Languages Abound

November 28th, 2012

After Tuesday’s lecture and the discussion on English being a world language, I decided it would be interesting to do a little research on languages. It is difficult to say exactly how many languages there are in the world but most sites say there are more than 6800 languages. Of those languages, most are only spoken by a small percentage of people. So why is it that many people expect writers to forgo their mother tongue and write in English? I think that, as Achebe concluded, it is because most of the world’s nations have ties with English speaking nations which then, require them to know that language. Also it is true that the nations of power speak English. This could change though. I think that this is such an interesting subject and I understand why it is such a hot topic for non-native English speakers. The simple fact that languages change constantly is so telling of why there are so many languages. What language will arise as the “world language” as the world ages? Will it remain englishes? Or will we have to adapt and learn a new language?


One of the elements that I found compelling in the novel “Things Fall Apart” by Chinua Achebe is the implications of change on the novel’s characters and for some, the inability to change. For Okonkwo, his inability to change was directly affected by his need to be a masculine character that follows the traditions of the “pre-civilized” society. Though you are lead to believe that Okonkwo’s manliness is an image of the clan’s ideals of masculinity, he seems to deviate from the norm in the society. He believes that manliness is demonstrated by aggression. For Okonkwo, his self-worth is based on the constructs of the traditional standards. For some of the others, change was accepted easily. Many of the characters who converted to Christianity were characters that were sort of outcasts in the clan. They were almost characters that lived outside of the traditional standards therefore change was an easy decision for them as they could see the benefits that the Europeans were offering them. Overall, throughout the novel, the clan is faced with the complicated decision to either resist or embrace the change that the colonizer is bringing.

After reading Gabriel Garcia Mendez’s “ A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings, I was very disturbed by the sort of callousness that the couple displayed toward the old man. There were so many instances of cruelty that the old man was subjected to that, when there were moments of compassion, the compassion was so shocking and beautiful. Though these moments of compassion are what the reader is longing for in terms of hope for the humanity of the old man to be accounted for, these short moments of compassion are so few and far between. These moments of cruelty were so that the reader could take notice of the inhumanity that is sometimes displayed towards elders because they merely are old. For instance, when Paleyo and Elisenda imprison him in a disgusting chicken coop and let people gawk at him and even throw things at him, one can see the atrocities that can be performed on a human just because they are different from the norm. It is surprising to see that at the end of the story when the man flies away that Elisenda feels a sort of longing for him to stay.

Imperialism-Heart of Darkness

October 25th, 2012

Imperialism is the source of darkness in the novella, “The Heart of Darkness.” It is the root of much hypocrisy and also the root of madness. In reference to the hypocrisy of imperialism, Marlow’s journey up the river is one that shows many scenes of torture and cruelty. These displays of horrid scenes are representative of the devastating picture of colonial enterprise. The sheer irony that is displayed in the torture of the Africans is that the Company calls their treatment of these people a benevolent project of colonization. Kurtz on the other hand is very open about the fact that he is not merely trading with the Africans. He says he will take by force and he even goes so far as to call his treatment of them suppression and extermination. A main source of the madness in the novella is imperialism. Africa is the source of mental and physical degradation. The madness is used to evoke sympathies from the reader in relation to Kurtz. It is clear from the beginning that Kurtz is mad but as the novella progresses and the reader is exposed to the atrocities that the Company allows these men to carry out, it is unclear just how mad he is because within the context of the Company, madness is not clear.

Kafka’s Alienation

October 17th, 2012

One of the key aspects that is prevalent in Kafka’s The Metamorphosis, is the theme of alienation. This theme is one that is constantly played out through both Gregor’s physical limitations and his emotions as a result of his metamorphosis. When Gregor wakes from his slumber and finds himself transformed, he can do nothing but feel alienated because he no longer fits the worlds mold for him as a human. Gregor’s family demonstrates a great deal of the alienation despite their attempts to sympathize. After his transformation, he stays in his room alone for almost the entire novel. The only exception is when Grete spends time in his room. But even when she is there Gregor hides and does not receive much stimulation from the company. If anything, her short presence made him feel more alienated because he was unable to communicate with her and she was disgusted at his appearance. His inability to speak is another form of alienation because without conversation with others, one merely is alone with his/her thoughts. Ultimately, Gregor is alienated from humankind itself because of his transformation. Even though he has the mental capacity of a normal human being, he is alienated by his difference much like the other in post-colonial studies.

One of the modern themes found within Virginia Woolf’s “The Lady in the Looking Glass” is the recurrence of the split-self. The split-self is accentuated by a figure having multiple-levels that are examined within a text. One of the key ways this is exemplified in “The Lady in the Looking Glass” is found in the metaphor of the looking glass which uses the images of the surroundings to portray the character of the person peering into the glass. The image at the beginning of the text is the comparison/contrast between the inside and outside of the house. The inside is one that is fluid and is changing which is demonstrated by the shadows and animals. The outside of the house in contrast is static and does not change throughout the narration. You can apply this metaphor of the interior/exterior of the house to the character that is peering into the mirror. The inside is ever changing and constant evolving but it is on the interior and is thus hidden from the world. The outside then is the image that is seen by the world and is unchanging a way a masking what is churning within.

Isben’s A Doll’s House

October 4th, 2012

In Isben’s A Doll’s House, one of the major recurring themes is the role of women and their need to be seen as sacrificial. Isben’s main character, Nora, even goes so far as to mention in Act 3 that even though men seem to lack the ability to sacrifice their integrity, “hundreds of thousands of women have.” Nora’s sacrificial role mostly deals with the fact that she must be the submissive partner. She must hide the loan from her husband for fear that he may feel emasculated. Another act of sacrifice by Nora could be considered as her decision to leave her children for fear that she may corrupt them. Though Nora’s sacrifices may not seem significant, other women in Isben’s A Doll’s House can be seen as sacrificial women. Mrs. Linde sacrifices true love in exchange for the ability to easily care for her mother and brothers with the use of a rich husband’s money. The nanny had to sacrifice her relationship with her child in order to make money being a care-taker for Nora. Overall the reoccurring theme of sacrificial women in this piece serves the purpose of highlighting the ‘domestic’ troubles of the woman in common life. They are forced to make sacrificial moves in order to provide emotional stability for their family.

“Prejudice, a false judgment made by the mind about the nature of things after an insufficient exercise of the intellectual faculties, this unhappy fruit of ignorance thwarts the understanding, blinds and imprisons it.”

 The entry of “Prejudice” in Diderot and D’Alembert’s Encyclopedie closely relates to many of the features of the Enlightenment. It touches on human reason and progress in history which is an ideal of Enlightenment. It also brings up the questioning of equality which is a legacy of the Enlightenment.  Also one could argue that the article goes with the ideal of freedom of thought, because prejudices are thoughts that, according the article, trap the mind. Therefore, if one is to get rid of prejudices, one is to free the mind of entrapping thoughts. According to the article, there are different forms of prejudices which include personal, public and universal, and ones of schools and factions. Because prejudice impairs understanding, to get rid of prejudices would be enlightening in the sense that one would be able to “see” and understand clearly with the absence of prejudices which reflects the entire movement of the Enlightenment that suggests we should strive for understanding. If prejudices cloud the mind, we should get rid of them as the author claims: “Let man then rid himself of his prejudices, and approach nature with the pure eyes and uncorrupted sentiments that a modest virgin would inspire; he will contemplate her in all her beauty, worthy of all the joy he finds in the details of her charms.”

Hello world!

August 28th, 2012

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