Author Archives: Taisha Rivera

a better picture

The Hulu series of The Handmaid’s Tale was much different than the novel, as expected. It was more face paced (in the first two episodes, which is all I have seen thus far). I enjoy how Offred is portrayed, it’s better than I imagined while reading the novel. She seems so strong but she doesn’t hide the care she has for some of the characters that she is surrounded by. The ceremony, on the other hand, was much more awkward than I thought it would be. The anger and tension between the commander’s wife and Offred are off the charts. In the novel, I do recall how Offred was treated but it was never this bad. My favorite scene was in episode one when the handmaids punish the man that raped a woman and lead to her having a miscarriage. This was only my favorite scene because of Offred’s burst. She wanted to let out a scream from the beginning since she had arrived in the society. At that very moment, she FINALLY was able to let out all of her anger, sadness, and pain onto another man, Causing him pain and death. I honestly think that although it is obvious that she blacked out the moment the whistle was blown, she didn’t mean to cause that much harm to the man. I think she just wanted someone else to feel as hurt and dead inside as she does.

Another interesting thing was what happened to Luke, I don’t recall him being shot in front of Offred and their child in the novel, but, if that was something new then if definitely kept me interested to see what happens next with Offred and how she’ll handle situations.

I also liked how the characters were changed to fit into the show better, it’s small details but it’s very noticeable and enjoyable. Although this novel/show is not my type… It wasn’t that bad.

Class Notes 11-28-17

Group discussion/handout on, The Handmaid’s tale and the historical notes
– discussed topics/themes/questions based on the novel for our upcoming essay.

**(If you have not finished the novel and read the historical notes, make sure to catch up on time for essay #2)** 

Homework:
-Continue reading the novel if you haven’t finished yet

-People’s post choice is due 11/29

-Finish group work handout at home if it was not completed in class, it will help you with essay #2!

tables turn

And so, the ending has come with The Handmaid’s Tale. And, to be completely honest, I did not like how the story ended. I don’t know what I was expecting exactly but, I definitely was not expecting it to finish the way that it did. It was eh, that’s the best way that I am able to describe it. I did, however, enjoy the turn the commander had. Who would have thought?! The man that seemed to have/feel zero emotions towards women, even his own wife, AND prevented such emotional intimacy, was the one that desired it the most. The commander seems to have wanted a real relationship along with real emotions that went both ways, he wanted it to mean something, he did not care if it had a title (such as marriage etc.,) or not. “I’m not talking about sex, he says. that was part of I, the sex was too easy. anyone could just buy it. there was nothing to work for, nothing to fight for. we have the stats from that time. you know what they were complaining about the most? inability to feel.”(201) This is something I was not expecting to read about from the commander, he is without a doubt the character that surprised me the most from this novel, I wonder what happens to him in the future. I do recall writing a previous post about the relationship between the commander and Offred, I had a feeling it would somehow transition into something, even if it leads to them not ending up together, the writer showed us how far and comfortable they became with each other, especially the commander himself.

Offred did not change much, as for how I expected, I was hoping she would stop thinking of the past so much and focus more on her future and what she has yet accomplished. It was a bit disappointing that she still seemed confused about the men in her life, she wanted nick at the end and felt a little something for the commander and yet, still thought about Luke. But, overall Offred seemed to have lived through a lot, she experienced so many awful and good things that hopefully she ended up finding happiness in the long run, and, the love of her life. Most importantly hopefully she found herself as well, now that she was free and was no longer under any rules and no longer a handmaid!  (Even though she broke some rules anyways, go Offred!) 

Offred’s Growth

In, The Handmaid’s tail, it is becoming clear that due to Offred’s continuous visits made to the commander sneakingly at night they are both beginning to have feelings for each other. Or, this could be a one-way thing, where it is Offred falling for the commander. Although this is against their system and Offred’s role, the only one attempting to keep it unnoticeable is Offred. The commander is committing actions that are just a bit bizarre, to be honest. For example, “But that night, the first since the beginnings of whatever this new arrangement was between us — I had no name for it — I felt shy of him. I felt, for one thing, that he was actually looking at me, and I didn’t like it. The lights were on, as usual (…) I was conscious that my legs were hairy, in the straggly way of legs that once been shaved but have grown back; I was conscious of my armpits too, although of course, he couldn’t see them. I felt uncouth. This act of copulation, fertilization perhaps, which should have been no more to me thana bee is to a flower, had become for me indecorous, an embarrassing breach of prosperity, which it hadn’t been before. He was no longer a thing to me. that was the problem. I realized it that night, and the realization has stayed with me.”(Atwood 160) Typically a woman is shy of a man if she ACTUALLY cares about what he may think of her.. and it is more than clear that she cares about what he may be thinking of her in that very moment, as he sees how she isn’t actually taking care of herself as she knows she could. Like how she said her legs were not shaved nor her armpits, she sounds as though she regrets not doing so, FOR HIM specifically. These changes she is having emotionally is surprising. But, I think this is a positive thing for Offred, maybe she will not think of herself as a machine anymore? Even though this feeling is totally wrong, she’s actually feeling something for once in her life. “Partly I was jealous of her; but how could I be jealous of a woman so obviously dried-up and unhappy? You can only be jealous of a someone who has something you think you ought to have yourself. nevertheless, I was jealous”(Atwood 160) I loved this sentence because here I can picture Offred realizing shes worth more than what others look at her as. yes, she does not get to keep her child but, she is actually able to conceive one and experience the most important part of having a child. The baby bump stages and the kicking etc., which the commanders wife is not able to have. But, at the end what she is truly missing is a significant other which is what she is jealous of. I do not think Offred wants to spend the rest of her life alone anymore, now that she knows what it’s like to like someone. She is growing.

a new way of living

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood begins by giving readers a clear image of what the woman is going through and the gender roles that are currently occurring. The narrator, who has not yet been named, describes sleeping in an old high school’s gymnasium that has specific odd smells. As she begins to think about how it was once like to be a high school student, it sounds as though she is missing the joy of being free.

It’s more than obvious that she isn’t here willingly, none of them are. It honestly sounds depressing how although there are only women inside of the gym, they’re not allowed to speak to one another unless if they speak without making any sounds, apart from also needing to sleep far apart, they also are allowed outside when taken out two by two.The gender role starts to show when their “Aunt” Sara and “Aunt” Elizabeth are brung up. I put quotations because maybe these two aren’t their aunts at all. Anyhow, so men can have guns but not women?…. Yet, they are all doing the same jobs. Patrolling the women and making sure that they all behave and follow the rules.

In my opinion, the men guards seem to be the only way that they could all get out, I can’t really explain why at the moment, I just have a feeling. Maybe the women would use their body to make an agreement? or a verbal agreement? The men guards don’t seem to be allowed to look at the women, no matter what. And must always have their back towards them. But, These women seem to be innocent, and they long for the guards to pay attention to them, at least once.

The act of having them there by force is brutal. I found it strange as well, how the women patrols are titled, “Aunt”. Could that be a name they were given so that the girls could feel some sort of comfort in this prison-like environment of theirs? But, on the other hand, prisoners are allowed to speak to one another, so being in that gym must feel far worse than what being in an actual prison is like.

What’s confusing is, it all seems like they’re being punished but, at the same time they’re being well taken care of? Isn’t it typically the opposite when someone is imprisoned? Of course, it is. “We had been set up in rows, with spaces between so we could not talk. We had flannelette sheets like children, and army-issue blankets, old ones that still said U.S” (page 4) They’re being comforted not only by having these, “Aunts” but by having these sort of materials as well. Another thought that came to my mind when the narrator stated that the blankets still said, U.S, on them, was freedom.


In the second chapter the scenery shifts. The narrator has her own room, which is cozy and fitting. Her room does not seem to be fully furnished but she seems to appreciate it anyway. “Think of it as being in the army, said aunt Lydia” (page7) I guess this means to think of her empty room as a privilege and not a prison cell? It would be a strange comparison but, since the narrator is technically in a group now, it makes sense. She follows rules and has to dress in all red, always.

What’s Necessary

Intro:
In the post-apocalyptic novel,” Station Eleven”, by Emily St. John Mandel.The world has collapsed in the book, the story is mainly focused on a group of young adults who call themselves, The Symphony. The group tends to travel a lot in search for items that can help their memories but, they also take it upon themselves to keep acting in plays alive. Of course, on this journey that can seem to lead to nowhere but danger, the characters face many challenges such as loneliness and both good and hurtful memories from the past. Memories can hold a lot of power to oneself. Emily St. John Mandel uses her novel to show readers how important it can be to preserve what matters to someone and how it can add on to history.

One of the most difficult challenges that the characters must face in this new harsh reality of theirs is how lonely they truly are. After the destruction of the Georgia Flu, the cities and towns that were once well known became fictitious. What was once civilization, became small settlements. “You’re not from around here, are you?” in various accents, these encounters interspersed with moving trucks. If it was hard to break into new places then, in that ludicrously easy world where food was on shelves in supermarkets and travel was as easy as taking a seat in a gasoline-powered machine and water came out of taps, it was several orders of magnitude more difficult now. The Symphony was insufferable, hell was other flutes or other people or whoever had used the last of the rosin or whoever missed the most rehearsals, but the truth was that the symphony was their only home” (Mandel, Chapter 10 pg 48) Of course, loneliness affects people differently. Some may prefer to be alone but, others might find it hard to accept that this is what the rest of their life will consist of, of no family and no place to call their own. Just imagine a life where one day you’re able to make your own cooked meal, and then the next day suddenly needing to manhunt for something to eat, or a safe location to sleep.  But, the absence of family and a home brings The Symphony closer together, and at the end, that’s what truly matters. “Hell is the absence of the people you long for” (Mandel, Chapter 23 pg 144) What mattered now are the people that they got to share their life with, and the new beginnings that were created.


Memories can be people’s salvation. In the novel, Clark creates the museum of civilization in order to preserve the old world and the importance it once had. “There seemed to be a limitless number of objects in the world that had no practical use but that people wanted to preserve: cell phones with their delicate buttons, iPads, Tyler’s Nintendo console, a selection of laptops. There were a number of impractical shoes, stilettos mostly, beautiful and strange…..Traders brought things for Clark sometimes, objects of no real value that they knew her would like: magazines and newspapers, a stamp collection, coins. There were the passports or the driver’s licenses or sometimes the credit cards of people who had lived at the airport and then died. Clark kept impeccable records”(Mandel, Chapter 44 pg 258) Clark preserves such items to help him and the survivors who lived before the collapse of what the world was once like. It is painful for those that have lost communication with their families but, now the younger generation may know what a cell phone is, and a laptop. The memories of the past have used a form of art here, and history. One can say that the passports are what citizens would use to cross to other countries etc, But now there are no borders, and there are no airplanes. And, although these items have no practical use, it helps bring people and their memories together in the attempt to make their new world a better place.


Reflection:
For my essay I will be mostly focusing on one’s memories and if it either has a positive outcome to remember such things or a negative outcome. My evidence will probably change but, in the meantime this is it.






what counts

       And here we are!, the final chapters of Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel.This novel was full of themes such as death, survival, Faith/religion, Civilization and most importantly, memory. Truth be told, I mostly enjoyed the “flashbacks” that the characters would have, Sometimes the story was hard to keep up with due to how the settings would jump back and forth. But, anyhow I really loved how the novel used memories as a form of comfort for the survivors, despite their change in other to survive and as a form of hope to continue in moving forward one way or the other.


“It’s hard to explain,” he caught himself saying sometimes to young people who came into his museum, which had formerly been the Skymiles Lounge in Concourse C. But he took his role as curator seriously and he’d decided years ago that “It’s hard to explain” isn’t good enough, so he always tried to explain it all anyway, whenever anyone asked about any of the objects he’d collected over the years, from the airport and beyond—the laptops, the iPhones, the radio from an administrative desk, the electric toaster from an airport-staff lounge, the turntable and vinyl records that some optimistic scavenger had carried back from Severn City—and of course the context, the pre-pandemic world that he remembered so sharply. No, he was explaining now, to a sixteen-year-old who’d been born in the airport, the planes didn’t rise straight up into the sky. They gathered speed on long runways and angled upward.” (Chapter 42)  Clark feels more than grateful not only to be alive during these times but to have been alive when civilization was at its finest. Since the much younger generation has no idea how it was before the collapse, Clark seems to have given himself sort of a job, in making sure that he passes on the memories that he currently has especially about how amazing technology was. In modern day, I’d say society looks past how far we have come, but just like in the story there can only be a matter of time until we all one day look back and think how some materials were taken for granted.


At the end of a conversation that Kirsten is having with Francois, we (the readers) learn something VERY! Interesting about Kirsten.  “Agreed. When you think of how the world’s changed in your lifetime, what do you think about?” “I think of killing.” Her gaze was steady. “Really? Why?” “Have you ever had to do it?” Francois sighed. He didn’t like to think about it. “I was surprised in the woods once.” “I’ve been surprised too.” It was evening, and Francois had lit a candle in the library. It stood in the middle of a plastic tub, for safety. The candlelight softened the scar on Kirsten’s left cheekbone. She was wearing a summer dress with a faded pattern of white flowers on red, three sheathed knives in her belt. “How many?” he asked. She turned her wrist to show the knife tattoos. Two.” (Chapter 45)  As far as I know, before the collapse one never necessarily just thought about killing people or just someone. Therefore, Kirsten thinks of killing when she thinks about how much the world has changed, it is one of the only ways to survive. Kirsten’s memory of these deaths that she has caused will always be with her, especially since she has the tattoo which seems to symbolize either pride in what she has done or just her survival.
She states why she did it.  “…….It’s a physiological response to danger,” Dieter told her, when Kirsten mentioned the soundlessness of those seconds, the way time stretched and expanded. This seemed a reasonable-enough explanation, but there was nothing in her memories to account for how calm she was afterward, when she pulled her knife from the man’s throat and cleaned it, and this was why she stopped trying to remember her lost year on the road, the thirteen unremembered months between leaving Toronto with her brother and arriving in the town in Ohio where they stayed until he died and she left with the Symphony. Whatever that year on the road contained, she realized, it was nothing she wanted to know about. ………”(Chapter 50) In order to survive, Kirsten killed instead of being the one that gets killed during these times, this made her the strong character that she is. If the world wouldn’t have changed, Kirsten would not have needed to encounter such situations, therefore she hates these memories and hopes to never need to kill again.


And of course, the novel jumps back in time to Arthur’s past. But, during this time it takes place before the exact moment of his death. It was very sad that he had decided to become a better man/father to his son Tyler. “Is the book bad?” “I wish it didn’t exist. But you know, I’m glad you came by,” he said.  “Why?” “I have a present for you.” He felt a little guilty as he handed her the Dr. Eleven comics because, after all, Miranda had intended them for him, but he didn’t want the comics because he didn’t want possessions. He didn’t want anything except his son. When he was alone again, Arthur put on his costume. He sat for a few minutes in his finery, enjoying the weight of the velvet cape, left his crown on the coffee table next to the grapes and walked down the hall to Makeup.(Chapter 53) It seems to me that Arthur is giving away his memories/possessions of Miranda purposely, it could most likely be because of how he hurt her. But, also because of the new he intended to have with his son in Israel. We finally learned how the comic books were sent out, and we also learn that Arthur was not such a bad man after all. He at least tried to change before his death and his memories are what made him put in an effort to do so.

a bit of hope

       

       In Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel, Part 4 stood out to me in a very emotional type of way. It’s amazing what the group have been doing so far to continue surviving and moving on with the chaos that surrounds them.

         In the first page of chapter 19, The symphony is discussing their motto,  “All I’m saying,” Dieter said, twelve hours out of St. Deborah by the Water, “is that quote on the lead caravan would be way more profound if we hadn’t lifted it from Star Trek.” He was walking near Kirsten and August. “Survival is insufficient” Kirsten had had these words tattooed on her left forearm at the age of fifteen and had been arguing with Dieter about it almost ever since. Dieter harbored strong anti-tattoo sentiments. He said he’d seen a man die of an infected tattoo once. Kirsten also had two black knives tattooed on the back of her right wrist, but these were less troubling to Dieter, being much smaller and inked to mark specific events. “Yes,” Kirsten said, “I’m aware of your opinion on the subject, but it remains my favorite line of text in the world.” She considered Dieter one of her dearest friends. The tattoo argument had lost all of its stings over the years and had become something like a familiar room where they met.” (Page 119) I saw this type of communication as a form of escape from their actual reality. Kirsten and Dieter are using the subject of whether their motto is fine art or low art to help them survive their constant fear of being followed. In other words, this type of argument is their type of a distraction. Although this seems to be something that happens consistently, Kirsten is already aware of Dieters motives whenever he mentions what value their motto could or should have had, she will always cherish it and will always go along with this debate not only to help keep him calm but, to keep her mind steady as well.

      

 

       In chapter 19 we also meet a new character, Eleanor. She’s a twelve-year-old girl who ran away from The Prophet, mainly because she was promised to marry him and both of her parents are already dead. Although she also has a hurtful past now, The symphony is at more risk due to finding and being with the young girl who was supposed to be the next wife of The Prophet. But, they accept these risks and do not push her away. “What to do with Eleanor? They knew they risked accusations of kidnapping and they had long adhered to a strict policy of non-intervention in the politics of the towns through which they passed, but no one could imagine delivering a child bride back to the prophet. Had a grave marker with her name on it already been driven into the earth? Would a grave be dug if she returned?”(Page 124)

        

          In chapter 20, Kirsten, August, Jackson and The Viola go to a school that was found not too far from where they’re now camping in search for supplies. While some notes were found all around the school, Jackson found a skeleton with signs that it was shot in the head. “Jackson appeared in the doorway. “There’s a skeleton in the men’s room.” August frowned. “How old?” “Old. A bullet hole in the skull.” “Why would you look in the bathroom?” “I was hoping for soap.” August nodded and disappeared down the hall. “What’s he doing?” Viola asked. “He likes to say a prayer for the dead.” Kirsten was crouched on the floor, poking through the debris with a broken ruler. “Help me check the lockers before we go…….August emerged from the men’s room it was a relief to walk out into the sunlight, the breeze, and the chatter of crickets.”(Page 129)  The reality of surviving in such conditions is coming face to face with dead bodies on a daily basis. It was great to see that although the world has ended for the survivors who lost everything, August still has faith in religion, he shows it by praying for the dead bodies they come across. In my opinion, this helps to keep him sane, and also helps him manage to sleep at night without having nightmares.

              “We stand it because we were younger than you were when everything ended, Kirsten thought, but not young enough to remember nothing at all. Because there isn’t much time left because all the roofs are collapsing now and soon none of the old buildings will be safe. Because we are always looking for the former world, before all the traces of the former world are gone. But it seemed like too much to explain all this, so she shrugged instead of answering him.”(Chapter 20, page 130)  This quote shows that one should not only reminisce the past but, to cherish and protect it. This specifically relates to Kirsten, because she is constantly looking for any information that relates to her personal history.

escape


In Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel, There appear to be stories broken up into pieces that are slowly coming together. In section three, the story begins to tell the past of Arthur Leander, whom we recall passed away due to a heart attack in section one. The narrator begins to show a glimpse of the start of his career and his past relationships. Anyhow, the story opens up with Arthur and Miranda at a restaurant in Toronto. Miranda seems to be venting to Arthur and searching for comfort and help to leave an abusive relationship that she is in. She has bruises on her face and tells Arthur, “I’m going to leave him.” The girl, Miranda, has a recent bruise on her face. They’re speaking in whispers to avoid being overheard by the restaurant staff. He nods. “Good.” He’s looking at the bruise, which Miranda hasn’t been entirely successful in concealing with makeup. “I was hoping you’d say that. What do you need?” “I don’t know,” she says. “I’m sorry about all this. I just can’t go home.”( Page 13, My page numbers will be different for now since I am currently reading the story online and not a paperback version) From this moment I knew that Arthur was going to become a huge part of Miranda’s life, and she would also become a huge part of his. For example, I believe Miranda helped Arthur become more recognized by society. After discussing and planning what she should do, the two leave the restaurant and have photos taken by paparazzi. This most definitely leads Arthur to have more attention on him by others now that he has been seen with this mysterious women.

Arthur becomes an important part of Miranda’s life because he helps her move on from her abusive boyfriend. To be more specific, Arthur and Miranda end up falling for eachother. For example in chapter 14  there are a few lines that show Arthur’s genuine interest and care for Miranda and her love for him,  “I’m working on a comic-book project,” she tells him later, when he asks about her work. “Maybe a series of graphic novels. I don’t know what it is yet, “What made you choose that form?”
“I used to read a lot of comics when I was a kid. Did you ever read Calvin and Hobbes?” Arthur is watching her closely…..”Are you still with Pablo?” he asks, when they’re out on the street. He’s hailing a cab. Certain things have been decided without either of them exactly talking about it.

“We’re breaking up. We’re not right for each other.” Saying it aloud makes it true. They are getting into a taxi, they’re kissing in the backseat, he’s steering her across the lobby of the hotel with his hand on her back, she is kissing him in the elevator, she is following him into a room. And she feels a peculiar giddiness when she reads this fourth text. There are thoughts of freedom and imminent escape. I could throw away almost everything, she thinks, and begin all over again” ….”There are tears in her eyes now. Miranda is a person with very few certainties but, one of them is that only the dishonorable leave when things get difficult.”(Pages 18-20) Miranda finally ends her thought process. These lines show that she choses Arthur over her ex and seems to slow grow into what happiness really is now that she’ll be free. He honestly helped her without realizing, how to escape her sadness.

The performance

I honestly had to re-read this over and over because I continued to lose focus. The story opens up inside of a Shakespeare theatre where a man named Arthur Leander is playing the lead role in a play. I was kind of surprised at how quickly death appeared, but then again it is Shakespeare. While on stage there appears to be a commotion and suddenly Arthur became ill and eventually collapses to the ground. “I remember thine eyes well enough,” Arthur said, distracted by the child version of Cordelia, and this was when it happened. There was a change in his face, he stumbled, he reached for a column but misjudged the distance and struck it hard with the side of his hand.“Down from the waist they are Centaurs,” he said, and not only was this the wrong line but the delivery was wheezy, his voice barely audible. He cradled his hand to his chest like a broken bird.” (Page 1) This shows that Arthur was having a heart attack and had no time to cry for help, unfortunately, he passed away.
On the same page, I caught on to the that characters rely on others in order to survive. For example, “The man’s girlfriend tugged at his sleeve, hissed, “Jeevan! What are you doing?” And Jeevan himself wasn’t sure at first, the rows behind him murmuring for him to sit. An usher was moving toward him. Snow began to fall over the stage.

“The wren goes to’t,” Arthur whispered, and Jeevan, who knew the play very well, realized that the actor had skipped back twelve lines. “The wren …”

“Sir,” the usher said, “would you please …”

But Arthur Leander was running out of time. He swayed, his eyes unfocused, and it was obvious to Jeevan that he wasn’t Lear anymore. Jeevan pushed the usher aside and made a dash for the steps leading up to the stage, but a second usher was jogging down the aisle, which forced Jeevan to throw himself at the stage without the benefit of stairs. It was higher than he’d thought and he had to kick the first usher, who’d grasped hold of his sleeve. The snow was plastic, Jeevan noted peripherally, little bits of translucent plastic, clinging to his jacket and brushing against his skin. Edgar and Gloucester were distracted by the commotion, neither of them looking at Arthur, who was leaning on a plywood column, staring vacantly. There were shouts from backstage, two shadows approaching quickly, but Jeevan had reached Arthur by now and he caught the actor as he lost consciousness, eased him gently to the floor. The snow was falling fast around them, shimmering in the blue-white light. Arthur wasn’t breathing”(Page 1) This almost seemed like a performance, in my opinion, it’s ironic how all of this is occurring in the middle of a show. Jeevan’s effort to save Arthur’s life impacted not only the people on stage but also the crowd and himself since he was not able to bring him back. Then, Jeevan began to comfort Kristen and tries to distract her from the death of Arthur.