Human Condition in Literature: An illustration of fragmentation and reorganization


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Six essays about the human condition in post modernist literature, using the cultural and psychological lenses as analyzing tools. The focus is on character fragmentation and attempt at reorganization. What makes the book unique is the use of lenses to narrow in and highlight the cultural and psychological phenomenon experienced by the character(s). Never read through theoretical lenses? This is your chance as the author describes the use and how implementing such a technique enriches the reader’s experience.

Copyright 2014 by Hakes Publishing

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Filed under Cultural Perspectives, Essays, Fragmented Psyche, Human Condition, Jungian Lens, Literary Approaches, Literature, Literature and Philosophy, Mind and Body, Psychological Analysis of Literature, Reorganization of the Human Organism

Jeanette Winterson’s, “Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit”


Jeannette Winterson’s Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit (1985) contains elements common to both modernism and post-modernism. To illustrate, the author experiments with technique, employing tactics that result in a unique work. In Winterson’s piece, we find a novel whose plot is pluralistic replete with different storylines, appearing side by side and written in different genres: Fiction and non-fiction prose as well as poetry/prose-poetry. The author weaves in other elements also such as ambiguity where different interpretations create a web of possibilities; the intricately webbed plot leaves the readers with no clear resolution but rather an ironic conclusion.

One of the most interesting techniques that Winterson employs in her work is the weaving of two stories: One appears to be her non-fiction biography while the other appears to be a series of fairy tales, which increase in appearance as the plot thickens. As the action rises, it appears the fairy tale is attempting to esoterically explain or enhance the meaning of the conflict in the non-fiction biography as both plots involve a main character experiencing a similar problem. The first place where the reader gets a glimpse of this modernist/post-modernist strategy is on page 9, in a chapter aptly named “Genesis,” where Jeanette, the author and Jeanette the character end the scene with the following question: “…but what do these things mean?” (Winterson, 1985). The fairy tale that ensues immediately after the scene in which the question appears offers the possibility that meeting a certain “magical” person will offer answers that will allow all an education into “such things” that appear unanswerable as well as to become an educator of such esoteric knowledge to those she finds in the same predicament as the one she once found herself.

In addition to weaving in fairy tales, Winterson carefully sprinkles outbursts of “stream of consciousness” poetry and prose poetry juxtaposed brilliantly after each scene that ends ambiguously as though trying to explain and enhance further through the mysterious words of poetry; words revealing there is more beneath the surface not visible to the eye. An example of one of these scenes appears on page 89 in the Numbers chapter. The scene in the top half of the page ends as follows:

Melanie and I had volunteered to set up the Harvest Festival Banquet, and we worked hard in the church throughout the day. When everyone arrived and started to pass the potato pie, we Stood on the balcony, looking down on them. Our family. It was safe. (Winterson, 1985)

One view may be that the religious girls felt safe and cozy as pie; however, keeping in mind that pieces of the era at times have ambiguous endings and nothing is what seems, a second view is that something else is going on: Perhaps a hint at the lesbian motif that runs through the piece giving it an ironic twist since Jeanette is supposed to be the “chosen” and “pure” child of God, yet she commits the sin of loving the same sex, prohibited by her religion.

The “stream of consciousness prose/poem” follows, stating and confirming either the secure position of both girls within their home or “outside” of it looking in as the “other”:

Here is a table set at feast, and the guests are arguing about the best recipe for goose…It has always been this way, nothing can intrude./Father and Son. Father and Son./It has always been this way. Outside, the rebels storm the Winter Palace. (p. 89)

Are these words to be taken literally? Or is there more than meets the eye? Are the guests Jeanette’s and Melanie’s family? Are they the rebels outside? Is the storm a metaphor for their lesbian relationship? This is a masterpiece of a work that incorporates the different layers of interpretation because of the author’s use of ambiguous methods, often resulting in paradoxical situations.

Winterson (1985) uses a similar technique on page 122 in the Joshua chapter at the bottom of the page where the female protagonist states that her friend Katy offers a sleep over. The next scene is composed of poetic prose about “a secret garden cunningly walled” (p. 123). A secret entrance exists. The main character writes about eating forbidden fruit and “other longings” (p. 123). Could there be a connection between the ending of the previous storyline and this esoteric scene? Is it possible Winterson hints at lesbian relationships? The non-linear and fuzzy plot rises in action by what appears to be a conflict related to homosexuality and its forbidding practice due to the “sex sin” as tradition dictates within her religious upbringing. The climax finds Jeanette banished from the household because she refuses to stop loving women, an ironic twist in that both the real Jeanette and the character Jeanette were raised and trained to preach the holy word that denounces such practices.

Another way to look at Winterson’s (1985) work is through the Feminist lens, which focuses on the behaviors of the females and males within a male dominated society. One such part of the book, revealing such relationships is found on page 133, “The real problem, it seemed, was going against the teachings of St Paul, and allowing women power in the church…” (p. 133). However, when viewing the piece specifically through Elaine Showalter’s approach–gynocriticism, which presents three phases or stages: Feminine, Feminist, and Female (Barton & Hudson, 2011, p. 83), the reader realizes that Winterson’s piece reflects the Female or third stage. In the Feminine stage, the female is imitating and internalizing the views of the dominant tradition; in the Feminist stage the female rebels against the dominant tradition; during the Feminine stage the female “sees with fresh eyes” (p. 83). Winterson’s main character clearly illustrates a stage of self-discovery and the ability to see the world without the coloring of the male’s tradition but through one whom only the feminine eyes can see.

The lesbian theme is one that reflects this phase of discovering to love the same sex as opposed to the traditional view found in the male-dominated society, particularly those views within her religious upbringing, and “reflects three levels of awakening–physical, mental and spiritual–which are nevertheless, interrelated” (p. 85). Physically, Melanie makes love to the women she loves, awakening the physical need for a woman’s physical touch although frowned upon by her immediate society/culture. Mentally, Melanie awakens to the fact that she is independent and powerful. She states, “If you want to talk in terms of power I had enough to keep Mussolini happy” (Winterson, 1985, p. 124). Spiritually she awakens to the fact that “if there was such a thing as spiritual adultery, her mother was a whore” ( p. 134). And as she had always known, that “to the pure all things are pure…” (p. 123), including loving other woman.

Finally, Winterson’s (1985) narrative illustrates elements of New-Historicism. Through the New Historicist’s lens, the reader sees how the work of an author is tied to the society in which he or she has assimilated into and how that author is also “bound by social codes and conventions, while they prove, in other ways, to subvert or undercut the dominant beliefs of their societies” (Barton & Hudson, 2011, p. 359). As a result, the piece will reflect the authors “behaviors and thoughts” (p. 135). Winterson’s piece is clearly her biography mixed with fiction as was previously illustrated. Her main storyline indicates that the author is bound and shaped by her society’s codes and beliefs; both author and character are able to “subvert and undercut” these codes and beliefs through extensive participation within its context while at the same time rejecting it by practicing otherwise and making fictions to conceal such practices. Once again, one motif that supports this is the lesbian one that runs through the piece as both author and main character prove that although they were born bound by certain values and beliefs, each reflects what interests and what New Historians look for in the literature: The ability “to express, reflect and interconnect matters of history, biography and religious belief” (Barton & Hudson, 2011, p. 137). In short, the context of the novel within Winterson’s piece cannot be analyzed in isolation of the time period and other social factors for a true account, specifically when viewing it through the New Historicists Lens (Barton & Hudson, 2011).

Winterson’s novel, “Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit,” is representative of how post-modernists continued using the experimentation of techniques as did the modernists when writing narratives. In addition, by using both the Feminist and New Historicists Lens when reading it, readers experience an authentic richness and depth to the novel because of the many possible interpretations that yield more meaning and purpose.

References

Barton, E.J. & Hudson, G.A. (2011). A contemporary guide to literary terms. (3rd ed.). New York: Houghton Mifflin Company.

Winterson, .J. (1985). Oranges are not only fruit. New York: Atlantic Monthly Press.

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Filed under Feminism, Literary Approaches, New Historicists, Women in Literature, Women Studies

Women in Literature: An Illustration of Oppression


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Three essays presenting negative images of women in Latin American, Caribbean, British and American literature.

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Filed under Condition of the American Female, Cultural Perspectives, Feminism, Fragmented Psyche, Literature and Philosophy, Mind and Body, Women in Literature, Women Studies, World Literature

Truth is in the “I” of the Beholder


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Philosophical essays touching upon important Spiritual issues involving Life, Meaning, Purpose, Beauty and Truth.

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Filed under Literature and Philosophy, Mind and Body, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Religion, Science, Spiritual Perspectives, Sri Aurobindo

Breakfast at the Enchanted Garden


Fantasytical!

Layyla over the rooftops of the world

This garden installation is somwhere in Germany. But it just as well could be in Neverland. Or Wonderland. Yes, it definitely, in some way I’m not really able to explain, reminds me of a tea party at Hatter’s.

 

 

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Put to a higher use…


(Roughly) Daily

Nine more “Awesome Bookstores Repurposed from Unused Structures” here.

And then there’s…

Nine more “Wonderful Libraries Repurposed from Unused Structures” here.

And, closer to home…

Share Your Shelf: “You have bookshelves. People want to see them. That’s what happens here.”

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As we alphabetize, we might recall that it was on this date in 1996 that noted overachiever Stephen King, who has published 50 novels and almost 200 short stories, released not one, but two novels: Desperation, under his own name, and The Regulators, as Richard Bachman.  He found time that same year to appear on guitar with The Rock Bottom Remainders.

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A Continuation of American Experimentation with Realistic Theater: The Sandbox


A Continuation of American Experimentation with Realistic Theater: “The SandBox

Edward Albee‘s (2004) “The Sandbox” is a continuation of American experimentation with realistic theater because he does not delve into the absurd; instead, the author focuses on an existential worldview as well as on the psychological, leaving out the metaphysical realm and surrealists stylistic techniques and methods as those appearing in “A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings” by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. In contrast, Albee experiments with words to re-invent old clichés when pertaining to both social behaviors and discussions to give his pieces a realistic taste. To further play with realistic theater, the author creates scenery, plots and characters involved in psychologically irrational behaviors. The characters behave in believable ways. Maintaining the realistic flavor, Albee (2004) depicts these pathetic souls living rich but vacuous lives–Americans who indulge in the materialistic and mechanistic worldview but without the fortune of inheriting heart, soul and substance.

Albee’s (2004) “The Sandbox” is realistic in the sense that the plot involves the sick and nasty psychological disposition of characters, reflecting the society and world that they live in: A world where there are heartless and soulless people. Albee (2004) writes:

DADDY Where do we put her?

MOMMY (the same little laugh) Wherever I say, of course. Let me see…well…all right,       over there…in the sandbox. (Pause) Well, what are you waiting for, Daddy…The             sandbox! (Together they carry GRANDMA over to the sandbox and more or less dump           her in.) (p. 2292)

As they do the dumping of GRANDMA in her death “Sandbox” where she awaits her death, they walk away from her as she yells out at the top of her lungs in discomfort. What do DADDY and MOMMY do or say? Albee (2004) continues,

“DADDY (pause) What do we do now?

MOMMY (as if remembering) We…wait. We…sit here…and we wait…that’s what we         do” (p. 2293).

There is no hope for GRANDMA, not even from the attractive young but mysterious fellow who has been lurking around with a smile, taking into account the cliché about smiling strangers: Beware. It turns out that he is nothing more than the angel of death, waiting for her demise.            Experimenting with realistic theatre, Albee (2004) gives death an ironic material persona as a smiling and good-looking youth. He juxtaposes that image with death, looming about to cause trouble, yet clothed with seemingly good behaviors and words illustrating that he appears not too comfortable about what he must do but does it anyway, “I am the Angel of Death. I am…uh…I am come for you” (p. 2295). The Angel of Death turns out to be the couple’s young son who is in the plot to kill granny who has become like luggage. Although not playing his role very well, he acts out the characters part as must be done in his world where the once family unit that resulted in a warm and nurturing home has dissolved. In its place scheming families have arisen, families who plot against one another, especially when that other is a pest as is the grandmother in this play.

Through the play of dialogue and simple, conversational clichés that at times tend to be sarcastic with a caustic humorous twist, Albee (2004) masters the use of understated dialogue that does not reveal the conflict but moves it along at a mundane pace, paralleling the feelings of “Mommy” and “Daddy” who are having a very long day–for good reason as the reader will soon discover. More interestingly and pleasantly surprising for the reader is the way Albee (2004) is able to mimic the understated dialogue used by Ernest Hemingway in his “Hill Like White Elephants” and brilliantly. Just as Hemingway (1961) was able to use understated dialogue in a natural and simple conversational tone that created a realistic drama, so has Albee (2004) succeeded in this essay.

Because of the understated dialogue and its masterful incorporation in this piece, the characters are real for the reader or the audience, depending on whether reading or viewing this no more than 15 minute realistic theatrical performance. Indeed, the characters are very believable and dialogue, especially when used as within this piece, is an excellent way to enhance a piece’s authenticity. Clearly, it has done so in “The Sandbox.” What is more is that in its understatement, the reader clearly understands the movement and the conflict.

The actors portraying the characters only need to act in a cliché kind of way, “both language and social” (p. 2291). The symbolism portrayed by characters is realistic in the sense that the symbolic representation maintains the level of realism. As mentioned previously, the young son plays the role of the angel of death. Albee (2004) experiments with the realistic theatre itself by making a real person play the character of an abstract concept such as death. Yet, the author maintains the realistic quality of the character in role, the character playing death by making him err during his speech to grandma where he mumbles his lines, making it obvious for the reader that this is not death but the grandmother’s grandson about to do the dirty deed.

Such a theme as the one that Albee (2004) experiments and continues when pertaining to the realistic theatre is realistic in that it represents the reality of some families within a capitalist society–those families who want to get rich at the expense of others. The news is full of happenings within wealthy and not so wealthy families who get rid of the annoying elders in order to receive the winnings or inheritance. This is realistic theatre–depicting what has become cliché both in behavior and language, using the psychological to create the metaphysical yet continuing the experimentation with realistic theatre.

In his piece “The Sandbox,” Albee (2004), by using certain strategies and techniques, is able to maintain an air of realism in spite of the surreal qualities of his piece. This is but a sign of further experimentation in realistic theater–or what some may call the continuation of experimentation with old fashioned satire.

Copyright 2013 by Hakes Publishing

 

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Filed under Fragmented Psyche, Psychological Analysis of Literature, Realistic Theater, Satire, World Literature