Diaz

The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao is written by Junot Diaz. The book describes the life of Oscar, an overweight Dominican boy, who is obsessed with science fiction and falling in love. The curse that plagues his family for generations is also described throughout the book. The use of footnotes is a major part of the book; many characters are described in better detail and become more developed because of the use of the footnotes. The footnotes from the narrator remind the reader that there is never just one side to the story, there is always more to be learned. Historical backgrounds on figures and places are also described in greater detail in the footnotes. Slang is also used with different characters to reflect their personalities. Oscar’s speech uses a wide range of diction which reflects his knowledge of fantasy and coincides with his “nerd” self. The writing also changes back and forth between English and Spanish depending on the character speaking and the events that are taking place. Each of these literary techniques that Diaz uses helps the reader to understand each character by giving a more in depth description of their being so that the reader can more easily relate to them.

Things Fall Apart

Things Fall Apart describes the struggle between change and tradition and the affect that it has on various characters throughout the novel. Okonkwo resists the new religious and political orders because he believes that he won’t be manly if he joins in or consents to them. His self-worth depends on the traditional standards by which society judges him. The other villagers struggle between resisting and embracing change and they try to figure out how to adjust to the reality of change. Many of the villagers want the change and to have new opportunities that the Europeans bring. However, this new influence also threatens to get rid of the traditional methods of their known and practiced everyday lives. These traditional methods that were very crucial for their survival are now turning into things that could just be thrown away. Throughout the novel Achebe shows how traditions need to be remembered in some way otherwise the abandonment of such traditions could lead to total disappearance of them altogether.

Magical Realism

“A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings” by Gabriel Garcia Marquez is an example of magical realism. It consists of a true-to-life narrative combined with moments of fantasy which are described with the same matter-of-fact tone. Garcia Marquez describes Pelayo and Elisenda’s life with homely descriptions but then adds elements of fantasy such as the flying man and the spider woman. Inclusion of these two fantasy characters contribute to the magical realism aspect of Garcia Marquez’s short story. Garcia Marquez plays off the traditional symbolism of the angel and turns the beautiful, limitless creature into a sense of age and disease. When the doctor examines the old man with wings, the angel, he wonders why everyone doesn’t have wings since they fit the old man so naturally. “They seemed so natural on that completely human organism that he couldn’t understand why other men didn’t have them too.” This suggests that the old man is both natural with having the basic features of a human being and supernatural, having the wings of an angel.

Heart of Darkness

Heart of Darkness explores issues with imperialism. During Marlow’s travels, he experiences torture and cruelty which describes the harsh views of colonial enterprise. The treatment of Africans is described as a “trade” and Kurtz sees nothing wrong with using force to take what he wants. This idea of imperialism leads to madness within the characters, especially with Kurtz. Kurtz’s madness is only relative considering that madness itself is hard to define. Kurtz’s madness originates from being removed from his social context and having to be the sole arbiter of his own actions. Because of this, he has only himself to answer to and he is unable to handle it alone. Heart of Darkness also presents issues of race throughout the novella. Africans are mostly considered as objects, Marlow refers to his helmsman as a “piece of machinery” while Kurtz’s mistress is a “piece of statuary”. Africans become a part of the scenery, a part of the backdrop that doesn’t receive much attention by others.

The Metamorphosis

Gregor’s transformation into an insect creates a change in his outward appearance but leaves his mind unchanged. Although he thinks that he can still go to work and eat and drink the same things as he did before the transformation, since his body has changed so much, he can no longer do the things he used to. While he still has the mind of a human, his body clearly is not that of a human and at first he is unsure how to reunite these two different parts of himself. While Gregor starts to become more familiar with his new body, his mind slowly starts to change in agreement with his physical needs. Although his mind starts to change to be more like his body, his mind and body are never fully in harmony with each other. He starts to think more like an insect but his humanity never really goes away which leaves him feeling conflicted about how to act. When his family moves his furniture out of his room so he can crawl around more easily, he likes it at first then realizes that all his possessions represent his former, human life, and he clings onto a picture so as to not lose everything of his human side. This shows that his mind and body are still not yet one and that he must choose between physical or emotional comfort.

Modernism

Modernism developed and evolved in part as a reaction to the events and cultural impacts of the time such as World War One. War had a huge influence on the way people viewed and perceived the world. The Modernist tends to care little for nature or being. Instead, the Modernist is preoccupied with the inner-self and consciousness. A break with the traditions of the nineteenth century is one of the fundamental constants used when describing Modernism. Modernists believed that the prior century was culturally leading nowhere but to a dead end. In Modernist literature, it was the poets who took full advantage of the newly changing cultural times which they reflected in their writing. T. S. Eliot gained attention for his writings by mixing in his own ideas with those of the Imagists. His main contribution was a return to a highly intellectual, allusive poetry. Modernism poetry stood out for its layering of meanings and contrasting styles. The individual’s relationship to history, complex narrative structures, and stream-of-consciousness narrative typified the literary works of the Modernist.

A Doll’s House

In Ibsen’s A Doll’s House the major theme that struck me was the sacrificial role of women. Every woman that is mentioned throughout the play had to sacrifice something in order to achieve something else in their life. The nanny for example had to leave her own children in order to support herself by working for Nora. Christina sacrifices her one true love and relationship in order to marry a richer man so that she can support her mother and two brothers. Nora sacrifices her role in society by going behind her husband’s back and taking out a loan so that she can secretly help him. Later on this leads Nora to another sacrifice by abandoning her children since she doesn’t want to corrupt them. All three of these women had to sacrifice something huge in their life so that they could eventually end up living and being in a happier place for themselves and the ones they care about. The sacrificial role of women wasn’t intended to hurt the ones around them but instead to help their loved ones.

Kate Chopin

In Kate Chopin’s short story, “Désirée’s Baby”, a woman questions her identity. Désirée, through self-explorations, tries to find a place where she fully belongs. She is not sure whether that place is with her husband as a wife, the mother of her own child, or as her mother’s child. The short story begins with the Valmonde family’s memory of finding Désirée as a child on the side of the road. They have no idea what her heritage is but raise her as if she were their own. Désirée eventually marries Armand and soon has a little boy with him. When Madame Valmonde visits to see the child, she senses that something is wrong with the boy but says nothing so that she doesn’t upset Désirée. When the baby is three months old, Désirée is disturbed by her husband’s strange behavior towards her and their slaves. One afternoon, she realizes that her son looks just like another child who is one of their slaves and is ¼ black. She asks Armand what it meant by them looking the same, and he responds coldly saying that Desiree is not white. She writes a letter to Madame Valmonde, who responds that she still loves her and to come back home with the child. Désirée tells her husband what Madame Valmonde said and he tells her, without hesitation, to leave. Désirée then walks out with the child towards the deserted bayou where they both disappear. Later the husband finds a letter addressed to his father from his mother stating that she is glad her son, Armand, will never learn that she was of mixed race. Throughout this short story, Désirée is trying to find a place that she can call her own, a place where she actually belongs and feels safe and wanted. As a child she didn’t know where she belonged since she was left on the side of the road waiting to be taken in by someone. After she got married and took her husband’s name, she thought finally she found a place where she belonged until their child was born and he wanted nothing to do with her. The story ends with her trying to find a place to go where she and her son would be accepted. Although it is not said, when she leaves her husband and goes into the bayou, it is implied that she went there to commit suicide.

Romanticism

During the nineteenth century, the Romanticism movement began to develop along with a new and varied range of literature. Romanticism was a product of both industrial and political revolutions, the one having the greatest impact being the French Revolution. This period displayed the most variety of all other English literature periods. Even though this period had a great impact on writing, style, and concepts, it also had competing philosophies and ideas. The writers of the Romanticism period believed that the individual was more important than society, often writing of mystery and magic, a spirit of some sort, or love. These writers: “wanted to bring all things to all people, linking the past with the present, the individual with the nation, Europe with the rest of humanity”(pg5). As a result of the Romantic ideas, realism came into being. Realism emerged from a conviction which was shared with the Romantics, that the social world had been set into motion by social contradictions which affected not only society leaders, but people’s feelings as well. This caused the subject of literature to change and difficulty agreeing upon certain literary modes. During this century, writers began to change their views on what type of literature they thought the reader wanted and therefore began changing their writing to meet these new reader needs.

Philosophy

Philosophy was a huge part of the Enlightenment. There was a dramatic shift away from the churches and the state’s influence on people’s thinking towards one of a more worldly view based on individual reason. Diderot’s and d’Alembert’s collaborative translation of the Encyclopedia helped people realize what it actually meant to be enlightened by encouraging individuals to think for one’s self. The Enlightenment was meant to show that knowledge should be centered on humankind instead of God. The translation of the Encyclopedia describes a philosopher as being daring enough: “to overturn the sacred boundaries established by religion”. With their definition of philosopher, they defined the importance and significance of what thinking for one’s self meant and how it created a different and more enhanced lifestyle than that which resulted from listening to only the church and the state. The philosopher encouraged people to stop allowing themselves to be told what to do and what to believe but rather to think for themselves. The church and the state were unhappy with this individual thinking and its effect on society and their loss of influence over the people. Those who were more enlightened during this time became more confident in using their own understanding of the world around them to make decisions about their lives without being influenced from the church, the state, or any other member of society.