Sunday, August 15, 2010

A Tale of Two Caves

Learning something new, especially something different than what society gives, is a very enthralling, but terrifying experience. It is a refreshing and intoxicating feeling, and in some cases a person feels like it must be shared with others so that they too can experience the same feelings. But sometimes, different is not always better, and trying to teach people differently than from what they have been brought up with can be met with hostility. In the movie "Fist of Legend," Chen Zhen, a Chinese martial artist returns to China after studying in Japan. While overseas, he has learned more about the Japanese than many of his own countrymen, who have lived with a strong hatred toward them. Although Chen Zhen too has animosities toward the Japanese, he knows several good people in Japan, and tries to show the good things about them and how it can make his own people stronger. This is similar to the situation posed by Plato in his work, Republic, where a man leaves the cave, becomes enlightened, and returns with new knowledge, only to be rebuked by his peers. Chen Zhen and other characters are like the enlightened man from Republic, people who can see beyond what they have known. The movie is a tragedy however, because even though Chen Zhen and several others have explored beyond their boundaries, seen past lies told from side about another, and have blended different values together to make something greater, they will not get the chance to prove themselves.

In order to first understand the tragedy of the story, it is important to know the action, or plot, that the tragedy represents. The film is set in China during the First World War, in which the Empire of Japan begins to further encroach into Chinese lands. This setting also establishes the conflict that Chen Zhen finds himself in. Now, historically the Chinese and the Japanese have been rivals for centuries, and as a result both sides have some opinion of one another. In Plato's "Republic," he gives his famous allegory of the cave, which describes how a group of prisoners live in a cave, and have,

"…been there since childhood, with their legs and necks tied up in a way which keeps them in one place and allows them to look only straight ahead, but not to turn their heads…[T]hey're no different from us…in the first place, do you think they'd see anything of themselves and one another except the shadows cast by the fire on the cave wall directly opposite to them," (Plato 60-61).

The movie primarily shows the Chinese view of the Japanese, and the situation that Plato portrays in his allegory is precisely how the Chinese in the movie look at the Japanese. What the Chinese know about them is what ever they themselves have only seen in China, which is the Japanese military. The Military and the treatment that they impose on the Chinese is the shadow of representation that Plato spoke of. The Chinese people, like the prisoners in the cave, have only seen only one perspective, but one of their people has been freed from this unilateral view. In Plato's scenario, he also presents the idea of a person, "suddenly made to stand up, to turn his head and walk, and to look towards the firelight…[A]nd suppose someone tells him that what he's been seeing all this time has no substance…" (Plato 61). Plato argues that all people, specifically the masses, ever see in the world are merely copies, or false images made by men meant to indoctrinate others. If a person was able to see beyond the images, and seek the truth out for himself, then he would see the true reality.

Chen Zhen, unlike his fellow countrymen, who have an already established view of the Japanese, has actually been to Japan, and has seen and met it's people. Plato's allegory would argue that, "he's now closer to reality and is seeing more accurately, because of the greater reality of the things in front of his eyes…" (Plato 61). When a man who has been trapped in a cave his whole life sees a world beyond what he was accustomed to, he will eventually discover truth and achieve enlightenment. Being away from the Chinese view of the Japanese, Chen Zhen begins to formulate his own view of the Japanese people as he is in their country. He finds them to be very different from what he has known all his life, and now, he is forced to change his views as he develops an even closer understanding of them. Similar to Plato's idea of going outside the cave to find truth, Oscar Wilde, a nineteenth century British playwright, also acknowledges that the truth is not always in plain view to see. In his essay, "The Decay of Lying," Wilde goes into a discussion about the people portrayed in art, and how they are very different from people as they are in reality. Among the people mentioned in the essay are the Japanese, and he explains, "No great artist ever sees things as they really are…[N]ow do you really imagine that the Japanese people, as they are presented to us in art, have any real existence?...[T]he Japanese people are the deliberate self-conscious creation of certain individual artists," (Wilde 792). Like Plato's argument, Oscar Wilde explains that the people and things portrayed by others for the masses are far from the truth. Although they are not necessarily artworks, to the Chinese the Japanese military presence in their country is, to them, a representation for what they believe to be the true face of the Japanese people as a whole. Wilde argues that this is not the way to know another person, or group of people. The only way to do that is to meet them personally, and form your own views. Chen Zhen follows this method when he went to school in Japan, and the views of his so called enemy began to change. In the opening of the movie, not only did he have a Japanese girlfriend, but his Japanese professor and classmates began to object to the thugs' demands that he leave the school. These images go against every opinion that Chen Zhen was probably brought up on, and they help him tear down the boundaries that separate an understanding and future between the two peoples.

In the film, Chen Zhen is not the only person who has left the cave. Two other characters, Mitsuko and Funakoshi, are Japanese, and face the same predicament as Chen Zhen does when he returns to China. Gloria Anzaldua's "Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza," illustrates the conflict very well in her ideas of the mestiza identity. She writes that, "…la mestiza is a product of the transfer of the cultural and spiritual values of one group to another," (Anzaldua 2099). Now, in Gloria's argument, she is referring to people of mixed heritage who grew up in culturally conflicting circumstances, but the principle does not always have to conform to people of mixed heritage. In the case of Chen Zhen, and the two Japanese characters, it can be a case of implementing differing values together to create a new set of values. In Mitsuko's case as Chen Zhen's lover, she believes that there is a future for both of them in their lives. In fact, she lies for him in court when she knows that her own people are framing him for a crime. She sees the injustice imposed on Chen Zhen, and stands against her people for his sake; she has transferred Chen Zhen's view into her own views and makes a decision to stand with him, despite the consequences that it will have in her relationship with her own people. Funakoshi and Chen Zhen also fit in with Anzaldua's view because of their backgrounds as marital artists. Throughout the film, Chen Zhen fights with a style of martial arts that combines the principles of both Chinese and Japanese disciplines. Funakoshi, in his duel with Chen Zhen, adopts his opponent's style when he notices the advantages that it gives Chen Zhen. Both of them,

"…shift out of habitual formations: from convergent thinking, analytical reasoning that tends to use rationality to move toward a single goal…to divergent thinking, characterized by movement away from set patterns and goals and toward a more whole perspective, one that includes rather than excludes," (Anzaldua 2100).

They both adopt differing viewpoints not just to make themselves more powerful in their fighting styles against one another, but also to better themselves as human beings. This way of thinking ties in with Plato's allegory of the cave due to the principle of looking beyond what is the norm in society. The two men see past the petty differences between their martial codes, and find ways to blend them together. In doing so, they both discover a new way of approaching their respective disciplines, and making themselves stronger as a result of it. It is the combination of two supposedly opposite styles that gives way to Chen Zhen's victory in the end.

When a person learns something new, there may be problems in dealing with the newfound knowledge, and also a conflict with those who disagree with it, especially if they live with a different kind of knowledge. Plato writes that, "the process of adjustment would be quite a long time, and suppose that…he had once again to compete against those same old prisoners…[W]ouldn't he make a fool of himself?" (Plato 63). The movie shows an immediate blow to Chen Zhen's reputation when it is revealed that he is in love with Mitsuko, and defends her position when she saves him in court. This turn of events results into immediate distrust, and division among Chen Zhen's friends at his old school, making this overall story a tragedy. According to Aristotle, "Tragedy is a representation of an action, and for the sake of the action above all [a representation] of the people who are acting," (Aristotle 93). The action, which is the also the plot, is the struggle for common ground between two opposing entities: China and Japan. The characters that best represent that are Chen Zhen, Mitsuko, and Funakoshi, all of whom are connected in their desire for there to be a future between the two, but are largely ignored because the masses, the people still in their caves, only want to see the shadows on the wall instead of the truth beyond the cave's boundaries. All three risk everything for an ideal peace that may or may not occur for years, adding to the intensity of the plot.

In addition to plot, another aspect of the film that makes it a tragedy is the characters, and they all add different elements in to the plot. Chen Zhen, Mitsuko, and Funakoshi are the characters that truly bring this tragedy to life. They are portrayed as moderates trapped between two opposing factions. In tragedy, the characters must be, "First and foremost … good … appropriate … life-]like … consistent," (Aristotle 100). All three of these characters are good because they are resolute in their decision to defy the hatred between the two factions. Chen Zhen leaves his old school to defend Mitsuko, Mitsuko is willing to sacrifice her loyalty to her people and her love to support Chen Zhen's cause, and Funakoshi is risking his life and position to protect the old ideals of his group, which is to earn the respect of the Chinese by respecting their traditions. They are appropriate because they live up to the expectations of each of their respective cultures; Chen Zhen is strong and honorable, Mitsuko is supportive of her lover's cause, and Funakoshi acts in a manner appropriate for a samurai warrior, even if it defies the military's view. They are life-like in that they are conflicted people with their own problems, and they are consistent in their personalities and actions toward others. It is the combination of character and plot that makes the concept of tragedy work, especially when it comes to the reversal at the end. Looking at the movie, it has a complex plot meaning, "an action as a result of which the transformation is accompanied by a recognition, a reversal or both…[T]hese, then…are two parts of the plot. A third is suffering…a destructive or painful action," (Aristotle 96-97). There is a lot of recognition in the story, but it takes on numerous forms depending on the character in question, like for instance the minor character of the Japanese ambassador. He realizes the corruption that exists in the government and military at the end of the movie, and works to stop it. The sufferings in the tragedy are the fight scenes, naturally, but the reversal at the end is what pulls it all together. Chen Zhen accepts being a scapegoat to be executed in order to prevent a war between the two countries, but in reality his death his staged. So, how can this be tragic, if Chen Zhen does not die? Though he does not die, he loses the right to legitimately live in his own country. In a sense, he is like the man who was freed from the cave and tries to return. Although he was once one of the other prisoners, his outlook has changed so much that the ways of both sides are completely foreign to one another, and if he tried to bridge that gap, all he would meet is hostile resistance. So for the good of both sides, or in the case of the movie, the three parties [Japan, China, and those in the neutral party], the neutral must be removed in order to prevent more disorder and casualties between the other two.

The tragedy of the film is that no side wants to have a neutral ground, and patch things up between them when there are people who are capable of making that happen. These people have torn down the boundaries that divide the two groups, seen past the lies that each side tells about the other, and they have incorporated principles of the opposite side into their own lives to help them become stronger. This knowledge, and new strength, however, is not welcome because the masses are too divided by what they have only seen from war and violence, much like the prisoners in the cave seeing things based only on the representations of the shadows on a wall. But perhaps the real tragedy is that all the effort that the ambassador put into preventing a war is doing, is to stall an inevitably violent conflict between China and Japan.

Works Cited

Plato. "Republic." The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism 2nd Edition. Ed. Vincent B. Leitch. New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 2010. pgs. 45-77. Print.

Aristotle. "Poetics." The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism 2nd Edition. Ed. Vincent B. Leitch. New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 2010. pgs. 88-115. Print.

Wilde, Oscar. "The Decay of Lying: An Observation." The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism 2nd Edition. Ed. Vincent B. Leitch. New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 2010. pgs. 790-794. Print.

Anzaldua, Gloria. "Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza." The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism 2nd Edition. Ed. Vincent B. Leitch. New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 2010. pgs. 2098-2109. Print.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Power of Flexibility

A lot of great things in the world are things that have been mixed up; food, clothing, literature, and art among other things. The mixture is sometimes an experiment, trying new ways to experience time honored traditions, and other times it is born out of necessity, particularly in a highly specialized form of art. The Filipino martial arts are an interesting example of how taking different ideas and mixing them together can create something so unique that it becomes one of the defining aspects of a culture. The art is a culmination of different fighting styles from different cultures and countries, and illustrates the ideas of the mestiza mentality described by Gloria Anzaldua.

The Filipino martial arts are a lethal combat system that militarily represents the people of the Philippine islands. In Dan Inosanto's, The Filipino Martial Arts as taught by Dan Inosanto, he briefly gives a history of the islands' inhabitants and how they developed the culture. The cultures and people that made up the Philippine Islands include, "…an early pygmy tribe called Negritos…the Proto Malay…[T]he tall burly and sea-loving Indonesians… the famous Hindu-Malayan empire of Sri Vishaya…the Madjapahit empire…the Chinese…the Spanish…" (Inosanto 10). A group of such diversity living together naturally creates cultural tensions. Wars were constantly fought on the islands, but eventually the people would assimilate with one another. In some cases, they would even learn from one another; Dan Inosanto continues saying, "The Filipinos were a clever people. As more invaders came, their fighting styles were studied by the islanders who developed new styles and methods to combat them," (Inosanto 11). Rather than follow a rigid idea of simply resisting the infiltration of all foreign influences, the people instead chose to learn from them, and incorporate it into their own culture as well. This enabled the peoples of the islands not only how to resist hostile change, but also to tolerate it if it ever occurred. The concept of accepting systems other than what is known to the people is one that was rarely seen in the day and age that the martial arts were being developed.

This concept of cultural openness ties into Gloria Anzaldua's "Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza" and her idea that in the future, the mestiza must break down the cultural barriers that divide the peoples they represent in order to know who they truly are. She writes that the mestiza, "…has discovered that she can't hold concepts or ideas in rigid boundaries…[R]igidity means death. Only in remaining flexible is she able to stretch the psyche horizontally and vertically," (Anzaldua 2100). What she is saying is that the world is constantly changing and people must adapt to the changes if they are to survive. One of the things that humans must adapt is their culture. Anzaldua comments that the cultural divisions in place currently divides mestizas/mestizos in how they act and what they do. This division is a self destruction of the person, and must be avoided at all costs. The practice of assimilation in the Philippine martial systems is very similar to Anzaldua's ideas in that where most cultures would try to reject foreign intrusions in ways of life, the Filipino warriors were willing to learn from it and see how it could benefit them before rejecting it. In other words, they have learned from experience that in order to survive, they cannot have a rigid point of view, but rather they must be flexible in their practices.

The mixed background of the Filipinos and their warriors gave them a more culturally open perspective in the face of their invaders. Though, like other peoples in the world, they fought against their invaders, the peoples of the Philippines benefited in their resistance. In learning the opposing side's arts, they gained a new perspective and new ideas in dealing with foreign cultures. Like the mestiza who must not only struggle but eventually make peace with her enemies, the people and warriors of the Philippines too had to eventually come to an understanding of their own. The result of this understanding is a people who are proud of their own heritage, no matter where they come from.

Works Cited

Anzaldua, Gloria. "Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza." The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism 2nd Edition. Ed. Vincent B. Leitch. New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 2010. pgs. 2098-2109. Print.

Inosanto, Dan, Johnson, Gilbert L., and George Foon. The Filipino Martial Arts as taught by Dan Inosanto. Los Angeles: Know How Publishing Co., 1980. Print

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Role Reversal

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A person peers over the fence and sees another person's environment. The person sees what the other sees, and can only try to imagine what they must feel. Peter Griffin did so, though he was forced to, and the result was that he not only learned how women see the world, but he also embraced many of the values that women treasured. Perhaps the most powerful evidence of this change of view was when he tried to breastfeed his own son Stewie. There are a lot of things that would seem strange, and wrong about something like this happening, but at the same time, it questions the position of gender in society, and family life.


The act of breastfeeding is a form of bonding between the parent and offspring. It is traditionally, and biologically however, a female one, but in the clip, Peter decides to undertake the role. Now, one perception of gender studies is that it tries to prove that there is no distinction between women and men, and that women should not be treated differently based upon gender. But what happens if a man wanted to assume a role that is reserved for women? Peter tries to breastfeed Stewie regardless of whether or not he even can. According to Judith Butler, Peter's "… performance destabilizes the very distinctions between the natural and artificial, depth and surface, inner and outer through which discourse about genders almost always operates," (Butler 2541). Peter's actions defy society's idea of what is natural for a man to do in regards to his role as the father of his children. His motherly behavior could be deemed as artificial, because it goes against everything that society has dictated to be proper, but it does not stop him from doing something that to him, in this moment anyway, is only natural.


            Peter's new attitude is the result of getting in touch with his "feminine" side, and he tries to act on it, even though he can't in some instances. The breastfeeding scene is an example of one of the many things that Peter cannot physically do because of his body. The body is often what defines gender, and establishes the rules in how people live and act and do. Butler's essay states that, "…what constitutes the limit of the body is never merely material, but that the surface, the skin, is systematically signified by taboos and anticipated transgressions," (Butler 2544). Looking at Peter in this clip, there are number of things that people could say are wrong, but Butler believes that Peter is merely acting on his inner frame rather than his outer frame, a concept that psychoanalysts like Freud and Lacan often touched upon in their works. Peter's "outer frame," in this case, is his male body, but his "inner frame" is the nurturing aspect that he has developed. Judith later continues saying that, "…acts and gestures …create the illusion of an interior and organizing gender core, an illusion discursively maintained for the purposes of the regulation of sexuality within the obligatory frame of reproductive heterosexuality," (Butler 2549). Despite knowing the limitations imposed on him by his body, and the fact that what he is doing is not considered normal, Peter ignores the limitations and acts upon his internal nature. This defiance effectively shatters the illusion that he cannot breastfeed Stewie to create the same bond that the mother would have with the child if she did so. In other words, Peter's actions are the result of his wanting as a parent, not just a father, to bond with his son.


            This particular role reversal is not only funny, but it also raises a lot of questions about gender roles like: If a woman can undertake the roles that men can, why can't a man do the same with a woman's roles? In this case, the obvious answer would be that Peter is incapable of breastfeeding Stewie, but that is irrelevant to Peter. Peter's desire to bond with his son, however, what is relevant. Stewie unfortunately, does not seem to agree with his father.


Work Cited


Butler, Judith. "Gender Trouble." The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism 2nd Edition. Ed. Vincent B. Leitch. New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 2010.  pgs. 2540-2553. Print.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Office Factory

            In the movie "Glengarry Glen Ross," the salesmen get a speech from a representative of the Mitch and Murray real estate group. This scene illustrates the relationship between the capitalist and the labor force that is commented on in Karl Marx's writings. Although his writings usually concern the plight of laborers in factories, it does not necessarily mean that workers from other kinds of settings are free of the relationship between bourgeois and proletarian. In the scene from the movie, the representative sent from Mitch and Murray represents the bourgeoisie and the salesmen are representing the laborers, or the proletarians.


            In Marx's writings, he divides society into two camps: the Bourgeois and the Proletarians. The latter of the two represent the workers, and the former is the boss, so to speak. There relationship is defined as, "…oppressor and oppressed…" (Marx 657). In the clip, the representative from Mitch and Murray berates the salesmen for their poor performance in their work. He insults them, and threatens them into taking away their jobs if they can't meet the demands of their jobs. Why, however, does this person possess the right to do something like this? The answer is that the representative makes more money than the other salesmen, and has a position of power over them.


            Money and material wealth are the center of the speech that the representative gives to the salesmen. Marx says, "Life is not determined by consciousness, but consciousness by life," (Marx 656). The representative has no name, no identity of his own, but rather he takes his name after his lifestyle, which is based on how much money he earns, and the expensive items that he possesses. This is based on the idea that the capitalist is only interested in the workers doing their jobs, and in the benefits that are given to him as a result of their labor. In addition, if the consciousness of a person is "poor," then the person may as well be dead to the capitalist, which is precisely how the representative treats the salesmen. He considers their accomplishments nothing compared to his, thus he sees their lives as meaningless and treats them like dirt.


            Another aspect that seems to be in the scene is the change in the nature of the profession. To Marx, it was his belief that before the epoch of the Bourgeoisie, there was a particular reverence and personal pride taken in one's profession. But as the speech from "Glengarry Glen Ross" demonstrates, that is no longer the case. It shows that, "The bourgeoisie has stripped of its halo every occupation hitherto honoured and looked up to with reverent awe. It has converted the physician, the lawyer, the priest, the poet, and the man of science, into its paid wage-labourors," (Marx 659). The salesman, like many other professions once had a special place in the world, but now it is depicted as another part of the free-market machine with the salesmen as the parts. The representative, like that capitalist however, sees them as expendable labor that can be easily replaced if they are unable to do the job that they are supposed to be doing.


Works Cited


Marx, Karl. "The German Ideology." The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism 2nd Edition. Ed. Vincent B. Leitch. New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 2010.  pgs. 655-656. Print.


Marx, Karl. "The Communist Manifesto." The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism 2nd Edition. Ed. Vincent B. Leitch. New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 2010.  pgs. 657-660. Print.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

A Beast's Rose

Fetishes come in a variety of forms, but they are not always objects. Instead, a fetish could simply be a representation of what a person desires in the world. In Jeanne-Marie Le Prince de Beaumont's "Beauty and the Beast," the Beast has a profound love for roses. In the story, Beast is angered by Beauty's father when he insults his hospitality saying, "I have saved your life…and you repay me by stealing my roses which I love more than anything in the world," (De Beaumont 35). In Western culture, the rose is one of many symbols of love, and is used by males to entice women into loving them or simply showing their affection. Although it is pleasing to the eyes and the nose, the rose can also be a hazard to handle because of its thorns. Love itself can be seen like a rose because although it is beautiful, it can also be painful if it is not handled properly. According to Sigmund Freud, the fetish is meant to, "substitute…for a particular and quite special penis that…had…been lost," (Freud 842). Beast is portrayed as this physically ugly person that no one would ever love. As a result, the rose can be seen as a representation of the one thing that is denied to him because of his curse. This is why when Beauty arrives, he treats her just like the roses he cherishes, but like the rose, Beauty herself has thorns of her own.


When Beauty arrives to the castle to sacrifice herself for her father's life, Beast is enamored with her for her kind nature, and, of course, her beauty. He tends to her needs and does everything that he can to make her happy. But Beast always, "…before leaving, always asked her if she wanted to be his wife, and he seemed deeply wounded when she refused," (De Beaumont 39). Beauty, despite being well mannered and kind, refuses to marry Beast when he asks, but he always asks the question regardless. Freud explains this seemingly masochistic fetish saying that, "…it should have been given up, but the fetish is precisely designed to preserve it from extinction," (Freud 842). In reference to the fetish, this could be a part of Beast's subconscious love of roses. Like the rose, Beauty is a lovely person, but does not like to feel imposed upon. As a result, she if forced to refuse Beast's offer of marriage, even though it hurts her as well. Throughout this constant exchange of offering and refusing, evidence of psychosis can also be seen in Beast's behavior.


According to Freud, fetishes are theoretically connected to both psychosis and neurosis, depending on the nature of the fetish itself. In Freud's words, a neurosis is, "…the ego, in the service of reality, suppresses a piece of the id, whereas in a psychosis it lets itself be induced by the id to detach itself from a piece of reality," (Freud 844). Following this explanation given by Freud, Beast's behavior can be classified as a psychosis. His need for companionship is a result of the id, and he constantly asks Beauty to marry him whenever he can. But after a time refusing, Beauty simply tells him that they can only be friends. However, even though she makes her position clear, he cannot bring himself to let her go saying, "I will have to…I don't flatter myself…but I love you very much," (De Beaumont 39). Despite the pain that he feels from Beauty's statement, the love that he has for her is much too strong for him to just simply dismiss because it is tied into his fetish. The fetish cannot be given up because of the desire to preserve it, which is why when Beauty is gone to visit her family longer than she promised, Beast attempts to kill himself.


Freud described the fetish as a "special penis" that is meant to replace the penis of the mother. He also describes in detail the way that such fetishes are protected by those that develop them because of the fear of castration. He mentions that, "…no male human being is spared the fright of castration at the sight of the female genital," (Freud 843). The idea the Freud presents is that upon seeing a female's genitals, which are not visible, the male develops the fear of losing his own. In "Beauty and the Beast," Beauty's desire to visit her family for a short time causes mixed feelings to arise in his heart. Though it grieves him to send her back, he states, "I would rather die myself than cause you pain…I will send you back to your father. Stay there and your poor beast will die of grief," (De Beaumont 39). Beauty's happiness is like the roses that Beast cares for. He does not want to see Beauty sad, or in pain, so he sends her back and she promises to return at the end of a week. She does not return until later, and this causes Beast to starve himself. The fear of castration that Freud brought up is embodied in Beast's actions. He had lost his "penis," and he does not know how to live without, so he chooses to die rather than live on.


In the story of "Beauty and the Beast," we see many of Freud's theories on fetishism come into view. The Beast, because of his fetish for roses, falls in love with Beauty who is every bit like his favorite flower. Her kindly but prickly nature reminds Beast of roses, and she quickly becomes the embodiment of his fetish. Like anyone who has a fetish, it is very difficult for him to live without it, and he centers his behavior on it as well. Fortunately for him, his fetish is a healthy one, and at the end, his desire becomes a reality.


Works Cited

Freud, Sigmund. "Fetishism." The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism 2nd Edition. Ed. Vincent B. Leitch. New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 2010.  pgs. 841-845. Print.


De Beaumont, Jeanne-Marie Le Prince. "Beauty and the Beast." The Classic Fairy Tales: A Norton Critical Edition. Ed. Maria Tartar. New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 1999.  pgs. 32-42. Print.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

A Sublime Smile

A Sublime Smile

She stared out into the sea quietly. Her eyes were as calm as the farthest reaches of the horizon, but her mind and heart were as torrential as the sea. Sitting for hours on end each day was now a pastime for her, but she hated such a routine. It consumed her.

Days went by and she looked at the port. Messengers came everyday, and delivered notices of death to the other wives, and always they missed her house. This brought comfort to her, knowing that he was still alive, but also pity for the wives who now had to mourn. So as she waited for the message declaring the men were coming home, and she tried to think positive thoughts to retain herself. She imagined him coming home, and taking her into his arms, and then the bed, that they could finally settle down and raise a family.

Then the day that everyone had been waiting for. A fisherman coming from the battlefields shouted "The war is over! We have won!" The news was received with jubilant shouts of joy. This brought a smile to her face as her hope was rekindled. Could it be that he was there in the whole campaign, that he survived battle after battle and won high honors. He would be famous then, a hero who fought, and risked dying for her people. It brought pride to her just thinking about it, the father of her child to be, a hero in the war. In a matter of days, she would be reunited with him, and she could put this all behind her.

The ships came in a fleet, and she stood there along the port. When they docked, all the young men got off, and kissed their parents, or their lovers, or their wives and children. She waited patiently, when suddenly she saw his best friend. She smiled and waved to him, and he quickly walked over and embraced her, sobbing.

"It's alright, your home now," she whispered.

"I'm sorry. I'm so sorry," he bawled.

"Why? What happened?"

He looked at her intensely. He said nothing. He didn't need to.

Dressed in black with a veil, bags in her eyes, she sat and looked out at the sea once more. Her husband's friend came by, and rested his hand on her shoulder.

"Do you still miss him?" he asked.

She simply nodded as she took one last glance at the sea. She turned around, but didn't look at him.

"Yes," she smiled sadly, her hands folded over one another, "but it's time to move on."


The story, based off of Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa and the expression that the woman in the painting gives those who look at her. It is a sublime story that evokes many of the concepts of Edmund Burke's work, "Our Ideas of the Sublime and the Beautiful." The story takes a look at death from the perspective of a woman, who waits for the man she loves to return to her. In this story there is pleasure and pain, and joy and grief. The combination of the four emotional levels, and its use in the story make this a sublime story.

In one instance, during the story, the lover waits patiently for the man that she loves, and she sees messengers informing other women that their loved ones have died. Though it is painful for her to think about it, she cannot help but feel pleasure in the fact that she has not received a letter. This ties in to Burke's thoughts, "that pain and pleasure in their most simple and natural manner of affecting, are of a positive nature, and by no means necessarily dependent on each other for their existence," (Burke 454-455). In Burke's perspective, pain and pleasure do not necessarily come into being from the ending of the other, but rather, they are born directly from states of indifference. Indifference is another way of saying "neutral," and in the story, the state of neutrality is born from the unpredictability of the war that is occurring elsewhere. Because of the wars unpredictability, she is careful not to get her hopes up, and yet, she is optimistic of the outcome that the love of her life will return to her. This idea that the emotions are born from neutrality is integrated in the other emotions.

Joy and grief are other emotions that are considered sublime. In the part where the woman is waiting for her husband to leave the ship, she feels overwhelming joy. Not just for the end of the war, but also for her belief that her husband has finally returned. The emotion at hand is pleasure, or joy, but Burke states that, "…if the object be so totally lost that there is no chance of the enjoying it again, a passion arises in the mind, which is called grief," (Burke 457). The husband is not coming home, and this ends all pleasure in the woman's mind. Now according to Burke's ideas, she must endure the pain of grief in order to be free of pain altogether. Only when she has endured all of that does she experience a slight tinge of pleasure at the end. The moment of sublimity is when she smiles at her husband's friend when she affirms her position that she has gotten over her grief.

What makes this story sublime is the use of the different emotions that the woman experiences compressed into a very short story. The emotion of the story, like the Mona Lisa's expression in the painting, is joyful yet melancholy. This wide range of emotions all packed in gives it more power when the ending line is said.

Works Cited

Burke, Edmund. "Our Ideas of the Sublime and the Beautiful." The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism 2nd Edition. Ed. Vincent B. Leitch. New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 2010. pgs. 454-460. Print.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Star Trek Tragedy

Aristotlolian Tragedy in Star Trek

The YouTube clip that I selected, was “Star Trek – Journey to Babel – Spock and Mother (full scene)” from the original Star Trek series. The most prominent characters are Spock, and his mother, Amanda. Both of them have opposite viewpoints on what to do in the situation presented to them. Spock’s father needs his son’s blood in order to live, but he refuses to do so because of the situation that the entire ship and everyone on board face. The clip has a dialogue and argument between the two, and the results of it. Looking at this clip through Aristotle’s perspective, this whole scene would be defined as a tragdy. The nature of the tragedy in the clip lies in the character of Spock and Amanda, as well as how they present the argument, and the reversal at the end.

Spock and Amanda are have positions are based solely on who they are, and their differing characters play an important role in their argument. Spock is half human, half vulcan, but chooses to embrace his Vulcan heritage. His mother, Amanda, is human, and she is very emtional and wants Spock to follow that part of himself as well. Aristotle dictates that, “…the characters should be, good…appropriate…life like…consistent,” (Aristotle 100). Spock is “good” in maintaining his personal decision to remain in control of the vessel instead of following his mother’s wishes. His character is appropriate in keeping with his mindset, yet he is life like in showing the internal struggle of his decision. Spock is also consistent in the reactions he gives his mother to her pleas, and at times, irrational reasoning. The character of Amanda also follows the tenets of character as described by Aristotle. She is good in her decision to get Spock to reconsider his decision, she is appropriate in her concerns as both a wife and mother, her human behavior and reactions gives her concerns and pleas a life like quality, and she is consistent in her human inconsistencies. The traits of both characters define them, and they provide the basis of their respective arguments.

The argument between Spock and his mother can be divided into three categories identified by Aristotle. He would have categorized their arguments as, “demonstrative and refutation,…production of emotions, and…[arguments about things’] importance or unimportance,” (Aristotle 104). These three types of arguments are more famously known as ethos, pathos, and logos. Throughout the whole dialogue, Spock is employing ethos and logos in his argument to remain in command of the ship. His ethos stems from his position as the second in command of the Enterprise, and his logos is based on the fact that, “The circumstances are not normal. We are carrying over 100 valuable federation passengers, we are being pursued by an alien ship…there has been murder and attempted murder on board. I cannot dismiss my duties,” (Star Trek – Journey to Babel – Spock and Mother [full scene]). His position on the ship makes gives his argument a lot of weight, and he will follow his duties to the letter. His mother approaches the situation through a different perspective, and employs her arguments differently from her son’s. She also employs logos and ethos, stating that “Any competent officer can command this ship, only you can give your father the blood transfusions he needs to live…Your duty is to your father!” (Star Trek – Journey to Babel – Spock and Mother [full scene]). Her ethos is her position as his mother, and she uses her maternal nature to guide Spock into the right path even going so far as to uses pathos stating that if he lets his, “…father die, then I’ll hate you for the rest of my life,” (Star Trek – Journey to Babel – Spock and Mother [full scene]). In the clip, when Amanda says this line, Spock is visibly affected by it. It indicates that that her use of pathos works, even on one such as Spock. This sets up the climax and the tragic consequences for both Amanda and Spock.

Spock’s ultimate decision from the argument severely damages the bond between Spock and his mother. Aristotle would have seen the whole event as a tragedy, because it was the result of the flaws of the characters themselves. In “Poetics,” he states that the tragedy is, “…a representation on an action, and for the sake of the action above all [a representation] of the people who are acting,” (Aristotle 93). The actions in the clip represent one thing, and that is the differences between humanity and vulcans. The action of Spock defines the vulcan idea that one must follow the logical course of action no matter the cost, and Amanda’s action is the human idea that the right thing must be pursued not matter the cost. Both sides are adamant in their position, and are not willing to yield to the other, which leads to the reversal of the tragedy. When Spock gives his decision, they both lose two important people in their lives as a result. This, and the catharsis that takes place afterward, is what makes Spock and his mother tragic figures.
Logic and emotion are what separate humans and vulcans, and the dialogue between Spock and his mother are an embodiment of that separation. Spock, a person who can do what no human can, ironically confounded by what a human can do. He cannot seem to understand that embrace all parts of himself, and it effectively ruins his relationship with his mother. Amanda, a human, simply cannot give up that part of herself, even though she loves people who have abandoned what makes her human. Aristotle’s idea of tragedy can be seen in this brief conflict between Spock and his mother. It applies all of Aristotle’s principles, and the result is a beautifully performed piece of acting.

Works Cited
Aristotle. “Poetics.” The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism 2nd Edition. Ed. Vincent B. Leitch. New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 2010. pgs. 88-115. Print.
Star Trek – Journey to Babel – Spock and Mother (full scene). June 21, 2008. YouTube. July 11, 2010.

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