I decided to creep though my school folders from last year. This was also written last fall, and is a response to Arthur Miller’s The Crucible
I don’t remember the prompt and at the moment am too tired to read this particular essay, but I do remember this: it was fun to write… Or that could just be my usual response to everything I have ever written.
Damsels in Distress and Draconian Dogma
Religion has played a fundamental role in most, if not all, societies. Its parameters are used to create either an implied or explicit social order; when compromised, the offender is usually punished or ridiculed and regarded as a nonmember of his community. In many ways, this form of retribution is logical. Murder, for instance, is wrong in most religions; these religions are the bases of legal codes in many countries; thus, in these many countries, murder is outlawed and the murderer is aptly punished. Yet, religious justification is not always righteous. The United States was founded on Puritan-Christian principles; while our literacy rate and other aspects of our culture flourished, some Puritan tenets lent themselves to flagrant misinterpretations. Salem, Massachusetts was adapted to provide a safe-haven for Puritans. Religion in Salem was corrupted when its stringent individual permissions provoked a vicious hysteria.
Puritan faith is deemed an almost extremist creed for its zealous God-fearing mentality. Historically, the Puritan sect was a group of people who believed the English Reformation (England’s breaking away from the Catholic Church and the Pope) had not gone far enough and still sanctioned some Catholic convictions. The Puritans endorsed only ascetic lifestyles; they reproached not only others, but also themselves. To them, dressing expressively was sinful because it begged attention and did not live out God’s word, for God did not want self-important people. Moreover, they believed they were constantly being watched not just by God, but by the entire world: they were the City upon a Hill, God’s prototype and chosen people. The self-induced pressure on this culture was the primary catalyst to the Salem Witch Trials. Puritan social code was repressive in order to instill social discipline. Arthur Miller’s Abigail Williams and afflicted girls are the symbolic victims of the tyrannical rule of austerity: dancing and other forms of expression, because they were strictly forbidden, were translated as irrational behavior, for who would forsake God’s law if not possessed by the Devil? The girls danced and took part in what today’s standards would be acceptable behavior for young girls; however, due to the nature of their community, these activities were interpreted as aberrations: “Witchery’s a hangin’ error…you’ll only be whipped for dancing and other things” (Miller 18). The girls knew what they were doing was wrong from the very beginning, but they secretly engaged in the activities because that was their only way to communicate creatively; they channeled their repressed emotions through an unhealthy and antisocial conduit- to Puritan standards. When they were caught, their initial reaction was to lie to evade punishment: a simple action-reaction situation. Because they had always been subjugated, they realized that with these lies, they were now in power. One Abigail Williams soon realized that she could manipulate other people through deceit. A once oppressed Abigail perpetuated the Trials in response to her inhibitions. Many people would model her actions but for their own individual reasons.
Salem quickly spiraled into a bottomless pit of greed and revenge. People prolonged the Trial by accusing others as a way of lifting their own condemnations and escaping death. Only the honest few would refuse to succumb to the hysterical ongoings and stand by their morality. Nevertheless, Abigail had spawned a viral concept. Some people became cognizant of the idea that they could accuse others as a means of getting what they wanted. Thomas Putnam, for example, exploited his daughter; he strategically operated her to accuse certain people of witchcraft. Because he was a wealthy man, he was able to buy their land when they would not sell it to him. Though Giles Corey discovered and accused Putnam of “killing his neighbors for their land” (Miller 89), when asked to provide evidence, Corey chose to remain faithful to his beliefs and died as a consequence. The disintegration of piety in Salem was exemplified by hanging of the truly moral and selfless people.
Communities based purely on rigid religions or philosophies do not work. Unwavering and seemingly perfect authority has almost always been reformed at some point, if not destroyed (see: every monarchy ever to exist, American Transcendentalist communities, etc). The desire to break free of oppression, even when oppression is nearly infinitesimal, is the essence of humanity. The afflicted girls played in the forest against the consent of society, and when society went to punish them, they reacted defensively. It was when one of them finally became conscious, that she realized what she and the others should have had all along: freedom. Were Puritan faith not the autocratic creed that it was, would the Trials have ever begun?
I wrote this for my Advanced Comp class last fall. Not my best work, but still respectable if only for the fact that this was my first essay of the year last year. Summers can be rough on writing..
(Edit from earlier: This is NOT a Toulmin analysis, clearly. I read the titles in my folder wrong… My Toulmin remains alone in my usb drive because it was just that bad.)
We Are Jack’s Reflection in the Mirror
In Chuck Palahniuk’s “Fight Club,” he argues that self-destruction is the only way to reach wisdom, which he defines as the the state of self-fulfillment. Palahniuk qualifies those who can relate to his nameless narrator as “consumers… the bi-products of a lifestyle obsession,” (Fight Club 2) which live a life where materialism prevails and identity is forsaken. He admonishes against this culture because he claims that it leads to a world where “the things you own… they own you” (Fight Club 2). Warranted in the book “Fight Club” is the assumption that its readers are part of the issue, part of the very mentality it seeks to destroy, so Palahniuk diagnoses un-lived life and death if his solution isn’t adhered. The concept of self-destruction is the prescribed method of freeing oneself from the cycle of a nonidentity and a blind-conformity to society: it is the moksha of the secular world however dubious it may initially seem to be.
Recreational fighting was originally a method of expression between the narrator and his friend Tyler Durden: it was their only conduit for suppressed desires in a society where tangible perfection was the only worthwhile purpose- as satirized by the narrator’s “[flipping] through catalogues wondering: what kind of dining set defined me as a person?” (Fight Club 2). Tyler Durden, who the audience later finds out a figment of the narrator’s imagination, forces the narrator to engage in a series of activities which one by one, destroy him; Tyler Durden serves as the primary impetus for self destruction in Fight Club. The audience becomes aware that Tyler Durden is the a manifestation of the repressed desires of the nameless narrator: his alter-ego. Self-destruction is not motivated by the possibility of death, but rather, quite the opposite, as Palahniuk declares, a way for all to stop “treading water…and doing something with our lives” (Palahniuk 74). Self destruction is present in the form of an antidote to a meaningless material life. While it would temporarily harm the the host, it would result in finding oneself in a place of complete freedom, the freedom to choose one’s own life without the partisan of society; “It’s only after you’ve lost everything…that you’re free to do anything” (Palahniuk 70)
Arguably, Palahniuk’s tenets are extreme. While he promulgates the success of self-destruction, the readers do feel as though he offers only one brusque way to achieve enlightenment. However, that is exactly how Palahniuk intends his audience to react. He draws a line between the people who feel they are complete, who feel they are concerned with all the right things: economic success and health, beauty and toys, and the people who have realized they are missing something important in their lives. His intention is to separate his audience into either of the two categories, but for the latter group, he wants his book to transcend its dogmatic, literal meaning. Starting fight clubs, pouring lye onto their hands, burning their apartments, forsaking everything in which they believe, in order to become wise- he does not want that. He wants them to pave their own way, to discover their own unique way of sacrifice to become better. This is seen through the paradox of Tyler Durden and the narrator. Tyler Durden did teach the narrator to become the person he always wanted to become, but Tyler Durden was the narrator; the narrator taught himself to become his dream- and as Palahniuk warranted from the very beginning, the audience is the narrator: We decide how to live our lives. Palahniuk anticipates the human survival instinct and fear. He acknowledges the fact that most people are too scared to jettison their immediate comfort and safety for something so far fetched, he knows that “[We have] it all!… a stereo that was very decent, a wardrobe that was getting respectable. [We were] so close to being complete” (Fight Club 2), but to that, he says, “Shit man, now it’s all gone” (Fight Club 2). His bitingly sardonic remark reminds the reader of the vain and vapid preoccupation that is a materialistic mentality.
Economic Materialism is the idea that all valuable elements are found in the form of physical developments. It is the principle that Fight Club seeks to destroy because it destroys the individual. The pursuit of social standing and acceptance, expensive clothes and cars, and other worldly matters was the impulsion for fighting outside the bar the night the narrator’s apartment exploded, for the creation of Fight Club. Inevitably most people fall so deeply into the trend of following and chasing devoid values that they lose who they are and who they could be in the process, only to become part of the masses. “to do the little job [they’re] trained to do” (Palahniuk 29). In a society where everything has a paradigm and all rights and wrongs are defined, Fight Club was the inception of a rebellion resistant to the fallacy of the world. Food and jobs and petty attributes like looks and dining sets had a status quo, and if someone didn’t attain them, he was a failure. Fight Club fought just that ideal.
The notion that self-destruction is to way to fight the oppression of society is best defined as moksha. Moksha is a hindu belief that deals with the breaking of the cycle of worldly suffering called “samsara.” In Fight Club, samsara is the cycle of distress in life that cannot be terminated unless the tormented undertakes the renunciation of worldly possessions, or as is known in Hindu tenets, “ashrama.” Only though this process the tormented achieve moksha, and in Fight Club, enlightenment: the breaking free of the spell of society.
The perception of the self is the most prevalent value in the book, as the entire plot was centered around becoming something one is not. As the audience, we identify ourselves with the narrator’s social survival skills, such as conforming to a job he doesn’t really like to support his penchant for wasting money on superfluous toys, which to some never seem unnecessary because that is how so many people have been raised, “Generations have been working in jobs they hate, just so they can buy shit they don’t really need” (Palahniuk 23). The overarching, and perhaps the only hopeful idea in the book, is the possibility of change if we so choose it. The only hindrance on our path is conformity: the mediocrity of being content with only instant pleasures.
That’s probably not a word, but today I don’t care!
Here are some links to some useful .pdfs/sites about writing and words and such.
Chekhov’s Gun, used to kill people(‘s emotions)
Ah, Vonnegut’s tips for writing fiction. Fiction is something I will never be able to tackle. But maybe you..?
Setting aside my love/hate relationship with Kerouac, here is an unquestionably good post about his writing tips. You would think that I would be blindly in love with him judging by the fact that I love the content of this article enough to post it here…
Speaking of Kerouac, were you looking for a guide to grammar?
For all my fellow lexophiles…
Etymologically speaking… Even the domain is AWESOME. Gatsby, wassup?
Here are some facts about Englishshshshshshsh
This is something you should definitely read, and if you’ve already read it, read again.
Until next time, friends.
-Looking out the window somewhere above Charlottetown, Canada, 37,000 feet in the air / flight to London
I can’t tell you how beautiful the view is. It looks like the sky opened up to the universe. A tinge of red and orange looms over the horizon; a pool of green and turquoise envelopes the succeeding hues of blue. And then there are the stars, defying the imminent sun.
I would have gotten drunk as fuck last night were it not for the fact that alcohol is a million dollars.
-Looking out the window somewhere in the Swiss hills / riding the TGV to Zürich
The houses are gone to the trees, and trees are gone to the window.
Sitting in the opposite direction of the moving train– backwardly traveling forward.
-Every time I had to buy food/drinks
The price of water here leaves me contemplating the fine line between frugality and harm of toilet water.
-Flight back home
You know you’re on a flight to America when the flight attendant announces that snacks are on their way, and the snacks turn out to be trays deep dish pizzas, nachos, and cookies.
Hello and good morning to all!
I feel like Santa Claus as I come bearing new gifts. Today I am happy to announce that I will be adding a new segment to this already cluttered blog! It is to be a travel section entitled “Notes from Above,” receiving “Above” not from the idea of a pretentious American who feels “above” every other culture, but rather from an allusion to planes which travel above the clouds and cities. Furthermore, it is my distinct pleasure officially to inform my readership of the transition of this blog from exclusively a book blog to a general writing blog (with an emphasis on books). This change will take some time, and I beseech you to follow me in this endeavor. Finally, as is evident through the large link atop this page, there is a fresh-out-the-oven page! I have created this page for posting links to interesting articles for your (and my own) reading pleasure. Links will be added haphazardly, though they can usually be expected towards the end of the week. Thank you in advance for your undeserving patience with my shenanigans and your unexpected interest in my blog.