Is this the growing trend?

February 28, 2010

Typically, I don’t like to deviate far from the blog prompts that are assigned to us.  But, after reading The Stone Gods by Jeanette Winterson, I felt compelled to express my concern for American culture.  I worry that what we see in Central Power, the stories beginning setting, is the direction that western culture is heading to. 

So what exactly is the problem with Central Power?  Everything that is valued and important in their society is external and materialistic.  They find happiness by spending money to enhance their image.  In fact, if people from Central Power get depressed they go see a psychiatrist to get “Enhanced”.  “By that I mean that at the first sign of depression I, you , anyone is supposed to see their doctor and be referred to somone from Ehancement.” 

So how exactly does someone get “Enhanced”?  For starters, they can have any number of cosmetic surgery done to enhance their image.  Women will preserve their youth and increase the breast size and men will enhance muscles and increase their penis size.  “That making everyone young and beautiful also made us all bored to death with sex.  All men are hung like whales.  All women are tight as clams below and inflated like lifebuoys above.  Jaws are square, skin is tanned, muscles are toned, and no one gets turned on.”

Popular shows today in America like Nip/Tuck and Dr. 90210 both emphasize cosmetic surgery.  There is a perception that to be beautiful you have to have characteristics like that described above.  We see it all over the media from magazines to movies.  And it worries me that with the higher premiun placed on how you look in America that we might end up like they are in Central Power.


Language and the Oankali

February 20, 2010

In Octavia Butler’s Dawn, there is a particularly creepy alien species called the Oankali. One of the major reasons I feel the Oankali are creepier than other aliens from fictional stories is the language that Butler uses to portray them.

The first description the readers get of the Oankali is when Lilith meets Jdahya.  At first, she sees him a tall and slender humanoid. She notices that he has a smooth gray face, with no bumps or bulges coming from a nose or mouth.  She also notices that he is very hairy, and notices that he has a hole through his throat for breathing because of the way his hair moves in that area. 

However, as the light begins to shine on Jdahya and Lilith becomes more adjusted to the situation we realize he is entirely different.  We now understand that his hair is not really hair, but tentacles that receive sensory vibrations similarly to how human’s eyes, ears, and skin works. The tentacles also move, they can stretch/coil in response to outside stimuli and perform to Jdahya’s commands. 

But I think what really gives the Oankali there revere for creepiness is Lilith’s initial position towards them, and the words Butler uses to describe them.  Lilith is continually pushing herself as far away from Jdahya as possible in the earlier scenes. “She did not want to be any closer to him. She had not know what held her back before. Now she was certain it was his alienness, his difference, his literal unearthliness. She found herself still unable to take even one more step toward him.” 13 This passage doesn’t really give you warm fuzzy feelings for Jdahya. More like a sense of repulsion. Then you throw in the words Butler uses to describe their physical appearance, like a nest of snakes, Medusa, and dying night crawlers, and the readers starts to get really freaked out.

Although, I haven’t finished the story yet, but if I had to guess as to why Butler makes the Oankali so creepy is because of the sunshine and rain metaphor.  What I mean by that is you can’t enjoy the sun without feeling the rain.  As it pertains to the story, Lilith had a difficult journey through the earlier stages of the book. And with the Oankali’s plans for restoring the Earth for humanity, it just makes sense that Lilith has to get over the hump of creepiness in order to appreciate her future life more.

The Female Man: Whileaway

February 14, 2010

Some major differences are found between the futuristic societies created in Marge Piercy’s Woman on the Edge of Time and Joanna Russ’ The Female Man

Mettapoisett is a very egalitarian society where men and women care more about the inner self and the preservation of the earth than with materialistic things.  You get a sense that the people from Mettapoisett are proud of their relaxed way of living and their seemingly perpetual optimism. They also share everything at Mettapoisett and really work as a team as the progress through life.  Whileaway I noticed three things that stood out as different when compared to Mettapoisett.  The first being that there are no men in Whileaway.  Due to a plague, which only attacked men, half of the human population was wiped out.  This caused the women to start over and create a new life.  So now they have families and “Tribes” that consist of all women. 

The next difference between Whileaway and Mettapoisett is the amount of work Whileawayans do.  Constantly throughout the book the narrator is referring to how often the people of Whileaway work. “There has been no leisure at all before and there will be so little after- anything I do, you understand, I mean really do-I must ground thoroughly in those five years.  One works with a feverish haste.”15 This is a stark difference from Mettapoisett, where holidays and sleep are more important than work. 

The other difference between Mettapoisett and Whileaway is that woman actually bear their children instead of having them incubated by a machine. “Whileawayans bear their children at about thirty-singletons  or twins as the demographic pressures require. These children have as one genotypic parent the biological mother(The “body-mother”) while the non-bearing parent contributes the other ovum(“other mother”). 49

What I Didn’t See

February 7, 2010

In Karen Joy Fowler’s What I Didn’t See,there is a very gruesome scene at the end of the story where the details are omitted from the narrators point of view.  The reason that these details were omitted was because she was forced to go back to the Lulenga Mission site.  “Because I’m a woman I wasn’t there for the parts you want most to hear.  The waiting and the not-knowing were, in my view of things, as hard or harder than the searching, but you don’t make stories out of that.”  Later, we the readers are told of the the gruesome details that went transpired in the abscence of our narrator.  Eddie, the narrators husband, then confides in his wife that after she left for Lulenga the days were spent, “Hunting and killing the gorillas.” It became a witch hunt to avenge the disappearance of Beverly.

The question of how Beverly disappeared comes down to three options in my opinion.  The first option is she was abducted by gorillas.  The second is that the porters killed her, and the third is she willingly left everyone, similar to the narrator.  To be honest, the only thing that seems to make sense is that she left under her own will.  It seem unlikely that the porters would have done something to her; especially in light of the fact Beverly took the time to learn the names of the porters.  It also seemed unlikely that the gorillas took her, despite that  being the general consensus. The porters even said that there were no marks or footprints that would suggest other wise.  So by default I think that she left on her own accord.

Language and the Psychiatric Profession in Woman on the Edge of Time

January 26, 2010

Marge Piercy’s novel, Woman on the Edge of Time, uses language to show how depressing and controlling the psychiatric profession is.  Through the use of bleak physical descriptions, and the hierarchical interaction between patients and workers; the author leaves the reader with ill feelings towards the profession.

While reading the story, descriptions of Connie’s physical state of life while at the mental hospital sits heavily in the back of the reader’s mind. While Connie reflects on her state of being she says, “Captivity stretched before her, a hall with no doors and no windows, yawning under dim bulbs.  Surely she would die here, Her heart would beat more and more slowly and then stop, like a watch running down… She stared at the room, empty except for the mattress and odd stains, names, dates, words scratched somehow into the wall with blood, fingernails, pencil stubs, shit: how did she come to be in this desperate place?” 52 This passage has a myriad of depressing words and images: the empty room with no doors or windows; the heart slowing its pace, blood, death, desperate.  The whole passage evokes feelings of imprisonment and it seems like it debilitate the spirit. 

Also portraying the psychiatric profession in a negative light is the interaction between the doctors/ orderly’s and the patients. “The first time here, she had been scared of the other patients-violent, crazy, out-of-control animals. She had learned. It was the staff she must watch out for.”  The staff feeds them drugs that clouded their mind, they use physical force and objects of restraint to control the patients, and they train them to never believe what the patients tell them.  In Connie’s case, she was telling the truth about Geraldo and that she hit him in self-defense, but because the staff assumed she was lying he ends up getting away. 

These two aspects compounded together leave the reader with a very unsatisfying taste with the psychiatric profession.

And I Awoke, Empty: Analyzing the Red Haired Man

January 17, 2010

There are many instances of alienation found in And I Awoke and Found Me Here on the Cold Hill’s Side. The setting of the story is on some sort of intergalactic rest stop, where aliens from all over the universe can interact with each other, and humans.  The narrator, who is a journalist, is there to do a story on Big Junction for the people of earth.  While waiting to get a shot of the aliens; he runs into a red-haired man waiting for his wife.  They begin to chat and the man  ominously tells the newscaster to go home; to leave here and go back to earth.  While the two men are waiting around, the newscaster listens to the other man as to why he should leave.

Through their interaction , we begin to see how desirable the aliens are to humans.  In fact, the red-haired man describes in great detail a deep yearning for meeting aliens.  However, at one part of the story it becomes clear the relationship between the humans and aliens as very one-sided.  “Very seldom aliens with other aliens. Never aliens with humans.  It’s the humans who want in.”

Because of his want to be with aliens,  he alienates himself from his home society and his capacity to procreate. 

“Man is exogamous- all our history is one long drive to find and impregnate the stranger.  Or get impregnated by him; it works for women too.  Anything different-colored, different nose, ass, anything, man has to fuck it or die trying.  That’s a drive, y’know, it’s built in.  Because it works fine as long as the stranger is human. For millions of years that kept the genes circulating. But now we’ve met aliens we can’t screw, and we’re about to die trying…Do you think I can touch my wife?”

His life is alienated and not one of authenticity.  His story shows how disconnected he is from being “human” and how aliens have become drug like for him.  In the story the red-haired man compares human/alien relations to a bird nesting a brightly marked fake egg.  “Y’know, if you give a bird a fake egg like its own but bigger and brighter marked, it’ll roll its own egg out of the nest and sit on the fake? That’s what we’re doing.”

Negativity Begets More Negativity

January 10, 2010

To me, this was a story of how negativity begets more negativity.  The narrator of the story, Ann Crothers, is a female trapped in an impoverished environment.  Her family barely has any food.  The electricity hardly works, they wear tattered clothing, and her husband emanates a hatred towards life.  And just like cancer things get worse for Ann over time.

The story begins with the reader stifled by anxiety as Ann is contemplating whether the meal she prepared her husband Henry, was adequate.  Of course, when Henry comes down for breakfast he begins to complain about everything; there are no eggs with his bacon, the coffee is cold, and the prunes are hard.  Finally, he insults his wife by saying she would ruin a second attempt at breakfast.  

The story then turns to show how scarce the food supply is where they are.  A group of the neighborhood wives congregate in the street to share some rare delicacies they have acquired.  One lady gives Ann dates, which Henry likes, and also chocolate for the children.  Chocolate hadn’t been seen in over two years so Ann was grateful. 

At this point in the story we begin to see how bleak Ann’s life really is.  From the genuine concern of the neighbors to the miserable images of the broken homes and streets; the reader begins to understand how difficult life is for Ann.

These events culminate to Ann’s utter demise.  In the last scene where Henry comes home from work; Ann reveals she is pregnant.  Henry’s first reaction was anger, but after Ann points out they will get a bonus, he decides that it could be a good thing.  Henry plans to invest the money in Stocks.  However, Ann wants to spend the money on the house.  Henry immediately shoots down Ann’s idea in a very antagonizing way. 

At this point the reader is given insight to Ann’s hatred toward Henry through her narration.   But, the unfortunate thing about this story is that Ann is never able to voice her opinion.  Although her thoughts clearly show a deep loathing for Henry, the author never gives her the opportunity to express it.  Then the author shows Ann as powerless when her husbands says he wants to sleep with her.  Ann doesn’t want to, but she does it any way.  Which shows her conceding any degree of agency she was capable of.

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January 8, 2010

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