Posts Filed Under ‘Formal Writing’

Gaining Redemption Through Hope

Wanuri Kahiu’s short film, Pumzi, and the Wachowski brothers’ film, The Matrix, engage in a comprehensive depiction of how technology and truth function in a dystopian society. In each film, technology is depicted as a tool used by authoritarian systems from under which protagonists struggle for both truth and freedom. Technology and progress are represented as negative and enslaving, while intuition and hope emerge as the tools of freedom. Where intellectual knowledge culminates in a destruction of the earth and becomes useful only as a tool of authoritarian control, hope and intuition become synonymous with freedom and life. Although the two movies diverge on the point of defining freedom, hope and intuition are exposed as more capable of attaining freedom than the “old” ideas of progress. Read More…

How the Number Three Illustrates Belief Systems in Moby Dick

Ahab’s character is inherently linked to Christianity through the novel and, yet, he utilizes other belief systems in his pursuit of the whale. Combining Ahab’s pursuit with the prevalence of the number three leads to an analysis that the number is used to emphasize a merging of various belief systems. Ahab is depicted as blending, utilizing, and disregarding spiritual elements that don’t venture far from each other to begin with. The Pequod can be viewed as a microcosm of spiritual discourse where the compounded explication of the similarities in various belief systems are revealed through the number three. The Pequod’s ultimate wrecking exposes the flaw in thinking that one belief system excludes or is superior to another. This essay will explore the underpinning connections of the number three throughout the novel and how the number’s prevalence lends to understanding Ahab’s spiritual quest for the whale as a statement on American culture of the time.

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Smollett’s Challenge of Conventional Identity

Tobias Smollett’s novel The Expedition of Humphry Clinker begins with commentary on the limitations of philosophy: “[P]eople in general were so misled by vulgar prejudices, that philosophy was hardly sufficient to undeceive them” (17). Combining education with entertainment, Smollett’s novel is a literary construct of social experimentation that demonstrates complex philosophical ideas through mock reality and humor. This construct is useful because it allows readers to conceptualize complex social commentary through entertainment and realism rather than through the abstract or detached musings that one might find in a treatise. The more abstract a concept is, the more likely it is to meet resistance in the mind of readers. His novel engages contemporary philosophy by challenging expectations of how to identify someone. Each character embodies conflicting social roles, rendering them more complex than the conventional guidelines of gender, economic class, and moral judgment allow. Smollett’s novel undermines conventional claims of identity and combines philosophy with reality in novel form. This form makes philosophy more accessible and understandable to a readership that may not have not been engaged, otherwise. Read More…

The Frankenstein Identity: Horace Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto

Subjective identity is the concept that an individual can conceive a complete and static identity based on personal observation and experience alone. Horace Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto complicates the possibility or reliability of a subjective identity. Walpole’s use of the third person demonstrates the complexity of identity, because it demonstrates that one person cannot observe and experience simultaneous events. The third person illuminates a disjoint between what characters know and what is happening. As a full range of perceptions interplay, the reader has the ability to witness a number of events, reactions, and misunderstandings. As the characters demonstrate strained reasoning, the idea of a convincing self-identity weakens. On the backbone of an objective narrator, a theme of disembodiment or discontinuity of the self is represented through synecdoche, metaphor, and plot. Combined, the formal structure and the context of the novel wholly challenge the concept of subjective identity. Read More…

A Close Reading of The Brother’s Karamazov

Quote chosen for analysis from The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky:

“I am not a doctor, but nevertheless I feel the moment has come when it is decidedly necessary for me to explain to the reader at least something of the nature of Ivan Fyodorovich’s illness. Getting ahead of myself, I will say only one thing: he was, that evening, precisely just on the verge of brain fever, which finally took complete possession of his organism, long in disorder but stubbornly refusing to succumb. Though I know nothing of medicine, I will venture the suggestion that he had indeed succeeded, perhaps, by a terrible effort of will, in postponing his illness for a  time, hoping, of course, to overcome it completely. He knew he was not well, but he was loath to be ill at that time, during those approaching fatal moments of his life; he had to be personally present, to speak his word boldly and resolutely, and ‘vindicate himself to himself.’ Read More…

The Cold Arrogance of Reasoned Isolation

Jack London’s short story, “To Build a Fire,” sets a man in isolation from societal culture as he treks across the Yukon trail. As he furthers himself from the trail, he is confident in his ability to survive through the means of his independent analysis, based on scientific data and technology, rather than experience. London’s arrangement of  time, diction, syntax, and urgency embodies a theme of arrogance leading to vulnerability. The story shows that an individual cannot overcome nature through science or technology alone and that the more one becomes dependent on these things, the less fit one is to survive. The story resolves that without hereditary natural knowledge, community, and respect for nature, man cannot endure the natural world. This resolution speaks to the reader today as the story’s effect is strengthened by the passage of real time. Read More…

Embracing the Heathen Heritage

Pain, punishment, unrequited love, all of these crushing experiences saturate Thomas Hardy’s The Return of the Native. The thread of every living existence is woven into the tapestry of Egdon Heath. Those who are closest to the heath, who live and breathe and care and work with the heath, are able to escape the whole of tragedy. Although a setting is usually only the background in a novel, the heath and its traditions operate as a catalyst for the experiences of its inhabitants. Clym experiences blindness and remorse after returning from Paris. Eustacia despises the heath and eventually drowns. Venn roams about, living a life closer to nature than any of the other inhabitants and is able to wrangle a sort of possession and will over those whom he stalks. All men suffer on the heath and Hardy’s novel seems to suggest that humanity’s traditions, homes, and livelihoods must not be divided or else dire consequences will be incurred; however, if one accepts tradition’s belonging to the heath, one can garnish the most power and least suffering. Read More…

Married in Black: The Subtle Impressions of a Tragic Villain

In Charles Dickens’ novel, Nicholas Nickleby, reading for plot and reading through close analysis allows for a varied understanding of the characters significance. When reading for plot, Nicholas Nickleby operates as the hero of the novel and Ralph Nickleby as the villain. In a closer analysis, Ralph Nickleby does not simply operate as a villain to distinguish the hero, but Nicholas seems to distinguish Ralph. The lack of depth in Nicholas’ character heightens Ralph’s character depth as it exists in the artistic negative space of Nicholas’ exaggerated and static presence. Read More…

BLAST nature BLESS MAN

Blast, a publication planned primarily by Wyndham Lewis, uses poetics coupled with typography to promote a distinctly English avant-garde movement. In contrast to the Italian Futurist movement that downplayed the role of mankind through a “drama of objects” (Norton 898), Blast emphasizes the particular roles and strengths of  mankind based on England’s technologic feats. Read More…

Stagnation: An Essay on A Voyage to the Country of the Houyhnhnms

In the fourth book of Gulliver’s Travels, Jonathan Swift demonstrates the essentially destructive pursuit of reason in human society. Swift’s protagonist, Gulliver, believes perfect reason could solve the many problems of humanity, yet his emotional responses to what he considers to be a purely rational society casts doubt on his glorification of reason. By establishing Gulliver as an unreliable narrator subject to irrational emotions, Swift demonstrates that perfect reason can never be truly realized in human society and the pursuit of such reason can only lead to societal and psychological stagnation. Read More…