In Achebe’s Things Fall Apart, one cannot ignore the patriarchal society expressed in the novel. For one, women are looked at as a number, and the more wives a man has, the “better” man he is. Okonkwo idolizes Nwakibie because he has “nine wives” among other things. Like a Marxist, men see women as acquisitions rather than people. Also, women are definitely the subaltern throughout the text. There is not a time when a woman is heard and Okonkwo says things like “do what you are told woman”. The women are left voiceless and repressed. Okonkwo even goes as far as disliking his own son because he does not fit the characteristics of what he believes a man should be. The patriarchal society expressed in Achebe’s Things Fall Apart suggests that in African culture women are seen simply as numbers and are given no voice.
In Light is Like Water by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, the symbol of the light represents the idea that faith in God can come in many forms and it is up to the person to find that faith. First of all, two of the five symbols of baptism are represented in the work. One, “water which washes away sin” and “reminds us that life is given to man by God” (Catholic Church). Without water one cannot survive very long. The mother says that the “only navigable water in [Madrid] is what comes out of the shower”, which suggests, according to the Catholic Church, that Madrid has no water to wash away sin and are never reminded that God is the creator of man (Marquez). They are dead. Also, “light is essential if we are to see where we are going” and “Jesus said that he is the light of the World” (Catholic Church). In other words, Jesus guides us through life. The boys find their faith in God in Madrid through the light. For example, one of the boys says “light is like water, you turn on the tap and out it comes” (Marquez). This suggests that all one has to do see light, or God, is “turn on the tap” or basically call on him. Signs of God are everywhere, and God can be seen in the light and the water. Madrid drowns, or falls short of the glory of God, because they have “never mastered the science of navigating on light”, or are not able to see God like the boys. (Marquez).
Taking a Reader Response Criticism approach to the “Adventures in Hyperspace” in Weinstein’s Unknowing, one cold argue that the reader makes a postmodern character identifiable. Weinstein contends Jacob Horner’s “identity [there] is only in a sense identity” and he has no discrete self-identifying gravity (he cannot die)” (Weinstein 200). An ideal reader would fill in the “gaps” that keep Jacob Horner from identifiable character. The ideal reader would welcome the mysteries that the line imposes, but would also ask question like: Who is Jacob Horner? Is he a human? Does he live on Earth? The reader creates their own notions of who or what they believe Jacob Horner and identify Jacob to those notions. The character obtains gravity and is able to die through the readers “filled gaps”.
In Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, one can evidently see the Marxist ideals present in the work. First of all, the Europeans represent the bourgoisie who exploit the labor of the proletariat Africans. For example, the Africans are forced into mining in dangerous conditions for the Europeans and only get to eat ”some rotten hippo meat” (Conrad). This exploitation and highlights Marxism’s first step into socialism. When compared to I Want You Women Up North To Know by Tillie Olsen, the women workers of a sweat shop in San Antonio are similar to the Africans in Heart of Darkness. They too work “for three dollars a week from dawn to midnight” in horrid conditions (Olsen). Just like the Africans are the “black shadows of disease and starvation” the women are “covered in blood. In wasting flesh” (Olsen). The bourgoisie Northern women and Europeans exploit the labor of the women in San Antonio and the Africans. The proletariat must revolt.
In Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka, Gregor’s transformation into a bug symbolizes the parasitic relationship he has with his family. For example, in the beginning of the story, Greogor’s family needs him so they can continue to live their lazy life. He is basically used as a money machine, and his hard work is exploited by his family. Gregor’s “sole desire [is] to do his utmost to help the family forget as soon as possible the catastrophe that had overwhelmed [his father's] business” (Kafka). Although Gregor takes pride in supporting his family, he is being taken advantage of, much like a bug takes advantage of humans. Gregor’s family feeds off of him, and when he transforms into the bug, it is his opportunity to be the parasite, literally. The symbolism of Gregor’s transformation from a human to a bug symbolizes the his family’s relationship.
In Phillip Weisntein’s Unknowwing, Weinstein attempts to show the many differences between Realism and Modernism, which is prevalent in his explanation of phenomena v.s. seeing a matter straight out. Phillip Weinstein contends that “in realism, the subject’s capacity for movement is taken for granted; the narrative focuses instead on the various projects of res cogitans”, literally “thinking thing”. Modernists contend realists are too closed in their idea of “I”. Instead of Space and Time being interconnected with the subject, realist writing’s subject exists in Space and Time. On the other hand, modernists deal more with phenomena, or “how things appear”(165). For example, phenomenological fiction “the details of the embodied subject’s life-world – an array of orientational arrangements prior to, more intimate than, the pursuit of projects”(165). Instead of the human existing in time, “I”, Space and Time are interconnected with each other. Humans cannot escape space or time. Weinstein explains the modernist’s phenomenological approach compared realist’s attempt at seeing things how they really are.
In A Doll’s House by Henrik Ibsen, the symbol of the “doll’s house” refers to the changing identities of the characters from dolls who try to be something that they are not to actual people with morals and values. Initially, the reader has judgments about each character and once the character steps outside of the house, the reader’s initial judment turns out to be false. For example, Nora is presented as Torvald’s “squirrel” and “spend-thrift” who wants to “squander money” and wants to borrow money from creditors because that is all she cares about (Ibsen 841-842). Even when Torvald asks Nora what she wants for Christmas Nora says she wants Torvald to “give [her] money” (Ibsen 842). Nora is a doll in the house because she is Torvald’s play thing and only values worldly possessions. The reader sees Nora as immature and greedy. In Act III, the reader sees a different side to Nora. Nora finally realizes that Torvald has “never loved [her]. [He] only thought it amusing to be in love with [her]” (Ibsen 884). Further she explains that she “held the same opinions” as her father even is she did not agree with them, and it is the same in Torvald’s house (Ibsen 884). This realization that Nora had been living a lie her entire life syymbolizes her liberation from the house. She is no longer a doll, but a human being with values, emotions and morals.
Each character in the novel has this progress that symbolizes the doll’s house.
Although racism is a prevalent theme in Desiree’s Baby by Kate Chopin, one cannot ignore the feminist ideals present in the work. For example, when Armand realizes that the baby is black he wants Desiree “to go” (Chopin). Back then, the idea of a woman leaving her husband was extremely rare, and Desiree leaves without a fight. This independence from her husband is an important aspect of feminism because women begin to realize that they can live without a man. Also, Armand’s mother is represented as a strong woman. Armand believes that his mother is dead, but it turns out that his mother estranged herself from him so he “would never know that his mother, who adores him, belongs to the race that is cursed with the brand of slavery” (Chopin). Armand’s mother has the courage and will to leave her son whom she loves, so he does not have to be a slave. She is able to make the ultimate sacrifice for her son. Through Desiree’s ability to leave her husband and Armand’s mother’s sacrifice, the reader sees the feminist ideals that Chopin employs in her work.
You only want Him when need Him.
In “Robinson Crusoe” by Daniel Defoe, Defoe uses Robinson’s off and on relationship with God and religion to satirize man’s need for God when in need or want of something, and the tendency for man to forget about God when life goes as planned. For example, Crusoe has this passion to sail, but it is against his father’s and God’s wishes (he believes). When his friend is going to sail in his father’s ship to London, Robinson leaves with him “without asking God’s blessing” (Defoe 9). Robinson recieves exactly what he desires, so has no need for God.Then, Crusoe’s ship hits a big storm, so he asks “God to spare [his] life this one voyage” (Defoe 10). Now, Robinson needs God because he is in distress. This is not a one-time occurence in the novel. Crusoe asks God for deliverance several times, but he rarely talks about God when not in agony. Defoe wants the reader to think about his/her own relationship with God and religion, and not use Him only when in need of help.
Modernism is thought of as a shift from the closed, constrained thinking of realists. Realist authors attempt to pick certain details and make them seem real in order to achieve verisimilitude. They try to explain life as it really is. Modernists began to look at people in a different way and changed the way humans thought of themselves and the World. Modernism is difficult subject to grasp, and in my opinion, impossible to achieve and contradictory. For example, in Phillips Weinstein’s Unknowing, modernists learn the World by “unknowing” everything they have thought to be true in the World in order to think differently about it. The problem here is that one is always influenced by the outside World, whether one likes it or not. Originality does not exist anymore. In a literary sense, Roland Barthe argued that “the conventions, not the author write the work”, which makes modernism contradictory (Parker 57). The “Death of the Author” idea is even drawn on the modernist Nietzsche’s idea that God is Dead. If modernism is able to classified, then it must have conventions that are similar in all of the works, thus having a set system of how to write modernist literature, making it unoriginal. Although a respectable attempt of originality, modernism needs to understand that life is structured.
This may just be my misunderstanding of modernism, but this is what I gathered from the reading.