Thursday, March 21, 2013

A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man Big Question:
We live in a world where our surroundings are constantly changing and our characters developing. This change is good. It allows one to adapt to the change around him and discover what traits make up his being. James Joyce describes this process through his protagonist Stephen Dedalus in his novel A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and allows the reader to see for himself the changes one must over come in his life to find his true calling and in the end acquire happiness. At the beginning of the novel, Stephen is a Catholic school boy who is afraid to voice his opinion and is more intent to view his environment than experience it. Towards the middle of the book, Stephen's voice begins to pour over the pages from his encounter of reporting a school prefect for unjust punishment to discovering his love of poetry and his life as an artist and dropping out of school to pursue it. In the end, his voice is the only thing that guides the pages of the book with the last pages being journal entries. It is then that he has accepted his voice in his society and reached the full potential his life holds. In regards to growing up, finding our voice in society and discovering our purpose seems daunting and intimidating. We run into the question of what will happen if we do not discover our purpose or even fulfill it. And how do we create a voice in our society? Part of growing up is answering those questions and experiencing the benefits they possess. Is Stephen finding and utilizing his voice and talents demonstrate him growing up? How does one go about this in their own life?

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Beloved Big Question:

Growing up. A phrase seen as domineering and enticing. If one does not get the chance to grow up he misses the window of opportunity to tap into the person he is meant to be and what he is to accomplish. Toni Morrison acknowledges this opportunity in her novel Beloved through her reference of slavery, its consequences and the idea that when it comes to love there is no distinction between what is right and what is wrong. The book starts off with Sethe, the protagonist, living with her daughter Denver in a house that is haunted by the ghost of Sethe’s other daughter whom she killed in order to save  her  from returning to slavery. The book continuoulsy reverts between characters of the book and their past experiences so the reader can gain perspective and reasoning behind the events taking place in the present setting. However, the most important characteristic of the book is the idea that humans in general are incapable of possession and that the exercising of possessiveness in the end leads to chaos.
Every character in the book has a memory or scar that symbolizes possession. For Sethe, it is the “clump of scars” (Morrison 25) on her back from where she was whipped and also the memory of her owner’s nephew “ taking her milk” (19) from when she was still on the plantation. Her scar symbolizes a tree,”inviting; things you could trust and be near; talk to if you wanted to” (25) but for Sethe it symbolizes experience coupled with possession. The experience of evolving from being a slave and forced into a life of submission into a life of freedom and self content and the possession her slave holders had over her and took from her. Denver’s symbol of possession originates from the the story of her mother killing her sister and trying to kill her brother  and constantly living in fear of the idea that her mother might kill her as well. Sethe’s inconcious possession from Denver keeps her from developping into an independent woman who can survive on her own. Then there is Beloved, the ghost of the dead daughter in human form who comes to Sethe and Denver’s house only to slowly gain possession over Sethe and force her to focus all attention towards her. All these forms of possession bring out the hypocrisy of human nature where we do not desire to be possessed by others but enjoy the idea of holding power over others. The three women in the book strived to escape possession but in the end became the possessed or possessors stinting their own development into the people they were meant to be and hindering them from the good they could have done.
Children are content with ownership whether it be from having power over our toys to being the leader in a social setting. Growing up, however, aids them in realizing that ownership over another or being owned does not ellicit happiness nor does it improved their own development into maturity. The point when one reaches the conclusion that he possess nothing but himself and his own wellbeing is when he has also made it through his journey of “growing up”. Yet this claim begs one to ask, do most people reach this ending point in their lives? And if they don’t, are they still considered to be “grown up”? What do they possess to make it so?                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     

Sunday, January 27, 2013

The Stranger Big Question:

Honesty. It is the truest attribute one can have in life. Not honesty whose intention is to hurt someone, but the type of honesty that sets out to create a clear scope of what life is to oneself and the truth it holds for others. In Albert Camus's The Stranger we are allowed to view a life based on raw honesty, disregarding the consequences that may accompany it, through the eyes of his protagonist Meursault. Meursault leads a life of simplicity. His day to day regime consists of him making choices that solely benefit his happiness, such as eating when he is hungry, going out with his girlfriend Marie when he desires to or traveling to the beach if the situation calls for it. To Meursault, life is about "all or nothing" as if you can live a cautious life, afraid of the opinions others may have of you and be dishonest to yourself or lead a life that is individualistic, only focusing on the happiness you have and hoping others feel the same way. Meursault believes that there is "no way out" (Camus 17) of the life you are accountable for but there is a way of living it to your best ability.

Growing up is about facing and acquiring these personal truths such as Camus did. When we reach the point where responsibility of our well being relies solely on us, we make the choice as to how to approach this responsibilty and decide what, in the end, is best for us and those around us. For us, making this choice is not always a two- way street, black and white decision. We acknowledge the challenges we might face from the path we take but when there comes the time where the choice must be made and the life lived, we choose the type of person we want to be who best fits our honest self. Meursault faced this decision, in the book he dapples on the memory of his life in college where he was ambitous. When reflecting on his life and the happiness it held he realizes, "I wasn't unhappy. When I was a student I had lots of ambitions" (41). His honesty of acknowledging what his life was and what it is now is important. He chose to live a life where amibition was neglected and concise living was encouraged. To some, this is a life filled with boredom and mundance existence. Yet to Meursault, it is a life that produced satisfaction, which in reality is what truly matters. Reaching the brink of maturity calls for us to ponder the question, with whatever road you take to who you will become, will it bring happiness in your life or regret? Meursault may have lived a life that did not consist of exuberant happiness but in the end resulted in a feeling of contentment and gratefulness. The phrase "I wasn't unhappy" is the sole statement we must utilize when growing and progressing into the best versions of ourselves we can be. However, one must consider if honesty does in fact entitle the idea that we are growing up and if it does, does it yield to a life of self content?

Friday, December 14, 2012

Invisible Man Big Question:

The phrase from Ralph Ellison's novel Invisible Man, "Live your life like your head is in the lion's mouth" serves as an absolute statement that is open to interpretation. It could be seen as living a careful life, only doing what you should do and staying in the safe boundaries society sets for you. Or it could be seen as advice to live a life in anticipation, not knowing what is to come but willing to take the adventure to get there. When growing up, adolescents are faced with this daunting crossroad of how they want to live out their life and how they set out to do it much like the protagonist in Invisible Man. However, setting out to accomplish what you want in life does not mean that there will not be obstacles along the way. Some face the problem, like the narrator in Invisible Man, of trying to please others in order to bring individual contentment but fall short of societal expectations and wonder, "What did I do? I always tried to do the right thing..." (191). This is not the road to take when making the transition from child into adulthood. Instead, one must take the road that can be viewed to have selfish intent, but yields a greater outcome in the course of life. This is the road of self contentment. It should not serve as a main focus but more as cornerstone in one's life. By focusing on the quality one could bring to his own life and others instead of the quantity, maturation reaches its full course due to the incorporation of ideas taught to us when we are young taking action later on in the lives we live.
Does the protagonist in Invisible Man reach full maturation in the book? And do we all as a society reach this idea of full maturation and the happiness that accompanies it?

Monday, November 5, 2012

Oedipus Big Question:

The play Oedipus Rex provides a platform where one can base their quality as a leader. Oedipus sees himself more as a leader than a king which is both admirable and desirable in regards to men with power. How does he possess this quality though? Is it born or acquired over time? It is evident that in history there are two kinds of leaders we come across. The ones who take their peoples needs into first account and the ones whose own needs are their only focus. Humans are inherently selfish but do not always choose to act upon it. Oedipus is one of those people. He cares more for the well being and responsibility for his people than his own. Does this quality show up in those who have gone through the process of "growing up"? Is growing up based on the idea of compromise and selflessness? 

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Henry IV Part I Big Question:

In life, the concept of growing up is daunting and intimidating. The thought that we will change and transform into people who make decisions for our own, and other's, well being seems fleeting and unfathomable. Yet there comes a time where we stumble onto the road of maturation and are forced to make the choice to continue down it or stay in place and forever be stuck in a state of selfishness and immaturity. In Henry IV Part I Hal faces his own road when it is evident that he will become king one day and that his childish lifestyle of thievery and pub crawling must not be a part of his life as king. Does Hal take this road to better himself? And if he does, is he, in his own way, growing up?

Monday, September 3, 2012

What is the Big Question?

It was a Thursday afternoon in fourth grade. I had been going to St. John's Lutheran School for about six years and was pretty confident that I had school, and all its obstacles, under control. Little did I know that I would later have the worst but also life-changing day of my life. The teacher passed back our memory test back, back then it was required to memorize bible verses and recite them for a grade, I looked down at the paper and saw the bright red F across the top of the page. I am not brilliant, but I also do not enjoy getting F's in classes and this was not my first. Amid the panic and horror, I kept wondering "How could this happen to me. am I stupid?" Then, the recess bell rang and I was out the door in a flash ready to take on the jungle gym and it's climbing pleasure. It was there that Lindsay Monasmith, a girl in my class, came up to me and asked. "Chloe, why are you so fat?" Now, being a ten year old girl with low self esteem I couldn't help but feel devastated at this question with a statement implied. It was my beginning of conforming to the societal pressure girls succumb to. I clambered off the monkey bars at that point, walked inside, went into the bathroom stall, and cried.

It had been a rough year for me. It was the year where the idea of growing up became prominent and working hard on academics had to become a main focus. It was the year where I actually did start failing things in classes and even though getting an F on an exam was shocking, it was not necessarily uncommon. When I finished crying in the stall I started wondering about what the cause of my problems were.
"Maybe I'm stupid because I fail everything."
"Maybe I'm chubby because something is wrong with me."

All these thoughts and questions were valid but only made me shameful of myself, which is something that is not acceptable in anyone's life.
By the time I got home and told my mom everything she sat me down and told me the statement that jumpstarted my academic and life motivation.

"Chloe" she said, "You're not stupid, or ugly, or fat. You are exactly who you are. Going through life, some people are not going to like that, and not everything is going to fall into place for you. But that's life, that's what has to make you seek it and embrace it."
I decided that night that it was time to advance in my life. It was time to focus on school and not expect it to come easily to me. And it was time to accept the fact that I may not be everyone's version of perfect. I grew up that day. But what does it mean to "grow up"?
When do we go from childish instinct to adult intuition? 

Lily, in Sue Monk Kidd's The Secret Life of Bees,  decides to grow up when she journeys to the place that holds her dead mother's secrets and the key to Lily's release from the grasps of guilt and shame. It is there that Lily knows where she came from and what she is proud to be, furthering her journey through life and learning what commands it.

The boys in William Golding's Lord of the Flies  are forced to face the reality of growing up as well. However, their rendition of "growing up" is molded by the human instinct of control and animal savagery. Growing up is not about figuring out who you will be in the end, but deciding to take the journey of making yourself who you want to be. My journey has been rough in patches, but I cannot wait to see the overall outcome of who I'm supposed to be and where I'm supposed to go.