This file was too big to send via email to Timmy. So, here is “Nature as Female” for all those who want it. 🙂
This Is England, directed by Shane Meadows, was an interesting movie that triggered a lot of different emotions for me. Throughout the entire movie I was really concerned about Shaun’s mother’s parenting style. She gave me some hope when she went to the cafe to confront the gang for cutting Shaun’s hair…but then she left him with them! I was pretty shocked by that. I’m not a parent, so I can’t judge; however, I feel like you wouldn’t want your young son (I think they said he was twelve?) being influenced by and hanging around much older kids. So that was surprising. I was also really sad for Shaun the whole time. He obviously didn’t have a full grasp on what was going on with the Skinhead gang. I thought is was a really low blow for Combo to convince Shaun that in order to make his father proud he had to be an extreme nationalist and hurt innocent people. It was truly a tragic movie.
Furthermore, I would like to draw everyone’s attention to a quote from one of the boys (I’m sorry I don’t remember his name–I think they jokingly called him Tubby?) at the Skinhead meeting. After the meeting was over, one of the boys asked if the other believed everything the men were saying about nationalism and sending immigrants back to where they came from. The other boy replied (this might not be exactly the words he used, but it is pretty close) “if it wasn’t right, all these people wouldn’t be here.” He was referring to the Skinheads and defending that they were right because there were lots of people who believed it. Of course, we could brush this off and say it was just a child misunderstanding and following authority figures. However, let’s say it’s more than that. I think right now, specifically what has been going on in our own country, it is an important time to look at this mindset and identify how problematic it is. I would like to give a brief anecdote of something that happened over the past weekend:
For this anecdote, I will not name any names in order to respect the anonymity of the people involved. Over the past weekend, an African-American employee at a company that will also remain anonymous, was racially discriminated against by a customer. The employee offered assistance to the customer that had just walked in and the customer denied his assistance saying that he would wait for “the white guy” to help him. Without arguing, the employee accepted and told his coworker that the customer was waiting for his help. Meanwhile, the employee went into the backroom and came out a few minutes later. When he came out, the same customer called him “the N word” and continued to do so. The employee rightfully became offended and asked him to leave. The customer did not leave and proceeded to call the police and tell them that he would “shoot [the employee] myself if they didn’t get here fast.” Luckily, the police arrived quickly and arrested the customer.
This is unfortunately a very true story. Perhaps it is a coincidence that this happened soon after the election. However, it seems too me a little too coincidental considering all the hate that has erupted this past week.
I do not want to get into a political battle, nor do I want to offend anyone. I will say that there has been much hate and negativity from both sides of the spectrum and violence is never the answer to problems. Unfortunately, I think the mindset that the kid in the movie brings up–the “everyone else is doing it, so it must be right” attitude–is terrifying and very applicable to what is happening in our country. Just because one thinks a behavior is acceptable does not mean that it is. I know that everyone in our class understands that, my intention is not to talk down to anyone. However, I think this it is unacceptable that so many members of our country are giving in to this idea.
It should never be okay to treat another human being the way this employee was treated in the anecdote. The hate rhetoric that has come from this election is unacceptable. I am by no means saying that everyone who voted for Trump is a bad person–I don’t believe that at all. However, I do believe that it is ignorant to disregard the behavior and hate rhetoric that has been going on among our fellow Americans.
Another quick anecdote: Last week, the day after the election, I was talking to someone who told me about an experience her friend had earlier that morning. She said her friend was at a gym and two men next to her winked at her and one of them said to the other, “now that Trump is President, we can grab that anytime we want.” They said this within hearing range of the woman.
This is also unacceptable. It makes me sick to think human being can see other human beings as objects. Though this is nothing new, it is still upsetting. It concerns me that so many people have found an excuse to be shitty people in the name of Trump’s Presidency. I will stop there because, like I said, I have no interest in arguing.
Anyway, the point I am trying to make is that hate is NEVER okay. I think the movie This Is England, depicted a realistic and sad example of the hate that can exist in humanity. I think it also represented how meaningful words and actions are. Far too often, I think people forget that words and actions matter. Not only do your words and actions effect how the world sees you, but how you see yourself. This is America and we need to change our words and actions so we do not lose what we have fought long and hard to protect.
Surprise! I’m going to talk about nature and apply a little bit of ecofeminism.
While reading Buchi Emecheta’s Second Class Citizen, a specific passage stood out to me about Adah’s relationship to Mother Nature:
She wished the Presence was still with her to give her a clue but it seemed to have deserted her when she landed in England. Was the Presence her instinct? It had been very active in Nigeria. Was that because in Nigeria she was nearer to Mother Nature? She only wished somebody would tell her where she had gone wrong. (55)
There are a quite a few interesting things going on in this passage.
Thinking back to our discussion about “what is civilization” and “what it means to be civilized” in class on Thursday, I think it is very significant that Adah’s “Presence” leaves her upon her arrival to England. If Adah’s Presence is indeed her instinct, the idea of civilization and the departure of instinct is really interesting. A quick Google definition of “instinct” says “an innate, typically fixed pattern of behavior in animals in response to certain stimuli.” Thus, instinct is associated with the animal kingdom rather than humanity. This could then imply that Adah has animalistic qualities/instincts that are not common among the “civilized” person. However, once Adah arrives in England, her instinct leaves her because she enters a civilized sphere in which her instinct is looked down upon. I think this is especially interesting because Adah is a women and the men in the novel are never described as having instincts (they are only described with physical animalistic qualities). Women are often associated with emotions and instinct. This might be a stretch, but perhaps this could mean that civilization or being civilized takes away from a woman’s identity as a woman. If a woman is stripped of her instinct and nature, she is no longer a complete version of herself.
Could this mean that the more “civilized” a person becomes, the further the person gets away from their natural instincts? It seems as though civilization makes instinct an unacceptable characteristic. Since civilization implies education, command of language, common law,etc., it appears as though instinct would not be considered an important part of such civilization. In order to be civilized, a person must be able to participate in society by abiding by the rules and maintaining socially acceptable behavior. This problematizes instinct because instinct is natural inclinations to behave in specific ways.
This reading of civilization and instinct supports the idea of England being civilized and Nigeria being uncivilized. If Nigeria is the place where Adah feels most comfortable being her whole self (instinct and all), than this implies that Nigeria is uncivilized. The use of Mother Nature in this passage is interesting because she can be present in one place and absent in another. Typically, Mother Nature is used as a general term to refer to nature and natural elements, which can be found everywhere. However, Mother Nature’s absence in England could imply there is nothing natural about England–perhaps because of industrialization and the “civilized” elements present in the novel.
The last sentence in this passage indicates that there is a problem with leaving Mother Nature. Adah wishes someone “would tell her where she had gone wrong.” It is interesting that she wishes someone, no specific person, would tell her what was wrong. Perhaps, the “someone” she is referring to is her Presence or Mother Nature. However, since both of these entities have left her upon her arrival into civilization, they cannot communicate to her that it was actually wrong to leave Nigeria and distance herself from her nature.
Overall, I think Adah has a connection to nature that becomes conflicted when she is required to act outside of her nature as second class citizen and as a woman being oppressed. Speaking of oppression, I think her instinct leaving her in England may also have to do with the fact that Francis obtains a more oppressive control over her in England. Not only does Adah feel disconnected from her nature, but Francis feels more controlling in civilization. As I said previously, women are more connected to nature because they act on emotions and instinct. In addition, men are closer to “civilization” because they are closer to “logic” and “rationality” (I’m not saying I necessarily agree with these things–men can be pretty silly and impulsive–but these are common conceptions among ecofeminist scholarship). Thus, because Adah is away from her natural environment and Francis is thriving in his new environment, he oppresses Adah through emotional and physical abuse. These are things that he would not have attempted to do in Nigeria because in Nigeria (being closer to Mother Nature) Adah had a “home field advantage.” By oppressing Adah, Francis is also oppressing Mother Nature because Adah is representative of nature.
Though there are many “brands” of ecofeminism, here is a cool video that presents many fundamental aspects of ecofeminism well:
At the beginning of Absolute Beginners, a concept of universal youth is introduced when the narrator is having a conversation with Mr. Pondoroso about “the bomb” on pages 30-31. The conversation goes like this:
Mr. P. grew a bit vexed
“But you haven’t been to America, have you!” he exclaimed. “Or to Russia, and talked to these young people!”
“Why do I have to go, mister? You don’t have to travel to know what it’s like to be young, any time, anywhere. Believe me, Mr. Pondoroso, youth is international, just like old age is. We’re both very fond of life.” (31)
Considering “youth” is an important concept to this novel, I think this conversation is important to the rest of the novel. It appears to be a pretty bold statement to claim how all of the world’s youth acts and feels, especially not having been anywhere. However, his last sentence is very interesting: “We’re both very fond of life.” This is a pretty vague statement and equates the feelings of old and young people, which is something that he clearly differentiates in the rest of the novel. I’m not sure where to go with that idea, so I’m going to leave it floating around if anyone else wants to jump on it.
Anyway, I think the idea “youth is international” is a fascinating concept. In my own childhood/early teens, I always wondered what is was like growing up in other countries. I have always had a desire to travel, though, unfortunately, I have never had the opportunity to venture outside the U.S. So, having never been anywhere “cool” or “exotic,” I have always wondered what life is like around the world. Particularly, when I was much younger, I wondered if other parents were as, let’s say, involved as my own. I knew what my friend’s parents were like–mostly similar to mine with the exception of a few “cool” parents. However, I was always curious of the parent-kid dynamics abroad. The media often portrayed free lifestyles of the youth around the globe–of course, particularly with young celebrities. Though I haven’t thought of these particular ideas in awhile, I was reminded of them while reading this novel…
I think the narrator’s perspective is really interesting. At times, I found his commentary on everything a bit know-it-all-ish and slightly pompous, which bothered me. However, after thinking about it more, I realized his attitude towards everything, especially older people, was so perfectly representative of the attitudes that kids have even nowadays. With that in mind, not only is youth international, it is also timeless. Not to make any generalizations or assumptions, but I think it is fair to say that there is always a chasm between generations that can cause a disconnect between older and younger people. For example, my parents may be frustrated by some of the choices I have made in life, but their parents were likely also frustrated by the choices they made. I think we kind of mentioned this in class on Thursday–there will always be a disagreement between generations about how to live life.
Anyway, back to youth. The assertion that “youth is international” is kind of cool to think about. If we go along with the narrator’s idea, it means that every kid around the world is facing some kind of disconnect with their parents, some kind of love tragedy, some kind of social issue, some kind of rebellion, some kind of struggle to “fit in,” or acne (Haha. But, really though). I think this idea continues into adulthood, too. Everywhere in the world people are struggling with jobs, money, family, politics, love, health, etc. But, people are not only universally struggling, they are also universally enjoying being “fond of life”: spending time with friends and family, going on adventures, making new memories, eating ice cream, or whatever. I think people too often get caught up in their own problems and don’t appreciate the positive aspects of their lives or realize that their problems really aren’t as big as they seem.
That was a bit of a random tangent, sorry. But, I would love to hear other people’s thoughts on these ideas. 🙂
Also, here’s something silly. I typed “youth” into Google, unaware that it is the title of a song, and the first thing that popped up was this music video. It’s definitely not the kind of music I listen to (so don’t judge me) and it is very teenybopper-ish (if that can be a word), but I found it to be strangely applicable to Absolute Beginners. It kind of gives the idea of “youth” being a universal concept among young folk–specifically because of the line “my youth is yours,” which I interpreted as youth (potentially experimental youth? or something) is an experience that everyone goes through. Anyway, if you can bear it, take a gander.
I wish I would have been in class last night because I am sure I missed a really interesting discussion on Hebdige’s Subculture: The Meaning of Style. For the record, I wasn’t playing hooky, I have been fighting a cold all week and yesterday and today have been my worst days (I am voiceless and sneezy and headachey). Anyway, I found Subculture to be a really fascinating collection of essays. I know I read a few excerpts in an undergrad theory class, and I am pretty sure I remember reading some Hebdige in Chaves’ theory class last spring. I am going to try to do a little analysis/interpretation for this post. I am not the best when it comes to theory related things, so bare with me if I choke and completely misinterpret. Instead of responding to the whole book, I would like to focus on Chapter 6 (pages 90-99).
Here is a quick overview of the chapter: In a simplistic view, this chapter mostly discusses the language used in subcultures, the attention drawn to subcultures by media, and how media represents subcultures in commodity and ideological forms. When media gets a hold of a “subculture story” they run wild and misrepresent the community. This can be done either by creating a “commodity” out of the subculture’s appearance and style or by labeling and making a subculture appear to be threatening or deviant to an orderly structure. Basically, subcultures are being “othered” and exploited by media simply because they are different from the norm.
I am particularly interested in the following quote that was used in the beginning of the chapter:
“Subcultures represent ‘noise’ (as opposed to sound): interference in the orderly sequence which leads from real events and phenomena to their representation in the media. We should therefore not underestimate the signifying power of the spectacular subculture not only as a metaphor for potential anarchy ‘out there’ but as an actual mechanism of semantic disorder: a kind of temporary blockage in the system of representation.” (90)
First of all, I love the comparison between subculture and noise. I have heard this comparison before, likely in one of the previously mentioned classes. “Noise” has a negative connotation of disruption; thus, subculture disrupts the flow of the “sound” in culture today–which is articulated as “interference in the orderly sequence.” Although subculture is seen as noise, I think it plays an important role in society, which is obviously what this book is articulating. Without subcultures, life would be pretty boring. This sounds cliche, but think about how much our entertainment revolves around subculture and “being different.”
Furthermore, the above quote articulates an interesting perspective of subculture’s as a “mechanism of semantic disorder.” This idea is really interesting to me because subculture is being directly related to the function of language. If we look at society as whole metaphorically as language, subculture is spicing up the lexicon and syntax of the language (is that cheesy?). The language (society) might get jumbled up a bit, but it still functions–or, at least, it will be able to function again. The fact that subculture is a “mechanism” implies that there is a specific use for it. A “mechanism,” according to a quick Google search, is “a system of parts working together in a machine; a piece of machinery.” Thus, subculture is an important piece to the machine that is society. This means that the “noise” that subcultures create and the disruption they cause is all a part of the system that makes the wheels of the machine turn.
Now I’m going to switch gears a little bit because I’m not sure if I was on the right track with that. Considering this book was written in 1979, I think our interpretation and perspective on subculture has changed a bit. Of course, I can only speak for myself, but when I hear “subculture” I do not immediately associate negative connotations. I guess I kind of view society as made up of a bunch of little subcultures. When you think about it, any group of people can be a subculture: academics, vegans, goths, body builders, hippies, athletes, etc. I understand “subculture” is supposed to be that which goes against the “norm.” But, really, what is normal nowadays? Who are we to place people into categories of normal and abnormal? Sure, there’s some weird shit that people do, but just because it is weird or “abnormal” to me doesn’t mean it is to someone else. I might be missing the point here or going off topic (cut me some slack because I don’t know what conversations happened in class last night), but I think it is interesting that humans have the need to place other’s in boxes.
Here’s a fun video of the “weirdest subcultures around the world.”
Well, this is really late but I am going to post it anyway. I wrote my response in my head after class last week and I think I convinced myself that I had already posted a response (oops!). Anyway, I thought our discussion at the end of class last Thursday (when we were talking about whether or not we liked the film or the book better) was really interesting. If I remember correctly, it was about a 50/50 split between who liked the film better and who liked the book better (give or take a few votes). I would like to defend my reasoning for liking the book better (not because I thought I was under attack, but simply because I think it is interesting that the film came first and I was still a fan of the book).
Initially, for some reason, I was under the impression that the book came before the film. I think this happened because I read the prologue a week or two before I read the actual book and I completely forgot that the prologue says the film came first and was the “completed” version. Perhaps, this influenced my opinion on liking the book better than the movie–but let’s ignore that because I have some specific reasons I liked the book better. In general, I am not a big movie-watcher and prefer reading or watching short TV show episodes (this, of course, could also influence why I liked the book better).
Anyway, the main reason I liked the book better is because of the insight that we get into the character Martins. Though the film had many interesting depictions of what was going on with Martins, I really enjoyed the kind of “split personality” that was present in the book. Martins had a few different personas that he put on in the book and I thought it was hilarious that he pretended to be Mr. Dexter so he could have a place to stay for free. I felt a lot more in-sync with with Martins character and I liked that we could see what he was thinking throughout the novel.
Also, I thought Calloway was an effective narrator for the story. His narration gave the novel more of a “detective story” feel, and I thought that was kind of fun. I think having the film narrated by Calloway would have been an interesting touch, but then that would have made him a more central figure in the film than he was.
I also thought the relationship (or lack thereof) between Martins and Anna was a lot more problematic in the book. This is something that Eric discusses in his blog post Rollo’s Problematic Relationship, so I will not spend too much time here. Martins continues to make crazy rationalizations in the book on why he and Anna should be together. He does not accept her rejection and cannot come to terms with the fact she does not want to be with him. I don’t think this was as obvious in the film–and maybe it wasn’t supposed to be since the film came first.
I guess what I am trying to say is that I appreciate both the film and book as separate entities, but it is difficult for me to see them as the same story. I guess this makes sense because, ultimately, they really are different stories. I think the novel is more humorous and provides an interesting perspective of the characters. I think the film is certainly artistic and demonstrates a lot of motion and emotion that is not necessarily seen in the novel (specifically with the prater wheel scene). After reading the book, seeing the film, and discussing both in class, I am still a bigger fan of the book. As I said, I appreciate the artistic elements of the film, but I like being able to interpret the characters and visualize them in my head rather than watch them be created in front of me. Maybe this is weird.
I found To Bed with Grand Music to be a delightfully disturbing read. Deborah’s character frustrated the heck out of me, but I could not stop turning the pages. I kept thinking to myself “what shitty thing is she going to do next?” At the end of the novel, I literally cringed because I felt so bad for the young woman that Deborah sunk her slutty claws into to turn her into another man-hunter. I love books that evoke this kind of emotion in the reader!
There are many rich ideas to discuss about To Bed with Grand Music. For this blog post, I would like to touch on psychology and the idea of body as currency.
When I first started reading To Bed with Grand Music, postpartum depression crossed my mind, since Deborah didn’t show much interest in or was always frustrated with Timmy and she felt like she was not cut-out for motherhood. Then I realized this probably wouldn’t be the case since Timmy was about two years old when the novel started and, as far as I know, postpartum depression doesn’t last that long and is usually right after birth (though I could be wrong, I am not very familiar with the topic). So, then, I pondered other things that could be wrong with Deborah psychologically. In the beginning of the novel, Deborah spends time justifying her sexual relationships in her head and coming up with moral reasons why it is acceptable for her to sleep with men other than her husband. She appears to know her actions are wrong, but she justifies them with the need to be happy and avoid being “nervy.” So, the next psychological disorder that popped into my mind was borderline personality disorder, which is characterized by a multitude of episodes of mood swings, anxiety, changing self-image, etc. Deborah certainly has a varying self-image of herself and she goes from being extremely upset with herself to extremely happy with her exciting life. However, I am no psychologist and I will stop trying to diagnose Deborah. I just thought this could offer some interesting fodder for conversation.
Anyway, what I would really like to focus on is Deborah’s transactions with men. It appears that Deborah’s body becomes a currency to pay for her lifestyle. Let me tell you how…
At first, Deborah’s exchanges with men seemed to be fulfilling a physical need and a “husband replacement,” for lack of a better term. However, as the novel progresses, it is quite clear that Deborah becomes addicted to her lifestyle and manipulating men. The more and more she gets involved as a mistress, the less and less she is worried about justifying her actions. She also thinks less and less of Graham and Timmy because they are boring and “second best” to her life in London. Thus, her “mistressness” becomes her job in order to afford her expensive lifestyle. Deborah completely reduces her body to currency in exchange for fancy accouterments, drinks, and meals.
My initial inclination was to discuss the commodification of Deborah’s body. For example, she seems to be no more than a body–or object–to the men, a mere distraction. On the surface it may appear that Deborah’s body is the commodity that the men desire; or, it may appear that Deborah makes herself a commodity through her appearance and desirability. However, upon closer examination, it is really Deborah who is objectifying herself (and even men–but I am not going to discuss that in this post) and creating a currency out of her body. Deborah could have easily stayed in her country home and remained a faithful, domestic housewife, but she decided to move to London and make herself available to men. This was her choice in which she had full agency. Not only does she simply make herself available to men, but she creates a business of it and uses her body to pay the men for extravagant things. The transaction is simple: men buy her fancy food/things and give her attention and she gives them her body in return. In other words, Deborah’s body is simply the means in which she uses to get what she wants. The reason I think her body is the currency instead of the items she receives is because she puts more value on the fancy things than she does on herself/her body. Her body becomes easily exchangeable for her appearance and social status. In addition, her body is the only thing she has to exchange for the lifestyle that she desires.
I think this can easily be seen at the end of the novel when Deborah is walking home with Graham’s friend, Ken Matthews, and she points out the crocodile purse that she absolutely must have. After they sleep together, Ken sends her the crocodile purse with a note that says, “I hope I interpreted yours hints correctly. I have no experience of proper payment for this sort of thing” (176). To the men in the novel, their currency is the items that they give to Deborah, and their desired commodity is her body. However, from Deborah’s perspective, her body is the currency for the items the men give her, which are her desired commodities. Both sides of the spectrum (the men and Deborah) are more then willing to give up a seemingly small price for their desires.
Laski, Marghanita. To Bed with Grand Music. Persephone Books Ltd., 2012.
Since we briefly discussed the purpose of bringing Stonehenge into the end of the novel, here is a video that ponders the meaning of Stonehenge. Other than that, there is absolutely no purpose to this video. I hope you find it as entertaining as I do. 🙂
Warning: there is some mild profanity and sexual content.
First, I would like to express how much I enjoyed reading Katherine Burdekin’s haunting novel Swastika Night. I think Swastika Night is an amazing vision of what could have happened if Nazi Germany had been successful. Dystopian novels (excluding recent dystopians like Hunger Games and Divergent–sorry) are really fascinating to me, and I am happy to have encountered this one. Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 and Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World are two of my favorite books. I think they both fulfill an incredibly intelligent depiction of dystopian societies drawing on history, politics, social issues, and much more. Now, I am adding Swastika Night into my “favorite’s list” for dystopian novels.
I have a confession: I have not read Orwell’s 1984. I know this is a crime as an English major, so please forgive me. Not having read 1984, I will not try to draw connections to Swastika Night–plus, Daphne Patai, in the introduction to Swastika Night, and Darragh McManus, in his article Swastika Night: Nineteen Eighty-Four’s Lost Twin, already draw upon these connections. Instead, I would like to discuss the interesting similarities between Swastika Night and Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, a novel I am much more familiar with.
A quick, over-simplified recap of Brave New World:
Brave New World unfolds in a place run by The World State Society, which is a futuristic, dystopian society that controls every aspect of its inhabitants. The society is heavily controlled by the government, specifically Mustapha Mond, one of the ten World Controllers, also referred to as “his ford-ship” in honor of the god-like figure, Our Ford (which, as many scholars have identified, is a direct reference to Freud) (Huxley 40). The government controls the citizens by keeping them drugged on “soma” and distracted with constant, open sexual activity. Contraceptives are required and there is no natural form of reproduction—sex is strictly pleasure based and natural birth is abominable. In addition, all members of society are grown as “test-tube” babies and conditioned to function in specific levels of society (Alphas, Betas, Deltas, Gammas, and Epsilons). The counter-culture to the World State Society is the Indian Reservation. The Indian Reservation is a place where traditional families and reproduction still occur. The people of the Indian Reservations disprove of the World State Society’s promiscuous tendencies.
This male-centered novel focuses on characters Bernard Marx, John the Savage, and Lenina Crowne, who is the central female character that is present in both halves of the novel, even when the male character focal point shifts. Until meeting John the Savage at a reservation, the first part of the novel examines Bernard Marx’s discontent within society. The second part of the novel focuses on John the Savage, an outcast from both the World State Society and the Indian Reservation.The novel is based around the male character’s struggles with belonging in society. Bernard Marx, originally disliking the promiscuity and functioning of the World State Society, decides that he does want to be a part of the society after he returns to it. John, on the other hand, continues to be an outcast to the end of the novel when he commits suicide due to his conflicted values that drive him mad.
Back to connections in Swastika Night:
Within the first few pages of reading Swastika Night, I noticed a lot of similarities to Brave New World. Although the plot-lines are very different, both novels present a tone of uneasiness and creepiness (if you will) in the beginning. Brave New World definitely has more satire present from the beginning, but it still makes the reader feel uncomfortable. Swastika Night opens with a scene that takes place in the Holy Hitler chapel and reveals many disturbing perceptions of women and male domination in their Creed. Brave New World begins by taking the reader on a tour through the hatchery where humans are unnaturally born in test tubes and conditioned into class structures (this scene also presents a type of “creed” for the society because it identifies all the beliefs and history of how the society turned out this way). Both opening sections present the reader with what we would view as ridiculous, disturbing realities.
In addition, there is also a connection between the women in Swastika Night and Brave New World. Although the women in Brave New World are not treated nearly as horrifically as the women in Swastika Night, their reproductive rights are still being controlled. The women in Swastika Night are equated to animals and have no agency or ownership of their bodies. Rape is not even considered a crime, and the women are objects to be dominated by men. On the surface, the women in Brave New World would appear to have more control of their bodies; however, when taking a closer look, this is not the case. Women in Brave New World are required to take contraceptive and have to avoid pregnancy at all costs. If a women does become pregnant, she is outcast from society. Pregnancy and child birth is viewed as the most disgusting, savage thing that a woman could do. In addition, the Brave New World Society maintains the mentality that everyone belongs to everyone. Though this mentality is supposed to be sexually liberating, it removes personal ownership of the body also. The members of society are expected to be promiscuous and monogamy is highly discouraged. Both Swastika Night and Brave New World present problematic views of women’s function and agency in society.
One final connection between the novels is the control that is imposed upon in each society. Both Swastika Night and Brave New World present elements of brainwash and censorship. In Swastika Night, we see the German Empire controlling what people know about history and how members of the society function. The Brave New World Society also distorts reality and imposes lies upon its members. Both societies organize members into cast-like systems–by blood and gender in Swastika Night and by levels of conditioned classes in Brave New World.
Though there are many other connections, I will stop here. I am really excited for our class discussion tonight. I look forward to hearing what other people think about the novel.
Here’s another interesting (quick) article I found online about Swastika night: http://www.cclapcenter.com/2012/07/on_being_human_swastika_night_.html
Huxley, Aldous. Brave New World. Harper Perennial, 1932.
After reading the first three pages of Novel on Yellow Paper, I closed the book, walked into my living room, and handed the book to my fiancee saying, “I don’t get it.” He took Novel on Yellow Paper from me and read the first three pages aloud. When he was done I said, “see, it doesn’t make any sense and I hate it.” Though I didn’t really hate the book and I was already frustrated by the numerous other things I had to read or write that night, I judged the book very early. Eventually, I picked the book up again and continued reading. I was still frustrated with the style and found myself drifting off into other thoughts because I wasn’t fully following the text. I found the stream of consciousness writing difficult to follow, and, at first, everything seemed very random. As I continued to read, I started understanding–or at least following–the style. The use of stream of consciousness proved to be an interesting perspective. I began to appreciate the witty comments, humor, and historical awareness that Smith presented throughout the novel.
Although I did develop an appreciation for the style and content, I still wasn’t engulfed in the text. I was curious what kind of reviews the book had and if any reflected my frustration. I found a review that called Novel on Yellow Paper a “book of a lifetime” and spoke highly of the text. I found a another review that aligned more closely with my own views of the novel claiming it to a little frustrating and have little plot, but many ideas.
I also found a blog that claimed Novel on Yellow Paper to be Woolfian because of the stream of consciousness style in which it is written. However, I disagree with this claim because I found Mrs. Dalloway much easier to follow. Plus, as we discussed in class, Woolf does not use a stream of consciousness style, but rather free indirect discourse. Mrs. Dalloway also has a clear plot (Clarissa preparing for a party), whereas Novel on Yellow Wallpaper does not. I can see a slight connection between the two novels, but I
In the end, though it honestly was not my favorite book, I found Novel on Yellow Paper to be an interesting read. I think my favorite thing about the book, aside from the literary references and humor, was that the novel was reflective of random thoughts that happen throughout the day. Though this was also the part that I found frustrating, I began to see the artistic element in stringing together random thoughts. Also, I thought it was interesting that the random thoughts ended up not really being random because they were reflective of events and interactions in Pompey’s life. I think thought tangents, like Pompey’s, happen to everyone (at least they do to me), and you wonder how your brain got there. Though I wouldn’t place Novel on Yellow Paper on the same level as Mrs. Dalloway, I agree that the novel is compelling and witty.
Here are a couple recordings of Stevie Smith reciting her work. Novel on Yellow Paper is not included, but I think it is interesting and useful to hear how the author reads their work.