Wednesday, March 19, 2014

The Stranger

The Stranger by Albert Camus is certainly an interesting novel. The earnestness of which Camus tells his semi-autobiographical (long word of the day) story is a refreshing change of pace. He refuses to lie, including lies of exaggeration, saying exactly how he feels, not sparing people or society. The interesting twist is society literally judges him and sentences him to death for being steadfast in arguably the noblest virtue, truth. As mentioned in my essay, I believe Camus takes the sheen of nobility around truths and shatters it. Camus shows that truth is an impartial quality, and has the power to hurt and destroy people. To the main point of the blog, my job is to determine if this novel shows human nature helping or hurting society. And I would argue that Meursault, the main character, shows the apathetic side of human nature and it does, in fact, hurt society to the point that he is forced out. Meursault did not abide the rules that were placed in front of him, and, like any player on a team that is not executing his role, he lost favor and was dropped. The turning point was obviously when he killed somebody, though Camus would argue that it was out of self-defense, the only justifiable reason in his mind. And as self-defense is a primal survival instinct, one could argue that his actions were in line with human nature. The direct consequence of acting out his instincts was the death penalty. That alone says everything about the novel. The Stranger was trying to show how misguided society is and how away from the roots of human experience we have traveled.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

The Invisible Man

The Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison is, at its heart, a human nature study. The narrator spends the novel trying to find out who he really is, and as such, who humans really are. So, this book is very easy to connect with my big question, as it talks a lot about human nature in relation to society. The Invisible Man, the narrator, is trying to find out who he fundamentally is, and how that person fits in to this "new" society that is created after the civil war. The narrator is extremely smart and has a gift for oration. He used his speeches as a way of finding out who he is. But, to the question! What this novel revealed to me was, human nature is a tool to be manipulated. So, as less and less free will is added into the equation, the more people's feelings and thoughts are used against, and sometimes for, them. Ralph Ellison wrote this book as a scathing review of the Communist Party, and as such, he often uses the narrator's sense of identity, or lack of it, against him. At the end, when he finally figures out who he really is, and what his nature really is, he is enlightened, uninvisible, but still hiding. This book taught me that at times, human nature is an abused tool for others to twist you into merely a number or statistic.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Independent Study: Doctor Faustus

Doctor Faustus is a thoroughly human novel. It documents the rise and fall of a man, a successful man, who became too greedy for more successes. Faustus is meant to represent all of humanity, actually. He is someone who was at the pinnacle of his craft, the epitome of the purity of mankind, and this novel is showing the world how quickly we can be corrupted. Before I get to my point, I must make a digression. I love Mephistocles as a character. He is a demon, meant to be the most of evil of all creatures, and he pities Faustus, tries to save him, and gives him another chance. The fact that Christopher Marlowe would let such a typecast character, one that is supposed to be unflinching in the most dire of circumstances, show such compassion really made me appreciate this play. Mephistocles, an evil character, gave Faustus hope and a chance. Back to the point. So, to connect this literature to my question, I had to think about how Faust interacts with the people around him, or "his society". Before his downfall, Faustus was a model citizen, a doctor, a healer, and a loving person. But as he got more greedy for power, his usefulness to society went down. As he became more self-centered, the people around him suffered. Human nature, as it turns out, is a fickle beast. As Faustus best illustrated, it is a volatile force capable of good and also of destruction.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Henry the Fourth

   Henry IV is a Shakespearean play that follows the Shakespearean formula to the letter. With complex supporting characters that all fill a role, and a main character than undergoes a sudden shift in the heart of the play, the tried-and-true method allows for a lot of deep and easy analysis. When reading through this play, the main connection to my big question was actually the scene-stealer, the comedic relief, the goofy best friend, Jack Falstaff.
    Of all the characters in Henry, Falstaff most embodies human nature at its unbridled fullest. Hal is not himself for half the novel, the king is too self-pitying to show who he really is, and the other characters are not shown enough to matter. Hotspur also shows quite a bit of character, but I believe he is a personification of battle, not human nature. Falstaff, on the other hand, displays pure human emotion and thoughts. He runs when he is scared, he jokes when it is appropriate, and he shows compassion towards Hal throughout the novel. So, the big question, did he add to the society he was in, which in this case was Medieval England? Well, he did help raise Hal to the heights that he ended at, giving him an empathy for the common man while also showing him cunning, but at the same time, he also shows cowardice as well as evil intentions at times. As the story progresses, Falstaff's actions seem to balance each other out, trading a good deed for a bad one. So we must judge his value based on his intentions, which are harder to read. Never during my reading did I sense a malicious intent from Sir Jack. By no means is he of pure heart, but Falstaff never wanted to hurt more than he had to. What stands about Falstaff is his gluttony, as he could never say no to himself, which is a very common trait among humanity these days. To answer the question, I believe Falstaff indeed helped his society, because every society needs a jolly, robust grandfather.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

     Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte is a complex novel that in turn deals with the complexities of the human psyche. Heathcliff is a control freak who projects his self-hatred on to others and lashes out at those deemed inferior to him. Catherine is a wild woman who refined herself but never got rid of the savagery inside of her. And Nelly plays the part of the human storyteller, displaying our curiosity and adapatability as she changes bosses back and forth. All of these examples showcase the museum of qualities Bronte exhibits in her novel. Now, down to the question: after all these parts of human nature are shown, does the human nature help or hurt the characters?

Monday, September 2, 2013

My Big Question

Like all of the other Big Question Blogs, I was asked to think of something profound. Something that meant a great deal, if not to me, then to everybody. A grand question, a bold idea, a inquiry at the pinnacle of mental exercise. However, unlike what seems like most of the the BQ Bloggers, I have no journey to help guide my thinking. As Foster says, every journey is a journey of self-discovery. From mission trips to grand camping adventures to summer jobs, none of these experiences have stumbled into my life. I have no literal journey to turn to for profound thought. So, I had to dig deeper. I had to look at my journey through life.

As I thought about my path down the 17 or so years that make up my existence, I really had to focus on the last 4 as my formative years, for high school was when I was really freed to think by myself, to make my own choices, and learn on my own. I have developed a mindset of cynic optimism. In other words, while the world isn't as always as happy as an optimist would see it, I have learned to be happy and hopeful in my supposedly darker world. All of this ties back to one of my greatest passions: humanity. Anthropology is an interest I have had, so combining this with my outlook, I started to look at what is and isn't fundamentally human. What is caused by our nature and what is caused by society. While these items are too hashed-out to be recited here, I started to wonder in my meta-cognition, is the fundamental existence of human nature good or evil? That is to say, is humanity good or evil?