Harry. “The Treatment of Erythroblastosis Fetalis By Substitution Transfusion.” The Rh Factor in the Clinic and the Laboratory. Ed. William Dameshek and Joseph M. Hill. New York: Grune & Stratton, 1948. 170-179.
Bears of the Past Demonstrate Similarities Between Father and Son
Khaled Hosseini’s novel, The Kite Runner, is an intricate work of literature that ingeniously depicts many struggles and hardships that the characters face and overcome. Amir strives relentlessly for the affection of his father, but because of the manifest differences between them Baba makes his son feel unworthy of his love. However, the story of Baba wrestling the bear exemplifies the similarities between Baba and Amir because of their struggles with the past.
The black bear is used in both a literal and metaphorical way. Hosseini writes “Lore has it my father once wrestled a black bear in Baluchistan with his bare hands” (12). This account is used to illustrate many different concepts and ideas in the story. Wrestling the bear is used to demonstrate the significant differences between Baba and Amir. The story illustrates Baba as a strong, courageous, and honorable man. He is described as a “force of nature, a towering Pashtun specimen with a thick beard, a wayward crop of curly brown hair as unruly as the man himself, hands that looked capable of uprooting a willow tree” (12). Hosseini forms images for the reader such as, “At parties, when all six-foot-five of him thundered into the room, attention shifted to him” (13). He depicts Baba in a way that illustrates him as a large, beast-like creature by creating similarities between this dynamic character and a formidable bear. This creates an enticing comparison between Baba and an immense black bear because it shows he also has the ability to demand attention simply with his enthralling presence. Similarities between Baba and a mighty bear continue to be exemplified through quotes such as “He took a deep breath and exhaled through his nose, the air hissing through his moustache for what seemed an eternity” (16), and even his snoring is “so much like a growling truck engine—penetrating the walls” (13). Because Hosseini uses all of these significant details and words such as: “thundered,” “growling,” and “penetrating” it shows that not only did Baba wrestle a fearsome black bear, but that he himself is like this petrifying beast.
It is not only his physical traits that make him similar to this massive creature, but also Baba’s astounding personality and reputation as well, because “if the story had been about anyone else, it would be dismissed as laaf” (12). The author demonstrates that because of his size and reputation people are likely to believe that he would have the ability to wrestle such a gigantic creature. Baba is a man who has the ability to “drop the devil to his knees begging for mercy” (13), which demonstrates what a powerful force he can be and that he himself is terrifying. Amir states that “no one ever doubted the veracity of any story about Baba” (12). He is a man that is loved and feared by many. He doesn’t follow the religious leaders of the country but rather states, “Piss on the beards of all those self-righteous monkeys” (17), and “You’ll never learn anything of value from those bearded idiots” (17). Baba is courageous enough to speak his mind even against the religious rulers. He stands up for his beliefs and he lives according to his own terms regardless of what people say: “They told Baba running a business wasn’t in his blood and he should study law like his father. So Baba proved them all wrong by not only running his own business but becoming one of the richest merchants in Kabul” (15). It is his strength, determination, and independence that gives Baba the bear-like qualities and ability to face difficult challenges. Amir realizes that “Baba had wrestled bears his whole life. Losing his young wife. Raising a son by himself. Leaving his beloved homeland. His wantan. Poverty. Indignity. In the end, a bear had come the he couldn’t best. But even then he lost on his own terms” (174). Baba has been a strong man his whole life and has had the ability to face even the most difficult challenges that he has been force to face throughout his life. Amir admires and envies his father for the astonishing valor and strength that hasn’t been evident in his own personality. He states that “I hadn’t turned out like him. Not at all” (19).
Amir lacks the “bear-like” qualities that his father possesses, which results in his struggle to become more like him. Baba tells Rahim Khan, “Sometimes I look out the window and I see [Amir] playing on the street with the neighborhood boys. I see how they push him around, take his toys from him, give him a shove here, a whack there. And you know, he never fights back. Never. He just…drops his head” (22). Baba feels his son lacks the ability to stand up for himself and his values, a characteristic that is very important and obvious in Baba. Because of the lack of courage that his father possesses, Amir is forced to live with the guilt of not defending Hassan while he was tormented and raped in the alley. He admits, “I ran because I was a coward. I was afraid of Assef and what he would do to me. I was afraid of getting hurt” (77).
Amir fails to “wrestle the bear,” or face a difficult circumstance of standing up for his loyal friend. Yet when placed in a similar situation, Baba is willing to risk his own life for a complete stranger. In Mahipar he tells the Russian Soldier that he will “take a thousand of his bullets before I let this indecency take place” (116). Unlike his son, Baba has the courage to defend a woman he barely knows regardless of what the outcome might be. Just like wrestling the bear, Baba courageously overcomes a dangerous state of affairs in order to do what is right. This causes Amir to recall the day in the alley and realizes how differently he had reacted from his father; “Sometimes, I too wondered if I was really Baba’s son” (116).
Although the actual fight between Baba and the bear signifies the dissimilarities between father and son, Hosseini implies that it is the “bear,” or the struggle with inner turmoil, that in the end makes the two of them so much alike. It is evident to the reader that Amir is burdened with an overwhelming sense of guilt and regret for what happened in the alley and the way he treated his most loyal friend. Amir wishes he would have been more like Baba and done what was right, but after Rahim Khan reveals Baba’s secret of fathering Hassan, it is apparent that Baba was also struggling with secrecy, shame, and remorse. Amir says, “like father, like son. But it was true wasn’t it? As it turned out, Baba and I were more alike than I’d ever known. We had both betrayed the people who would have given their lives for us” (226).
In the Hospital after his fight with Assef, Amir dreams about Baba’s fight with the bear. Describing this incident he says,
they roll over a patch of green grass, man and beast, Baba’s curly brown hair flying. The bear roars, or maybe its Baba. Spittle and blood fly; claw and hand swipe. They fall to the ground with a loud thud and Baba is sitting on the bear’s chest, his fingers digging into its snout. He looks up at me and I see. He’s me. I am wrestling the bear. (295)
Amir’s dream exemplifies that he and his father are in fact the same: “He’s Me” (295). At first the memory seems to simply be a recollection from Amir’s memory about the story that he so often fantasized about during his childhood. We see that Baba and the ferocious bear are entangled as one, so not only is Baba wrestling the bear, but Baba is this powerful creature, and in the end Amir is Baba. The two become one and have both overcome the beasts of their pasts. It is demonstrated that Amir has acquired the astonishing strength and audacity that he has envied his father for because Amir has the dream after he has had the immense courage to battle Assef. Like Baba, Amir triumphs over his overwhelming sense of guilt and fear in order to battle the “beasts” that have been a burden throughout his life. Hosseini uses this dream to show that although Baba and Amir seem different at first, in the end they are very much the same. Both Amir and Baba overcome the inner turmoil and regret that has haunted them for the majority of their lives.
Rahim Khan explains that Baba “is a man torn between two halves” (301). Baba not only has had to wrestle the “bears,” or sin and regret of the past, but he himself has also represented the bear by inflicting emotional pain on both himself and Amir. Both Baba and Amir take their guilt out on others and especially out on themselves. Rahim Khan explains to Amir that Baba “could not love Hassan the way he longed to, openly, and as a father. So he took it out on you instead” (301). Baba takes his pain out on his son and ruins their relationship because “When he saw [Amir] he saw himself. And his guilt” (301). Amir too is overcome by a sense of regret when he sees Hassan. He destroys their friendship in the attempts to be able to live with his shame since Hassan is a constant reminder to him like Amir is to Baba.
Baba and Amir both redeem themselves by overcoming the bear and allowing their guilt to lead to good. In his final letter to Amir Rahim Khan explains that,
good, real good, was born from [Baba’s] remorse. Sometimes I think everything he did, feeding the poor on the streets, building the orphanage giving money to friends in need, it was all his way of redeeming himself. And that is what true redemption is, Amir jan, when guilt leads to good. (302)
Baba helps those in need in order to make up for the sin in his past. Like his father, Amir is able to overcome his fear and battle the beast in order to redeem himself by rescuing Sohrab from Assef and the destruction of Afghanistan. This is “A way to be good again” (310), and for Amir to liberate himself of his shame. He finds redemption in battling Assef because after all the years Amir finally has the chance to make up for what happened in the alley. This is evident when he says “I laughed because I saw that, in some hidden nook in the corner of my mind, I’d even been looking forward to this” (289), and although he is physically beaten the fight releases this overwhelming sense of relief “I felt healed. Healed at last” (289).
In the epic novel, The Kite Runner, there appear to be many significant differences between a father and son. Baba is depicted as a fearsome character with bear-like qualities and Amir appears to lack the strength and courage his father possesses. However Hosseini uses the story of wrestling the bear to demonstrate that because they struggle and overcome inner-turmoil, Baba and Amir are in fact very much alike.
Candy cigarettes are sugar sticks that are shaped like cigarettes. Jerky Chew is beef jerky shredded to look like loose tobacco. Baseball Bubble gum is gum that’s shredded like tobacco. Despite the government regulating tobacco use in America, companies are still permitted to produce and market products which imitate tobacco. Candy companies shouldn’t be allowed to make tobacco promoting products like candy cigarettes, jerky chew, and baseball gum because these products encourage kids to use tobacco and create a positive feeling of smoking or dipping. The companies should be banned from selling the idea of tobacco use to minors and the result of candy tobacco is harmful.
Candy cigarettes imitate cigarettes in their packaging. Therefore, the government should ban candy cigarettes because candy cigarettes encourage children to smoke. A specific example of tobacco promoting candy cigarettes is Lucky Lights made by World Confections, Inc. Lucky Lights candy cigarettes are packaged in a small white box, the same size as a package of cigarettes. The top of the box has a blue seal, replicating the cigarette package. The name of the candy Lucky Lights gives the children the impression they can light-up the candy cigarettes just like smokers light up their cigarettes. On the package there’s a four-leaf clover printed on the box to give children the idea they are “Lucky,” like stated in the title. Lucky Lights candy cigarettes contain multiple long white candy sticks. The candy sticks are long and white, resembling cigarettes. The candy sticks are small enough they can be put between your fingers or in your mouth. Government should ban companies from producing candy cigarettes because the candy cigarettes’ packaging looks like real cigarettes and encourages children to smoke.
Since candy companies are allowed to produce candy imitating cigarettes, children are using the candy to pretend smoke. When working as a cashier at a grocery store, I hear many comments kids say about candy cigarettes. Some of the things I heard recently are “Let’s go get some smokes!” “Yah! Let’s get some cigarettes!” I once observed a young boy buy a package of “Lucky Lights,” put a candy cigarette in his mouth, take a depth breath and pretend to exhale smoke. The government should ban candy cigarettes because children are pretending to smoke and candy cigarettes encourage future tobacco use.
Marketing cigarettes to minors through magazine advertisements was banned in 1998 (Reuters), but candy companies can still sell the idea of smoking to minors. The FTC Bureau of Consumer Protection states the following regarding magazine articles, “What we have said is it causes underage consumers to smoke. We believe that the ad campaign was not the sole cause, but it contributed to the decision to imitate smoking or continue to smoke” (Teinowit). It’s ironic how the tobacco companies were banned from advertising but candy companies can still produce candy imitating tobacco.
Jerky Chew is beef jerky that is shredded and put into cans to mimic loose tobacco like chew. The government should ban companies from producing Jerky Chew. A specific kind of beef jerky is called “Jerky Chew” produced by Jack Links. Jerky Chew comes in a round cans similar to the tobacco brand Kodiak. The candy chew can has a wrapper around the side of the can, which is similar to the seal of a tobacco can. To open the can the consumer must break the seal. The can of the Jerky Chew has a black line to divide the can in half, like real tobacco chew. Jerky Chew has an animal skull just like the tobacco brand Kodiak. Kodiak has a grizzly bear on the can. The jerky itself is shredded, long and brown like real tobacco. Kids can also buy jerky chew by the logs. Logs are five single cans purchased at once. Kids can buy jerky chew by the logs like tobacco users buying their favorite tobacco by the logs. The government should ban companies from producing Jerky Chew because it looks like real tobacco and encourages children to use tobacco and the government should ban companies from producing Jerky Chew.
Jerky Chew is shredded so kids can put the jerky chew in their bottom lip like tobacco users. Doing this gives children the ability to imitate something adults can do. These actions could create future use of tobacco in teenagers. The children create a positive feeling with fake tobacco and feel cool. Working at a grocery store, I see children taking the labels off Jerky Chew and putting the cans in their back pocket like adults. The Jerky Chew leaves a ring in their pants pocket. Kids also put Jerky Chew in their bottom lip and spit their salvia into plastic cups like real tobacco users.
Bubble gum chew is gum shredded and packaged in a pouch like real tobacco. The package is similar in size and texture. Children can put the shredded bubble in their cheek like their favorite baseball player. A specific brand is Big League Chew by Wm. Wrigley Jr. Co. The top of the Big League Chew bag is intentionally longer so the user is able to roll it down, to lock in freshness between uses just like the tobacco brand Red Man. Children can purchase Big League Chew, by the boxes. Boxes have ten single pouches per box; this connects the baseball gum to real tobacco.
The package on the Big League Chew has a baseball player hitting a ball, and the ball reads “Are you the next MVP?” This question on the package can give children the false connection between chewing Big League Chew and being a good baseball player. By printing a baseball player on the packaging the companies are marketing tobacco because baseball players were known for tobacco use on the field. Children can put the gum in their cheek like their favorite baseball player and spit.
In addition to products like Lucky Lights, Jerky Chew and Big League Chew there are many other tobacco promoting products like cigar bubblegum and candy pipes. Cigar bubblegum is bubblegum shaped like cigars. Cigar bubblegum has a paper seal like real cigars. Cigar bubblegum comes in a wooden box like real cigars. Candy pipes are plastic pipes that have candy trapped inside.
Lucky Lights, Jerky Chew and Big League Chew are all specific examples of products imitating tobacco products. At the grocery store children get excited when seeing products like Lucky Lights, Jerky Chew and Big League Chew because they can be like an adult using. tobacco. These products all closely resemble tobacco products in their packaging and their appearance. The candy companies influence children through cleaver names and packaging. The products are made so children can eat the candy like tobacco users. The products have sugar and this gives the children a good feeling when eating and links their feelings to tobacco use. Candy companies should be banned from making products like these because they are selling the idea of tobacco use to children unknowingly.
In “Existentialism and Humanism” Sartre says, “… [When] we say that man is responsible for himself, we do not mean that he is responsible only for his own individuality, but that he is responsible for all men. I am thus responsible for myself and for all men, and I am creating a certain image of man as I would have him be. In fashioning myself I fashion all man” (Course Reader 28-29). This view that one man’s actions dictate those of mankind can seem contrary to fundamental elements of Existentialism. I will present Sartre’s Existentialism, highlight the conflict regarding personal freedom and the above quote, and attempt to explain why the notion “in fashioning myself I fashion all man” (29) is indeed consistent with Sartre’s views.
To understand Sartre, one must first understand his modus operandi concerning Existentialism. Sartre believes that nothing can define one except oneself. There are no fundamental core values; there is no human nature that predisposes man to act any certain way. Each man is born totally and utterly free to define himself however he chooses, “man first of all exists, encounters himself, surges up in the world- and defines himself afterwards”( 28). The Existentialist concept of existence preceding essence “puts every man in possession of himself as he is, and places the entire responsibility for his existence squarely on his own shoulders” (28). Our choices are ultimately without justification since things only have meaning if we want them to. As our consciousness develops, we create our own values and standards through choices, decisions, and life projects that ultimately create our essence. Since we are directly responsible for what we choose to value, we are therefore directly responsible for the way we are at any given moment in time.
According to Sartre, there are two types of being and the responsibility for our existence and essence “resting squarely on our own shoulders” has to do with the type of being we are; a being-for-itself rather than a being-in-itself. A being-in-itself is the kind of being an object has; it [is what it is…has to be what it is] and can never change itself (23). Sartre presents this notion that a being-in-itself is not free, instead it is a part of the causal order of things and can be acted upon by an outside force; another being’s will can be imposed on it. Humans, on the other hand, do not have this type of being; we are a being-for-itself because of our awareness and consciousness. “To exist as a being-for-itself is to be without a fixed identity; it is capable of changing from one identity to another. It is to be largely self defining” (23). By using our awareness and consciousness we are able to actively construct who we are. Consciousness is identified only by its activities such as questioning and pondering. The ability to raise and answer questions regarding our Self, such as “do I want to exist?” and “how do I want to exist?” allow us to have complete responsibility for our own existence and creation.
Each act of consciousness involves a way of perceiving some particular object. However, our consciousness is not able to ever perceive itself. Consciousness can never have itself as the object; that would be like trying to see one’s own eyeball with one’s very eye. Sartre says our consciousness must be “disclosed to us in contrast to its objects” (23). The best object to use in order to understand our own consciousness is another consciousness. It is through other people that we can come to know our own consciousness; much in the way a mirror allows us to see our own eye. It is through the Other’s consciousness that I recognize my own consciousness and freedom and so begin to understand it. Our consciousness not only understands things, but allows us to make choices for ourselves.
We as humans with consciousness have complete freedom to define not only ourselves through life projects but also to define what constitutes standards and values. This complete freedom stems from our type of being and the ability of our consciousness to transcend its current state. This form of transcendence means “nothing determines that an individual consciousness will not abandon the self it has constructed and replace it with another” (24). The Self that each of us creates is not fixed, “individual consciousness may always replace the identity it has chosen” (24). This ability of the Self “to construct a new identity” (24) is essentially what makes us free. Every minute of every day we are free to reinvent ourselves with each action we perform or choice we make. We can either forge a new identity of change or reinforce the identity we have already chosen. Each of us has the absolute freedom to replace values and life projects with others as we struggle to define ourselves. Sartre says that in order to truly define oneself and live authentically, which is the Existentialist aim, one must commit to each choice with complete conviction and authenticity.
To act with complete conviction means that when choosing a life project, it is chosen not only because it is right for the individual but because one believes it is right for everyone. Let’s say that I have committed myself to the practice of monogamy, but I have a friend who likes to “play the field.” If I allow this friend to continue practicing polygamy without saying anything, then I am not living with complete conviction regarding my own choice. By not committing to my choice of monogamy with complete conviction, I am in fact practicing self deceit and living in bad faith. By allowing this friend to be a polygamist, I am in essence denying that particular aspect of my being and trivializing it. By trivializing the value of my choice to live monogamously, I am saying my choice is not really a self defining act and that I haven’t “chosen for the better.” This reasoning indicates I am not one hundred percent committed to my choice. If, on the other hand, I tell my friend that their actions are wrong, and that monogamy is the only true way to be, then I am living with complete conviction and authenticity. I am claiming that because I have chosen monogamy and “I am unable ever to choose the worse. What we choose is always the better; nothing can be better for us unless it is better for all,” (28) that monogamy is also the right decision for my friend. I believe monogamy is the true way to live and I want my friend to make the right choice and live authentically as I have chosen to do.
Doesn’t this conflict with Sartre’s claim that “man is nothing but that which he makes himself?” (28). Aren’t we all free to choose our own values and define ourselves in our own way? By saying that each man’s decision for himself is right for all of mankind, it would seem as though Sartre is taking away each individual’s ability to choose for themselves what values and standards to live by. This would therefore, also take away each individual’s freedom to make any choice at all regarding personal values and life projects. “That in choosing for himself he chooses for all men” (28) would have it seem that all of mankind has been reduced to a being-in-itself; subject to the will of another being and thus part of the causal order of things. And if we are to be subject to the causal order of things, it would seem we are no better than say a table or rock or any other object you can think of. However, we do contain something a rock or table does not - consciousness.
Since it is through our consciousness that we always find the ability to choose, it is through our consciousness that Sartre finds the answer to this dilemma. For while it is true that “I apprehend him [another person] as an object”(45) when I tell my friend that polygamy is wrong and impose my values and ideals on him, it is also true that I “at the same time [apprehend him] as a man”(45). And to recognize someone as being a man is to recognize that they are a being-for-itself, with a consciousness of their own that is able to transcend and reinvent and choose. By recognizing the other as a man, I recognize my own ability to choose reflects the Other’s ability to choose as well. While I may try to impose my will and values on another person, like my polygamist friend, ultimately each person will always have the freedom to choose what actions to take. When I deny a person that freedom and that ability to choose, I am in fact denying my very own freedom and ability to choose. I must admit that even though I think my friend should choose my values, because of individual consciousness, each person will always have the choice of whether or not to do so.
Sartre seems to have two opposing ideas regarding commitment and freedom but does a nice job of juxtaposing the two. It is true that when we commit to an act with complete conviction we are also committing all of mankind. But at the same time each of us has the freedom to choose what is important in our lives and so carry the responsibility of the way things turn out. Sartre was in fact an idealist, not a fatalist, when it came to humanity as a whole because he believed people are unable to choose the worse, we always choose the better and in doing so naturally choose the better for mankind as well. But, we also recognize that our fellow man has a consciousness, making all of humanity and each man free at any point in time to make any decision he wants. So through this we see that it is possible to “be responsible for myself and responsible for all men” (29) while still maintaining the ability and freedom to choose. The Existentialist view is not one of bleak despair, as many think, but one of empowering choice- how do we want our life to be? And ultimately, we are the only ones responsible for how things turn out.
Zeffirelli’s Gertrude and Ophelia: The Assertion of Femininity
Franco Zeffirelli’s 1990 film production of Hamlet is arguably more politically correct than any other version of the play to date. Zeffirelli “enlarges the roles of the women” (Cartmell 219) so that they are almost equal to those of men. Neither the film’s predecessors nor its followers empower the play’s female characters in the way that Zeffirelli’s adaptation does. Compared to Jean Simmons in Lawrence Olivier’s 1948 production and Kate Winslet in Kenneth Branagh’s 1995 production, actress Helena Bonham-Carter portrays an unconventionally assertive Ophelia. In the same way, Glenn Close adds to the film’s sense of feminism, as she portrays an independent, strong Gertrude. Conventionally portrayed as a character that merely reacts to her surroundings, Gertrude plays a vastly more influential role in this adaptation. Though much of the film’s feminist quality can be attributed to the skills of the actresses, Zeffirelli is the one who gives Shakespeare’s female characters a stage in which they can actively influence their surroundings.
Zeffirelli begins his incorporation of feminism in the film’s opening scene, through Close’s portrayal of Gertrude. The first diegetic sound that the audience hears is the sound of the Queen sobbing at the sarcophagus of her late husband. The camera focuses on her as she weeps over her husband’s body. At the climax of her hysterics, she throws her body over the stone slab as if in surrender to her grief. She then slowly raises her eyes from the body, softening her expression, and meets Claudius’s gaze. Hamlet “catches the exchange of glances between the sobbing Gertrude (whose face reads, ‘I need to be comforted’) and the opportunistic Claudius (‘I’m here to comfort’)” (Keyishian 77). Though subtle and seemingly inconsequential, this exchange helps to portray Gertrude as “a woman torn between two lovers” (Cartmell 219), impacting the audience’s perception of Gertrude. It helps to present Gertrude as an active participant in her marriage to Claudius. She is not the passive, conquered woman that many other productions portray her to be. With this first impression of Gertrude, the audience is more likely to interpret differently her actions later in the play. Furthermore, the fact that the film’s first diegetic sounds come from a woman suggests to the audience that, throughout the rest of the film, women will play an especially important role.
In a less subtle way, Zeffirelli adapts the second scene of the play in such a way that Gertrude has a greater influence on the plot than previous adaptations have given her. To accomplish this contemporary portrait of the Queen, Zeffirelli expands the Gertrude-Hamlet relationship, demonstrating Gertrude’s influence on the plot. Conventionally, Claudius is present in act 1, scene 2, to persuade Hamlet not to return to Wittenberg and to stay in Elsinore. In Zeffirelli’s adaptation, however, Gertrude and Hamlet are alone for this conversation. Zeffirelli rearranges the dialogue in a way that magnifies Gertrude’s influence on the male characters around her, such as Hamlet. Claudius attempts to assuage Hamlet’s grief over his father’s death earlier in the scene, confronting Hamlet’s sorrow with cold logic: “But you must know your father lost a father, / That father lost, lost his, and the survivor bound in filial obligation for some term / To do obsequious sorrow” (1.2.90-92). His words seem to have little impact on Hamlet, and no one responds to him. Only when Claudius’s attempt has failed and he has exited the room does Gertrude reach out to her son, saying, “Good Hamlet, cast thy nighted color off, / And let thine eye look like a friend on Denmark” (1.2.68-69). In Claudius’s absence, the sentiment Gertrude conveys in these lines is more intimate. She also emphasizes Claudius’s attempt, saying, “Thou know’st ‘tis common. All that lives must die, / Passing through nature to eternity” (1.2.72-73). Her words, unlike Claudius’s, seem to have an effect on Hamlet. Despite its obstinate nature, his response to her demonstrates Gertrude’s influence on her son: she is able to elicit a response from him, with the same logic Claudius offers just moments before.
To further demonstrate the depth of Gertrude’s and Hamlet’s relationship, Zeffirelli places Hamlet alone with his mother when he tries to help her understand the true depth of his grief, saying, “Seems, madam? Nay, it is. I know not ‘seems’” (1.2.76). Gertrude then says, “Let not thy mother lose her prayers, Hamlet. / I pray thee stay with us, go not to Wittenberg” (1.2.118-119). Hamlet responds directly to her, intimately looking into her eyes, and the characters share an embrace to manifest the intimacy of the scene. To end the scene, Gertrude, in the epitome of feminism, speaks a line that was in the written play intended for Claudius to speak: “This gentle and unforced accord of Hamlet / Sits smiling to my heart” (1.2.123-124). Like the embrace between Gertrude and her son, this line helps to emphasize and outwardly express the ways in which Zeffirelli’s Gertrude greatly influences her surroundings. Zeffirelli’s rearrangement of this scene leaves the audience to believe that Gertrude is solely responsible for Hamlet’s decision to stay in Elsinore.
In an even more obvious act of feminism, Zeffirelli empowers Gertrude by giving her a more aggressive role in act III, scene 4 of the play. Conventionally, Hamlet handles Gertrude in a violent manner, often yanking her by the arm and throwing her onto the bed. In Zeffirelli’s adaptation of this scene, however, Gertrude initiates the violence, slapping Hamlet after he says, “And (would it were not so) you are my mother” (3.4.16). The fact that Gertrude catalyzes the altercation is significant. Again, this action is an obvious demonstration of Gertrude’s power to assert herself. Though Hamlet handles Gertrude roughly throughout the rest of the scene, pulling her by the chain she wears around her neck, it is significant that Gertrude is the one who initiates the rough play.
As heavily as he emphasizes Gertrude’s influence on her surroundings, Zeffirelli emphasizes Ophelia’s self assurance in spite of her surroundings. Many productions, such as Olivier’s in 1948, present the character of Ophelia as ethereal and fragile. For example, Olivier’s Ophelia collapses in tears on a staircase after Hamlet accosts her in the “Get thee to a nunnery” scene. Male characters generally treat her like a child, condescending to her. In Zeffirelli’s production, however, Ophelia is never treated in an overly delicate manner. She is often treated as an equal by male characters such as Laertes. In act I, scene 3, Laertes shares a look of amusement with his sister as Polonius gives him cliché and humorous advice for his departure. In the same way, Laertes does not patronize Ophelia earlier in the scene when he gives her direct advice about her relationship with Hamlet. In fact, he sits upon a windowsill for this conversation, so that he is looking up into Ophelia’s eyes as he gives his advice.
Similar to Close’s Gertrude, Bonham-Carter’s Ophelia is more aggressive. In act 1, scene 3, when Polonius has stated his doubt that Hamlet loves Ophelia and is walking away from her, she hurries after him. She then contentiously grabs him by the arm, forcing him to face her, and says, “[He] hath given countenance to his speech, my lord, / With almost all the holy vows of heaven” (112-113). Shortly after this assertion, when Polonius decrees that Ophelia should henceforth refuse Hamlet’s affections, Ophelia bitterly accepts: “I shall obey, my lord” (135). As the characters end their conversation on a slight hill in front of the castle, Ophelia assumes a position higher than her father’s on the hill (Screencap A). She literally has the higher ground, even though she submits to her father’s decision. Paired with Bonham-Carter’s obvious look of contempt while she delivers the line, this positioning of the actors helps the audience to perceive Ophelia as a woman capable of holding her own in a world dominated by men.
Zeffirelli further empowers the character of Ophelia in his adaptation of act III, scene 1. In this scene, Ophelia is aggressive as she insists to Hamlet that he did, in fact, give her the tokens she wishes to return to him. Completely self assured, she confronts him, saying, “My honored lord, you know right well you did, / And with them words of so sweet breath composed / As made the things more rich” (97-99). Bonham-Carter reinforces the strength behind these lines by stepping towards Hamlet instead of shying away from him. Her authoritative behavior takes even Hamlet by surprise, and he momentarily regards her with an intrigued look upon his face. She is not frail or delicate as she continues, saying, “Their perfume lost, / Take these again” (99-100). In fact, as she speaks, her mannerisms further emphasize her composure: She examines the tokens coldly, as if emotionally disengaged from both the gifts and the giver. This representation of Ophelia differs greatly from Olivier’s weepy, dainty portrayal of the character. To further establish the character’s self-assured presence, Bonham-Carter even shakes her head and rolls her eyes as she places the tokens in Hamlet’s hand.
The action that follows in this scene also helps to create the audience’s perception of a stronger Ophelia. Though Zeffirelli omits quite a few lines in the scene, from Hamlet as well as from Ophelia, it is significant that he omits Ophelia’s line, “I was the more deceived” (3.1.120). With this omission, Ophelia does not reveal the depth to which Hamlet has hurt her. She seems substantially less vulnerable in his presence. To reinforce the image of a less vulnerable female character, Zeffirelli’s Ophelia, in comparison to Olivier’s, is hardly broken after Hamlet accosts her. She does not collapse to the ground in dramatic sobs; she is still standing when Hamlet makes his exit. Zeffirelli’s Ophelia is even strong enough to bend down and retrieve the tokens which Hamlet has so coldly thrown to the ground.
Perhaps the strongest example of Zeffirelli’s feminism is the scene in which Ophelia goes mad. Some film adaptations of Hamlet use sexuality to demonstrate Ophelia’s madness. In Branagh’s production, for example, Ophelia lies on her back and thrusts her hips in the air. This sexual portrayal of Ophelia, though shocking, is still essentially passive. Firstly, Ophelia does not interact sexually with another character. Though she performs in the presence of others, she chooses to carry out the act alone. Secondly, the way in which she lies on her back and looks to the air in front of her, as if imagining someone on top of her (Screencap B), suggests to the audience that she is practicing the sexual act of receiving. Zeffirelli’s Ophelia, in contrast, is sexually aggressive, almost to the point of assault. The scene opens with a camera on Bonham-Carter as she sneaks across the courtyard to a lone sentry, approaching him with a look of intent upon her face. She then proceeds to run her hand through his hair and touch his face inappropriately. Her focus gradually shifts downward, and she explores his body with her hands, until finally grabbing his belt in a sexually suggestive way (Screencap C). Her “assault upon [the] boyish sentry who must stand to attention even as she masturbates his sword belt” (Rutter 256-7) is so vulgar and offensive that the sentry is too shocked to react. This actively sexual behavior differs greatly from Winslet’s portrayal of Ophelia. Bonham-Carter’s actions are not at all passive. The act of seeking a partner with whom she can act on her sexual impulse demonstrates to the audience her aggressive personality.
Zeffirelli is not introducing feminism in Hamlet as a new concept; he simply emphasizes and enhances the play’s preexisting feminine influence. He incorporates his interpretation of Ophelia and the Queen by rearranging dialogue, manipulating characters’ relationships, and deliberately staging scenes, in ways that invigorate the characters and magnify their strengths. Close and Bonham-Carter also do their parts to contribute to the film’s feminist quality, emphasizing characteristics in Gertrude and Ophelia that actresses typically have never been able to emphasize. Through Zeffirelli’s interpretation of the play, as well as through Close’s and Bonham-Carter’s interpretations of their roles, the audience is able to see Gertrude, Ophelia, and the feminine influence in Hamlet, in a new light.
Screencap A: Bonham-Carter, as Ophelia, takes the high ground when Polonius forbids her to accept Hamlet’s affections.
Screencap B: Winslet portrays a vulgar yet passive Ophelia.
Screencap C: Bonham-Carter portrays a sexually aggressive Ophelia.
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The Home Fires Are Out
When their loved one is sent to war overseas, many spouses and family members often struggle to keep their attitudes positive and fully supportive. However, with the current war on terror in Iraq and Afghanistan, divorce rates among deployed soldiers are increasing; strong family ties become so frayed that they are, in many cases, damaged beyond repair. In the narratives of soldiers and their family members in Operation Homecoming, we see first-hand that, although sometimes the folks left behind can keep the home fires burning, in many cases the stresses of war puts that flame out for good.
One of the hardest challenges in a woman’s life would be to stay faithful and fully supportive of her husband away at war. In Kari Apted’s email to her husband, she shows how much of a struggle it can be. She has a very tough time getting through despite the love she has for her husband. She writes to him, “The struggle between my will and our reality has never been more apparent or more challenging than it has been this year” (193). Apted is not angry or resentful at her husband-- she knows that he would have chosen not to go to war-- but she is still angry: “The best-laid plans I had for this year were all blown to bits by the plan that someone else had for us; leaving us with absolutely no choice but to submit to a situation we opposed with every ounce of our beings” (193). Apted shows that she is emotionally distressed and very lonely: “But as I know you are experiencing as well, you can feel totally alone even in the largest crowd. Sometimes I feel even more alone in those moments than in times that I truly am alone” (193). Apted’s friends recommend that she look to God, but it doesn’t help as much as she would like: “Everyone says to let God fill the newly empty places inside me and I try so hard to let him. But a nebulous concept like the presence of God doesn’t fix the car when it breaks, doesn’t hold sick children at 3:00 a.m. who miss their daddy, doesn’t kiss the soft part of my neck when it literally aches for the touch of your lips” (193). Although Apted’s marriage was apparently able to bear the burden of war, it was clearly threatened each and every day her husband was away.
Not only wives but also the parents of soldiers often have a hard time keeping a positive attitude. In the letter by Pamela Clemens, we see how much hardship a deployed soldier’s family as a whole goes through. Clemens had been watching the news and learned that there were POWs taken from a unit that was with the 3rd ID, her husband’s outfit. She realized with horror that her husband could be one of those POWs. Her heart sank. “I thought I was going to die. I thought it was you. I was so scared. I did not know what to do, what to think. I just stood there not knowing what to do. Jason it was horrible. I was so scared. I can’t even begin to describe what I felt to you in words. My whole body was screaming on the inside. I don’t ever want to relive those feelings again. It was awful” (195). Clemens’ father-in-law also saw the clip and called her: “We both sat on the phone and cried” (195). Clemens and her father-in-law are both falling apart with the anguish and strain of uncertainty as to Jason’s fate. Luckily it turned out that Jason Clemens was not among the POWs taken, but Clemens realizes she may not have been so lucky: “I was so relieved, but my chest still hurt for the families of those who were captured. I feel so guilty because I was glad it was not you” (195-96). Without such a strong family support network, the Clemens’ marriage and family life may not have had a happy ending.
Although the stories of Kari Apted and Pam Clemens are heartwarming, others stories are less so. They are more painful and distressing. The following analyses show graphically how war deployments can tear down a family.
In the personal narrative by Tammy Enz, one sees how terrible can be the pain of being left behind by a spouse at war can be and how easily the foundations of a marriage can crumble under the strain. Enz’s husband was deployed to Iraq for one year, leaving her alone with the children. Enz felt empty and lost: “My breaths stop as I strain to hear my babies breathing across the hallway. I reach across the mattress, fumbling to seek solace in the lifeless folds of cotton. He’s not here” (324). To her, the house is no longer a home. She has her children, but still something essential is missing: her husband. She is so stressed and angered by her husband’s absence that she couldn’t even manage to play ball with her son. “This is dad’s job I don’t have time for this. I tossed the ball into his glove. It rolled out and thudded to the ground. Dammit. You’re not trying! He looked at his dirty, naked toes. I know my words stung him. I kicked the bat and walked away rubbing the hard lines in my forehead—those deep unrelenting creases that will remind me of this for life” (Enz 325). Even when her husband calls, it only makes her more furious. “He’ll speak of his camp in the desert and call it home. He’s been there less than a year. But through the static and the three-second delay in the conversation, he says home like he’s always been there. That isn’t home, I want to scream” (325). Enz had turned into a different person than she was before the deployment. “I can’t bear what I have become” (325). She couldn’t sleep or eat. She is so depressed she started self-medicating with alcohol. “I used to sip the bubbles off the top of his beer bottle when we sat together on the porch watching the children chase fireflies. That was a different time. Now I need something harder, something that cuts a little deeper. I don’t sip, I slam a glass of whiskey, feeling it trace a lukewarm path inside me. I pace” (324-25). Enz speaks of her family now in the past tense. “We were the smiling family on the wall” (325). She wants to be able to think that when her husband comes home that things will go back to normal, but she fears that it won’t happen. She has changed and so has her husband, who sleeps every night with his M-16 rifle—a possible sign of PTSD. She wonders if her husband would be able to see the change in her if and when he returns: “At night he reaches out in his sleep. His fingers seek comfort in the darkness. Will he notice the difference?” (325).
Another case of a family being pulled apart by war is contained in the personal narrative written by Kathleen Furin. She is the older sister to a soldier. She does not believe the war he chose to fight in is a just or necessary war, but she tries to support her brother in the things he had to do. “I worried for you even though we still weren’t close, not close in any real way. I loved you through loving your family: your wife, your daughter, later your son” (198). Despite her new found devotion to her brother, she clearly disapproves of how he has changed. He has become very racist and has stopped getting pizza from their favorite place because of its ownership. “I remember thinking you were a total asshole because you stopped getting pizza from our usual place; it was owned by Arabs. “‘A-rabs’ as you would say” (Furin 198). Also, she feels that he is selfish and insensitive. Before his departure, his wife had asked him to make a DVD of himself so she could show their kids; he refused: “I’m not making a death video” (199). When she saw the tears in her sister-in-law’s eyes, Furin realized how much her brother was changing for the worse. Furin only received two emails from her brother while he was away. When she asked his wife why the family hadn’t heard from him, his wife told her that he wasn’t always able to get online. Furin comments, “I know that’s not true, because you pop up sometimes on my buddy list” (200). Furin can barely suppress her anger: “And what do we do now, other than wait? I was vehemently opposed to the war in Iraq, still think it was a huge mistake. I can’t watch the news, and when it comes up on AOL or whatever, one hundred dead in a car bomb in Baghdad, I can’t read it. I just shut my eyes and hope” (199). Furin is also angry because she believes that most Americans could not care less about the soldiers fighting this war or their families, unlike during WWII and Vietnam, “This war hasn’t gripped us, hasn’t absorbed us like the other conflicts did” (199). Although Furin loves her brother, it’s easy to see how his deployment might lead to their estrangement.
It is not uncommon for families to bicker over money, but the combination of financial stress and a war deployment drove a major wedge between Ruth Mostek and her soldier son, Hiram. When her son left for war, he put her in charge of the finances for his small business. Mostek soon began arguing with her son over the bills: “I had paid his business insurance that was in danger of being cancelled. He said if I had not done that he would have enough money in his account. We started blaming each other. I began to think perhaps ‘going off to war’ should be a total break from his parents, like in the old days” (223). At first Mostek tried to be understanding and blamed his behavior on stress of being constantly in harm’s way, but soon she loses patience and the feud in this family escalates. Her son came to visit Mostek on a leave, yet they couldn’t manage to avoid quarrelling: “I laid out everything that’s been bothering me about his asking me to pay his bills, then demanding when and how they be paid and the many overdraft fees. The first thing he said was, ‘Maybe it’s because I’m in a war, you know?!’ and ‘All of the financial stuff is unimportant. What does it matter? I might not come back--this may be the last time you ever see me’” (224-25). Her son did come back in mid-November, and on December 15th was married. Mostek observes dryly: “I wasn’t invited to the wedding” (225). We see here that even a mother’s love--the strongest love of all--can be undermined by a war deployment.
As the editor of Operation Homecoming notes,
No matter how frequently they communicate by email, letters, or phone calls during their separation, deployed service members and their loved ones recognize that the dynamic of their relationship is likely to change while they are thousands of miles apart. And the question, for many, becomes how significant and lasting will these differences be once they are reunited? (Carroll 324).
War deployment invariably changes those who endure it –both soldiers and their families. It makes all relationships unstable. Lonely and overwhelmed spouses fear that they will become one part of the divorce statistics; soldiers fear that they will be stigmatized, that their family members will never speak to them again. In some cases absence can make the heart grow fonder and can add fuel to the home fires, but in far too many cases, war deployments puts those fires out for good.
Apted, Kari. “The Life We Used to Live.” In Operation, 192-94.
Carroll, Andrew. Preface to “Bedfellows.” In Operation, 324.
Clemens, Pamela. “Too Much Reality.” In Operation, 194-96.
Enz, Tammy. “Bedfellows.” In Operation, 324-25.
Furin, Kathleen. “Album.” In Operation, 197-204.
Mostek, Ruth. “Hurtful Words.” In Operation, 222-26.
Operation Homecoming. Ed. Andrew Carroll. Updated ed. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 2006. Print.
On Understanding the "Mutability" of Poetic Meanings
William Wordsworth (1770-1850) might be considered the arch-typical Romantic poet and this poem “Mutability,” written late in his career (1821), is an excellent example not only of his craft but of his Romantic idealism. With this explication it is intended to show not only the varied meanings of the poem but also the Romantic idealism demonstrated in Wordsworth's writings. This particular poem was included along with a group of poems expressing Wordsworth's feelings on the Church of England entitled Ecclesiastical Sonnets, which might explain why he choose a hymn like theme to express his idea (Greenblatt 320). Reading the poem aloud it has a moody, musical quality to it that fits well with the words Wordsworth chose to express the poem’s ideas about change. Using this musical quality as metaphor in his poem, Wordsworth expresses his ideas on how change is the truth in life. Through his judicious choice of words, the use of nature, the metaphor of music as change with internal pattern, and one of his favorite images of a crumbling tower, Wordsworth conveys his vision of an internal pattern in life that is truth even in the face of the ever apparent dynamic quality of nature, and that that “Truth” is God.
Not using the word in the body of his poem, Wordsworth titles this poem “Mutability” to help insure there is no doubt what the poem is speaking upon. Mutability was a common theme used by English writers dating as far back as Chaucer, and a major tenet of the Romantic Movement as well as a common theme in Wordsworth's works. Using “Mutability” as the title, the author sets his readers thinking about change, channeling their thoughts before they even get started. Placing the word as title also helps emphasize that this poem could be not only be about change, but the capacity to change, the ability to do so. Simply using the word “change” would not emphasis this capacity for change as well as mutability because of the internal word “ability.” The idea of mutation is also expressed by the term. Although mutation did not take on the connotation it currently has at the time this poem was written, after Charles Darwin wrote Origin of Species, mutability's modern connection has given this word a richer meaning for this poem.
Although written in sonnet form, this poem breaks many of the conventions of a sonnet in its structure and rhyme scheme. The first six lines form a sentence and the last eight a second, reversing the usual pattern in a sonnet. The pattern, in the first two lines especially, gives a seesaw rhythm to the poem adding to its musical imagery. The poem’s pattern strongly accentuates the musical metaphor of the poem aided by Wordsworth’s rhyme scheme and uses of alliteration and assonance. Alliteration is found in the first (“doth dissolution”) and fifth (“musical” and “melancholy”) lines as well as assonance in line six with the repetitions of the “a” sound (“avarice” and “anxious”) and “o” (“nor” twice and “over”). His use of the rhyme scheme ABBA AC CA DACDCA ties together the first sentence to the second and the beginning of the poem with the end. Using “climb” and “time” as the first and last words in the poem changes the overall feeling of the poem. The beginning of the poem seems very solemn but changes to being uplifting by uniting “climb” with “time.”
Paraphrasing the first sentence, the speaker explains through a musical metaphor, that like notes on a musical scale change naturally ebbs and flows for those who take notice. Wordsworth’s choices of words in the first two lines create a feeling of harmony, balance and rhythm giving them a musical quality. Through his selection of repetitive letters and vowel sounds he creates an internal pattern to his changing words. His use of the repetition of the words “high” and “low,” starting first with “low” and climbing to “high” and reversing them in the second line he conveys the meaning of the words, along with the moving up and down sensation a musical scale creates, showing an internal pattern. The first sentence is talking about not only that change happens but also showing that there is an internal pattern to change. Literally talking about ascending and descending of a musical scale, the first sentence imitates the musical quality of the metaphor with its use of word order, assonance and alliteration. With this pattern of rising and falling, the rhythmic cycle of the metaphor evokes other images, such as the sun’s rise and fall or ocean waves’ ebb and flow.
In plain language the first line says that all things little or great fall-apart (dissolve), change, at an increasing rate. Everything, from simple to complex, from the smallest to the largest, changes over time. The choice of the word “dissolution” in the first sentence is very interesting with one of its meanings being the dissatisfaction with or loss of faith in something. Wordsworth was said to have lost faith in the hope for social change that the political revolutions in Europe brought early in his life. Critics claim his later writing suffered, noting that he produced significantly less material, and he seemed disenchanted with many of the Romantic ideas he once held. Expectations of social reforms promised by the French Revolution, and contacts with many refugees forced out of France were a couple of reasons Wordsworth had become “dissolved“ from the Romantic Movement. “Dissolution” also can mean the disbanding of a group or the bringing of something to its termination. Very cleverly, the reader sees the presentation of an internal pattern within the poem speaking about the ending of something through change. Although there is change, “mutability,” at the same time there remains an underlying pattern. Finally, it is notable that at the time this poem was written “dissolution” had a common musical meaning involving the moving down of consecutive notes in a musical scale, of which Wordsworth's contemporary audience would have been aware, carrying through his musical theme. “Climb,” the last word of the first line, like “dissolution,” conveys an idea of a gradual change. To “climb” is the patterned upward movement of evenly placed steps, like in a musical scale, the rise and fall of the sun and moon, or the crest and fall of ocean waves, all keeping the ongoing theme of pattern within change. The “dissolution” of a solute in a solution is also a gradual process.
After the opening line, Wordsworth switches to an obvious musical metaphor. Lines two and three present the idea of moving up and down a musical scale; that the change taking place in line one has a pattern to it. In the second line the reader sinks down from their high climb and reverses direction completing the scale. “Sink” is commonly associated with water as in a ship sinking in the ocean, as well as the sinking of the moon, again carrying through on the imagery of the sun rising and moon sinking or waves rising and sinking, rhythmic internal pattern. These first two lines, ripe with possibilities, convey the overall imagery of the natural world changing in a gradual rhythmic pattern. Furthering the connection is the repetition of the s sound in the words “sink” and “scale.”
Line three continues to reinforce the idea of rhythm in the nature of change. Paraphrasing, line three says that musical notes inspired by God have a harmonic pattern which will never “fail.” Using the word “awful” might confuse the contemporary reader with the modern connotation of being something very bad but the older meaning of full of awe, inspiring a sense of the sublime, more likely fits for a Romantic poet. And what is inspiring this awe is the notes of the music nature is creating for us in its rise and fall. Along with the meaning of a musical note, there is also the idea of importance contained in using the word “note.” A “note” is an important legal document used when borrowing money or a person of “note” is one who carries some kind of distinction or importance. These “notes” create a “concord,” a harmonious agreement, a harmonious legal agreement, a legal agreement following the laws of nature. “Concord” in musical terms is specifically a harmonious agreement between notes whose pattern resolves it so that it can stand alone without the need of additional notes or chords. The other definitions of “concord” carry through the idea of a harmonious union of words, people, or nations. The constantly changing notes used creating music must have an internal pattern holding them together. The completion of this line with the phrase “shall not fail” also presents an interesting use of words. “Shall” is an imperative commanding that something will be done in the future, giving a sense of permanence to change, of moving forward. Using “shall” gives this underlying pattern, which seems to be holding change together, permanence. The pattern “shall not fail;” it will never be lacking or inadequate. Another meaning of “fail” is to die so this change projected into the future will be faithful even after death. “Shall” also carries a religious connotation, a strong undertone within the poem.
Remembering the narrator is speaking about “dissolution,” the dissolving of something, the change and decay of all things over time, line four finishes this metaphor about the musical nature of change. This change is “musical,” it is harmonious and pleasing to the ear but at the same time it is “melancholy.” The line is saying that despite the pleasant, musical, natural pattern to change, it can also cause remorse. At the time this poem was written melancholy was still understood by many as relating to medicine as one of four basic humours that controlled human health and well being. Too much melancholy made a person sad, angry, and depressed and so was associated with these feeling. In context to this poem change is normally not desired and often makes a person pensive, moody, and mournful with a feeling of loss of order, disharmonious. The line finishes with “chime,” again a harmonious combination of music pleasing to the ear. A chime can also be the instrument itself, normally a group of bells. The poem expressing that change is both welcome and depressing as people enjoy having a steady state, a status quo, but at the same time like spontaneity and differences, changes. Human beings often desire change while resisting it, even knowing in reality that only the pattern underneath nature is unchangeable. Change is unavoidable.
Lines five and six abruptly switch the flow of thought by the narrator. The speaker is now describing why people are not aware of these changes around them. They express that only virtuous, moral people recognize change happening. Summarizing the first sentence, the speaker uses a musical metaphor to express how people who are moral and not overly preoccupied with their daily lives can see an underlying pattern, an ebb and flow in the natural change in the world created by God. Similar to the ideas expressed by Wordsworth earlier in “The World Is too Much with Us,” people who are preoccupied with themselves and not nature, do not perceive these changes. This poem is different from “World” with its strong moral component. Specifically, immoral people are the ones who miss the changes. Continuing with the musical metaphor the speaker is now discussing who is able to perceive this pattern of change. ”Which they can hear” is obviously referring to those people who can hear the music. The phrase, to hear the music, is used to denote a person who can see change on the horizon, understanding its inevitableness. The second half of the line begins to define who it is that can hear the music. Of the multiple meaning of the word “meddle,” to mix or mingle seems the only appropriate choice when paired with “crime.” To engage in conflict or sex or to interfere do not seem appropriate here. Often a word choice a poet makes is to keep pattern intact and it seems that in this instance the choice of "meddle” may well be an example. Excluded are people who are criminals or engage in “crime,” crime more likely being used in the broader context as doing something morally objectionable than in its meaning of breaking the law. It is interesting the speaker uses a negation to explain this section. Wishing to appear humble, the speaker uses a negation, placing emphasis on his being moral, but at the same time doing so with humility. The vices singled out include “avarice,” which refers to people who wish to gather extreme amounts of wealth and, or who are not willing to share that wealth, and lastly those with “over-anxious care” (6). “Over-anxious” is the suffering mentally from anticipating something might happen, or over the future consequences of that something happening. It can also be fear or doubt about the outcome of an event, or contrarily, full of anticipation with an excitement towards a coming event and not its dread. The narrator here seems to be referring back to the “melancholy” he has referred to regarding change. Giving examples of things, which are immoral or improper to demonstrate why a person cannot hear the music, the word “over” is used to emphasize excess. It is not just anxious but “over-anxious” and this anxiety is directed toward caring. “Care” is the common name for a kind of ash tree the author would have been familiar with, but it is unlikely this has significance here. Most of the other meanings do fit such as to be in charge, to be responsible for the safekeeping of another, and could very well cause one to be anxious. To be the center of that anxiety, the cause, could also be called the “care” and even to provide medical treatment could possibly be applicable here. Being “overly” worried about natural change as an improper or immoral action, grouped with “crime” and “avarice” are the examples used of things preventing someone from hearing the music. These lines are trying to connote the old adage that a person cannot see the forest for the trees. If someone is too concerned with acts of daily living, then that person will miss the music by not attending to it.
The next sentence begins at line seven talking about “truth” not failing. Wordsworth has chosen to repeat the use of the word “fail” used earlier in reference to “concord.” Shifting from his musical metaphor the speaker is now explaining what holds the world together in this chaos of change, “Truth.” “Truth” often has a religious meaning as that which God knows but humans only guess. “Truth” is the actuality, reality, the immutable essence, in religious convention, known only by God that humans merely speculate upon with their senses, which are fallible, whereas God's truth is not. Humans who are believers in God's “truth” have a “concord” with Him in the Christian belief and this author was Christian. “Truth fails not,” by repeating the use of “fail” leads the reader back to the previous sentence. The speaker is referring back to the underlying pattern to change he has introduced, to the “mutability” of nature, of corporal things altering without changing their core pattern, their “spirit.” “Truth” then is this “spirit,” the true reality; the insensible reality not based on belief but actuality, the pattern infused into all things by God.
The sentence continues with the speaker defining to what “truth” here is referring. Paraphrasing lines seven and eight, the speaker explains that what always holds true is change; that the internal pattern in life created by God is the “truth” which never changes, while the physical things in the world do. The sentence continues “but her” so it is understood that the subject of “her” is “truth.” “Her” is “truth” personified and the “but” makes the expression following it a conditional phrase excluding possibilities. “Truth” never “fails” “but” other things do. And what are the things which are not true, which “truth fails?” The speaker explains, “but her outward forms that bear / The longest date do melt like frosty rime” (7/8). The pattern God has infused into the world is “truth,” which is immortal, unlike the corporal world that people live in which is mutable. In simple, everything but God’s “truth” changes. “Outward forms” is an interesting use of words. “Outward” means on the surface or moving away from the center. “Outward” is superficial and not the essence of the “form.” “Outward” refers to the external, corporeal nature not the true nature. “Form” is a model, a manner or representation but not the actual thing itself. Again words chosen here have religious meanings and connotations. One must have proper “form,” proper decorum in church; and “outward” thoughts are corporal or secular ideas that interfere with one's concentration on God. Both “outward” and “form” are words relating to a part of the whole reality of a thing, a representation having only partial truth. These forms “bear”, they wear, “the longest date.” “Bear” in this usage again places superficiality to the meaning. Of the multiple meanings of “bear,” none of them gives a sense of permanence. To “bear” is to tolerate, to sustain or to support, again dealing with the external the surface of a thing, the sensual reality and not its truth. Another interesting meaning of “bear” is to give birth, to yield, or to bring forth, which calls forth a different connotation to the idea of change as the transformation from one “form” to another, the rebirth of things by change. “Form” can also be a mold used to give birth to something. “Form” is also an allusion to Plato and his philosophy. Plato’s “forms” being true reality and not there sensuous representations; “forms” being an ontological term dealing with “truth” but again like in “World,” using an earlier pagan argument.
Lines seven through fourteen express three related ideas about the pattern of change. First, that no matter how long something exists, it changes. That these changes happen both quickly and slowly without regard to whether the things changing are natural or manmade and that the reasons for change is unknown to man. Wordsworth shifts from using a musical metaphor to using personifications and similes of corporeal objects. The second sentence shifts to the pantheistic explanation of change; keeping a distinction between the religious nature of the God (male) and the pantheistic expression of the essence of change (female) caused by this essential pattern God instilled in life. Paraphrasing, truth (the pattern God infused in all creation) never fails, but natural and man made objects do; they change. Moreover, this change has no barriers, no compassion, and its true causation is unknown to man.
Next, come the words “longest date” obviously referring to the temporal length of existence these “forms” have. No matter how long something exists, it is still subject to change, that the only thing immortal and permanent is the pattern, the ”truth” essential to all nature. The idea of things being temporal, markers to a specific period of existence, reinforces the theme of the poem. The idea of “dating” something, as making it something that has passed, obsolete, is also interesting to think of in this context of change although not the direct meaning here.
What happens to these “longest lasting forms” is that they “melt like frosty rime” (9). The final sentence the speaker uses two examples, one of how change takes place very rapidly in a matter of a few hours, a morning, or over the length of the memory of a man First he uses an example in nature of a beautiful “frost” rapidly melted by the sun and then switches to a man made “tower” falling into decay over many years. “Melt” is another example of Wordsworth’s choice of words linking meanings. “Melt” is nearly synonymous with “dissolve” used in the first line tying the two together. “Melt” is also referring back to time and the temporal nature of things, as being that period in spring when the ice melts and spring transforms winter from white to green. “Melt” can also mean to overwhelm with emotion. The reference here of course is to the melting of the “frost” but the other connections are obvious to the close reader and add to the richness of the imagery. Choosing a simile, the speaker has moved from appealing to our sense of sound to adding the touch of cold and the visual white. The phrase is completed by the tautology “frosty rime” introducing these two new sensations into the poem. The speaker has personified “truth” (7) as the female essence that remains after all else changes. God is normally referred to as male, but here, the choice of this internal unchanging essence that seems to be the embodiment of God infused into nature, is addressed as female. Wordsworth has also chosen to use the term “bear” in reference to “truth” giving birth to change, tightly packaging the personification. Line nine continues the thought and describes the “frost” painting a pastoral scene for a brief part of the day rapidly changing back to green from white. The connotation of beginning is also within the word “morning.” The use of “morning” as the time of day, although logical, brings forth to the mind of the reader mourning, as in the sadness of loss, linking back to the “melancholy chime” (4). The “chime,” the internally ringing bell in our minds when a person is suddenly awakened, when there is the sudden recognition of a significant, “awful” change. “Whitened hill and plain” would be our speaker trying to include all nature in change; “hill and plain” an expression commonly used to describe encompassing everything in the world. The use of the color white, the symbol of purity and of aging holds together here. The “frost” that has aged nature passes quickly has more change follow it. “Whitened” here used as a verb making it the active process of change; with “whitening” and “frost” both words used to express change through aging.
However, our “frost” is no more and the speaker moves on to a new thought shifting from things in nature to things created by man. Line ten changes to imagery that Wordsworth was very fond of, “Tintern Abby” circa 1798, shifting to a beautifully man-made tower of times past which has collapsed into ruin through the “touch of Time.” Using “tower” as a simile, the change one sees in nature expresses change as seen in made objects as well. The “tower” was “sublime,” which taken literally would mean very tall and uplifted but also goes back to our “awful” musical “notes,” filling humans full of awe, uplifting a person with a sense of the divine in this creation of man. “Sublime” expresses the pantheism Wordsworth saw in nature. “Sublime” is also the process of changing a gas into a solid without going through a liquid phase again conveying the idea of change. “Towers” multiple meanings all relate to being lofted, or exalted above whatever it is being compared. To “tower,” is used in the context of exhaled; the words “tower sublime” form another tautology. The breaks between line nine and ten, and ten and eleven alters the thoughts of the reader. Line nine is nature and line ten is an image of an inspiring manmade creation, which in their next line is abruptly destroyed, with “is no more” and “of yesterday.” Although the speaker is describing something that lasted for a very long time, a “tower,” its demise is made sudden with the phrase “of yesterday” coming on the following line. The “tower” is personified, wearing “royally” (11) his “crown of weeds,” (12) suggesting humility. The word “wear” is another word expressing gradual change. When something “wears” it normally does so with a pattern; the heaviest used parts showing the effects first. “Wear” also evokes a seasonal quality (winter “wear”) carrying through with the idea of patterned change. The “tower” was so beautiful it could wear weeds, natural indigenous plants as opposed to cultivated flowers, royally, with great pomp and pride. The irony here, of royally wearing weeds, demonstrates the tower’s humility, which coincides with the narrator’s humility, expressed in lines five and six. The “tower” personified evokes the image of a poet laureate, a common person able to express the sublime with the use of simple words. “Crown” refers to royalty, to the “exhaltedness” of a man continuing the parallel of both man and nature being equally affected by change. Sutton-Ramspeck notes that “weeds” were black clothes worn by widows, referring back to “melancholy” and “bear,” as the image of the “tower’s” death would be fitting here as well.
In line thirteen the "tower” collapses by “Some casual shout that broke the silent air.” This is the first of two possible causes of the collapse of the “tower” and the tone of the poem suggests not the speaker’s choice. The speaker explains change using the “tower’s” demise in the last three lines, telling his reader that despite man’s handiwork being strong and beautiful it is insignificant, unable to withstand the ravages of change. This change is sudden and unplanned seemingly contradicting the underlying pattern expressed throughout the poem. “Shout” is a loud exaltation; a warning or an exclamation of joy yelled loudly, resounded casually, haphazardly collapsing the tower. This loud cry is “casual,” it is not interested nor emotional about whatever effect it caused as it “broke the silent air” (13). “Casual” can also denote something that is informal or not permanent continuing with the uses of words connoting change. “Broke” is a causal word as the effecter of an action. The speaker is showing that whatever action caused the demise of the tower was sudden and not deliberate; it was simply through the design of nature, the thread of “truth” beneath nature that holds everything united. “Broke” can also mean to make obedient giving “shout” power over “silence.” “Silent” means without a voice, and here could be indicating that the changes happening are inevitable, that nature has no voice to deny changes happening.
The second explanation for the tower's collapse is “the unimaginable touch of Time” (14). Here the contradiction of pattern within nature is erased. “Time” is personified, having the ability to “touch” the “tower” and crumble it to the ground. Because the speaker has placed “time” beyond the mental abilities of the human mind, “unimaginable,” he has placed it in the same realm of understanding as “truth.” The alternative meaning of “touch” in the sense of evoking a strong emotional response could also apply as a secondary meaning. “Time” continues the idea of pattern used in the poem. “Time” being a fixed, patterned measurement, an era identifiable normally as having passed - changed. Wordsworth capitalizes “Time” equating it to “Truth,” carrying through the theme that change is the internal pattern of God. Nevertheless, like the “frost” the “tower” too cannot “sustain” time. Using “sustain,” is again the use of a word pointing to upholding and supporting. All these words maintain the constant use of helping words, words that show aide, but cannot stand alone, pointing to the heavens, helping words that need a foundation to work from, an underlying pattern of “truth.”
Wordsworth very craftily constructed a poem where he unites many elements and through careful word choice carries a unified theme throughout; that in spite of the changes made by time affecting all corporal things there is still a truth, a pattern underlying that is essential and immortal. Choosing multiple words with an upward movement or a sustaining quality he has unified and tied the word “climb”(1) with “time”(14) giving his poem an uplifting quality. Starting with a musical metaphor and then switching to a tower metaphor, he joined the natural world with the art of man, covering all beauty anywhere in reality and demonstrating that the truth underlying all of reality is a pattern held together by something awe inspiring and sublime, the pattern of God. Like a beautiful chord of music, Wordsworth has strung together a harmonious string of words held together by the rhythmic pulse of nature.
Greenblatt, Stephen. et al. The Norton Anthology of English Literature. 8th ed. Ed. Stephen Greenblatt, et al. Vol. D. New York: Norton, 2006. Print.
The Oxford English Dictionary. 2009. Web.
Sutton-Ramspeck, Beth. “English 202, British Literature 1500 to Present, class lecture. Ohio State University-Lima, Lima, Ohio. April 2010. Lecture.
Wordsworth, William. “Mutability”. The Norton Anthology of English Literature. 8th ed. Ed. Stephen Greenblatt, et al. Vol. D. New York: Norton 2006. 320. Print.
The Modern Christ
Nat Turner’s rebellion in 1831 prompted attorney Thomas R. Gray to interview the man and commit his story to writing prior to his execution. During the course of the interview Gray posed the question “Do you not find yourself mistaken now?” and Turner’s response was simply “Was not Christ crucified?” This was the beginning of a common theme of comparing Turner to Christ that would continue throughout the study of the man and the rebellion. The comparison of Turner to Christ and the emphasis on religion in the study of Turner and his use as a symbol was especially prominent in Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Dred and in Kyle Baker’s Nat Turner, but the idea carried over into every aspect of Nat Turner’s legacy, including both academic and popular literature written about the man. The continued comparison to Christ is important to understanding how humanity views Turner and why he is still so contested today.
The original story of Turner, The Confessions, holds more comparison to Christ than simply the direct answer that Gray received. Without doubt, Turner at least felt he was very religious, and even a prophet of the modern era, just as those of Biblical times, “Question - what do you mean by the Spirit? Ans. The Spirit that spoke to the prophets in former times” (qtd. 46). Additionally, Turner felt he was marked for greatness from an early age, “and caused them to say in my hearing, I surely would be a prophet” (qtd. 44). Turner said this during discussion of his knowledge of events prior to his birth. There are two pieces of Turner’s personal history, however, that echo the life of Christ: his relationship with Ethereld T. Brantley, and the final dinner with his recruits before the rebellion. Gray recorded this statement in The Confessions, “About this time I told these things to a white man (Ethereld T. Brantley) on whom it had a wonderful effect - and he ceased from his wickedness” (qtd. 47). Further, Turner baptized himself and Brantley, providing a skewed echo of Jesus’ baptism by John the Baptist, and much like Christ’s disciples, Brantley was taken from the low end of society. In an essay, Patrick H. Breen blatantly names Brantley “Turner’s only religious disciple named in The Confessions” (qtd. 111). There is a difference between Brantley as a religious follower of Turner and those blacks that joined Turner’s rebellion. At the echo of Christ’s Last Supper, Turner was surprised by the presence of Will and Breen notes that “He expressed no fealty to Nat Turner, his religion, or his vision” (qtd. 118). In this way, Turner is unlike Christ, but the similarities are surprisingly abundant and it is understandable why Turner would be compared to Christ so often, especially with his chilling answer to Gray’s question.
Robert Hayden’s “The Ballad of Nat Turner” is based off a few details that Turner revealed during his interview with Gray, though it is not completely accurate. The religious tone is very heavy in the poem, and comparisons to the life of Christ abound throughout. The poem itself is an echo of Christ’s time in the wilderness, where he was tempted by the Devil into forsaking God. Several of the passages tempt Turner himself into forsaking Christianity or make mention to pagan ritual, “Then fled, O bretheren, the wicked juba” and in relation to hanging Ibo warriors Turner wonders “Is this the sign,/the sign fore promised me?” (qtd.). These passages are the temptations of Turner, just as the Devil’s promise of riches and the power of rule were Christ’s temptations, if only he would bow to the Devil. However, both Christ and Turner withstand these temptations. The passage “Speak to me now or let me die./Die, whispered the blackness” (qtd.) is reminiscent of Christ’s “Oh why have you forsaken me?” as a plea to God as he was dying, suspended from the cross. Finally, the most interesting comparison to Christ in Hayden’s poem comes from the last two stanzas, “till a sleep came over me,/a sleep heavy as death. And when/I awoke at last free/And purified, I rose and prayed,” is an eerie echo of Christ’s death and resurrection. Thus, Hayden’s poem makes a considerable connection between Turner and Christ, in very thoughtful and unsettling ways.
Another account of Nat Turner, Kyle Baker’s graphic novel Nat Turner takes a drastically different approach to comparing Turner to Christ because he uses only the text of The Confessions and supplements that with images which make up the main body and story of the novel. The first image that depicts Turner in a religious or Christ-like fashion is the bottom frame of page 85. The image shows Turner reading a Bible that he stole and shunning his responsibilities as a slave. This image likens Turner to a young Christ, particularly the episode where his Joseph and Mary find him in conversation with religious leaders in the temple. In both accounts, Christ and Turner have disobeyed one of the Commandments, “honor thy father and thou shalt not steal,” respectively, but both did so out of naivety and a desire to be closer to God. On page 111 Baker also gives life to Turner’s Last Supper, but contrary to the popular painting, the central figure, Turner, is vehemently pointing and discussing plans, rather than being demure and peaceful, as Christ is portrayed. If compared to the Biblical account of the Last Supper, however, Baker’s image may be more accurate, as this was when Christ accused one of his disciples of plotting against him, and very nearly ordered him to go through with it. The most direct and significant images that Baker used in his novel to liken Turner to Christ, however, appear between pages 194 and 197. These images show the execution of Turner to an excited, eager crowd, but after Turner passes on peacefully, their expressions lose the eagerness and instead become confused and fearful. This is an obvious echo of Christ’s execution at the hands of the Romans, and in the case of both leaders, their people did not raise a hand to stop it. In the final images of the novel, Turner’s earlier theft of the Bible is mimicked by a young female slave stealing and secretly reading The Confessions which very directly links Turner to Christ and the other prophets of the Biblical era. Baker’s use of imagery in an attempt to tell Turner’s story allowed him to more easily portray a heroic and Christ-like Turner, especially with the poetic license Baker took from the source material.
Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Dred pulls inspiration largely from Nat Turner, though Stowe altered some aspects of her character in order to fit the role and reason she wrote the novel. Her character also possesses some Christ-like qualities that are significant in the study of Turner because of his role in Stowe’s creation. In the novel Dred has a very intimate relationship with children. In discussing the importance of rebellion with a pacifist character, Tiff, Dred discusses the fact that children are vulnerable and need to be protected. The quote “Well," said Dred, "the children are too tender to walk where we must go. We must bear them as an eagle beareth he, young. Come, my little man!” (Stowe, Vol. II, 174) demonstrates Dred’s concern for children and the future and brings to mind Christ and the idea of “let the children come unto me” as well as the common analogy of there only being one set of footsteps because Christ carried, not abandoned, humanity. The manner in which Dred dies, is, however, a much stronger comparison to Christ than his relationship with children. Dred died from a wound to his side, in the same place that Christ was stabbed while he hang from the cross. Furthermore, Dred’s last words were “All over!” (Stowe, Vol. II, 295) which is an echo of Christ’s final words “It is finished.” The fact that Dred died as a martyr also links him to Christ as they both died for the salvation of their people, Dred’s being blacks, Christ’s being humanity.
Turner was first compared to Christ in The Confessions by Turner himself. This tradition was continued by both scholars and popular authors in order to serve a purpose. Turner’s heroism is often called into question because of the brutality of his rebellion, but by making him more Christ-like authors can gloss over the negative aspects of Turner’s life and rebellion and instead focus on him as a martyr and symbol of the evil of slavery. The direct impact of Turner’s original comparison to Christ “Was not Christ crucified?” (Confessions, 48) was chilling and more powerful than the subsequent references to Christ in Turner-based literature because of its directness. However, the subtlety that later authors used in comparing Turner to Christ more effectively made him a sympathetic character and a symbol of martyrdom because they played on ingrained ideas in people’s minds rather than blatantly declaring Turner Christ-like.
Baker, Kyle. Nat Turner. New York: Abrams, 2008. Print.
Breen, Patrick H. “A Prophet in His Own Land.” Oxford: Oxford UP, 2003. Print. 103-118
The Confessions of Nat Turner. Ed. Kenneth S. Greenberg. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 1996. 37-58. Print.
Hayden, Robert E. “The Ballad of Nat Turner.” Collected Poems. Liveright Publishing. 1962. Web. 1 January 2010.
Stowe, Harriet Beecher. Dred: A Tale of the Great Dismal Swamp, 1856. docsouth.unc.edu Apex Data Services; 2001. Web. 26 May 2010.
The Picture of Dorian Gray and its Interpretations
“Any of us might reject a novel because it seems to conflict with our moral belief….When we do so, we should be clear as to what we are doing. We have not read the book aesthetically, for we have interposed moral or other responses of our own which are alien to it….we cannot then say that the novel is aesthetically bad for we have not permitted ourselves to consider it aesthetically.”—Jerome Stolniz from Aesthetics and the Philosophy of Art Criticism
When reading the Preface of The Picture of Dorian Gray on its own, this quote seems to describe Wilde’s view of art and morality exactly. In the Preface, Wilde strongly opposes the use of morals when judging a piece of art and asserts that anyone who expresses a moral message in his work cannot be called an artist. The quote simply summarizes the stance that Wilde takes in his Preface. And in the book, the voice of Lord Henry often asserts this belief that art is above morals. But the book itself is a strongly moralistic tale. Dorian Gray, who dedicates his life to beauty and the pursuit of pleasure, does not meet a happy fate. His immoral acts are, in the end, rewarded only with anguish. Dorian follows the “Hellenistic ideal” zealously and it pulls him down a path of cruelty, sin and murder. It transforms his soul, represented on the canvas, into a repulsive monster while Dorian’s supernatural trade-off preserves his face. By the end of the book, Dorian Gray is driven mad by his own ideal and the ugliness of the portrait and escapes only through his own death, at which time, the trade is reversed and the natural state of both the painting and Dorian are restored.
So, the Preface and the story itself seem to contradict one another. And because of that apparent contradiction, it is hard to tell if the given quote is consistent with Wilde’s views on art and morality or not. Wilde, in the Preface to the book, writes “Vice and virtue are to the artist materials for an art,”(Wilde, xvi) and this could connect the views expressed in the Preface with the supposedly moral story. This phrase would suggest that The Picture of Dorian Gray, while expressing moral themes, is not, in itself, morally biased and so can be called art, by Wilde’s standards. Whatever moral conventions that are used in The Picture of Dorian Gray are, according to Wilde, simply a means to express an aesthetic. In this respect, the novel can be compared to a still life painting: The subject matter of the work is not nearly as important as the way in which this subject is portrayed. Vincent Van Gogh’s sunflowers, famous for their unusual and exquisite beauty, are only extraordinary in the way that Van Gogh painted them. Similarly, the simple story told in The Picture of Dorian Gray, as well any moral material it may possess, is nothing more than the bowl of fruit in Wilde’s still-life of words. The content of the novel, then, is unimportant and the book coincides with the view expressed in the Preface and both, through this interpretation, agree with the quote given. Art, though it can make use of morals, is above being judged by them.
But this interpretation, in drawing a connection between the given quote and Wilde’s views, oversimplifies the book itself until it is no more than a surface story and Wilde’s words. And Wilde’s words, as beautifully written as they are, are not enough to lend the story artistic significance. While beautiful words are to the novel what brushstrokes are to the painting, books differ from the visual arts in one important way. No book of any significance can stand on words alone. Van Gogh’s still life paintings have no meaning to them other than that they are beautiful. But, while visual arts can have many deep meanings, beauty itself can be enough meaning for a painting because of the brevity with which it is viewed. Walking through an entire museum of art takes only one afternoon, but the novel is a much more intimate art form. It takes days to read a single novel and most times, books are read in quiet places and by one person at a time, giving the audience much more time to think about the content of the book. No one would spend so much time with The Picture of Dorian Gray if it were nothing but exquisite words and a shallow story. So, there must be much more to the novel than that.
According to McGinn’s piece “The Picture of Dorian Gray,” the given quote is actually not consistent at all with Wilde’s view of art and morality and that there is a morally significant meaning behind The Picture of Dorian Gray. McGinn explores the meanings hiding under the surface story, concentrating on the climactic, but ambiguous death of Dorian Gray. McGinn teases out his interpretation from small phrases and even single words that would go unnoticed by the casual reader. By deciphering Wilde’s clever literary devices, McGinn suggests that, because of Dorian’s pact with the devil, “Dorian becomes numerically identical to the picture of Dorian”(McGinn 128). Dorian does not simply gain the ageless characteristic of a work of art, he becomes his own painting. So, according to McGinn, when Dorian takes the knife that killed Basil and decides that he would “kill the painters work and all that that meant” (Wilde 253), Dorian does not try to stab the canvas, only to have the knife turned on him by some supernatural force. He stabs himself, knowing full well that he himself is the painting.
From there, McGinn goes into an analysis of the purpose of the book. According to McGinn, the two seemingly conflicting values of beauty and morality are really a single value and that “the aesthetic and the moral…are ultimately inseparable”(McGinn 142). The Picture of Dorian Gray illustrates the dire consequences of trying to disassociate the two. Dorian often uses art to glorify his sins, such as in the suicide of his lover Sibyl Vane. The suicide was a direct result of his cruelty to her, spurning her love and adoration because she performed poorly in a play. She only performed poorly out of love for him, because in her mind, he was the reality of Love. At first, Dorian feels a terrible guilt for Sibyl’s death, as any person might, but by elevating her death to the level of art, he makes Sibyl into nothing more than “a wonderful tragic figure” (Wilde 119). Dorian raises Sibyl and her suicide onto a pedestal, putting her among the tragic heroines she played, and saves himself from feeling guilt or remorse for her death because it has become beautiful and completely distant to him, a dramatic ending to a wonderful play. But by abandoning those human emotions, by essentially forsaking his conscience, Dorian makes himself into a repulsive, unfeeling creature. By attempting to make his life into art while denying virtue and embracing sin as a form of beauty, Dorian undermines his own pursuit and makes his soul into a “foul parody, some infamous, ignoble satire” (Wilde 176).
And so, McGinn translates Wilde’s artistic ideal as a moral ideal as well. The quote by Stolnitz, then, would not reflect Wilde’s view of art at all. In fact, the quote suggests that a critic practice the same separation of aesthetics and morals that brings about Dorian Gray’s destruction. According to McGinn’s interpretation, the two are naturally connected and it is both natural and correct to judge a piece of art as aesthetically good or bad based on the moral vision it represents. Because evil is inherently ugly, even the most skilled artist cannot make it beautiful.
The interpretation offered by McGinn is a thorough one and reveals a much deeper meaning in The Picture of Dorian Gray than that which a casual reader would find in it. His interpretation makes the ending of the book far more satisfying less ambiguous than the initial reading of the story. But is this interpretation really enough to reconcile the differences between Wilde’s view in the Preface and the message of his story? McGinn addresses the differences between the Preface and the novel only briefly: “Did not Wilde scorn traditional virtue in favour of dandy-ism, sensation seeking, freedom of spirit? The aphorisms that preface the novel sound as if they are endorsing such a morally cleansed outlook. But his story points to a very different conclusion” (McGinn 140).
This does not do anything to connect the Preface and the novel, so there is still not a clear interpretation of what Wilde’s views really are. The only way to understand Wilde’s views is to get the seemingly opposite positions he holds in the Preface and the novel on the same page.
Wilde certainly does recognize that art cannot escape the influence of morality, the fate of Dorian Gray is enough to confirm that. Beauty and evil cannot possibly coexist because of the inherently ugly nature of evil, an ugliness that shows itself in the face of Dorian’s soul, trapped on canvas. It may be in this acceptance of art’s dependence on virtue that Wilde finds justification for his arguments in the Preface. As Dorian Gray’s inner ugliness mars his outer beauty, so too does evil disfigure art, twisting it into something so despicable that it can scarcely be called art at all. Wilde states that “the only excuse for making a useless thing is that one admires it intensely”(Wilde xvi). The artist who creates in his work the ugliness of immorality has no excuse for doing so because it is impossible to admire ugliness. This excludes immorality from being art. Therefore, an artist, who seeks only to create beautiful art, cannot be said to have “ethical sympathies” (Wilde xv) because he really only has two options when creating art: to portray either the morally beautiful or the morally neutral. The artist can express immorality if he so chooses, after all “the artist can express everything” (Wilde xvi), but morality must, by the nature of art, ultimately win over corruption.
Critics who find immorality in art, then, truly are “corrupt without being charming” (Wilde xv) because they have found evil in something that, by necessity, has no evil in it. The evil that they find can only come from themselves. Morals cannot be imposed on that which is already morally sound. Nor can they be imposed on the morally neutral. Even sensuous beauty cannot be criticized morally because if it were truly immoral it would cease to be beautiful. So, as Oscar Wilde suggests, it is not acceptable to criticize art by means of morality.
This interpretation of the Preface reconciles it with the novel itself. McGinn’s interpretation of Wilde’s beliefs is ultimately the most correct; he just did not extend that interpretation into the Preface. Wilde does not believe that there is a separation between beauty and morality, as the Stolnitz quote would suggest. In fact, it is that very separation that Wilde warns against in his book. And Wilde’s views in the Preface, though they seem to agree with the given quote on the surface, actually coincide with those views expressed in The Picture of Dorian Gray. McGinn’s interpretation gives a satisfying explanation of the story, especially its ambiguous ending. But it also, more importantly, gives a satisfying and well-justified interpretation of Wilde’s views on aesthetics. These two qualities together make McGinn’s interpretation relevant to the views of Oscar Wilde and the content of The Picture of Dorian Gray.
A Funeral for Creativity
The use of death as a metaphor for the loss of an idea or use of an object is an old cliché in literary works. Emily Dickinson refashions this metaphor in her poem “I felt a Funeral, in my Brain” by creating a funeral setting for the death of the narrator’s creativity. The poet brilliantly uses words describing motion and sound, terms with implications of the mind, and a narrator with only the ability to use sound and feeling (as opposed to sight being the primary sense) to describe what is taking place in order to create the funeral setting that doubles as a new description of writer’s block.
This idea of writer’s block is found within the indicators of ideas slowing down and speeding up within the narrator’s mind. The most important of these indicators can be found within the terms having to do with sound and motion. Due to the limited use of senses that the narrator is given by Dickinson, these terms are used to describe what is going on most often in the poem. The first sense of motion that the reader comes across is the word “treading” which is describing the movements of the mourners who have come to the funeral; both this “treading” and its moving “to and fro” are found within the first stanza. The “treading” is constant and going back and forth as indicated by the terms “to” and “fro” and signifies the flow of ideas that are moving about in the narrator’s mind. This motion ceases in the first line of the second stanza when “all were seated” and “A Service, like a Drum”, then replaces the treading where it continues “beating-beating”. The sound is constant; a droning noise that causes thoughts to stop due to its overpowering consistency in the brain. It creates a lack of focus that the narrator is clearly feeling. With the dash at the end of the second stanza, the audience is allowed to wait before being reintroduced to motion in the first line of the third stanza. Although this dash is a classic form of punctuation from Dickinson, it takes on new meaning here by causing the reader to pause just as the narrator has due to the desistance of ideas flowing due to writer’s block.
The third stanza is the turning point of the narrator’s struggle with writer’s block and this begins when the narrator states “and then I heard them lift a Box” and “creak across my Soul.” The motion has started up again and is slowly moving once more. The box is a coffin and its weight is heavy, hence the creaking. The coffin and its creaking represent the sluggish pace that the narrator’s ideas have reached. In the fourth line of the third stanza, the narrator states that “Space-began to toll”; toll is a term for ringing. The “Space” around the author (in the brain) begins to ring. This is reaffirmed in the first line of the fourth stanza when the word “Bell” is placed at the end of the line. The final stanza is full of motion and there are no terms having to do with sound. The words “broke,” “dropped” and “hit” are all used to describe the fast descent that the narrator is experiencing at the end of the poem. The idea of the fall being fast is continued by the term “plunge,” a dramatic drop in height. This is the reintroduction of a flow of ideas to the brain at a normal pace, once the block has been removed, ideas come rapidly and the work if finished quickly. This is clear with the words “Finished knowing” being placed in the last line of the poem.
The word “knowing” is also important due to its implication of thought. This word and several others bring the poem back into the realm of the narrator’s mind at many points in the poem, which perpetuates the theme of writer’s block. The very first line is a solid piece of evidence for the poem being about writer’s block, with the funeral being in the “Brain.” The term is capitalized which firmly places the whole context of the poem within the mind. Another word in the same stanza concerning the mind is “Sense.” The word is a synonym for words such as brains, intelligences, and intellect. “Sense” is seemingly “breaking through” according to the narrator; it seems as if the ideas flowing around in the brain were going to make their way onto the page. The seating of the mourners and the “beating-beating” of a “Drum” which causes all ideas to stop flowing in the mind stop the possibility of “Sense” “breaking through.” Due to this, the narrator states that their “mind” is “going numb.” The word “mind” at the end of the eighth line brings the concept of the mind and the funeral being within it, back to the reader again.
The most prominent line in the third stanza also involves the mind; it indicates a tool for the mind’s thoughts to reach the outside world. In the second line of the stanza, the narrator uses the phrase “Boots of Lead.” It stands out to the reader because of its capital letters and heavy feeling. Lead is a medium used to transfer ideas from the brain and onto paper; whether this is with a pencil or lead based ink. The “Boots” are the beginning of the flow of ideas starting to escape the grasp of writer’s block. The block is eventually broken when a “Plank in Reason” breaks and the narrator describes a drop where a “World” is hit at “every plunge.” The phrase “Plank in Reason” has the same effect as “Boots of Lead”; it once again is large due to the capital letters and is the final shovel needed for the writer’s block to be beaten by the narrator.
“Reason” relates to the mind once again so that in the closing, it is once again brought to the reader’s attention that this whole ordeal was a matter of the mind. When the “Plank” breaks, it causes the narrator to feel as if they are dropping and hitting a “World at every plunge”, this part of the line suggests that ideas are being felt at each plunge from the broken “Plank in Reason”. The plank is the floor of the mind where ideas can no flow through and onto the page due to the breaking of a plank. The word “World” can easily be replaced by “word”; with this change, a word would be hit at every plunge, a word being written with each plunge of the hand to the paper. This is made possible by the breaking of the floor that left the narrator stranded alone in the fourth stanza where it is stated that the narrator and “Silence, some strange Race” are “Wrecked, solitary.” The narrator is stranded with silence; they are a strange race (which in this interpretation is a group of people with similar features). They are grouped together as a race because they are both wrecked and alone. This is the narrator without the ability to interpret their ideas onto paper and the feeling that comes without the ability to interpret their ideas onto paper and the feeling that comes with the death of an idea.
This idea of the implication of the brain is finalized by the term “knowing” in the final line. The whole line, “and Finished knowing-then” suggests that the narrator has finished the work that had been interrupted by this brief funeral in their brain, the “Worlds” hit at every “plunge” have helped to chip away at the writer’s block that was holding the creator back. This block also had a hold on the narrator’s ability to describe what was taking place in their mind.
The narrator of the poem does not describe anything by the way that it appears. There are no colors, darkness, or lightness described. Everything is through sound and feeling alone. This causes the imagination to work harder to create the images for the reader; this falls right into place with the idea of the poem being about writer’s block. The reader is in the same situation as the narrator. Here, Dickinson causes the audience to forgo beauteous imagery often associated with poetry and forces them to experience this “Funeral” through feeling and sound alone. This allows the audience to feel the loneliness that the narrator describes in the fourth stanza. The silence is literally felt because of the lack of imagery to distract from it. The narrator describes it as being “Wrecked” which is emphasized with the capital “W.” The whole work is “Wrecked” by the loss of the flow of creativity; a mental block has caused this to be true. Along with the reader’s ability to feel “Wrecked” with the narrator, the use of limited senses is a metaphor for the impairment of the narrator.
Using only two senses to describe the goings on of the funeral procession is a brilliant move on Dickinson’s part. This limitation goes hand in hand with the death of something. Parts of the dying entity (in this case, an idea) slowly diminish; here it is a narrator stripped of sight and smell. Sound becomes something needed to understand everything going on around the narrator and feeling keeps the narrator connected to the depressing thought of their idea dying within their mind.
Writer’s block causes a funeral to begin in the narrator’s mind before the idea truly dues and it is eventually set free again and gives the narrator the ability to finish the work and finish “knowing.” Though the idea of the subject being writer’s block differs from the usual morbidity associated with Dickinson, it proves true due to the use of motion and sound used by an impaired narrator and the constant referral to the brain and intellect.
For the Love of Money: An Analysis of Elizabeth Bennet’s Motives for Marriage in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice
In the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century, it was a truth universally acknowledged, that a single, middle-class woman in possession of little fortune, must have been in need of a husband. Inheriting property from a spouse or father after death was a precarious business; while inheriting enough to be financially secure was nearly impossible, especially if there were other siblings or children involved. It stands to reason that marriage for single, middle-class women was extremely important for financial stability. The necessity of gaining a husband for the financial benefit was such an integral part of that time period that the main character in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, Elizabeth Bennet, followed that same, sensible path of marrying for money. The notion that Elizabeth Bennet would be more concerned about marrying for love, rather than financial security, seems highly unlikely given her position in society and lack of inheritance. The only commonsensical way to view marriage from Elizabeth’s position would have been based on who could have provided the best financial situation for her. Understanding this, and through closely examining Pride and Prejudice, we can begin to see evidence that Elizabeth had less of an emotional connection with Mr. Darcy, and was concerned more with his ability to raise her social position and provide for her financially.
At the opening of the novel, we are told that a single, rich man “must be in want of a wife.” Although this may lead us to focus on a man’s search for matrimony, we are quickly introduced to a woman’s quest for financial security when Austen writes “[this new man] is considered as the rightful property of some one or other of [the surrounding families’] daughters,” (Austen 43). There can be no doubt after reading the first two paragraphs of the novel that the idea of marriage is an important one, and it is of no greater importance than in the Bennet household. Upon first being introduced to the Bennet family, we learn that it consists of Mr. and Mrs. Bennet and their five daughters. The absence of a son would have quickly informed readers of the time that the Bennet daughters would be in desperate need of a husband. This desperation is made clear through the character of Mrs. Bennet when we are told “the business of her life was to get her daughters married; its solace was visiting and news” (Austen 45). Although she may seem quite silly, she is completely right: “marriage was the economic and social building block for the middle class” (Davidoff and Hall 322). Mrs. Bennet’s excitement over the occupation of Netherfield by a gentleman with a substantial income becomes understandable given her daughters’ situation.
The situation the Bennet daughters were in, specifically, could not have gotten much worse. In normal circumstances, with no son to inherit the property after the death of Mr. Bennet, the estate would have most likely been placed in the hands of a trustee to hold the property for the children; however, there was no son in the Bennet family (Davidoff and Hall 211). In this situation, “estates were often sold to facilitate the creation of annuities,” and although these annuities were a relatively secure form of income, they weren’t always reliable (Davidoff and Hall 212). The practice of selling the estate to create a source of income via annuities for the Bennet daughters sounds enticing, but it is interesting to note that, even though both sexes used this form of income, it was more heavily depended upon by women, and “in a census sample from two areas, 63 per cent of all middle-class female household heads were ‘independent’ as an occupational classification (and 70 per cent of those so designated could be regarded as lower middle class)” (Davidoff and Hall 212). Therefore, if annuities were created for the Bennet daughters, they would have a hard time living independently in a middle class position based solely on income from an annuity generated from the sale of the Bennet estate. These facts alone could lead one to understand the importance of a suitable marriage for any one of the Bennet daughters, and yet their situation gets even worse. We soon learn that the estate of Mr. Bennet, as a result of there being no male heirs, has been entailed to his cousin, Mr. Collins, (in an attempt to keep the estate in the male side of the family) who, upon the death of Mr. Bennet, becomes the owner of the Bennet estate and would hold the power to remove the daughters of Mr. Bennet from the household should they still remain. This entailment would make the sale of the estate, and therefore the creation of annuities, impossible and beget an even more desperate need for a financially secure husband.
Mr. Bennet was well aware of the poor situation he was leaving his daughters and it is told to the reader that Mr. Bennet had never saved money that would be able to support his widow or his daughters. We are told that upon marrying Mrs. Bennet, he expected they would soon have a son to divert the entail from Mr. Collins and that his other children, along with his wife, would be cared for; however, after some time Mr. and Mrs. Bennet had given up on having a son. It is explained that Mrs. Bennet has no financial resources and that it was only her husband’s fiscal responsibility that prevented them from bankrupting the family. The Bennet’s state of affairs, with Mr. Bennet wishing “more than ever” that he had saved for his daughters, shows just how desperate a position the Bennet girls were in, and why marriage was of such great importance to Mrs. Bennet, and, in turn, her daughters (Austen 314). The only other alternatives for the Bennet daughters were to either become a burden to some other male member of their family (which was looked down upon), or to enter into business themselves, which brought with it very little esteem. During the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century, women were considered to be part of the domestic sphere and would only enter into business if they were forced by the need for income. By entering into the economic sphere, a woman was making it clear that she “was a woman without either an income of her own or a man to support her.” Not only did her entering the economic sphere make a statement about her financial situation, but a woman working to support herself also suffered disrepute from her community, which could also affect opinions of those who associated with her. This prejudice against a working class woman therefore created a “structured inequality [making] it exceedingly difficult for a woman to support herself on her own, much less take on dependants” (Davidoff and Hall 272). By entering into the economic sphere, a woman was making it clear that she had no financial worth, which lowered her position in society, and in turn lowered her chances of marrying a man with favorable social connections and financial resources. This is best said from the period itself, where a Mrs. Ellis wrote, “gentlemen may employ their hours of business in almost any degrading occupation and, if they but have the means of supporting a respectable establishment at home, may be gentlemen still; while, if a lady but touch any article, no matter how delicate, in the way of trade, she loses caste, and ceases to be a lady” (Davidoff and Hall 315). Understanding these aspects, which readers of that time most certainly would have, leads us to believe that securing a husband of financial and social worth would have been top priority for the Bennet daughters.
If, however, marriage was of the utmost importance, why did Elizabeth reject the proposal of Mr. Collins? Mr. Collins’s design in coming to the Bennet home was to secure a wife in order to improve his relations with his relatives, and by marrying Mr. Collins, Elizabeth would have made the financial situation better for her sisters, who would then have been less likely to be removed from the home after the death of their father. Although Mr. Collins is sometimes loquacious to the point of being embarrassing, his manners are not extremely terrible (especially when compared to those of Mr. Darcy) and he makes it extremely clear that he has some substantial social connections that Elizabeth could possibly benefit from; however, there is one thing Mr. Collins lacks: land. Mr. Collins does not, in fact, possess any land of his own, but lives in a residence provided to him by Lady Catherine De Bourgh. During the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century, England was still controlled by those who owned land and “ownership of landed property remained the greatest source of wealth, power and social honour,” while those who were invested in the market were often seen as “creatures of passion and fancy” (Davidoff and Hall 198). We can see this attitude reflected in the novel when the narrator describes the Bingley sisters as spending more money than they should, associating with people of rank (implying that they are not people of rank), and relying more on making it clear that they were a respectable family from north England, than the fact that their fortune had come from trade (Austen 54).
Because Mr. Collins did not actually own his land, Elizabeth could have been removed from the property by Lady Catherine upon the death of Mr. Collins, and although Elizabeth’s marriage to Collins would have resulted in her family still being in possession of her father’s estate, it may not have been possible for Elizabeth to live on that property if she outlived Mr. Collins. In this instance, if Elizabeth and Mr. Collins had children, the estate could have been sold to generate annuities as mentioned before or it could have been placed into the hands of a trustee in order to save the property for the children, which would still not guarantee Elizabeth’s financial security. An example of this would be Armaretta Argent, who was a widow of a Withham farmer and a trustee of an estate; however, she shared her trusteeship with her two brothers-in-law. Mrs. Argent inherited horses, cattle, and other paraphernalia associated with the livestock, but “the trustees were instructed to sell all the rest and divide it between the seven children. Her share, even of the household goods, was not to exceed £100” (Davidoff and Hall 211). Clearly, if a situation of this type arose for Elizabeth, her pecuniary future would not have been very secure. Not to mention that Mr. Collins’s profession was one of the few in which the widow could expect to inherit very little, if anything. In 1827, Rev. Richard Cobbold from a Suffolk village wrote that he was upset because he could not leave his wife a “residence of any independent kind” after his death, and later went on to lament that “few people suffer more from change of circumstances than clergyman’s widows.” This same complaint was also paralleled by a Congregational minister in Essex who, upon being threatened with termination, told his congregation that he did not have a trade, exactly, and therefore had nothing to fall back on if he was removed from his position.
We can assume that it was for the above reasons that Elizabeth rejected Mr. Collins. In her rejection, Elizabeth states that she is “very sensible of the honour of [Mr. Collins’] proposals” but claims that it would be impossible for her to accept him. The fact of the matter is, there wouldn’t be much honor for Elizabeth to be the wife of a clergyman, and so it appears that this sentence is more of an insult to Mr. Collins’ pride rather than a compliment of his proposal. Aside from this statement, Elizabeth gives no real reasons as to why she is rejecting Mr. Collins, which leads him to believe that she is rejecting him purely out of modesty. In this scene, it appears that Elizabeth creates excuses for her rejection, as we see when she claims that Lady Catherine would not like her (which would be completely presumptuous of Elizabeth, seeing as she had neither heard of, nor met, Lady Catherine at this point in the story) and when she claims that there is no way Mr. Collins could make her happy, and she certainly could not make him happy; however, this is rather pretentious, for Mr. Collins finds Elizabeth to be very amiable, and there is little doubt in Elizabeth’s ability to make Mr. Collins happy, seeing as he is only concerned with marrying a sensible woman that he could show off to the Lady De Bourgh. Again Mr. Collins attempts to persuade Elizabeth to accept his proposal by making it clear that his situation should be desirable because of his connections with her family as well as his other connections, and that she has very little chance of receiving a proposal from anyone, let alone someone better than Mr. Collins. He makes it very clear to her that her small inheritance, along with the small dowry her family could provide, will most certainly undo any charm she may have. Elizabeth, however, was very astute and would have been aware of the financial implications of being a clergyman’s wife. She would have understood that her financial future would have been very limited and could have possibly been no better than her current situation. For those reasons alone she chose to reject the proposal of Mr. Collins.
The ending of this possible relationship puts the focus on two others. The first of these relationships being between Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy, which becomes very interesting when viewed in terms of the different emotions felt by both. Mr. Darcy’s introduction into the novel tells us that he is far more attractive than his friend, but his manners are abhorrent and he is disliked by the entire company in attendance at the ball. It is the wish of almost all in attendance (Elizabeth included) that Mr. Darcy never returns (Austen 50). Elizabeth is first put off by Mr. Darcy when she overhears him saying that he doesn’t find her at all attractive, or good enough to dance with. We later discover that Mr. Darcy’s lack of desire for dancing stems from an insecurity of interacting with those who he is not intimately acquainted. Not only this, but upon further studying Elizabeth’s features, he begins to find her very attractive and wants to get to know her better. This, however, is lost upon Elizabeth who has become determined to dislike Mr. Darcy despite any effort he may make in changing her mind; however, one question does arise. If Elizabeth is supposedly so focused on the pursuit of a suitable companion, why did she not begin to pursue Mr. Darcy from his very introduction? Elizabeth is first introduced to Mr. Darcy before she receives the advice of Charlotte Lucas, and her opinions consequently are already settled before she begins to seriously think of the pursuit of a husband. Not only this, but it is not long after her introduction to Mr. Darcy that Mr. Collins makes his proposal, and Wickham makes his appearance. For Elizabeth, it seems there is no shortage of suitors, and she finds herself in no need of pursuing a man who she finds so disagreeable when she is the object of Wickham’s attention, regardless of that other man’s income.
Upon first meeting Wickham, we are told that Elizabeth was happy to talk to him, even about the least interesting subjects because he was such a pleasant person (Austen 110). Furthermore, the way in which her feelings about him are described by the narrator become interesting when later compared to the way in which her feelings toward Mr. Darcy are described. Elizabeth talks of Wickham being handsome and holds her tongue for fear of going too far when she almost compliments him on his “wonderful countenance” (Austen 114). This flirtatious, visible behavior is directly opposite of her emotions concerning Darcy, especially when Elizabeth is described as leaving the party of Mrs. Philips with “her head full of [Wickham]”; however, the infatuation with Wickham is brought to an abrupt halt by two events, the most interesting being a conversation between Elizabeth and her aunt, Mrs. Gardiner (Austen 118). Mrs. Gardiner, upon seeing and hearing of the affection Elizabeth has for Wickham, tells her that she should “not involve [herself], or endeavour to involve [herself] which the want of fortune would make so very imprudent,” and continues by telling Elizabeth, “you must not let your fancy run away with you. You have sense, and we all expect you to use it” (Austen 172). This “sense” of which Mrs. Gardiner speaks is soon displayed to the fullest by Wickham ( and surprisingly defended by Elizabeth) when Wickham loses interest in Elizabeth and begins to pursue a Mary King, who has just received a large amount of money by way of inheritance. This event with Miss King ultimately puts an end to Elizabeth’s potential relationship with Wickham, and the narrator explains that Elizabeth’s heart had been “but slightly touched” although she still felt that she would have been Wickham’s choice for a wife “had fortune permitted it” (Austen 177). Of course this reference to “fortune” has a dual meaning, implying both luck and Wickham’s financial situation. The focus by Mrs. Gardiner on Wickham’s finances suggests to the reader that Elizabeth is being instructed to focus more on the promise of financial stability and less on affection; however, the fact that Wickham chose to give up on Elizabeth for a woman with more money is looked down on by Mrs. Gardiner, but Elizabeth defends Wickham’s choice. When Mrs. Gardiner says Wickham is simply being mercenary Elizabeth responds by saying, “Pray, my dear aunt, what is the difference in matrimonial affairs, between the mercenary and the prudent motive?” She then goes on to defend Wickham’s behavior and claims that if this Mary King does not mind Wickham’s interest in her money, why should anyone else? This defense of Wickham shows that Elizabeth now identifies with Wickham’s struggle more than she or the narrator let on. The ending of the relationship with her last suitor, as well as her conversation with her aunt, forces Elizabeth to begin actively thinking of employing more prudent motives, just as Wickham has, when a suitor is concerned (although Wickham’s motives ultimately turn out to be more mercenary than Elizabeth’s). The idea of marriage prudence was not an uncommon one. By the early nineteenth century, individuals were given more choice (albeit closely monitored) in their marriage partners; however, peer pressure often resulted in a marriage “when [a woman] would have preferred to remain single” (Davidoff and Hall 325). Even with more freedom to choose a partner, those looking for marriage “were less willing to start a marriage without sufficient resources” (Davidoff and Hall 324). We can see clearly that Elizabeth (as well as her family) is focused on marrying to gain resources as indicated through her rejection of Mr. Collins and her warning against pursuing Wickham. This idea of prudence ties very distinctly back to the opening of the novel; a rich man may be in want of a wife, but a middle-class woman needed a husband. “If marriage was thus an ‘important crisis’ in a man’s life, it could be the key to a woman’s future” (Davidoff and Hall 325). That “key” for Elizabeth ultimately turns out to be Mr. Darcy, but it is a choice that is made without the influence of emotion.
Very often in the story, we are led to believe that Elizabeth tries to judge everyone around her based on their character, absent of any emotions she may possess; however, the reader learns that Elizabeth’s ability to judge objectively is rather flawed. One such instance can be seen in her support of Wickham over Mr. Darcy, but the most important of these misjudgments occurs during Mr. Darcy’s proposal to Elizabeth. There is no sensible way to explain why Elizabeth refused Mr. Darcy’s proposal, because her decision was based purely on strong emotions. The one thing we gain from this prejudiced emotion is an understanding of Elizabeth’s true feelings toward Mr. Darcy. Elizabeth’s dislike for Mr. Darcy ultimately defines her rejection of him, and it is stated that “in spite of her deeply-rooted dislike, she could not be insensible to the compliment of such a man’s affection… [but] her intentions did not vary for an instant,” and the reader is lead to understand that Elizabeth is not even considering Mr. Darcy’s proposal, even though she understand what it means. She goes even further, telling Mr. Darcy that she has never desired approval from him (Austen 211). But perhaps the most interesting statement comes when she explains to Mr. Darcy that “it is not merely this affair [his involvement in the separation of Jane and Mr. Bingley]…on which my dislike is founded. Long before it had taken place, my opinion of you was decided” (Austen 212). Elizabeth is very aware that Mr. Darcy possesses a large fortune, but his proposal was made at a very inopportune time. Her fresh emotions, as well as the heated conversation following Mr. Darcy’s confessions of love result in a stubbornness on the part of Elizabeth. The next day, Elizabeth is the recipient of a letter from Mr. Darcy, which explains his position in relation to Mr. Bingley and Jane, as well as his involvement with Wickham. Elizabeth’s reaction to the information contained in the letter further clarifies her lack of desire to be associated with Mr. Darcy any longer. Although this letter was meant to improve her opinion of Mr. Darcy, it ultimately does not serve its purpose. The reader finds that Elizabeth is more upset with herself for her inability to discern Wickham’s avaricious motives than her loss of Mr. Darcy’s proposal (Austen 226). She even goes as far to say “she could not approve him; nor could she for a moment repent her refusal, or feel the slightest inclination ever to see him again,” which leaves no doubt whatsoever that Elizabeth harbors no true love or affection for Mr. Darcy, but is more concerned with vanity and her own shortcomings (Austen 231). Elizabeth only realizes the extent of her mistake when plans during a trip with her aunt and uncle inadvertently result in making a trip to Mr. Darcy’s estate in Devonshire.
Elizabeth’s desire to visit Pemberley was contingent on Mr. Darcy not being present in the country, for fear that she may be forced to see him while touring his grounds. Upon learning that Mr. Darcy was indeed not currently residing at Pemberley, Elizabeth agreed to go. The fact that Elizabeth only desired to see Pemberley absent of Mr. Darcy makes clear to the reader that her opinions of him have not changed, and that she is still resolute in her promise to never see Mr. Darcy again; however, her opinions interestingly and drastically change upon seeing Pemberley for the first time. Austen’s phraseology is extremely telling of Elizabeth’s prudent motives when she writes, “at that moment [italics mine] she felt that to be mistress of Pemberley might be something,” (Austen 259). Elizabeth realizes in one instant what she gave up by not accepting the proposal of Mr. Darcy, and, although she finds herself in awe of his estate, we still find Elizabeth hoping that Mr. Darcy is not present. We again see Austen using duality of definition to convey a point to the reader. She describes Elizabeth as “after slightly surveying [a room], went to a window to enjoy its prospect.” The word prospect catches the eye for not only does it refer to the view of the window, it also refers to the “prospect” of being mistress of Pemberley. We find that Elizabeth is not just touring Pemberley for the entertainment, but she is indeed viewing the property from the perspective that it all could have been hers. She begins to acknowledge her mistake in rejecting Mr. Darcy, not because she has had a change of heart, but because she has realized the extent of the wealth she gave up. Elizabeth finds herself thinking, “of this place…I might have been mistress! With these rooms I might now have been familiarly acquainted! Instead of viewing them as a stranger, I might have rejoiced in them as my own, and welcomed to them as visitors my aunt and uncle.” These thoughts are purely focused on two objects: Elizabeth, and Pemberley House. We see no mention of a relationship with Mr. Darcy or any member of his family, we see no mention of affection toward Mr. Darcy or happiness that a marital union between the two would have brought. We do, however, see a clear description of the overwhelming happiness an estate of such grandeur, as well as the prospect of entertaining family in the estate, would have brought to Elizabeth (Austen 260). For the very first time since Mr. Darcy made his ill-fated proposal, we see Elizabeth experience some form of regret. This regret is in no way based on emotions or feelings toward Mr. Darcy, and in fact, we see that her opinion of Mr. Darcy up to this point has not changed at all; however, a change in opinion does begin to occur when Elizabeth discovers the power which Mr. Darcy possesses: “As a brother, a landlord, a master, she considered how many people’s happiness were in his guardianship! – How much of pleasure or pain it was in his power to bestow!” (Austen 264). We would, however, expect that her warming up to Mr. Darcy would result in her wanting to see him again, but this turns out to not be the case. It soon becomes apparent while they tour the grounds, that Mr. Darcy has returned early and catches sight of Elizabeth and her relatives. The emotions which Elizabeth experience upon seeing Mr. Darcy seem contradictory to statements made by herself only a few pages prior. She laments that their trip to Pemberley was “ill-judged,” and “most unfortunate,” which hardly conveys an eagerness to meet the man whose proposal she has only moments before come to regret rejecting.
The interactions that follow between Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth contain rather strange descriptions of her feelings toward Mr. Darcy. When Mr. Darcy and his sister come to visit Elizabeth and her relatives the next day, Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner find themselves interested in the relationship between their niece and Mr. Darcy. Ultimately, they come to the conclusion “that one of them at least knew what it was to love” (Austen 273). The fact that neither Mr. nor Mrs. Gardiner could discern any form of love on the part of Elizabeth speaks volumes, and when it is realized by Elizabeth that Mr. Darcy is still madly in love with her, she finds herself to be extremely perplexed. Eventually, Mr. Darcy and his sister leave and Elizabeth is left to her own thoughts. Again, the way in which Elizabeth describes the situation cause one to have an interest in her motives. Elizabeth explains that “it was evident that he [Mr. Darcy] was very much in love with her,” and yet we see no mention of her feelings toward Mr. Darcy, save one description explaining that her feelings toward him had not yet been determined (Austen 276). Later that night, Elizabeth lay awake trying to make sense of the new developments between herself and Mr. Darcy, and comes to a very prudent conclusion. She decides that she no longer views Mr. Darcy as “repugnant,” but rather she views him with a “friendlier nature.” Although the reader may be hoping for a love to blossom between Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth at this point, it is important not to read too far into what Austen has written. The fact that Elizabeth describes her own feelings toward Mr. Darcy as friendly may suggest many things, but it certainly does not suggest an overwhelming passion or love for Mr. Darcy. At long last, we see Elizabeth develop in to the prudent woman when she channels the advice of Charlotte Lucas that was given to her in the opening of the novel and states:
Such a change in a man of so much pride, excited not only astonishment but gratitude – for to love, ardent love, it must be attributed; and as such its impression on her was of a sort to be encouraged, as by no means unpleasing, though it could not be exactly defined. She respected, she esteemed, she was grateful to him, she felt a real interest in his welfare; and she only wanted to know how far she wished that welfare to depend upon herself, and how far it would be for the happiness of both that she should employ the power, which her fancy told her she still possessed, of bringing on the renewal of his addresses. (Austen 277)
This description of her decision as to how to handle the affections of Mr. Darcy could not make Elizabeth’s motives clearer. She acknowledges that Mr. Darcy does indeed love her, and that it is the type of love to be encouraged just as Charlotte Lucas suggested that love needed to be encouraged, but more importantly she acknowledges an array of feelings she has toward Mr. Darcy; respect, esteem, gratefulness, and interest are all well and good, yet none of these are synonymous with love. She ultimately decides that she will “shew more affection than she feels” in order to secure a second proposal from Mr. Darcy.
One major question does emerge, however, and that is, why does Mr. Darcy want to marry a woman of a lower position in society? It would seem that someone of Mr. Darcy’s position could have any companion that he chose, and that logically he would choose a woman who would add wealth and status to his house. But, during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the practice of marrying for love rather than money or status for the aristocracy had a lot of support (Trumbach 109-113). There was also a rise after 1750 of a “constant but small-scale mingling of men of elite status with the daughters of men of business” which would further support Mr. Darcy’s pursuit of Elizabeth based solely on his affection for her; however, the situation was not quite the same for women. “Novelists from Samuel Richardson to Jane Austen also made it [the English social paradigm] one of the two basic themes in the English novel, the second being closely related issue of love versus money and status as the deciding factor in the business of marriage” (Stone 14). This idea that men could easily become members of the elite while a woman “took her husband’s social standing, [meaning] her marriage was of greater moment to her than a man’s to him,” helps to support the differences in climbing the social ladder through marriage between Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy (Trumbach 97). Essentially, while Mr. Darcy’s position in society granted him the leisure to choose whomever he liked, Elizabeth was not so fortunate.
Subsequent events involving Wickham and Elizabeth’s sister, Lydia, delay Elizabeth securing the proposal that she seeks. But Elizabeth’s despair over what she considers to be the end of her association with Mr. Darcy give great insight into her emotions. Elizabeth says in despair that “never had she so honestly felt that she could have loved him, as now, when all love must be vain” (Austen 288). One word contained in this lamentation characterizes Elizabeth’s emotions, and that is the word “could.” Her use of this tense clearly tells the reader that Elizabeth does not currently love Mr. Darcy, but upon securing his proposal (and Pemberley as a result) she could have loved him, and the esteem which she had previously felt for Mr. Darcy became, for her, something to be jealous of “when she could no longer hope to be benefitted by it” (Austen 317). Eventually, it becomes clear to Elizabeth that her sister’s actions have not affected Mr. Darcy’s opinion of her, and that Mr. Darcy had even taken it upon himself to secure the desired marriage between Wickham and Lydia. One would think that the extent to which Mr. Darcy went to prove his love for Elizabeth would result in her returning his feelings, but it does not. After all that Mr. Darcy has done, Elizabeth describes herself as only having a “change of sentiment toward him” which can hardly be equated to the “ardent love” which Mr. Darcy is known to possess (Austen 337). Following this “change of sentiment” is a description of Elizabeth’s overwhelming anxiety over the obligation she feels to repay Mr. Darcy for his involvement in her sister’s affairs. There is incessant talk of what her family owes Mr. Darcy, and how their ignorance of Mr. Darcy’s actions pained her.
The circulating rumors of Mr. Darcy’s expected engagement to Elizabeth warrant a visit from Mr. Darcy’s aunt, Lady Catherine De Bourgh, who Elizabeth had become acquainted with when visiting Mr. Collins and his new wife, Charlotte. Lady Catherine attempts to dissuade Elizabeth from accepting Mr. Darcy’s impending proposal. She explains to Elizabeth that it has been her plan that Mr. Darcy would marry her daughter in order to unite the two estates. Elizabeth refuses to either confirm or deny the rumors, and Lady Catherine accuses Elizabeth of using “arts and allurements [to]…draw him in,” to which Elizabeth slyly replies “If I have, I shall be the last person to confess it” (Austen 355). Elizabeth, although acknowledging her use of encouragement by her statement, does not wish to confirm it outright, for this may (if reported back to Mr. Darcy) have an adverse affect on her relationship. But perhaps the most telling moment in the conversation between Lady De Bourgh and Elizabeth occurs when Lady De Bourgh threatens Elizabeth with her being “censured, slighted and despised, by every one connected with [Mr. Darcy],” to which Elizabeth, in a moment showing her brutal honesty and prudent motives, shockingly replies, “These are heavy misfortunes…but the wife of Mr. Darcy must have such extraordinary sources of happiness necessarily attached to her situation, that she could, upon the whole, have no cause to repine” (Austen 356). Austen chooses to use the word “misfortunes” as a pun, because as Elizabeth clearly states, she could buy her own happiness with Mr. Darcy’s immense fortune. Elizabeth is making it perfectly clear to Lady Catherine that she is “only resolved to act in that manner, which will, in [her] own opinion, constitute [her] happiness, without reference to [Lady Catherine], or to any other person so wholly unconnected with [her]” (Austen 359). The point is made, and the matter ultimately left unsettled between the two women. Elizabeth soon secures Darcy’s proposal, but is “agitated and confused, [and] rather knew that she was happy, than felt herself to be so,” which in no way conveys to the reader the image of a fiancé overflowing with joy. Furthermore, Elizabeth makes no form of an apology to Mr. Darcy for her previous accusations, and during the few times it is brought up by Mr. Darcy, she attempts to change the subject which suggests that Elizabeth’s opinions of the events, and therefore Mr. Darcy’s behavior, have not undergone any change. Elizabeth’s descriptions of her own emotions show a great contrast to Mr. Darcy, who explains to Elizabeth that he cannot name the exact day in which he loved Elizabeth; however, we have already seen Elizabeth telling Jane “I believe I must date it [her change of opinion] from my first seeing his beautiful grounds at Pemberley,” which is interesting in itself because it shows that Mr. Darcy’s altered manner were not what changed Elizabeth’s opinion, but it was “upon seeing his beautiful grounds at Pemberley” that she experienced her change of heart (Austen 372). In fact, Elizabeth must convince her whole family that she does have feelings of affection for Mr. Darcy. The hardest person she has to convince is her father, who, upon hearing of the engagement, asks Elizabeth “what are you doing? Are you out of your senses, to be accepting this man? Have not you always hated him?” To this Elizabeth wishes that she had better concealed her opinions of Mr. Darcy (Austen 375). Then, when Elizabeth relays the story to Mr. Bennet of Mr. Darcy’s involvement in Lydia’s affairs and the extent to which the family was indebted to him, Mr. Bennet then tells Elizabeth that the family will benefit by her marriage to Mr. Darcy, and that “I shall offer to pay him to-morrow; he will rant and storm about his love for you, and there will be an end of the matter,” showing that Mr. Bennet then sought to take advantage of the situation to satiate his parsimonious nature, giving Elizabeth a pass from Mr. Bennet’s questions. At long last we see Elizabeth’s motives come full circle when she is able to live out one of her desires. When she first visited Pemberley, she explained how she wishes she could have invited her aunt and uncle, and before she has even been married to Mr. Darcy, or moved into Pemberley, she takes it upon herself to invite both Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner to Pemberley for Christmas (Austen 380).
Although the dénouement in Jane Austen’s novel may at first leave us with a feeling of finality, deeper questions start to come into view about Elizabeth and her happiness. Perhaps one thing that we never quite grasp is if Elizabeth will truly be happy living in Pemberley with Mr. Darcy. The story ends with the cliché happily-ever-after ending, but it leaves one longing to find out how the story ends for the real world Elizabeth. By simply reading Pride and Prejudice as though it were love story for both characters, the reader is forced to do away with all questions pertaining to the future of the relationship between Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth; they are both in love, and they are pictured as remaining ardently in love with each other at the closing of the novel, giving the reader no cause for concern that their relationship could take a misfortunate turn. On the other hand, if we view the relationship as it has been shown in the preceding pages, the novel takes on a whole new light. There is now a discussion to be had on the future of the union between the two, if Elizabeth eventually grows to love Mr. Darcy, and if Elizabeth really does find her happiness at Pemberley. It can be argued that the novel in itself is a critique on the system as a whole, suggesting that women were in desperate need of ways to make their life their own, instead of perpetually depending on a man throughout their lives. Austen’s novel takes on deeper meaning, and explores more the questions of a woman’s role in society, instead of just commenting on the average ideas of propriety and love. There is a statement to be made when viewing the book in such a way, even if Elizabeth Bennet found her happiness with Mr. Darcy, even if the social modes of the time worked favorably for Elizabeth, it did not for many women. There were many women of the time that were forced into marry the Mr. Collinses of the world, that did not find happiness, but were forced to settle with the mediocre, rather than pursue the extraordinary. Perhaps, through answering these questions, we can begin to find ourselves seeing but a glimpse of the life for a woman during the early nineteenth century, the unique challenges that the time posed for those who lived in it, and find ourselves seeing that many women shared Elizabeth’s views when she said, “the more I see of the world the more I am dissatisfied with it; and every day confirms my belief of the inconsistency of all human characters, and of the little dependence that can be placed in the appearance of either merit or sense,” (Austen 164). We may never know if Elizabeth was truly satisfied, but we do know that Austen set out to do more than write a novel about propriety, she set out to let the reader know that women were dissatisfied, and through Elizabeth Bennet, attempted to change the minds of the people.
Austen, Jane. Pride and Prejudice. Broadview Press, 2002.
Davidoff, Leonore and Catherine Hall. Family Fortunes. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1987.
Stone, Lawrence and Jeanne C. Fawtier Stone. An Open Elite? England 1540-1880. New York: Oxford University Press, 1986.
Trumbach, Randolph. The Rise of the Egalitarian Family. New York: Academic Press, 1978.