Author Archives: Nickolas

Science Fiction: The Truthful Harbinger of Things to Come

At the symposium, several speakers said some stuff that I either didn’t know before or never thought of it in the way they presented it. I found it easier and more interesting to understand the speakers’ thoughts when they made comparisons between science fiction and various kinds of texts.

For example, a woman made a point about creating a sustainable Earth. Her name was Marleen S. Barr, an author, editor, and a CUNY professor of English. Barr described Eleanor Cameron’s The Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet, a book that she had read as a child. In that book, mushrooms and other organic materials are used for construction of cities. Barr argued that if we fail to utilize biological resources, there will be dire consequences for all of the planet. She reminds the audience that organic matter matters.

Adam Heidebrink-Bruno, a graduate student from Lehigh University’s Literature and Social Justice program, discussed capitalism and perception of corporate America in Dave Eggers’ novel, The Circle. However, the way Bruno talked about it reminds me of The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. He described how the protagonist of The Circle, Mae, is living in a world that’s beyond her control and feels awry. Similar to Offred, the main character in Atwood’s novel, Mae is in a society where public sentiment is manipulated and resistance is marginalized. Both characters live in dystopian worlds where according to Bruno, “if you control the flow of information, you have the power to control everything” (Bruno). He tied together the themes of modern work ethic and ideology. He also made a great point in saying that innocuous human actions are linked to the political economy.

Another speaker that caught my attention was Peter Spillane, a Chemistry professor at City Tech. He talked about whether or not robots truly have singularity, creativity, and a conscience. He made comparisons to movies like The Martian and Big Hero 6. Professor Spillane spoke of carbon nanotubes and how a painter, Harold Cohen’s AI, AARON, creates original images.

Sharon Packer, an author, psychiatrist, physician, editor, and Assistant Clinical Professor at Icahn School of Medicine at Mt. Sinai, talked about the fictional superhero, Luke Cage. Packer summarized how Cage became who he is through experimentation while in prison. She said that “by breaking out of jail, Cage symbolically breaks barriers” (Packer) for African Americans. Packer compared what happens in Luke Cage comics to the Tuskegee Syphilis Study and the Attica Prison Riot. She said that the story of Luke Cage reflects existing controversies with prison studies. It “reopens dialogue between medical researcher and practitioners” (Packer).

The discussions during the symposium remind me that science fiction combines both facts and fiction. No matter how “crazy” certain concepts seem to be, sci-fi has more truth to it than certain individuals see it as. Science fiction goes to show that there are endless possibilities for how things unravel in what we want to consider as due time. However, sci-fi applies what I’ve known for a long time. The only things certain in life are the mysterious uncertainties that nobody is meant to figure out. Doing so will drive those, who dare to try, “crazy”. Doing so will upset the standards and the balance of the universe, throwing all that dwell within into disarray because it only takes at least one to affect the rest.

To Taste the Fruits of Freedom and Individualism is a Sin

In The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, society’s set up as a religious hierarchy ranging from the rich, powerful aristocracy to the struggling slaves of the working class. In the book, the Commander and his wife are on top of everyone else. They are essentially gods. The Guardians, Angels, Marthas, and Handmaids “worship” them. They are meant and expected to faithfully fulfill the dutiful roles that are assigned by the Commander. The protagonist/narrator is a Handmaid named Offred.

The story has a lot of imagery, especially with the colors designated to a particular group of persons. The Commander’s dressed in black. Blue for the Commander’s wife, green represents the Marthas, and red for the Handmaids.

Perhaps the color red represents Offred’s lust for love. In the text, “What if I were to come at night, when he’s on duty alone – though he would never be allowed such solitude – and permit him beyond my white wings? What if I were to peel off my red shroud and show myself to him, to them, by the uncertain light of the lanterns? This is what they must think about sometimes, as they stand endlessly beside this barrier…” (21). “They touch with their eyes instead and I move my hips a little, feeling the full red skirt sway around me. It’s like thumbing your nose from behind a fence or teasing a dog with a bone held out of reach, and I’m ashamed of myself for doing it, because none of this is the fault of these men, they’re too young.” (22). “Then I find I’m not ashamed at all. I enjoy the power; power of a dog bone, passive but there. I hope they get hard at the sight of us and have to rub themselves against the painted barriers, surreptitiously.” (22). Offred wants to break free from conservatism that’s imposed on her.

Perhaps that’s why she’s given the name of Offred. She claims that, “I never looked good in red, it’s not my color.” (8). Similar to other Handmaids, Offred is “offered” to the Commander. Her services are “offered” to “the Lord”. However, unlike her fellow workers, Offred is “off red”. She seeks to be different from the rest. Offred secretly wants to enjoy the denied virtues of being a full fledged, independent woman.

Society, both in real life and in the novel, pays a lot of attention to etiquette and decorum. People are restricted to norms. For prosperous societies and regimes to remain intact, certain rules/laws are strictly enforced and conditions are to be met. Failure to conform is considered a crime, treason, or blasphemy and results in punishment. As seen in the story, “I remember the rules, rules that were never spelled out but that every woman knew: Don’t open your door to a stranger, even if he says he is the police. Make him slide his ID under the door. Don’t stop on the road to help a motorist pretending to be in trouble. Keep the locks on and keep going. If anyone whistles, don’t turn to look. Don’t go into a laundromat, by yourself, at night.” (24). The people that obey such rules are rendered automatic. Hopefully Offred can eventually attain her salvation by finding a loophole to exploit, which could shine the light on a path to reclaim her humanity.

To Live and Die by the Sword of Faith

After reading the last of Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven, the final three parts made me think of a few things. The post-apocalypse setting of the world can transform people in various ways. It shows how humans react to a multitude of dynamic changes and what they’re capable of when pushed to or even beyond their physical and mental limits. The world following the Georgia Flu forces survivors to question their existence and doubt what they believe in. It’s in times of adversity, like the Georgia Flu, where people are defined by their actions and feelings before, during, and after the conflict.

Clark Thompson lives in two distinct dimensions. He exists in a world that’s within another world. As indicated in the text, “Toward the end of his second decade in the airport, Clark was thinking about how lucky he’d been. Not just the mere fact of survival, which was of course remarkable in and of itself, but to have seen one world end and another begin.” (231). His new home, the Severn City Airport, combines possibly the best of what’s left of the old and new realms. It’s a haven of hope and a refuge for remnants. It’s like a phoenix, rising from the ashes to not only rebuild civilization to its former glory, but also to adapt to the post-collapse world. The Museum of Civilization is an archive within the airport that contains compilations of artifacts from the pre-collapse world. Clark essentially becomes an archivist or archaeologist, the keeper of the former world’s history. The one artifact in the museum that has the most value to him is a newspaper that mentions his dear friend, Arthur Leander.

There’s no doubt that Arthur plays an integral role in the entire story. Everything about Arthur, over the course of his life, is made evident to readers prior to the Georgia Flu. His past sheds light on some of the other characters and unravels what lies ahead in the wake of the flu epidemic. Arthur is practically synonymous with Hollywood. He’s a very successful and popular (even renowned) actor in L.A. However, Arthur’s career precedes not only his family and friends, but also himself. During the final moments of his life, he feels guilt and sadness, regretting the mistakes and wrongdoings he made over the years. In that moment of reflection, Arthur attempts to make amends. One of the wrongs he tried to make right was build a better relationship with his son, Tyler.

Kirsten and Tyler are two opposites of each other. They have some similarities in common though. Arthur has had an impact on both of their lives. Although he’s Tyler’s father, Arthur is a friend and also a father figure to Kirsten. However, because Kirsten had more time with Arthur than Tyler did in their childhood, that could have determined the type of person that each became as an adult.  Both Tyler and Kirsten are about the same age, growing up in the aftermath of the Georgia Flu. From Arthur they each receive copies of the Station Eleven comic books, which were inspirational to them. One difference is that unlike Kirsten, who remembers little of her youth, “Whatever else the prophet had become, he’d once been a boy adrift on the road, and perhaps he’d had the misfortune of remembering everything.” (304). Even though both struggle to come to terms with the way things are in the post-collapse world, Kirsten’s outlook is more realistic than Tyler’s, which is more idealistic. Tyler never truly had a close-knit family or friends like Kirsten does with the Symphony. His mother, Elizabeth, and his religious associates guided him down a path of achieving optimism through pessimistic times and methods. Thus Tyler became the prophet. He sought to restore the world to what it was like before the pandemic. His ideas rested solely on creating an ideal utopia for the benefit of everyone. But the measures he took to try to ensure that were too irrational and extreme. Ultimately, Tyler (the prophet) paid the price. To sow what you reek is to live and die by the sword.

Part 8 made me realize that Kirsten and Tyler are dark reflections of each other. They’re the two opposite ends on the spectrum of light versus darkness or good against evil. Is it possible that if Tyler could go so far astray, could the same happen to Kirsten? Would she end up being like him if she didn’t have the fortunes that were absent from the prophet? These are questions that I feel are worth wondering about after reading the novel.

The Relevant and Fearful Significance of Being Invisible

Parts 4 through 6 of Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven got me thinking about visibility versus invisibility. It’s a matter of being present or absent. Either you’re in attendance or you’re not. There’s also the idea of being physically present, yet your presence is not felt, acknowledged, or made to be significant/relevant. As I read parts 4-6, I thought that these were the ideas being explored in the text.

Part 4, in my opinion, seems to be centered on the ideas of being lost and inconspicuous. Chapter 23 touches down on absence and being watched. Three members of the Traveling Symphony, Sayid, Dieter, and the clarinet, are missing after one night of scouting. Later, Kirsten and August are fishing only to realize afterwards that the Symphony went ahead without them. One of the members, Alexandra, asks, “‘Are we being hunted?’… It seemed plausible.” (140). The idea that the Symphony is being hunted is a very plausible possibility indeed. It brings up the notions of being predator and prey, cat and mouse, etc. The group is the prey since they left St. Deborah by the Water after feeling uneasy about the prophet. The prophet is the predator after his requested desire to have Alexandra as his wife was denied. Even though both the town and the forest are in the Symphony’s territory, it’s like they’re traveling in an unknown region due to uncertainty and fear. The Symphony’s motto is “Survival is insufficient” (119). However, in the wilderness, it’s survival of the fittest. In forests or jungles, fear usually overshadows hope and predators are triumphant over their prey. But in regards to the story, all bets are off and only time will tell if the Symphony can remain unified and survive against the prophet’s disturbing, religious ideals.

In Chapter 26, Clark was interviewing someone named Dahlia. One of the things she says that intrigued me is, “adulthood’s full of ghosts.” (163). Clark applies what Dahlia says about sleepwalking to himself. “Because he had been sleepwalking, Clark realized, moving half-asleep through the motions of his life for a while now, years; not specifically unhappy, but when had he last found real joy in his work? When was the last time he’d been truly moved by anything? When had he last felt awe or inspiration?” (164). The sleepwalking part struck me because it can probably be applied to myself as well.

What intrigued me in Part 5 was Frank’s ghostwriting project about a philanthropist in Chapter 34. According to the philanthropist, “Before they were famous, my actor friends were just going to auditions and struggling to be noticed, taking any work they could find, acting for free in friends’ movies, working in restaurants or as caterers, just trying to get by. They acted because they loved acting, but also, let’s be honest here, to be noticed. All they wanted was to be seen.” (186). “First we only want to be seen, but once we’re seen, that’s not enough anymore. After that, we want to be remembered.” (187). The philanthropist’s thoughts apply to celebrities in real life. I think it’s safe to say that celebrities are always vying for the spotlight to be on them. They’re constantly jockeying to be the focal point of the rumor mill that they feel should spin and revolve around them. Their existence is only meaningful as long as they continue to get attention from as many people as possible. To the public, celebrities are as close to being real life heroes, villains, or deities as people can imagine. That’s why we tend to memorize them as best and as often as we could. It’s like an image. A picture’s worth a thousand words. Nobody, especially not celebrities, want to be in the background because that’s where they’re less visible and not as obvious to the viewer(s). The phony, flawed entities in our society fear that their legacies will not be carved into the stone memories of the public. They know that their lives reflect that of Earth’s marine geography. They want to stay afloat in the oceans of relevance and importance. They know that others, just like them, but younger, will replace them. Similar to an ocean’s waves and currents, contemporary celebrities will be washed away and nobody will realize that it ever happened because they all look alike and overlap one another. Once they find themselves in hot water, the vessel of fame that luminaries captain starts to sink. Inattentiveness means celebrities cannot remain adrift so they drown and become invisible. They experience a lot of things in their downfall (or their fall from grace or humanity). One of those things is humility. Luminaries plummet like stock markets did in 1929 and experience their own personal Great Depression. They find themselves facing their deepest ethical fears at the bottomless pool of obscurity. 

For Part 6, remembrance is seen where Arthur and Miranda meet for the first time in eleven years after their divorce. Miranda does her best, “to make herself look as little like her old self as possible.” (208). They both show signs of aging over the years, especially Arthur who, “was performing the same reconciliations she was, adjusting a mental image of a long-ago spouse to match the changed person sitting before him.” (209). This is two weeks prior to the Georgia Flu and the final time Miranda and Arthur physically see each other. Upon hearing Arthur’s death, Miranda becomes delirious. One bad news seems to lead to another. While she’s mentally unbalanced from a fever, the flu seems to creep up on Miranda when she’s in her most vulnerable state.

Reading Response #6 Station Eleven Parts 2-3

Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven continues to unravel revelations in an intertwined relationship between the past, present, and future. Part two focuses on explorations and experiences of a group of actors and musicians in the years following the outbreak of the Georgia Flu. Part three reveals the background of Arthur Leander and his first wife, Miranda, years prior to the flu pandemic.

Part 2: A Midsummer Night’s Dream is named after the Shakespearean play that the Traveling Symphony performs in a town called St. Deborah by the Water. The Symphony is the closest resemblance to a family in the post-collapse world. “… this collection of petty jealousies, neuroses, undiagnosed PTSD cases, and simmering resentments lived together, traveled together, rehearsed together, performed together 365 days of the year, permanent company, permanent tour. But what made it bearable were the friendships, of course, the camaraderie and the music and the Shakespeare, the moments of transcendent beauty and joy…” (47). They travel to towns in their territory, using music and theatrical plays to give hope and remind people of civilization’s past before the collapse. The Symphony will come to realize that a lot can happen in two years. The last time the Symphony was in St. Deborah by the Water, two of their members, Charlie and the sixth guitar (Jeremy), were left behind because Charlie was pregnant. When the group returns, the town’s inhabitants are less receptive towards them. To make matters worse, Charlie and the sixth guitar are nowhere to be found. What is found are grave markers of them and others. After the Symphony performs the play, a prophet makes his influence on the town’s people known. He’s a religious fanatic who considers the flu epidemic to be his people’s salvation. The prophet’s also responsible for the grave markers. “‘When the fallen slink away without permission,’ he said, ‘we hold funerals for them and erect markers in the graveyard, because to us they are dead.'” (62). Calling the prophet and his people “a doomsday cult” (62), the Symphony’s conductor decides that the group quickly leaves the town and search for Charlie and Jeremy elsewhere.

Sometimes, the key to present and future occurrences lies in the past. Part 3 unveils the past of Arthur Leander and the first of his three wives, Miranda. Arthur drops out of college to pursue a career as an actor. At first, he achieves little success from small roles given to him. But Arthur becomes very popular once he’s in Hollywood. He gets with Miranda after his mother suggests that he takes her out for lunch. Miranda’s an artist who works at a shipping company. She has a boyfriend named Pablo who doesn’t do right by her. He fights with her and makes her life difficult. In order to keep calm, Miranda creates a comic book with the same title as the novel itself. Although Station Eleven eases her mental pain, it can’t bring her physical comfort from Pablo. Eventually, she decides to be with Arthur. Miranda marries Arthur, only to realize that on their third anniversary, he’s having an affair with his future second wife. By then, Arthur’s fame truly precedes and overwhelms him. He’s a different person from who he once was to Miranda and his best friend, Clark.

I believe that the dog, Luli, and the paperweight are motifs as they reappear throughout the story. I don’t know about the dog, but I know that the paperweight represents something. I just don’t know what it is.

I believe that while Miranda’s Station Eleven is her creative imagination drawn on paper, it also reflects her reality. The comic book’s protagonist, Dr. Eleven, represents Miranda. Station Eleven represents an alternate, futuristic version of Earth, at least according to Miranda’s imagination. Imagination becomes perception as Dr. Eleven’s conflicts reflect the hardships and loneliness that Miranda feels. The fact that the comic’s main character is a guy presents the “what if” possibility. It has to do with the issue of gender. How different would things be for Miranda if she was a man? Her comic book allows Miranda to be a male character that possesses her perspective. It reflects her feelings and also explores an array of possibilities that don’t come to fruition in her life.

Reading Response #5 Station Eleven, Part 1

After reading the first six chapters, I can say the following. The story is told from third person point-of-view because the narration uses male and female pronouns of the characters. The main character of part 1 appears to be Jeevan Chaudhary because the tale revolves around him.

Part 1 Chapter 1 starts out cold. I use the word “cold” to describe both the setting and the sudden turn of events. It was a winter evening in the Great White North, as indicated in the text. “This was act 4 of King Lear, a winter night at the Elgin Theatre in Toronto.” (Part 1, Chapter 1, paragraph 1, 2nd sentence). The Theater saw the curtain call of an actor. Fifty-one years old actor, Arthur Leander, died from a heart attack while performing onstage. His death stunned fellow actors, Jeevan, and other numerous people. They were stricken with grief, especially when having to explain the news to his relatives. Leander’s untimely demise helped to determine the story’s grim atmosphere. It would also foreshadow the downfall of civilization as a result of the epidemic called “the Georgia Flu”.

In chapter 3, Jeevan is informed of the impending disaster by his friend, Hua, a medic who works at Toronto General Hospital. Hua described the flu’s fast, widespread contagion based on what he witnessed in the hospital. Those that were infected quickly got worse and died in short order. Hua urged Jeevan to either evacuate the city immediately or to stock up on food and stay at home. Jeevan planned to stay with his brother, Frank, who’s revealed to be in a wheelchair and lives in a twenty-second floor apartment. Jeevan calls his girlfriend, Laura to warn her.

Jeevan and Laura’s relationship seems like an unhappy one. It seems that Jeevan and Laura don’t get along. For example, “It was still possible at that moment that Arthur was acting, but in the first row of the orchestra section a man was rising from his seat. He’d been training to be a paramedic. The man’s girlfriend tugged at his sleeve, hissed, ‘Jeevan! What are you doing?'” (Part 1, chapter 1, 3rd paragraph). There was no need for Laura to get upset with Jeevan over his decision. She probably knows about his aspiration to be a paramedic. If so, she should understand why he chose to go and help Arthur, who everyone (including her) saw that there was something wrong with him. After that, Jeevan discovered that while he was tending to Arthur, Laura went home without him. “His phone vibrated in his pocket. He stopped to read a text message from Laura: I had a headache so I went home. Can you pick up milk? And here, all momentum left him. He could go no farther. The theater tickets had been intended as a romantic gesture, a let’s-do-something-romantic-because-all-we-do-is-fight, and she’d abandoned him there, she’d left him onstage performing CPR on a dead actor and gone home, and now she wanted him to buy milk.” (Part 1, chapter 1, pages 11 and 12, paragraphs 4 and 5). Even when Jeevan told her about the flu, Laura was more intent on knowing his whereabouts instead of heeding his warning. It obviously seems that Jeevan and Laura are at odds with each other. They lack proper communication which determines how healthy and compatible their relationship is. The flu epidemic would probably further deteriorate their relationship.

In chapter 6, “the Georgia Flu” was in full swing and affected practically everyone. It disabled and deprived people of the things they’re used to, especially electricity. Their fates are sealed if they sustain so much as an open, minuscule wound. Everything and everyone are all left in despair and abandonment. It reminds me of the typical apocalypse (e.g. The Last of Us), where martial law is imposed; quarantine areas are erected and further isolate humanity; and survival by any means necessary is a prominent, yet vain concept. There is no definitive solution and a cure is anything but certain in such a crisis.

 

Reading Response #4 August 2026: There Will Come Soft Rains

The first time I read the story, I wasn’t intrigued. But I gained insight and my interest was piqued after rereading it. All I can say is that this passage could foreshadow the near future. It’s hell on earth for humans.

The text should arouse speculation among all humans since for us, the setting and events of the story are 9 years from now. As the title says and as it’s mentioned in the story, “‘Today is August 4, 2026,’ said a second voice from the kitchen ceiling, ‘in the city of Allendale, California.'” (Bradbury, page 1, paragraph 3). The setting is automatically given in this sentence.

The city in this passage is practically a barren wasteland of a ghost town. “The house stood alone in a city of rubble and ashes. This was the one house left standing. At night the ruined city gave off a radioactive glow which could be seen for miles.” (Bradbury, page 1, paragraph 8). The imagery in paragraph 8 on page 1 could hint at what possibly happened. As some of the words in the poem indicate, “And not one will know of the war, not one will care at last when it is done. Not one would mind, neither bird nor tree, if mankind perished utterly; And Spring herself, when she woke at dawn would scarcely know that we were gone.” (Bradbury, page 3, paragraph 2). The poem reveals the fact that there was a war and all of Allendale’s inhabitants were casualties. In other words, the city is devoid of humanity, which has gone extinct. They ceased to exist after a possible nuclear bomb was dropped on Allendale.

After humanity’s extermination, the house was the only thing that represented civilization. The inanimate became animate as personification is used throughout the story. Man’s supposed best friend, the dog, was the only living remnant in a place run by robots. Unfortunately, the canine met its demise shortly after being introduced.

Allendale has been turned into a dystopia where only artificial intelligence, arguably man’s greatest innovation, reigns supreme. Life goes on without homo sapiens. The androids perform their duties, unaware that their owners are forever gone. “The house was an altar with ten thousand attendants, big, small, servicing, attending, in choirs. But the gods had gone away, and the ritual of the religion continued senselessly, uselessly.” (Bradbury, page 2, paragraph 3).

This story reflects how far the world has come in its attempts to revolutionize itself, especially since the 1950’s. Humans have become increasingly dependent on technology, which they’ve strived to improve over the course of history. There Will Come Soft Rains gives a possible glimpse of what’s to come, according to Ray Bradbury. For him, it’s a dystopian future that’s ways off. But for us living in 2017, 2026 is the near, impending future that lies just on the horizon.

We humans are an intricate, yet controversial species. We enter this world only to exit it just as easily. We have the potential to evolve, yet we devolve all the same. We’re a means to an end and the end justifies the means. The only thing for sure is that nothing is for sure. We agree to disagree with each other, nothing more and nothing less. That is all we tend to do. That is all we will ever amount to. That is what defines us individually and as a whole species.

This tale reflects the idea that humans have the potential to bring about both construction and destruction. Our very own creations can be used against one another and become our destroyers. In the story, weapons are human inventions and are used as instruments of destruction in a time of war. Despite this, things continue as planned. We all play our own roles in the script of life. We live as actors only to be taken off the script and die. That’s the ugliest beauty of all. It’s evolution then, now, and forever.

Reading Response #3 The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas

The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas by Ursula Le Guin is a tale of revelation. It’s a story about a prosperous city that exhibits idealism.  The city’s residents are celebrating a summer festival. The narrator describes the overall happiness of the people. According to the narrator, “Some were decorous: old people in long stiff robes of mauve and grey, grave master workmen, quiet, merry women carrying their babies and chatting as they walked. In other streets the music beat faster, a shimmering of gong and tambourine, and the people went dancing, the procession was a dance. Children dodged in and out, their high calls rising like the swallows’ crossing flights over the music and the singing.” (Le Guin, page 1, paragraph 1). “In the silence of the broad green meadows one could hear the music winding through the city streets, farther and nearer and ever approaching, a cheerful faint sweetness of the air that from time to time trembled and gathered together and broke out into the great joyous clanging of the bells.” (Le Guin, page 1, paragraph 1). The narrator makes Omelas seem as an ideal paradise where all of its inhabitants are living on cloud nine. “I fear that Omelas so far strikes some of you as goody-goody,” said the narrator (Le Guin, page 3). “Omelas sounds in my words like a city in a fairy tale, long ago and far away, once upon a time.” (Le Guin, page 2). However, idealism is a false pretense of what reality actually is. The joy that Omelas has is tainted. One can look at the city’s people and environment and probably find their contentment to be plausible. But that’s only seeing Omelas’ exterior. Omelas’ interior is the opposite of its beauty. In the underground is a malnourished child who lives in misery. The storyteller states, “In a basement under one of the beautiful public buildings of Omelas, or perhaps in the cellar of one of its spacious private homes, there is a room. It has one locked door, and no window.” (Le Guin, page 4). “The room is about three paces long and two wide: a mere broom closet or disused tool room. In the room a child is sitting. It could be a boy or a girl. It looks about six, but actually is nearly ten. It is feeble-minded. Perhaps it was born defective, or perhaps it has become imbecile through fear, malnutrition, and neglect.” (Le Guin, page 4). “It is so thin there are no calves to its legs; its belly protrudes; it lives on a half-bowl of corn meal and grease a day. It is naked. Its buttocks and thighs are a mass of festered sores, as it sits in its own excrement continually.” (Le Guin, page 5). The child is treated as the city’s prisoner and the the basement room is its jail cell or dungeon. As the narrator states, “They all know it is there, all the people of Omelas. Some of them have come to see it, others are content merely to know it is there. They all know that it has to be there. Some of them understand why, and some do not, but they all understand that their happiness, the beauty of their city, the tenderness of their friendships, the health of their children, the wisdom of their scholars, the skill of their makers, even the abundance of their harvest and the kindly weathers of their skies, depends wholly on this child’s abominable misery.” (Le Guin, page 5). “No matter how well the matter has been explained to them, these young spectators are always shocked and sickened at the sight. They feel disgust, which they had thought themselves superior to. They feel anger, outrage, impotence, despite all the explanations. They would like to do something for the child. But there is nothing they can do. If the child were brought up into the sunlight out of that vile place, if it were cleaned and fed and comforted, that would be a good thing indeed; but if it were done, in that day and hour all the prosperity and beauty and delight of Omelas would wither and be destroyed. Those are the terms. To exchange all the goodness and grace of every life in Omelas for that single, small improvement; to throw away the happiness of thousands for the chance of the happiness of one; that would be to let guilt within the walls indeed.” (Le Guin, pages 5 and 6). Any city could appear to be ideal and extravagant. However, the city’s infrastructure could say otherwise. The child in the tool room is Omelas’ infrastructure. Without the kid, Omelas has no foundation to preserve its fortunes. For that reason alone, the government makes sure that no evidence of such is accessible to the public. This is the truth and it happens all the time in society. What lies deep within a beautiful town (in the bowels) can be so atrocious that those who discover the secret(s) are appalled. They’re discouraged from continuing to pretend that they don’t know the truth. That is why a handful of people who have seen the child refuse to continue living in Omelas. It’s the only opportunity they have (probably for the first time in their lives) be free from Omelas’ disillusioned fantasy.

Reading Response #2: The Yellow Wallpaper

The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman is a story told from first person point of view. Throughout the text, the words “I,” “we,” “me,” “my,” and “myself” are used. The entire story is formatted as a series of diary entries of the protagonist. The protagonist is a woman whose married to a physician named John. For a while, they lived at “a colonial mansion, a hereditary estate.” The woman writes in her diary descriptions of the summer house. She finds most of the place to be beautiful and lovely. But there is one exception. She and John lived in a nursery room that has seen better days. The one thing that immediately got her attention was the wallpaper. She was fixated on its color, smell, and pattern. Personification and diction are used to describe how “queer” the wallpaper is according to her. “One of those sprawling flamboyant patterns committing every artistic sin.” “When you follow the lame uncertain curves for a little distance they suddenly commit suicide — plunge off at outrageous angles, destroy themselves in unheard of contradictions.” “But there is something else about that paper — the smell!” “It creeps all over the house. I find it hovering in the dining-room, skulking in the parlor, hiding in the hall, lying in wait for me on the stairs.” The woman is superstitious about the wallpaper. She views it as something that’s ominous, grotesque, and horrid. Its creepy influence overwhelms her. The woman’s reactions to the yellow wallpaper leaves her mind conflicted while suffering from a nervous condition. Only she is negatively affected. She tries to tell John about her concerns. However, John doesn’t take his wife’s worries seriously. The woman claims that “he is very careful and loving and hardly lets me stir without special direction.” However, she notes that “John does not know how much I really suffer. He knows there is no reason to suffer, and that satisfies him.” Because of her nervous condition, John tends to patronize his wife. He treats her more like a patient than as his wife. I think this idea and the fact that she lives in the nursery room both rendered the woman to be like a little girl. “And dear John gathered me up in his arms, and just carried me upstairs and laid me on the bed, and sat by me and read to me till it tired my head.” “‘What is it, little girl?’ he said.” The story is like a little child (in this case, a woman whose treated as one) trying to tell the parent/adult that something is terrorizing her. For example, a boy/girl who claims that there’s a monster under their bed. Or that the Boogeyman lives in their bedroom closet. Instead of taking the child’s concerns seriously, the grown-up dismisses them. The adult believes that the horror which afflicts the boy/girl is nothing more than a nightmare or a figment of their imagination. Such is the case with John and his wife in The Yellow Wallpaper.

Reading Response #1

Girl by Jamaica Kincaid is apparently about a list of commands that a girl is expected to follow. One thing I noticed while reading the text is that there’s repetition of words. For example, “this is how…” is used throughout the story. “This is how to sew on a button; this is how to make a buttonhole for the button you have just sewed on; this is how….” In my opinion, the girl is talked down upon and seen as nothing more than a servant or slave. She is told how to do certain chores. It seems like she has to make preparations for dinner with a guest. “Cook pumpkin fritters in very hot sweet oil.” “Soak salt fish overnight before you cook it.” “This is how you sweep a corner; this is how you sweep a whole house; this is how you sweep a yard.” “This is how you smile to someone you don’t like too much; this is how you smile to someone you don’t like at all; this is how you smile to someone you like completely.” “This is how you set a table for tea; this is how you set a table for dinner; this is how you set a table for dinner with an important guest; this is how you set a table for lunch; this is how you set a table for breakfast.” The girl is constantly facing verbal abuse. The narrator called the girl a slut three times in the passage. “On Sundays try to walk like a lady and not like the slut you are so bent on becoming.” “This is how to hem a dress when you see the hem coming down and so to prevent yourself from looking like the slut I know you are so bent on becoming.” “This is how to behave in the presence of men who don’t know you very well, and this way they won’t recognize immediately the slut I have warned you against becoming.” The story seems to be a reminder of the suppression that women experience in society. Girl appears to reflect the submissive role that females are expected to maintain in a household. That role represents a tradition or reputation that they’re always relied on to uphold. The girl is revealed to have a father. “This is how you iron your father’s khaki shirt so that it doesn’t have a crease; this is how you iron your father’s khaki pants so that they don’t have a crease.” Perhaps the story is told from the point of view of her mother. If so, the girl’s mother might be teaching her what’s expected out of a female. It could possibly be considered tough love. If the narrator is the girl’s mother, then she’s possibly training her daughter so that she’ll become a future caregiver or housewife. I think Girl portrays society’s idea that women are meant to take and obey orders from men and other authoritative figures. I think the story is to remind females to break free from the submissive role that society usually wants them to have.