Author Archives: Ita Flores

The Importance of Science Fiction

On Wednesday, December 6th City Tech held the second annual Science Fiction Symposium. I’ll be honest I enjoyed it more than I thought I would. Unfortunately, I was only able to attend the second session due to school and work. The talks during the second session covered a wide variety of topics, ranging from science (obviously) to politics, philosophy and even design.

One of my favorite parts was during Adam Heidebrink-Bruno’s, “Structural Violence of Late Capitalism and the Limiting of Radical Imagination” when Bruno critiqued the “ideological purity” of capitalist goals. Bruno’s talk was very interesting, I was glad to hear that others had about similar sentiments about capitalism, and could concisely describe the points that made it that way, such as, the superficialness and manipulation. Out of all the talks, this is the one that I took notes on the most, furiously, if I might add. Bruno’s talk was saturated with analysis, and despite not having read the text he was describing I could picture exactly what he was referring to. His suggestion that people were made uncomfortable by seeing a reflection of themselves in something that they disagree with, stood with me, I learned that writers will purposely try to instill their readers with this feeling so as to expand their critique into readers lives; it makes sense, they push the boundaries of storytelling and writing and give themselves more space to manifest their ideas. This ability gives them the opportunity to provide the readers with more to take away, and possibly, to even make an active change in their lives or the world around them.

At the symposium, I learned that there was more to science fiction than I initially believed. I, of course, knew there was a degree of importance to science fiction given that some of the greatest known literary works are science fiction pieces (e.g. 1984, The Handmaids Tale, Fahrenheit 451), however, I believe that I underestimated the subtle nuances that are necessary to have a good science fiction piece, as well as severely underestimating the limits of the topics that science fiction could cover, which are, as I learned duringKimon Keramidas’ talk, literally infinitesimal, given that science fiction can cover anything in the past, present, or future. I was also pleasantly surprised by Leigh Dara Gold’s talk to see that philosophy is a topic that can be so present in science fiction. I almost embarrassingly realized that my original views of science fiction were quite narrow and limited mostly to tropes of overly complicated science or gatekeepers trying to make sure that you’re a “real fan” of anything vaguely geeky. I came to find out that a lot of things I was interested in, that I wouldn’t have even thought of as science fiction, actually fell under that category, pieces of media like Haruki Murakami’s 1Q84, Black Mirror, and one of my favorite short stories of all time Folding Beijing by Hao Jingang.

Given our current political climate, I believe analysis and discussion, like the kind displayed at the Science Fiction Symposium, should be not only encouraged but viewed as necessary in order to generate a more comprehensive understanding of the world we should be moving towards.

Below I’d like to include a list of some of my additional favorite sci-fi works:

Folding Beijing by Hao Jingang
Black Mirror
Kin by Bruce McAllister
Saga by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples
Paper Girls by Brian K. Vaughan and Cliff Chiang
Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adam
Stranger Things
The Twilight Zone

Thought Curation (#WhyIWrite)

I started writing when I was really young in order to keep myself entertained. I never really saw it as something I enjoyed doing until recently. It was difficult explaining my convoluted ideas to others and writing made it easier to understand myself. It also provided a place for me to get out anything that I couldn’t talk about with others, either because it was personal, or too complicated, seemed nonsensical or simply because my interests didn’t align with others around me.

In my junior year of high school, my teacher made us keep a journal. I found that when I really put effort and care into what I wrote it was not only a lot more enjoyable to write but a lot easier to read and understand. Keeping that journal I learned that I could have fun writing. I learned that if I actually cared about and meant what I was saying, I wouldn’t have any regret or cringy moments rereading my writing later. I appreciated writing a lot more after keeping that journal, I’m regretful I didn’t continue it afterward… 

Two entries from the journal I kept in 2015

I think of writing as a way to capture who I was at a point in time. Just how a picture can capture an image or moment, writing is almost like capturing an essence. I can relive a moment in time when I felt or thought a certain way. Writing about things that I feel passionate about is really interesting, I think it’s really easy to forget that writing can be used for so much more than academia. I’ve written about my favorite singers and bands, fashion, food, restaurants, brands, music, books, and even words. 

Recently, in an effort to start journaling again I made an Instagram account where I post my favorite pictures and caption them with small thoughts, essays, or song lyrics. It’s easier to make a quick post on the bus or train than to sit down and physically write out in a journal, of course, it’s different, but at the core, it’s the same. I like to think of it as Thought Curation, where I pick out what I like most, polish it and share it.

It’s cathartic being able to express emotions freely, and writing is something very simple that almost everyone can do. I really encourage it, it’s a space to grow and practice.

Did the world ever truly end?

In Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel, we flip back and forth between narratives in the future and the past. The future takes place in a post-apocalyptic North America. The government isn’t anywhere to be found, more than half of civilization is missing, and the world just seems empty. Is that it? Is that how easy it is to snuff out the world?

The flu in Station Eleven truly does seem like the end of the world. This is in contrast to other pieces of media depicting post-apocalypse, where usually, viewers are given some room for hope. Hope that the rest of the world isn’t as destroyed, that other people are coming, that they’re not alone. There’s nothing to defend against either, no zombies or common enemy to go up against. Sure, The Prophet is a recurring antagonist, but he’s one of many. It could easily be debated that The Prophet is a result of a badly parented child left to his own spiritual devices, a persona born from boredom. The idea of surviving in a world alone is daunting, if “Survival is insufficient” once you have all your bases covered, i.e. water, food, and shelter, what else is there to survive? Boredom, probably. Who knows how differently Tyler could’ve turned out if his Nintendo console hadn’t died.

People weren’t the only things that died because of the Georgia flu, modern technology, culture, and politics as we know them died too. But was that really the end of it? They existed once and never again? Doubtful. Life is ephemeral, but like culture and technology, it’s cyclical. The flu is just a fact of nature, it was almost like cleansing the world, obviously not in the same way that people like The Prophet see it. Cleansing in the same way that a natural fire takes place, the opportunity to start anew. While it may seem like the world fell apart, what really kept it alive was the people willing and working to keep it that way. People like the Traveling Symphony, Clark and The Museum of Civilization, and Jeevan and his small medical practice. In each of these examples, there is special emphasis placed on learning and teaching. Jeevan was already studying to be an EMT and after civilization collapsed he apprenticed under a practiced doctor. There is an obvious higher need for Jeevan’s medical skills in the new world, especially if you consider that the people closest and most exposed to the virus, in the beginning, were doctors, people like Jeevan’s friend Hua. The knowledge of a doctor is something most usefully past down through teaching versus trial and error, fewer people are put at risk. The need for plays, music, and artifacts from the past might seem less useful but it is just as necessary. 

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

History and the Arts are what begins to fulfill the needs towards the top of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Music and theatre bring people together, there is intimacy in sharing a moment of beauty with others. History lets us learns and encourages us to do better. The preservation of the knowledge is so important. Not only does it prevent having to relearn and reinvent, it assists in realizing the potential of the self and people around us. In Station Eleven there is mention of electric generators but there was no way to use them, “all the workers who knew how the generators worked has left…” (p.244)

Psychological needs are very important, more important than most would think. The need for reassurance and that “everything happens for reason” can be comforting but take it too much to heart and it can be a recipe for disaster. Why? Because there exists the chance that instead of taking that school of thought and living life freely with it people will choose to deny themselves in an effort to reach a higher power, “it’s some sort of survival mechanism”(p.106) a refusal or denial to change. There are multiple examples throughout Station Eleven of this, the most recurrent one being Elizabeth. All the way back in chapter 15 she tells Miranda “I think this is happening because it was supposed to happen.” It’s the same kind of thinking Tyler adopts and later implements once he becomes The Prophet.

Culture is more than we will ever know. We have no way of knowing in how many ways, however small they may be, we impact others, even years down the line. The world in Station Eleven was saved through the people and their memories of the past. To preserve culture is to preserve knowledge and though we know may never comprehend the full scale of it, preservation is key to survival and key to human legacy in Station Eleven.

Almost Invisible

In Emily St.John Mandel’s Station Eleven, we are confronted with ideas of existentialism. What does it mean to exist, to be human? To be part of something much larger than ourselves and how what we choose to put in our spaces is a reflection of invisible aspects and values that we have. “We want to be remembered” (p.187) and what we leave behind is what we’ll be remembered by, do our lives reflect the legacy we want to be remembered for?

It’s the little things we miss. Throughout Parts 4 through 6 of Station Eleven, there are several instances where we see people at their most vulnerable moments, moments where they realize just how small yet intrinsic they are to the clockwork that is humanity, moments where these people realize just exactly what it is they will miss about life moving forward. There are several references to the objects that they will miss and while this may seem superficial and may speak to theories of consumerism and how it relates to existentialism I believe that at their very heart it’s just a show of how meaningful things can become to us. For Jeevan it’s cappuccinos, for Kirsten it’s the Station Eleven comic books, for August it’s television. Slowly, we begin to realize that these people are more than the objects they’ll miss, rather, it’s about what’s attached to those objects that they don’t want to forget. It needn’t be complicated memories like Kirsten’s, just the simple sense of availability and stability, a pleasure that just won’t be around anymore. There is a certain sense of security attached to the objects we have in our daily lives, they’re constants, reminding us that certain things in life don’t change, and it is this inventible withdrawal that happens when they’re gone that is a painful reminder of what once was, and just how something existed at a certain point in time, frozen only in memory. In part 5, in the interview with Kirsten and Diallo, Kristin points out that “…it seem[s] like the people who struggle the most with it are the people who remember the old world clearly […] The more you remember the more you’ve lost.”(p.196)

A picture from Leigh Davis’ series Residence. “These intimate photographs depict the careful detail of room interiors, while implying a larger narrative about the women who live there but who are not present in the images themselves.” These objects are a reflection of the people that live with them, in the same way and on a much larger scale what humanity leaves behind implies a story about us.

There is this belief that being attached to objects and certain things is superficial and materialistic, somewhat vain even. We know this debate well in our day and age with things like cell phones and computers and the internet. Many reduce the debate to a sort of technology is making us more superficial conclusion and ignore arguments that are larger, we ignore the complexities that technology brings to us. The truth is that the internet and technology, like phones and computers, are nothing more than objects, the internet perhaps something a little more but still a human creation. There is this intrinsic humanity in the nature of things, they were created for and to accommodate us, “There had always been a massive delicate infrastructure of people, all of them working unnoticed around us, and when people stop going to work, the entire operation grinds to a halt.” (p.178) Many people that hold up this argument against technology forget that before computers it was books, before it was books it was slates, and before it was slates it was rocks and caves. People have always been “minimally present.”(p.164) Things hold meaning to us as a species, humans are attracted to things. We put value on things simply because they’re pretty. Diamonds and gold there’s no intrinsic value to them, people, as a species just found them incredibly beautiful and so we made it worth what we thought it should be worth for no real reason, honestly. The aesthetic sense of humanity is reflected in what we put most value on, it could be considered our legacy, what we held to the utmost standard of worthy, what we held the most beautiful. It’s the idea of people coming back to learn about us, the history we leave behind and what people get from that, who were we? who are we?

All the objects we surround ourselves with are a visual interpretation of what our values are. These things and their meanings are invisible to us, almost. Only invisible until we don’t have them anymore.

The Space Between Then and Now

It seems that Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven transcends time. I am quite pleased to see that my prediction about time from my last post has proven correct so far. The question of, how much could things change between then and now? is recurring throughout parts two and three of the novel. It is interesting to think about how far society falls within 20 years, but it is just as fascinating to think about change across time in general. Change in people, thoughts, and society in Station Eleven seems  to reflect off of each other. One of the most crucial parts of Mandel’s Station Eleven is the change over time, change is consistently a focal point throughout the chapters and it’s presence is indispensable to the plot in the story.

One of the most telling lines in part three in regards to time is “Arthur wasn’t having dinner with a friend […] so much as having dinner with an audience. He felt sick with disgust. […] Thinking about the terrible gulf of years between eighteen and fifty.” (p.112) These lines are so incredibly compelling because they remind us that conflict isn’t always derived from things greater than us but that it can from places within ourselves so visceral that logic feels alien. Here, Clark is summarizing the five chapters worth of change that Arthur goes through, from someone embarrassed by fame to someone performing his life for strangers. There was a change in substance within Arthur throughout 33 years that was a catalyst for many things in the novel, such as the Station Eleven comic book, which was  revealed to be from Arthur’s ex-wife Miranda, and the beautiful paperweight from Arthur’s his longtime friend Clark, both objects now under the possession of Kirsten.

It seems that love lives on after the apocalypse. It is a little funny to see that amid the danger of a post-apocalyptic world, there is still room for drama. It seems almost ridiculous but it is true to life, we would never let ourselves become bored with life and much less succumb to it. In part two we find out the Kirsten cheated on Sayid with someone she happened to meet “more or less out of boredom”(p.45) and the drama generated from this was enough to tease her about. This seems like a direct reflection to how Arthur leaves Miranda for Elizabeth. It feels like the parallels between Arthur and Kirsten could go farther, and this leads to thoughts about whether Kirsten could have a similar death to Arthur’s, especially after the exchange between Jeevan and a young Kirsten in part 1, “‘…if acting was the last thing he ever did […] then the last thing he ever did was something that made him happy.’ ‘It’s the thing I love most in the world too, […] acting.'”(p.8-9)

Though these bits are important in terms of characterizing change within Arthur and Kirsten, I believe the most important display of change within parts two and three is the interview in the last chapter of part three. “The more we know about the former world, the better we’ll understand what happened when it fell. […] I believe in understanding history.”(p.114-115) It is crucial to understand history if something new is to progress and grow, change in society requires an understanding of the past so as not to commit the same mistakes. The world is Station Eleven is subject to this constantly and we see it reflected in the town of St. Deborah by the Water when the prophet asks for 15 year old Alexandra to be left behind as his bride. Small towns are just small societies, politics didn’t die with the victims of the Georgia flu, if the survivors can manage to learn from the past then humanity has a greater chance at survival.

Overall, parts two and three give us a bigger sense of change in both the past and the present. The novel is told through narratives of the most relevant people in the story, this clues us in as to who to pay attention to more because their story and point of view is given more presence over another. Everything is intertwined and if we can understand the past and connect it to the present then the space between then and now becomes clearer.

Before the After

“this illness […] was going to be the divide between a before and an after, a line drawn through his life.” p.20

If it is possible, when I begin reading a new book, I like to ignore the blurb and go straight into the text. I find that the state of immersion is different. With Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel, I found myself drawn in by the pacing, which seemed slow at first but almost immediately kicked off with conflict. Throughout the first part there were many instances where the past and it’s relation to the present is brought up. This leads me to believe that this will become a recurring theme throughout the novel, or the very least an idea of playing with our perception of time.

One of my favorite instances of perceptive play in Part 1 is on page 15 when Mandel misdirects the readers,

“Of all of them there at the bar that night, the bartender was the one who survived the longest. He died three weeks later on the road out of the city.” p.15

The first sentence feels reasonable, a man just died, no one knows how long we have to live, except the omniscient narrator, of course. Finding out who outlived who doesn’t seem like irrelevant information, just a natural conclusion. The second sentence is what makes the information shocking, not only did the waiter die a lot earlier than the readers anticipated, they died on a road out of the city. This carried several implications with it and alluded to the soon to come apocalypse. Why was the waiter on the road? Why outside of the city? Why three weeks later? The fact that he dies within such a short time frame somewhere on a road leaving the city builds up to the conclusion we eventually arrive at, the waiter was trying to run away from the city, from the virus that was spreading like wildfire.

Another example of time within Part 1 of Station Eleven, is how much the past is talked about and how important details are often told through memories of the characters. There are multiple times that an epidemic from the past is brought up.

“You remember the SARS epidemic?” p.18

“It’ll be like SARS, […] They made such a big deal about it, then it blew over so fast.” p.25

We know from the get go that the new epidemic is not at all like the one from the past. This is the first mistake we see, the flu is not leaving anytime soon and treating it like it will is probably not the best course of action. The past isn’t helping the people address this a new problem, at least not so far.

“This was during the final month of the era when it was possible to press a series of buttons on a telephone and speak with someone on the far side of the earth.” p.30

This note is brought about from a phone call made to notify about the first death in the novel, no ones knows that these are the last weeks of known society. All these moments serve as premonitions for what is to come, warnings to an empty audience that can’t do anything about it. Chapter six is the clearest example of this, an incomplete list of all the things we miss. Places, things, services, all things we no longer have access to.

“No more reading and commenting on the lives of others, and in doing so, feeling slightly less alone in the room. No more avatars.” p.32

The startling fear, that we suddenly find ourselves alone, “No more avatars.” nothing to hide behind, us whole but still feeling like pieces are missing, the human instinct and need for interaction.

 

 

Nature Doesn’t Need Us (not late!)

“…And Spring herself, when she woke at dawn

Would scarcely know that we were gone.”

 

In There Will Come Soft Rains by Ray Bradbury we are able to experience the a world that we would never be able to. An empty house, an empty world, with no people around. Our protagonist in There Will Come Soft Rains is not a person but a house. Seemingly utopian at first, the house is modern and contains technology that fills the mind with wonder, but slowly we begin to realize that there is something missing, we are missing. A day in the life of an empty house in 2026. The house is juxtaposed with nature, and as we finally come to realize, this story is one about the ultimately apathetic quality of nature.

Humans seem to forget that nature does not care. As most of us have come to realize, the consequences of global warming are imminent. Hurricanes, for example, are a direct consequence of global warming they are something we did to ourselves. Yet somehow, we find ways to place the blame on “mother nature” we accuse her being wrathful and unstoppable, a true force of the universe we are powerless against, which is a lie. Like uncomfortable guests at a dinner party argument, we remove ourselves the situation. We will probably end up paying the price for that sooner than later because again, nature does not care. Humans, could as a species become completely extinct, but it really wouldn’t matter to nature. Life goes on after us, it’ll just pick up where it left off. Humans like to think of themselves as more important than we really are, but honestly it’s not that deep. We destroy each other for things that are meaningless in the grand scheme of things and expect other to be perfectly fine with those decisions, to see them as logical and reasonable.

Abandoned IM Power Plant in Charleroi, Belgium

Bradbury’s There Will Come Soft Rains shows us a glimpse of the world that is to come after us. We are subtly told that this is a consequence of some kind of nuclear fallout, “the entire west face of the house was black, save for five places. […] The five spots of paint—the man, the woman, the children, the ball—remained. The rest was a thin charcoaled layer.” In this lack of humans, the house is personified and seems almost like a dog waiting for it’s master to come back. This is interesting given that the house is a piece of human technology left behind, and the juxtaposition it is placed in with an actual, literal dog. Both, the metaphorical and actual dog die in the story. The real dog foreshadows the oncoming death of the house, “The dog frothed at the mouth, lying at the door, sniffing, its eyes turned to fire. It ran wildly in circles, biting at its tail, spun in a frenzy, and died.” We see that in it’s last moments the house is trying to keep itself alive and protect itself from an outside force, like the dog who is done in by the smell of pancakes in the house, there is even a reference to fire.

The forces of nature can not be controlled, we are meant to coexist not compete. It is not us versus them, when “us”, humanity, is part of “them”, nature. It is a lesson we should learn if we wish to continue living as we have until now.

Mother Gaia by Humon Comics

9/26 Class Notes

Housekeeping:

  • For future reference, notes should be categorized  as Class Notes AND under whatever stories we discuss that day Ex: Today’s notes will be under Class Notes and The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas
  • OpenLab issues? E-mail Professor Belli to let her know and send a copy of your work as well.
  • “Whatever can go wrong, will go wrong.” Give yourself wiggle room to allow for contingencies, it’s encouraged to work on your blogs sooner rather than later.
  • Read and think about short poem (in Schedule)
  • Watch Russian short film
  • No new readings until the end of next week
  • Staring at the end of next week we will begin with Station Eleven, if you are slow reader it is suggested you begin reading soon

Text:  The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas

“How much are we willing to overlook for happiness?”

FreewriteWould you walk away from Omelas? 5 Minutes

Key Points from Freewrite Discussion:

  • Happiness
  • What does it mean to walk away from Omelas?
  • Trolley Problem; Utilitarianism

   Utilitarianism – the greatest good for the greatest number

• Consider: What gets elided (glossed over) under Utilitarianism?

  • Take control of our own happiness, life, and destiny
  • Scale over Possibility
  • Leave to another form of control; risk; is what you leave better than where you’re going?
  • “the grass is always greener on the other side” “the known” is certain
  • Settling vs. Seeking; the heart of possibility
  • Pragmatic; we are accepting of our country’s faults, we don’t care, we live in injustice
  • Taking action in Omelas; walking away from Omelas but also walking away from the child

Utopia –  an imaginary perfect place; perfect; peaceful; heaven; ideal; unrealistic; Utopias are usually pejorative

Etymology: Topos (land), Eu (good), Ou (no) → “The good place that is no place” ; Eu and Ou are an Allision

Pejorative – having a bad connotation

Utopian – focused on the ideal of what could be

Generic – adj. of Genre; related to Genre

Coined – create

Eponymous – having the name of something; to be named after

Etymology: Onoma meaning name

Utopia comes from a book titled Utopia written by Sir Thomas More in 1516

The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas is an earlier work of author Ursula LeGuin, she won the Hugo Award for TOWWAFO.

Hugo Award – yearly sci-fi work award

Parable – short story that teaches a moral lesson; often biblical

 

Handout: Will be available online soon! While we read texts going forward, this is a guide to to help, if you’re stuck on a blog post and don’t know what to write about you can make a post answering/about the questions

People’s Choice: Daniel

 

Discussion:

Here’s the world as it is → Here’s what it could be

Is vs. Ought

What is the gap between what the world is and what it could be? → Utopianism

Soma – things people do or take in order to be distracted from reality (ex: Drooz in TOWWAFO)

The idea of the “Other”; the marginalized figure

POV/Narrator in TOWWAFO?

A shift from Our/We to I/They, separating themselves from the people of Omelas

Why do we have to become invested?

Utopias can become quite boring because nothing happens, everything is fine, as opposed to dystopias where everything is not fine.

Complicit – culpable; if you know and do nothing you are complicit

The is another child in Omelas

Juxtaposition between the two children; both children are alone

The child is referred to as an “It” throughout the story; objectification of the child

Objectification – treat something/someone like an object

The Moral Dilemma Behind Happiness In Omelas

In Ursula Le Guin’s, The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas, we see a paradoxical dichotomy presented that questions our morals. It asks us to question something that may work well in theory but perhaps not as well in real life. It asks us about the whole over the part and whether this is a good model for society. Is the city of Omelas a true utopia? This is the overall question presented to us. Utopia’s are imaginary, idealistic, and often times impractical worlds, the city of Omelas being a perfect example for this. Omelas is an impractical utopia, everyone is deserving and worthy of a good life, humanity is not something to be decided upon.

The child is dehumanized throughout the story by referred to as “it”. In this post I will be using the words they/them/their (singular) in effort to bring my point of the worth of the child’s humanity across.

The model for Omelas is inherently flawed. It would be different perhaps, if the child wasn’t a child, or if the child had spent it’s whole life not knowing much else. However, this is a child who was once part of the exterior world “the child, […] has not always lived in the tool room.” A tragic hero, they have fallen from their status of normalcy to being slave to a societies need for happiness.  This is not an adult who understands sacrifices and can willingly accept and take on the responsibility of an entire populations happiness; this is child, they do not know about commitment or the need of greater good, the child is living a miserable life against their will. Which brings up the question, are the people in Omelas subject to an Ella Enchanted like curse where their feelings are redundant? Do they assure themselves that the child is fine? Are they also subject to a logic of “it can always be worse”? If that is what happens, the truth is things can always be much worse, but our measure for progress shouldn’t be be, “how much worse can things get?” but “how much better can things be?” We can see from the ending of the story, that the former is exactly what the people in Omelas tell themselves, “it [the child] is too degraded and imbecile to know any real joy” the people delude themselves into believing that the child is deserving of whatever pain and suffering befalls on them. Why, after initially feeling such rage over the the the captivity of the child, do they eventually “realize” i.e. convince themselves, that the child “would not get much good from of its freedom”? Guilt. This is the ultimate moral dilemma in Omelas, to choose between the happiness of the whole or the happiness of one, and the guilt of having to live with both decisions. Who is included in the whole though? Definitely not the child. The most telling part about our humanity however, might not even be with how the people lie to themselves in order to sleep at night, but in the reaction of” those who walk away from Omelas.” What they tell us when they walk away, is they are not trying, they are avoiding the guilt of Omelas by not trying to liberate the child but also not trying to help the city if the child ever were to be liberated. Perhaps, there is nothing they can do but leave. The people in Omelas live pleasantly, with nothing nagging their minds, but those who leave, what nags at their minds?

It is significant that those who leave, leave alone. I believe it speaks to our unwillingness to bring about change on our own. They walk away from the city but they also walk away from the child. They do nothing in an effort to change, but this shouldn’t just be attributed to us as people, but us as a society. In practice, would we actually go through with this? Probably not, this would spark outrage. Why though? Why not exist with perfect happiness? I believe it is because we are all, whether consciously or unconsciously, aware of the fact that justice is not based on equality but on equity. If we can not exist in such a way, we are all subject to the captivity of each other. Just like in Omelas, “they [the people], like the child, are not free.” Their mistake, however is in believing “there is nothing they can do.” Ironically, the views of equity in justice might be more idealistic than the city of Omelas, but it is what we want, true happiness. What Omelas has is unbound happiness, not tied to or rooted in anything but the misery of a single child. What they have “it doesn’t matter”, as long as they are happy, but is this really true happiness?

Who is Jane?

Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s, The Yellow Wallpaper, shows through wonderful use of unreliable narration, the stigma surrounding mental illness, and the infantilization of women’s health.

Before delving into the intersection of women’s mental illness, we should first acknowledge the unreliability in our narrator. Her husband, John, treats our narrator as someone emotionally unstable and constantly in need of assistance. John calls her feeling unwell “nervousness” and treats her ideas and suggestions as “hysterical” and delusional. John goes as far as to refer to his wife as a child as we see in the quote , “What is it, little girl?” So how do we know that we can trust our narrator? We don’t. It is up to the readers to decide what they do and do not want to trust.  We have to use context clues to know what we should believe and even then we only know a single “truth”, which is the narrator’s.

The story spirals further and further down our narrators delusions and we find ourselves not knowing quite exactly what is going on. We first begin with a small family that has moved in to an old house for a few months. Right from the get go we are made aware of the opinions on the narrator’s mental health, “he does not believe I am sick!” John is patronizing towards his wife.  The narrator even suggests “…perhaps that is one reason I do not get well faster.” There is a shift in the narrators views on her own health throughout the story. She begins with a certain doubt in her husbands treatment, “better in body,” but not in soul, however as the story progresses there is more emphasis placed on how much the husband loves the narrator. Here is where the narrator’s mental stability begin to deteriorate and we see her obsession with the yellow wallpaper increase.

The narrator begins to see, through deep analysis, that the patterns in the wallpaper move as time passes. She discovers a second “sub pattern” that incarcerates a women that she also finds in the wallpaper. The narrator is careful to avoid talking or even acknowledging the wallpaper around John and his sister, Julie, but even then, despite her efforts, they are still wary of her, Julie “report[s]” her findings to John. Eventually, the last night of her time there, the narrator becomes engulfed with the need to do something about that wallpaper, and she tears it off the wall along with the women in the wall “I pulled and she shook, she shook and I pulled.” The narrator was attempting to free the woman in the wall. The following day the narrator locks herself in the room and is determined to catch the woman from the wall. This is opposite to what she was doing the night before, her husband eventually walks in and the narrator says, “I’ve got out at last […] in spite of you and Jane.” Who is Jane? I believe that Jane is the narrator herself, the woman in the wallpaper was the narrator all along, she was attempting to free herself from all the constrictions that her husband placed on her, these were the patterns that kept the woman trapped in the wall. This can be interpreted as a metaphor for how often women’s health is ignored because of the generalized belief that women are sensitive and therefore more prone to lie about when they feel ill, this belief is wrong however, studies show that if anything women are more prone to the opposite.

It is important that we believe women when they say they are ill, especially because mental illnesses are not as easily detectable as physical ones.