Saturday, April 20, 2013

Motivation and Macbeth

If you didn’t find yourself screaming “whhhhhhhhhhhhhy!” during just about all of Shakespeare’s tragedies- you read them wrong. In particular, reading Macbeth over spring break brought back all of those emotions that I finally recovered from after reading Hamlet so...yay?

Macbeth was given his fortune of ruling the kingdom by the three witches, to which he warily accepted and tried not to think much of. To think that if Lady Macbeth hadn’t gotten her hands on that letter there would be no tragedy. As soon as she finds out the fantastic future Macbeth was just bestowed, she commits herself to making it a reality.

Macbeth alone couldn’t have thought of this plan- he didn’t want to kill King Duncan even when Lady Macbeth first bid him to. It was Lady Macbeth’s continuous and influential persuading that led Macbeth to wield a knife on not only his house guest, but his king.

When given power, Macbeth didn’t even seem to want it. He became paranoid, driven mad. Macbeth decided that he needed to kill everyone of his competitors for the throne- even killing his friend Banquo to assure his place as king. Later, Macbeth would refuse to sit at the feasting table for he saw Banquo’s ghost sitting down there.

Macbeth became a pawn in the hands of an incapable game maker. Lady Macbeth couldn’t truly carry out her plan. She couldn’t direct Macbeth because she was losing her mind herself- seen frantically scrubbing her hands of blood that only she can see. The two both go mad.

Lady Macbeth was driven for power and control-wanting to be queen more than anything else. Macbeth didn’t have this same drive, he was working for his wife. He was manipulated by Lady Macbeth to kill, and in the end, Macbeth and Lady Macbeth, themselves, became victims of their own game.

Friday, April 19, 2013

"Soldier of Fortune" by Bret Anthony Johnston

Bret Anthony Johnston’s “Soldier of Fortune” both paint a picture of a troubled youth, torn between right and wrong, as well as between childhood and adult life. For Josh of “Soldier of Fortune,” a thrust into a darker world acts as a focal point, of which each main character pivots around it’s center. Johnston utilizes symbols, characters, and moments of realization in “Soldier of Fortune” to complete the picture of growing up. Josh describes several times in his story his fascination with a picture of Holly Henderson, his neighbor that he is desperately infatuated with. In the picture, Holly is holding hands with her young brother, Sam. Holly plays a very large role in Josh’s story, giving him drive and motive to do the things he does, such as end his relationship with his best friend, Matt, and repeatedly defy his parents wishes. Josh also decides to sneak into Holly’s room to look at the picture of Holly and Sam, taken at an orange grove. Josh becomes so obsessed with the picture he even contemplates taking it. Josh soon finds that Sam is Holly’s son, and he realizes that he, too, has been a child this whole time, believing the lie that the Henderson’s have told all along to protect Holly, only a young teenager. Told by Josh in the present, looking back about thirty years ago, Josh realizes that he wanted this picture to make sure that he can always hold onto that moment of his youth where Holly was the same girl he always knew, forever dancing on the edges of real and imaginary, as far away as in the picture or as close as the hands being held in it.

 Johnston characterizes Josh differently throughout the story. Josh tells the reader of how he and Matt used to dress up as army men, wearing camouflage to school everyday and covering their walls in army decor. Josh then makes it clear that he does not see this as fun anymore, and already, at fourteen, Josh is growing out of that juvenile stage of his life. He pushes, and is being, pushed away by Matt. Josh becomes more and more engrossed by Holly, and enters into the world of sex, as well as complicated and complex illusions and lies. Josh is from then on described by himself, looking back as an adult. “Now I think of 1986 as the year my life pivoted away from what it had been, maybe the year when all our lives pivoted,” Josh says, “It was the year I surrendered the weapons of my youth- the morning after I fought Matt...”. Josh demonstrates a violent outburst when he attacks Matt for insulting Holly’s family. His irrational and impulsive judgment is clearly acted upon, yet in this way he is becoming more respectable as a character, in that he is leaving his childhood behind to pursue the real world for not only the sake of themselves, but for others, as well: Holly. This characterization, enlightenment, and symbolism work in unison to signify a growth in Josh’s life.

"Flight" by John Steinbeck: An Initiation into Manhood

“Flight” tells the story of Pepe, a jovial teenager who is described multiple times as very lazy and easygoing. His mother waits and waits for him to take life more seriously. After committing a murder, however, Pepe is changed, he does become a man, as stated by the narrator. The murder Pepe committed was done using his Father’s knife.

Pepe is often compared to his hardworking father by his mother, who desires for her son to be more like her deceased husband. Pepe wielding his father’s knife is symbolic of the completion of his childhood and entrance into adulthood. He used his knife just as his father had, but he used it to take the life of another. The maternal figure in this story is used by Steinbeck in order to convey the idea of Pepe’s rising power as a man. Pepe’s mother was clearly shown to be his caretaker in the opening of the story. She scolds him, feeds him, and looks after him. However, when Pepe is trusted to go to the city by himself, his mother surrenders her hold on the family. In an attempt to have her boy become a man, she gives him a great responsibility. Pepe eagerly accepts this opportunity, but is confronted with the face of death instead of a small journey. Pepe’s mother put her trust into Pepe, and he did not disappoint her, because in the end, Pepe made the journey and left boyhood behind him.

  Steinbeck uses characterization in his attempt to convey the profound change that occurred for Pepe. Once described as a jubilant, lazy teenager, Pepe morphs into a different person. “He was changed,” states the narrator. “There was no laughter in them (eyes) any more nor any bashfulness. They were sharp and bright and more purposeful”.  With the light that used to radiate from himself gone, Pepe is forced to leave his home, his brother and sister, and most importantly, his mother. In this absence from the security of  his home and family, he is no longer sheltered from the outside world. This realization in Pepe’s life drives the rest of the narrative, which focuses on survival in the outside world after living on the inside for so long.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Spring Break Reading

"So, what did you do over spring break?"
"Oh, just some light reading...."

I read ten freaking books over spring break. I mean, one of them (well forty pages of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest) was sort of mandatory but the other nine...were strictly optional.

Yes. Ten books. 2,705 pages. It was fantastic. There is really nothing better than sitting down and reading a good book for hours, and going through all of it in just a day or two rather than stretching it out over a week.

So, from top to bottom I read:

The Merchant of Venice by Shakespeare

Macbeth by Shakespeare

Maximum Ride: The Final Warning   by: James Patterson

Maximum Ride: Saving the World and Other Extreme Sports    by: James Patterson

Maximum Ride: School's Out Forever    by: James Patterson

Maximum Ride: The Angel Experiment     by: James Patterson

March by Geraldine Brooks

The Picture of Dorian Gray   by: Oscar Wilde

The Outsiders   by S.E. Hinton

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest   by Ken Kesey

Some of the books were rereads, like The Outsiders, for example. This was the book that made me fall in love with reading, the first book that I truly felt like the world had ended around me when I finished it. Reading it again for the first time since freshman year was amazing, I loved it even more and the entire message of the book was revealed to me once again in different ways. I could relate to the characters all over again, and they still feel strikingly real to me and it's so hard to shake I've stopped trying.

The Picture of Dorian Gray was fantastic. It took a better portion of my day to read, but it was totally worth it. Actually, I probably should have saved the last chapter or so until the next morning, because Dorian Gray stabbing the picture, therefore stabbing himself...the whole ordeal really freaked me out at one in the morning, to be quite frank. The movie Dorian Gray starring Ben Barnes (who I love) was sadly very disappointing (and come to think of it actually horrifically terrifying also and another thing I should have saved until daylight).

Oh! How could I forget- The Merchant of Venice. I actually laughed out loud when I finished the play because this was the first of Shakespeare's plays I've read where no one dies in the end. Ha, ha! (I'm looking at YOU Hamlet).

Those three were certainly highlights for me, but the one book I did not care much for was One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey.  This was pretty far outside the realm of books I would choose myself to read, and overall I just did not like it too much.This is saying something because I enjoy virtually everything I read. The whole tone was sort of... bleak? I'm not really sure. I also found it difficult, personally, to relate to this group of forty year old men drinking cough syrup and hanging out with prostitutes. Maybe I'm just a funny feminist that way.

Now, I'm off to take the eleven books I currently have checked out of the library back to their home, and maybe start The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom.