Aug 31 2016

The Handmaid’s Tale

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Although this work takes place in the dystopian future, it’s mistreatment of women reminds me of the past. Offred’s society is very driven by the differences between sexes AND the act of sex, but the Handmaid makes the point of saying, “If I thought this would never happen again I would die. But this is wrong, nobody dies from lack of sex. It’s lack of love we die from.” This also makes me think of the past, in which marriage was not based on love, but rather a means of property and making alliances. “Knowing was a temptation. What you don’t know won’t tempt you.” So what led the Republic of Gilead down this path if they knew what it meant to choose. Were they tired of choice? Did they believe this would make life simpler? “They seemed to be able to choose. We seemed to be able to choose, then. We were a society dying of too much choice.” Was this a cautionary tale?

 

Quotes that made me grateful for what we have today:

“We thought we had such problems. How were we to know we were happy?”

“We yearned for the future. How did we learn it, that talent for insatiability?”

 

Quotes I thought could apply even today:

“You can only be jealous of someone who has something you think you ought to have yourself.”

“A rat in a maze is free to go anywhere, as long as it stays inside the maze.”

“But who can remember pain, once it’s over?”

“I don’t want to look at something that determines me so completely.”

“I want everything back, the way it was. But there is no point to it, this wanting.”

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Aug 31 2016

Specificity

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Something that stuck out to me in  the Handmaid’s Tale was the intentional extreme specificity of certain words in certain circumstances. In the Handmaid’s Tale, Offred connects her past to her present by continuing the intellectual game she and Luke played before his disappearance. She focuses on single words and “zooms in” on the word as something fascinating and whole all on its own. Obviously, this specific rebellion is to the absolutely inconceivable Gileadian erasure of words and knowledge for women. It’s particularly horrifying for Offred’s  generation because they grew up surrounded by words and reading and knowledge, and the idea that someone could take that away was laughable. Offred applies this same micro view on tiny details in her room, like the embroidery on the pillow and finding the carving on the wardrobe.

The slogans throughout the book irritated me at first, but strangely by the end they weren’t nearly as jarring. Although obviously by the end I was desensitized to them because I’d read them so often in the book, if it took so little time for me to become desensitized to the Gileadian slogans, it’s unsettling how quickly they would have taken hold to the women in the Red Center.

Off topic, but I think one of the most powerful quotes in the book is, ” I enjoy the power; power of a dog bone, passive but there. ” The way Atwood phrased this concisely summarizes Offred’s character throughout the novel, and many people in unfortunate situations need to have some sort of power or control, even if it’s control over something minuscule to someone else. The power of a dog bone is the power to manipulate and sedate, while still remaining keenly aware of dog bone-ness of one’s power  How did you feel about this quote, did it stand out to anyone else?

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Aug 31 2016

The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber

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Halfway through the short story, I was questioning why it wasn’t titled, “The Long and Sad Life of Francis Macomber”. I think I realized that whenever the plot is feeling a bit stagnant, it is usually because some major character development is happening. And in 37 pages, I learned pretty quickly about the issues and logic of Francis, Margot, and Wilson. When I first finished reading, I wasn’t sure if Margot incidentally or intentionally killed Francis. The ending reminded me of the book, Of Mice and Men. Flow at first, then all at once. Over before you know it. There’s a ton a build up, then BANG! he’s dead, then I’m left confused. But it’s the good kind of confused. The kind of confused that makes you have to go through the book again to catch what I missed. The kind of confused that allow you to discover new things each time. The kind of confused that sticks with you, leaving you with questions.

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Aug 31 2016

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close

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Quotes. Quotes. Quotes. (They are bolded.) If I were to summarize the novel in a cliche quote, it’d be “Life is a journey, not a destination.” So although the book didn’t seem plot heavy, at least not to me, I felt as if Oskar’s development as a person superceded him finding the lock. In trying to find the lock, he found his way back to himself. Yes, there were points in the story were I wondered, “Is all this necessary?” But, like Oskar’s grandpa says, “If things were easy to find, they wouldn’t be worth finding.” Here are some parts of his journey that I found to be thought-provoking (and some random thoughts of mine):

 

He promised us that everything would be OK. I was a child, but I knew that everything would not be OK. That did not make my father a liar. It made him my father.

What does OK mean? “It’ll be OK,” gets thrown around all of the time, but what are we promising and why? Sometimes things turn out very not okay.

 

You cannot protect yourself from sadness without protecting yourself from happiness.

Pain is a necessary part of being human and learning. Mistakes are inevitable in trying to  attain success. Is it better to feel both pain and happiness, or nothing at all? Is there more pain or happiness in life.

 

It’s a shame that we have to live, but it’s a tragedy that we get to live only one life.

“If only I could go back…” It’s natural to have these thoughts.

 

There are more places you haven’t heard of than places you’ve heard of!

Hadn’t realized it before, but that makes sense. Just thought this was cool.

 

So many people enter and leave your life! Hundreds of thousands of people! You have to keep the door open so they can come in! But it also means you have to let them go!

“As one door closes, another one opens.” Cycle of death and birth? It’s possible to feel alone when someone leaves, but that allows room for other great people to enter.

 

There was a single thought in my head: Keep thinking. Thinking would keep me alive. But now I am alive, and thinking is killing me.

Being able to think is great, and a necessary part living. But sometimes my thoughts can be annoying.

 

Why do beautiful songs make you sad?’ ‘Because they aren’t true.’ ‘Never?’ ‘Nothing is beautiful and true.

Is Oskar being pessimistic? Probably. Another way of saying he believes that some things are too good to be true?

 

Songs are as sad as the listener.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder? You see and hear what you want. You attach emotion and meaning to things

 

I’m sorry for my inability to let unimportant things go, for my inability to hold on to the important things.

Relatable. I sweat the small things a lot.

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Aug 30 2016

After Finishing The Handmaid’s Tale

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I appreciate this book existing, because some people in the world really should read it, but I couldn’t throw myself into yet another dystopian story. I’m over the dystopian phase of boos and I would have liked the story better if it weren’t so futuristic. I do like how there were mentions of things that actually existed, which sets it apart from other dystopian stories, however, I couldn’t care for it.

Despite my dislike for the story, I liked the involvement and exaggeration of morals and totalitarianism involved in the story. This is why I believe some people absolutely need to read the story, because I don’t think they realize what they mean when they say such careless things as, “It’s a woman’s fault if she is raped,” or “God should punish him for his sins,” or even “A woman’s place is in the home,”.  This book was written to serve as a very extreme example of what our (particularly American) society is and what it could potentially could be; it serves as a warning. The only part that I really loved about the book is that it exposed this part of culture; the part that is plainly wrong and everyone knows it but they continue their lives with it anyway. Of course, things are not as exactly black and white as they seem in the book or in this response, but it serves as a reminder that some morals are questionable depending on the person. This novel serves as a reminder that religion can indeed go too far, which I think people should definitely be aware of.

I am really curious about Offred’s name, and I did some researching and I think it’s June, base on evidence I found online that correlates with the story.  I was also confused about the Aunt being in the “club” because I thought the club was basically illegal but they had an Aunt there anyway which was confusing but maybe I read it wrong. I like the mention of old life such as  “Harvard Yard”, hotels, and small things because I think it connects to the reader more: it makes the reader feel like these things actually happen (they do, but obviously on a smaller scale).

 

Overall I didn’t care for the story but I was pleasantly surprised because I was expecting something entirely different, perhaps something stylistically similar to the Scarlet Letter, so I am happy in that regard.

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Aug 30 2016

Impossible and Inevitable

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The Handmaid’s Tale, I believe, was written to seem both like an inevitability and an impossibility. On one hand, the kind of society that Offred lives in seems too dystopian to be something that could happen to us. On the other hand, it seems all too close to where we are now. One example is the abortion debate that I mentioned in a previous post. Another thing that caught my eye though was Offred’s mother saying “You young people don’t appreciate things,” because it is something that our generation hears pretty consistently. It is true that Offred and Luke probably didn’t really appreciate what they had before they lost it, because to them it seemed impossible. It’s one of those things that everyone thinks will never happen to them. To me, this raises the questions: Is it more of an inevitability that we will find ourselves in a dystopian-like society, or a totalitarian regime like that of North Korea and Nazi Germany? Is it naive to think it is impossible? Not necessarily just in our lifetimes either. Will the world still function under republics a thousand years from now?

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Aug 30 2016

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

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When I was doing preliminary research on ELAEC, a sentiment I heard repeated from critics was that this book was one of, if not the, first major 9/11 book. Which made me wonder how one classifies a book as a 9/11 book. Is it a book that offers a historical recount of the events, or is it a book that’s written to help work through the aftermath through fiction? If we were reading this book closer to 2001, how would that affect our discussion and perception? Personally, I think we would be less critical and more willing to overlook the mistakes people make, because the trauma would be newer.

Is Oskar’s racism forgiveable? Being white, I don’t think my opinion on racism should count for much, but I think the dialogue I had was, ” It’s understandable why he thinks that way, but it doesn’t mean it isn’t wrong and should be treated as such.”

Oskar’s reasonable obsession with his father’s last words made me try to understand my own opinion on last words. Do one’s last words really count for more than the sum of all the words, conversations, and thoughts they’ve had their entire lives? What if no one is there to hear your last words, do they still count if only you hear them? I think that last words, as an isolated experience, are incredibly important in the moment that they exist. However, as a single experience in someone’s whole life, they are only significant if either that person or someone else makes them significant, just like any other conversation. Oskar’s dad didn’t say, “I love you” in his last calls, is that more significant than all the times he did or showed his love?

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Aug 29 2016

Offred’s Mom

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A character in the Handmaid’s Tale that fascinated me was Offred’s mother. She, to me, is a caricature of what many people believe a feminist to be. I think she was a character that allowed Atwood to criticize the feminist movement in the 60’s by mirroring her more raucous bra burning feminism with Offred’s quiet hatred for the Gileadian regime. Two of the quotes that stood out to me were ” You wanted a women’s culture. Well, now there is one. It isn’t what you meant, but it exists. Be thankful for small mercies.” and “I didn’t want to be the model offspring, the incarnation of her ideas.”

I don’t know if I can quite explain how I feel about the first quote… the best way I can describe it is second hand shame. As a very outspoken feminist, I can’t imagine what Offred’s mother and friends felt when they realized what their life had become and what their future held. I still can’t wrap my head around how cleverly Atwood throws every political debate about women’s bodies at the reader and forces the audience to examine how easily their own beliefs could turn into Gilead if given the right circumstances.

The second quote made me wonder if the children of activists ever resent their parents for their activism even if what they support is a good cause, and if they ever feel like they didn’t get to choose their own beliefs. Although my parents are definitely not activists, my beliefs are almost the exact opposite of theirs. If I had grown up without the internet, would my beliefs have remained closer to my parents’, or would I have still developed my same beliefs later in life?

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Aug 29 2016

Oskar’s Problems

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As soon as I started reading Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, I’d been looking for what exactly Oskar’s problems were that made him the way he is/was. At the end, there were only four UNDERLYING things that I could come up with that could be a solution as to what’s wrong (of course alongside the obvious reasons that would bother Oskar). It was such a mystery in the beginning (other than the obvious “losing your father” part but I’m delving deeper) because this is a novel that doesn’t tell the reader everything and makes you find out other ways, but I think I understand.

Oskar’s father didn’t say “I love you,”.

The writer made it a HUGE point throughout the story to talk for many pages about the phone calls that his dad made on the day he died. More specifically, the last phone calls kept being mentioned.  The constant “Are you there…are you there?” seemed to resonate with Oskar more than anything else. Of course Oskar already felt terrible for not picking up the phone, but I think he would feel guilty if he even thought about being upset that his dad did not tell him he loved him. I think this is an underlying problem Oskar has and does;t want to admit it to himself, because he already hates himself for being a coward and his dad is dead and he just feels bad about that.

Oskar’s mother wasn’t there for him.

He was all by himself when his dad called and died while on the phone. He won’t get over his mother not being there with him, even if it was impossible for her to physically be there with him.

 

His Grandmother was there eventually but didn’t do much.

Again, he was by himself when he shouldn’t have been. His Grandmother came too late, and when she got there, she didn’t comfort him that well (though she tried her best). She knitted a long scarf instead.

He had some kind of mental disorder beforehand and the traumatic event made it worse.

I don’t really know what Oskar was dealing with, but he obviously thought differently than most people do. Even the fact that he panics so much and is odd about things other people aren’t show this.

 

Oskar had so much to deal with that his mental health declined, along with his physical health. To me, it was hard to just pinpoint the minute causes of his distress, but these are just some of my ideas. It’s interesting to see into the mind of a person who doesn’t function in the same ways as everyone else.

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Aug 29 2016

The Grandparents

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I am dedicating an entire post to the grandparents in Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, because there are too many things to say about them.

Both Grandparents

When I read through both of their stories, I thought of how desolated their lives really were. However, I didn’t understand why they still chose to act in the way they did. Obviously, after something as traumatic as being bombed and losing all of your loved ones takes a very heavy toll, but I don’t quite understand why the needed each other. I honestly don’t believe they were ever in love, because they weren’t even happy together. Did they know that someone else could make them happy? Did they know that the world really isn’t limited to someone from your distant past? Their relationship actually made me angry. You really shouldn’t need “nothing spaces”, if you’re sharing a hour or an apartment with someone you love. I still don’t even know what “nothing spaces” are. I really didn’t understand that concept. Everything I read that came from Oskar’s grandparents was just pain. They always were in pain. I believe they were just together to be with someone, and they didn’t feel comfortable with meeting new people because they were still obsessed with their old lives. Even their sex was just sex, which is how the book described it. It was so awkward to read about because they seemed to be doing it just to be doing it and not because they loved each other, which is what I think the writer was trying to point out. If something hurts that badly then it’s time to move on. Look for someone better who you know you can love. I think part of what they stayed together for was that they both loved Anna. Which is also a really horrible reason to be with someone. They brought Oskar’s father, mother, and Oskar himself into their own problems over a sister. I also think that is a little selfish, but then again, these are only my perceptions of everything, maybe they did love each other (but I doubt it).

Oskar’s Grandmother

Oskar’s grandmother still puzzles me even after I’ve finished reading. First of all, I did NOT understand at all when she was writing a story about her life and then the book said it was just blank pages (???). Was that supposed to be symbolic because it went way over my head, or are her eyes really just crummy so much that she couldn’t see what she was typing.

Also, is it weird of my to get the feeling that the grandmother was in love with Anna. The kiss she kept thinking about and “telling” Oskar about kept coming up and it got weirder and weirder for me to read about. The kiss she felt so excited about coupled with her WATCHING every time Thomas and Anna did some R rated things made me think that something was actually really wrong with her; something like incest. I could also be completely incorrect so if I’m wrong, please don’t take offense because all of this could’ve been completely innocent.

It made me angry that she had a child just to “fix” her own problems as well. She just felt like she needed one and that seemed so wrong to me. She knew that the father of the child didn’t want one and every time he looked at her he saw her sister. She knew he didn’t love her, at least at much as she liked him. She even knew he would leave and let him. She brought another life into the world to give it the pain she felt along with the pain of not having a father, and therefore caused suffering for an entirely new family.

Nonetheless, she was still trying to be a good grandmother and mother when it mattered. I liked that, but not when when Oskar’s grandmother still seemed to be more saddened over her sisters death than her child’s.

Side note:

Throughout the novel, every time she would talk about Thomas I was thinking, “Dang grandma you need to get yourself a new man, because this one is treating you like trash.”

 

Oskar’s Grandfather

I had no respect for this man and I still don’t.

 

In Conclusion

I think both grandparents were trying to heal from what they lost and I can understand that. What I cannot respect is that both grandparents made (in my eyes) very wrong decisions about everything including their relationship existing in the first place. There comes a time in the healing process where you eventually learn to cope and get on with life, but neither of them let go of Anna or Germany. To some extent, a person shouldn’t let go of history because it needs to be remembered, but it really is okay to move on, and to not hurt other people because of your problems.

 

I apologize for the sass and the informality of this post.

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