Things to Come

Justin Brewer

12/10/13

Social Assessment 1

Things to Come

 

In a rare example of film, Things to Come, does not offer a traditional story arc, or stick with one main protagonist, but rather plays out like a speculative documentary. Offering an overarching moral lesson about how we should govern our future with daring and knowledge instead of violence. This film was made in 1936, directed by William Cameron Menzies, and had the screenplay written by H.G. Wells. Things to Come was an UK film, and was met with mixed reactions upon its release. The consensus of the audience was that this was much an average film though unique in its time. As a result the movie has had little impact on society, besides the wandering sickness inspiring future zombie films. Especially in comparison to what was achieved in other works over the span of H.G. Wells’s lifetime. Although it has flaws, many note that it depicts a very realistic time frame for the start of World War Two, and manages to get a good grasp of future technologies.

This film takes a generational approach to its narrative, with the same actors reprising decedents of their family’s line as the story progresses. The movie starts in Everytown, which is a mockup of an English town. In 1940a s Christmas is the main center of everyone’s attention, the looming war foreshadowed through out the first scene goes over the heads of the populace. Soon as foretold war breaks out interrupting the evening of the Cabal family’s enjoyment. The chaos of a bombing run envelopes the city, and in the echos of war the film flashes forward to an aerial battle between John Cabal and an unnamed enemy, that is promptly shot down. John then lands his plane and contemplates war with the downed fighter as gas rolls in from the enemy. Choosing to save a little girl ironically from his own gas the enemy pilot sacrifices himself to give life in an effort to aid humanity than destroy it, which is the beginning of the moral lesson. Once again moving forward, Everytown has devolved into a dictatorship run by a wartime economy. With the wandering disease a rampant biological weapon, contributing to the devolution of man down to a base level. John Cabal returns to his hometown as the member of a new organization dedicated to peace known as Wings over the World. Though he is captured and interrogated his prediction that his organization, dedicated to peace instead of war, will win comes true. As they reclaim the town through more peaceful means in order to improve the lives of its citizens instead of dominating them. With one final flash forward to the year 2036 Everytown has escalated into an underground metropolis, filled with leisure, proving that the intellectual path has merit over war, and yet discord still surfaces at the attempts to travel in space at the risk of life. The complacent citizen’s quickly rise to anger after a rousing speech and attempt to destroy the gun that will fire the space pod. The ancestor’s of John have realized this outcome and manage to race to the gun beforehand so that they may fire it out of the need for intellectual conquest. Though they succeed with the gun the rioters still manage to destroy it after it has fired. This resulting conflict is left unsolved however, as the audience is left with a metaphorical ending that results in the question if it is better to challenge the world and prosper or to stagnate in complacency like an animal. With this final thought the credits begin to roll, and although the end result was certainly not a well paced narrative, often jumping to different situations with little context, the strong moral message of the future is delivered well enough and brings a good deal of discussion in relation to the social elements of the film.

Aptly starting with the social control and culture of the film, the themes are explored very differently over the three separate time zones. In 1940, the culture of Everytown is very proud of its nation and military. There is a norm of celebrating the holiday of Christmas, and children can be seen receiving gifts associated with soldiers, and even dress as soldiers out of admiration. These people seem to value their freedom as a right, with little worry for the impending war even though it is almost upon them. Forward in time to 1970, Everytown has a similar, yet drastically heightened view of war as it has become the new norm. At this point in time it has consumed their culture leaving the town to be lead by a warlord who urges them on in constant struggle. Here no children dress as the military, and in a way every member of town serves to aid the military in there struggles against whichever enemy they are pointed against. A sanction that can be seen is with the handling of those with the wandering disease. These men and women are shot instead of treated like one would expect in a civilized world. With resources scarce this harsh way of doing things permeates the citizens over time, to accept death and war as the only way. This leads to a value of strength over intelligence in the population, as good soldiers would do better for the wartime. In a stark contrast the world of 2036 has come to accept freedom of choice and knowledge as the norms for citizens to follow, along with the values of intelligence and effort. There are roles in society dedicated to passions such as art, and little danger present, save the risk of testing the next frontier. With this lifestyle the values of peace and knowledge are key to the ending of war in order to create a lasting land of plenty and not famine. Overall the film presents these norms and values to be the building blocks towards what Wells believes is the ideal society, and therefore you can see in the language across all the eras how the intellectuals talk of peace at odds to the despots that only can speak of war to secure what they believe to be safety through force.

In the social structures that make up society the major factor of separation seems to be the intelligence of the person. The people who start war and strife within the film are depicted as selfish and forceful, not surprising as these are the traits needed continue a war for such a prolonged time. The intelligent engineers and craftsmen of the movie have an altruistic quality, instead either wishing to abolish war through progress, or looking out for the safety of their people. The few times that we see women in this film, they play supporting rolls, leading to the assumption that in all eras that the main culture is patriarchal in nature. Even the daughter of Oswald Cabal is only going on the mission because of her heritage, and not due to any special qualifications that she is shown to possess. The older men are treated in a similar manner to the women in this film. Though they are respected more, they offer the more expected roll of wisdom, yet they do not actively take part in the conflicts. This leads them to serve more of a explanation role in this culture to the children than as active workers in society. The children themselves are shown to be important in both the 1940’s and in 2036 where they are seen as the future of society and are kept in close to family to raise and educate them to be the best as possible. In 1970 the children can be seen left mostly to their own devices in the streets, suggesting that there is little family suggesting that the work of the parents supersedes raising the children. The idea of poiting towards the future is a central theme in the film, so children make up a good part of the foreshadowing in the film. We first see the little boy dressed as a soldier to represent the coming wartime world, and then the little girl in 2036 is filled with awe and whimsey at the past; which represents the success of looking towards the past while realizing that the future that exits now is better.

Of the social institutions in Things to Come, Family, the military, and the Wings over the World play the biggest parts in the film. As previously stated in both 1940 and 2054 family is shown to be enormously important to society, because they are recognized as the next ones to inherit the direction of the world. Specifically in regards to children although we see no formal means of education, it seems that the elders of the community teach the children to some degree. The military is most seen in the 1970 era, where it makes up the ruling class of society. Specifically the military is used to enforce rules and to uphold the general order of society. Wings over the World, being the establishing force of the new government in 1970 is a form of military focused on using nonlethal means assert control over territory. Unlike the totalitarian rule of Everytown, the Wings over the World are lead by a council of free men to illustrate everyone as intellectual equals that make decisions together, and do not simply follow orders. In 2036 idea of military has been phased out entirely in favor the way of peace, leaving the people to govern themselves by the norms that are upheld in that community. Although there is a governing council to delegate laws and actions ,there seems to be little enforcing these decisions. As for overall importance to the film, the institutions that uphold order being phased out is shown as a progression of mankind, in that man can lead his or her own destiny without being forced into line.

Societal change comes in a wave of destruction and then rebuilding. At the start of 1940 the war begins and humans quickly release biological weapons to use against the enemy. From polite society to war the human race gets crueler as it destroys itself through hatred. Resorting in the 1970’s to flat out killing any infected that they notice, and then going right back to war when the plague has been dealt with. Wings over the World bring back with them the change towards a common goal of civilized society again, however this time war will not be tolerated and strength will not be valued over the brain. These changes seem to come fast to the people of Everytown as right after Wings over the World has taken over, the process of rebuilding starts. Showing off the effort needed to expand Everytown in the montage, it would make sense that the next change in society is a break from working, and with the looming dangers of space travel this gives the public the trigger to act on their fears. It is not shown in the aftermath of the riot if the rest has become the new norm or not, as the last scene continues the conflict metaphorically without an answer. Through out the film, these changes are more seen in the background, as results of the other changes in environment over the course of time. It is implied that the means of conquest and discovery through effort will continue as according to the film that is the true way to overcome the base animal nature that human’s share.

Similar to societal change, the technology in this movie get’s worse before man can progress. In 1940 the technology was typical of the era, cars were present, tanks and guns were plentiful, and planes were the newest and most influential technology. As the war continued on into 1970 the importance of airplanes became a cornerstone of the military, as whoever controlled the air would win the war. Other than the remnants of technology left over Everytown has devolved into a dark age setting, where guns seem to be the only surviving technology available, and fitting for a wartime community. The rest of the town relies on horse drawn wagons or car wrecks. Medicine has reverted to the most basic practice, and people have lost the ability to manufacture goods of any kind.

It will not be until 2036 that we see the jump in technology to befit a society that holds intelligence higher than all other traits. In order to renovate Everytown after the way, Large plasma drills were used to carve out an underground city, large factories can also be seen during the rebuilding montage, in order to manufacture walls for the buildings. Over time medicine has improved to the point of extending lifespan. Sunlight is also no longer necessary to live because they have developed a way to create artificial sunlight in their cities. Furthermore in the field of aviation helicopters have replaced planes as the main method of fast transit, and they have developed rudimentary space travel via use of a rail gun. Even the media has been expanded upon with large flat screen monitors being used to communicate to the masses. The importance of technology flourishing in the final era creates the notion that without war and fear holding humanity back, true technological achievement can be made.

The environment plays second fiddle to the other topics in this film. Although we can be sure that by 1970 humanity has managed to wipe out a vast majority of habitable land through war. Pestilence comes in the form of the Wanderers disease, that ended in a mass purging of the sick, damaged the cultural environment of humans. In 2036 there is no longer a need to live outdoors so the entirety of the environment is man made by that point in time. However, it is interesting to note that the town is not heavily industrialized, but instead is mainly made of open ground for travel and meeting, and not for production as the Everytown of the past was for a wartime economy. The only outdoor area we see is the base of the gun, and although there is plant life, most of the area is covered by the same material as Everytown. At least this shows the the people of the furture were able to recreate the natural land above after it was ravaged by war.

These social aspects of society, lead to the question that by 2036 will our society match any of the predictions shown in the film? From the point of values and norms, this is a yes, in the current real world society, there has been a major push towards increased of leisure because technology that makes everyday tasks easier for humanity. Also intelligence is being sought more than ever so that the latest technology can continue to be developed for the sake of economic and societal growth. However, our social structures will not be similar, unlike in Things to Come there are still multiple races and tensions between individuals due to differing religions and opinions,which will lead to conflict. Economic stratification between classes seems to be increasing if anything, because of the gap between the rich and the poor has been statistically getting wider. So the notion that humanity can achieve peace through valuing the intelligence of the individual is a far way off. With differences comes discord and war, and there will need to be a group of officers, and military to deal with upholding defense and laws. Even in the future there will probably never be an escape from people to enforce what society deems right. In all ways the technology of the future will far outpace what was shown in the film, as even the current technology in the present is more advanced. When it comes to the environment, the real future is more likely to destroy the environment than live underground while preserving it.

In conclusion this film, while showing a strong moral towards peace through science, it was not critically a hit, nor a hit with the audience. More than anything at the time this film simply was an average experience. It won ninth best British movie of 1936, and had a budget of £300,000. Audiences today receive the film better than the original viewers. Often praising the film for its originality and view of the future from the perspective of 1936. The only notable pop culture influence the the film had was surprisingly the zombie genre, which often borrowed several traits of the wandering sickness as a base for zombie behavior. The idea that the people of the world can get along based on a common intellect, and without any enforcement is so far a dream at best, but the portrayals of technology though dated are startlingly accurate. Overall this film shows an interesting spin on how Wells viewed a future Utopian society would work, just the package that it delivers it in can be hard to follow.

The Day the Earth Stood Still.

Justin Brewer

10/10/13

Societies of the Future

 

The Day The Earth Stood Still Assessment

The Day The Earth Stood Still, directed by, Robert Wise was a film set to the context of a world at war. Just coming out of World War 2, America faced yet another impending war with the Soviet Union over both political and nuclear tensions. This Cold War era sparked a fear amongst the American people that the country may be invaded by communist ideas, as well as soldiers. The film was released in 1951 when tensions were creasing, and the theme of invasion by an outside and mysterious force was commonplace for Scifi films. The Day The Earth Stood Still, took a different approach to the idea of invasion, instead having the visitor be seen as an overwhelmingly positive force, preaching to end war and not start them. This theme of bettering one’s own life over spending time on war and strife hit home to the audience. While the film had a budget of 1,200,000 dollars, it was a commercial hit and managed to gross 1,800,000 while in theaters, and went on to impact the Scifi genre and become a recognizable staple of American Cinema.

As a plot, the film grips with the terror that an invasion can cause. The reactions to the arrival of

Klaatu are evident in the panic of the citizens. The message of this comes to light when Klaatu is shot by the military moments after arriving on earth. The sentiments against war only continue when Klaatu is denied a world meeting due to the frivolities of political issues. Unsatisfied with the response that he has received, he journeys out to the public. Upon finding an alias to go by and a roof to stay under, Klaatu begins to study humans through the interaction with a family that lives in the complex. Specifically through the relationship with the young boy Bobby, the film paints the virtue of innocence as something to be cherished and not forgotten. Klaatu is pleasantly surprised to find that some humans, if even a boy can find such a moral center against war then there could be hope. The military steps up their search for Klaatu as he reasons with the scientific community to hold a meeting. Here it is obvious that the idea of intellect over military might is present, as while klaatu is unable to reason at all with the political and military leaders he finds common ground with scientists who realize logic. The anti military sentiment grows stronger when the military manages to temporarily kill Klaatu, an action that could have potentially destroyed the earth along with it. Upon his revival, Klaatu takes advantage of the military and press coverage around the ship and scientists to convey his final message. That if Earth cannot stop warring amongst itself and by extension stop being a galactic threat, that it would be destroyed without hesitation. This message in itself seems Ironic, that a threat of force is used to ensure peace, however, the film makes it clear that this overwhelming force of extinction is the only thing that can hold a long term peace. On the more positive theme of this message is that without war Earth should be capable of producing the technologies and culture to help its citizens, in order to further the world into a self sustaining utopia over time, much like Klaatu’s home planet.

The means of culture and social control needed to create this world are evident with the description of Klaatu’s world. Firstly the norms of this planet are peace and understanding, and more importantly to avoid conflict if at all possible. The values follow a similar path with intellect and logic being held in high regard, as well as the value of life in general. In comparison Earth has the norms of suspicion, and war as seen with the mass hysteria upon the arrival of the ship along with the ongoing presence of war tensions being both a theme of history and the current issues preventing Klaatu from his mission. Earth’s values show a sense of separatist thinking, with national and cultural boundaries defining the planet, and not the common will of the people in unison. On a more positive note family is heavily valued in society as we can see the Benson family have a healthy interaction with positive results. Earth has potential in it’s ideas of values but the film makes it clear the the one defined sanction of Klaatu is what is keeping Earth from achieving unity. This sanction is the inability to cause any war with either yourself or other species, as doing so will invoke the wrath of the galactic policing force. This sanction specifically holds down the morals of Klaatu’s culture to a very specific limit, the idea going that without violence being tolerated only peace can remain.

The social structure and stratification in the film can be difficult to judge as Klaatu is the only notable example of this alien society. From what is shown many of the stratifications have been eliminated in favor of a common goodwill towards man. A class system is never mentioned by Klaatu beyond the police robots holding absolute authority, all other species are by definition equal under this rule so classes cannot exist. The concept of sex and race, are not considered issue as Klaatu treats all equally, it can be assumed that his species does the same. The concept of age is equally strange to Earth as demonstrated with the doctor’s confusion over the estimated 140 year lifespan of his people. The difference in the movie on earth is night and day. Age, is understandably also not much of a stratification for earth with the common practice of respecting your elders being the normal behavior. In contrast to other movies that we have seen the inclusion of Helen Benson as a fairly strong female character, shows a progress of earth towards sexual equality. Race is also shown for the first time, with the scientific community appearing as several different races, who all seem to be respectively dressed and equal with each other. Rather the main stratification for earth is the political differences of respective nations rather than the differences between each individual. A message that strengthens the idea that war is a poison that keeps people from their potential in reaching equality.

Similarly vague as the social structures the only social institution that we see from the alien society is the intergalactic police force. As described they have absolute authority in all matters concerning judgment and punishment. They also seen to be shown to have a limitless control over how they conduct their job, as Klaatu states that they may come at anytime from anywhere to check up on different planets. They are represented as the all seeing eye that enforces the social rules and nothing else, this sort of control is totalitarian in a respect to choice, as they only give the ideals of peace or destruction with no middle ground. Ironically the main social institution that is seen from earth is the military. This institution is shown in a mixed light, by showing incredible control over the other institutions, issuing commands as needed. In this manner they show a level of importance on earth as the police do to space-fairing society’s. At the same time they are presented as being highly ineffectual when it comes to enforcing their rules, often being the cause of further problems than the solution. This portrayal perpetuates the notion that war only brings problems instead solutions. The political institution is closely entwined with the military, and war is the driving force behind the decisions which hinder society rather than help in the eyes of the movie. The Medical institution is also shown in a negative light, with the practices of Earth being far less effective then the medicine that Klaatu brings. A further product of the times in which this film was made shows the doctor’s smoking. This to a modern day viewer raises a red flag to just how little the medicine of the time new in comparison to future societies.

The positive institutions of the movie come with family and education. The Bensons are the prime aspect of family, and it shows a functional relationship between mother and son fostered out of love and respect towards one another. Education embodies the value of logic and intellect, with the scientists while still subservient to command of the military being capable of rationalizing the importance of Klatuu and to show a positive influence through education. This educational process is demonstrated with Bobby, where his nightly homework is shown to be a positive influence towards the logic of critical thinking rather than the hysteria and mistrust of a war consumed individual.

With most of the film showing the positive aspects of humanity in the younger generation and men of science. It stands to reason that the vast majority of individuals who hold ruling power are driven outwards to conflict and war as the method of issuing social change. The theme of the movie holds the social change towards peace as an important feature. With peace being enforced regularly Earth is shown at the end of the film to be in a precarious position with the change being peace or death. This abrupt force of change illustrates the importance that peace has within the idea of a utopian society. To the point where even if the natural evolution towards peace has not yet happened it can be ensured with enough force. An ironic statement considering the show of force is what leads to wars in the first place. The message then would fall to the idea that peace cannot come about naturally but must be given a stern hand before it can become the norm of society.

It helps towards the idea of peace over war in the film with the progress of technology from the alien society when set against Earth’s. Medicine for example has the capabilities to fully heal wounds in hours with an ointment, to being able to resuscitate body from a state of death to life. While Earth’s best doctors are still stuck with remedial first aid by comparison. The weaponized technology of the ship and Gort both far exceed any thing that man has been able to create, to the point where ability to destroy the planet renders the warfare of human’s to a childish threat. The ship is also capable of extraordinary intergalactic travel that is as equally great to humanities attempts at travel as the weapons were to matching Gort. The other technologies shown such as the device to communicate with, or at least view other planets, to the metal that the ship and Gort are made of are out of the realm of humanity. The important message of the film is not how strong the invaders are, but that Earth should be capable of the same feats if it would just focus on bettering life rather than on a war budget. The scientist can even be seen working on some of the same basic mathematics as the alien culture, yet due to the stresses of his life by both politics and war does not have the time to complete.

In a similar case though the environment is not heavily shown from the perspective of Earth. As it does not play a prominent role in the film. From the standpoint of the alien society, the only evidence of their environment is the comments that Klaatu makes about how most worlds are beautiful. From this it could be assumed that the environment would benefit from the lack of war as much as technology does. When allowed to flourish under the care of a peaceful society the environment becomes that much more protected and beautiful over time.

Under the trial’s of real world stresses could a society like Klaatu’s exist on Earth?

Given the requirement that humanity must either face peace or death, by some outside force; that means that contact with another species has been made and the power to destroy earth if provoked is undeniable. At first this type of threat works very well as a deterrent towards war. This idea of anti war being regularly enforced would over time ingrain itself into our culture, that is if some one at the time who was in power was not already insane enough to challenge this new rule. If humanity manages to survive the first generation of enforced peace, than I can see the outlet towards newer technologies to improve life to become available due to the fact that the funding for war would not exist anymore. While the institution of military would be abolished out of necessity, the need for a global police force to handle minor disputes would be needed to handle the minor issues of day to day crime. Politics would also need to undergo a change, either becoming one global government or the formation of a republic similar to the United Nations, only on on a grander scale. Other social stratification would also need to be abolished, however the difficulty of this seems impossible over the short term, which is why such a large police force would be needed. Over time this type of unified society should be possible as long as the idea of violence could only lead to death. In a way it would work like Global conditioning of the human race to avoid conflict in time until the idea of global peace becomes the way of culture.

In conclusion this type of Utopia should be possible. The theme of the film goes well to implement the value of not causing war and the benefits that it has over the destructive alternative. The testament to how well that this theme was received at the time can be seen with the public response to the film. In addition to grossing a profit, The Day The Earth Stood Still one the Golden Globe for promoting national understanding in 1952, this award was created especially for this film. Also it was inducted into the national film registry in 1995, proving that it can stand the test of time. In popular culture the film has sparked a remake of the original, and has been referenced in Scifi films of all types, even to this day. The resounding lasting appeal of this film can come down towards it’s message of world peace and the benefit that comes with it, as this idea of a world without war has become one of the main staples of the utopia, the film that represented it in such a popular format was bound to become a success.

Sun Wukong

Justin Brewer

English 206

12/3/2013

 

Journey Through a Monkey’s Eyes

Journey to the West, considered to be one of China’s four great works is a fiction that many people in the East are well acquainted with. Even if you have not heard of it the impact on popular culture that this work has makes its presence known in the monkey trickster archetype. Journey to the West grew in popularity and influence over its considerable time span because it was written with the action and drama of a timeless nature. The titular character SunWukong, embodies the spirit of adventure and struggle, whether it is the inward struggle to attain enlightenment, or the outwards acts of mischief and violence. He carries the stigma of coming from earth as the product of heaven, and he acts as a bridge between what an animal and a human is. To call Sun Wukong just a monkey would be a folly, to cross him based on that opinion is a disaster. He is a character that manages to usurp gods, and cross the path to true enlightenment by the end of the tale. Sun Wukong and his origin carry with it the answer on what makes this book universally endearing.

Before his stint on Heaven’s most wanted list Sun Wu Kong was born from an egg. Not an egg from anything mundane mind you, but from a stone that had collected more heavenly energy in its sacred structure, than any other object. His birth came as a whim from the heavens as a product of the eternal energy of heaven, yet Sun Wukong set his sights to rebel against the customs that dominated heaven save for the notion of immortality. The beginning of the tale recounts how he managed to gain the powerful artifacts and abilities, which would later serve to protect his comrades and entertain the audience. Upon reaching what he thought to be the zenith of any mortal Sun Wu Kong, ascended to heaven and demanded his place among the ranks of the Gods. Out of spite and contempt for these aspirations the Jade Emperor saw fit to giving Sun Wukong the title of stable keeper. Quickly realizing that he was being mocked, Heaven managed to gain the attention of Sun Wu Kong’s greatest vice, his pension for rebellion and mischief. This attitude of rebellion continues through much of the beginning of the novel, which amounts to him conquering almost the entirety of heaven before the Buddha himself was called upon to intervened in order to prevent Sun Wu Kong from disturbing the Universe itself. Despite his eventual defeat, the trait that he was born above all others was a need to attain greatness would not fade, and in a way he becomes closer to his original state of purity that was lost when dwelling on the earthly realm as his journey to enlightenment progresses.

Sun Wukong’s fiery aspirations originates long before his story became a legend in China, and his inspiration hails not from China but from the myths of India. Specifically he is based off of Hanuman, who in Hindu mythology was “The monkey king who’s devotion to Rama is held as to what a model of what human devotion to God should be” (Lutgendorf 217 ). However this devotion had to be earned through strife, much like how Sun Wukong had to mature his aspiration towards the heavens through his journey. In Buddhism, the strain towards enlightenment is the primary tenant of the religion. Sun Wukong is seen as admirable by this definition because striving toward greatness speaks to others of a form of progress towards a better future. The spirit of wishing to attain more is a base of human nature, and Sun’s wish can be related to by anyone who has wished that their fortunes can change. More importantly his ability to create this change through his own personal growth endows him with more depth as a real personality that has captured the attention of so many people.

By the end of his personal journey the audience can see how Sun Wukong has changed from being causing disaster to bringing fortune to people. Upon reaching their final destination to receive the scriptures he sees the state of the people in poverty and offers a blessing, “I guarantee that the families in your village will have many sons and grandsons, flourishing livestock, wind and rain at the right time year in and year out, and rain and wind year out and year in at the right time.” (Wu 1390). Sun Wukong manages to show the aspect of humility to the people that he once considered beneath him to help, and that growth shows the mark towards Buddhism for the character.

From a personal perspective, Sun Wu Kong, and by extension Journey to the West holds a sentimental value to me. I have always been infatuated with Eastern culture since my childhood, so it comes as no surprise that I discovered one of the many adaptations of Sun Wu Kong, through my experience with reaching into this culture. What struck me first was the endearing strength that these adaptations possessed, and as I grew the wonder of what inspired these characters came to action. What I discovered was a character who has many of the traits that defines youth. Whether it be mischief, boundless energy or the tendency to act first and think later; I was drawn to Sun Wu Kong as a figure that I looked up to because of his strength and perseverance against what fate dealt him. As I reflect upon my childhood experience now, the thoughts of why I was drawn to him so readily have become clear to me.

This rise in popularity of Sun Wukong by principle of his struggles, and unique method of dealing with his ordeals in such a fantastical way guarantees the entertainment of the audience. At the time that Journey to the West was envisioned many stories made in china followed the rule of Avant-Garde literature or as described “fiction about fiction” (Zhao 91). Journey to the West is one of the great classical works that has over time have became an all-inclusive role in Chinese culture. While it is true that this novel was created upon an amalgamation of lore, the originality of the character in Sun Wukong and his companion’s forged a popularity in early China. With the adaptation of the Buddhist teachings into a gripping story; the way that the mythos was transformed from the original source allowed for the work to gain an identity outside of the meta-fiction. Where as time progressed many individuals have been inspired by the influence of this work, in return the novel has transformed into a Meta fiction of its own by the value of popularity and time. This occurs till the point where the literary field concerning this piece has become saturated on a global scale.

On the topic of Sun Wukong in the culture of the world, the character has been inducted canonically as referenced by western authors. This claim to the mischievous monkey has propagated into what is called “The Monkey Tradition” (Pearson 355). What has drawn people toward the character in China can apply equally to the western audience, in that despite the mischievous nature of the monkey, the fierce pride that it can exhibit, and how it strives towards a goal is an admirable tale. Particularly it is noted that one of Sun Wukong’s most endearing points is the “rambunctious behavior in heaven as his maturation into a heroic Buddhist disciple” (Pearson 357). With this it makes sense as to why his struggle is seen as so palatable to different cultures. In essence Sun Wukong as a character is maturing in the way an infant does into adult hood. With this growth come all the stages of his character traits, from being mischievous and wanting as a child, to reaching wisdom during his metaphorical adulthood. This duality of his person over the journey is a major factor to why people care for the title as a whole. As much as the story is about retrieving the artifacts Sun’s journey to mature into an adult mentality becomes just as much a center of the story.

The composition of a monkey tradition in culture, is accentuated with the monkey taking the role of the trickster archetype in fiction. The characters that are established in this tradition are often protagonists who take characteristics from Sun Wukong. “The monkey is wily ruthless, selfish” (Casal), is a proper way to describe all these characters, as they often make trouble for their own amusement. However such characters are not necessarily antagonistic in nature, and if they are considered a goodhearted protagonist these qualities are developed to be more sympathetic In Asian culture popular series such as Dragonball and One-piece draw direct influence from Sun Wukong, for the use of their title characters. While these characters are by all means a trickster to those who they dislike, too the people that they come to trust inspire a fierce loyalty, as demonstrated between Sun Wukong and the monk. For western examples, apes such as curious George embody the idea of curiosity and mischief, but in a way the gives a sense of comedy to the world around them. In each story that the little ape acts out he learns something about being more human, much like Sun Wukong does. These tricks and behaviors that are seen in the monkey archetype seek to bridge the gap between a human and a character by bringing the more humanistic side of apes and monkeys to the stage as the example. This bridge is established through the similar traits of humans and animals, but in a way that allows for the characters to grow onto the audience by sake of humor and wit that both species share. More so than just due to the cultural impact, on a personal level the humor of the story comes as the bridge for the interaction between the characters and the audience.

Namely Sun Wukong and Pigsy’s characters “make up and ideal comic pair” (Zhou 72). This role of comic relief in a classic is a balancing element to the more serious perils and topics of the novel. By placing the characters into situations that both offer a real tension, but does not lose sight of the lighter elements of the story there can be a degree of empathy by this shared humor. In this balance the dichotomy of characters becomes central to the success of the novel in reaching the audience. The idea that balancing tragedy with mirth, is not a new subject to literature. However, given that there is evidence of a finely crafted balance in Journey to the West, as a testament to the survivability to a timeless sense of humor, gives credence to the work as being worthy of a masterpiece.

A key reason for why the narrative transferred over so well into the west is the way that the characters embrace“ the more abstract notion of travel as crossing boundaries” (Wills 192). The story is more about overcoming inner boundaries rather than physical ones, and this appeal to freedom has had a crucial impact on the religion of China. Journey to the West is important for this notion, as the depiction of Buddhism in the novel, had a great impact similar to propaganda for the faith as it grew in popularity. Over the centuries following the integration into the culture of China, the western influence towards trade resulted in western culture to learn of the novel. Yet it was not until the mid-20th century that the book was translated into an English version. The fact that Journey to the West holds such influence today is a testament to the appeal of the novel to break boundaries as the characters do themselves. The delayed translation due to the isolationist tendencies of China serve as a reason why this ancient text has taken so long into modern time to circulate into culture fully. Because of the focus towards the inner conflict of the characters rather than the physical world, the culture shock is lessened because emotions in the end are easy to grasp despite cultural barriers.

Even though the story was created on the tenants of Buddhism, there are still overarching universal morals within. This heightens the value of the text as a moral center. As the main moral is the maturation of the characters, the heightened focus on Sun Wukong makes more sense. Balancing the nature of human growth within animalistic characters can increase he empathy for the audience from a wide range of cultures and backgrounds. Given that he had the most room to grow among the characters by going from a criminal of heaven to achieving the role of Buddha for his inner revelations is the attainment of his goal of greatness. The fact that the story does not punish those who wish to be great, but rather the way they choose to attain it shows the strong morals from Journey to the West that allowed its narrative and the Monkey king himself to reach around the world.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Works Cited

Casal, U.A., “Far Eastern monkey lore”, M.N. Vol. Xii, 1956 pp13-49. Chamberlain, B.H Kojiki (transl, of),2d ed. With annotations by W.G. Aston, Kobe.

 

Lutgendorf, Philip. “My Hanuman Is Bigger Than Yours.” History of Religions 33.3 (1994): 211. Print.

 

Levy, Dore J. “Female Reigns: The Faerie Queene and the Journey to the West.” Comparative Literature Vol. 39,.No. 3 (1987): 218-36. Print.

 

Pearson, J. Stephen. “The Monkey King in the American Canon: Patricia Chao and Gerald Vizenor’s Use of an Iconic Chinese Character.” Comparative Literature Studies 43.3 (2006): 355-74. Print.

 

Wills, John E. “Journeys Mostly to the West: Chinese Perspectives on Travel Writing.” Huntington Library Quarterly 70.1 (2007): 191-201. Print.

 

Wu, Cheng-en, and Anthony C. Yu. The Journey to the West. Chicago: University of Chicago, 1983. Print.

 

Zhao, Y. H. “The Rise of Metafiction in China.” Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies 55.01 (1992): 90. Print.

 

Zhou, Zuyan. “Carnivalization in The Journey to the West: Cultural Dialogism in Fictional Festivity.” Chinese Literature: Essays, Articles, Reviews (CLEAR) Vol. 16 (1994): 69-92. Print.

 

 

Feminism, History, and the Progress of Ideals.

Justin Brewer

11/19/13

 

Feminism, History, and the Progress of Ideals.

 

The unified ideal of feminist literary theory hinges on the oppression that is felt through a history of an overwhelmingly patriarchal society. This has remained true for the western world up until the common day and has been a struggle for feminists living in this environment, who seek to change this system that fosters misunderstanding by placing a patriarchal view on writings. From a historical sense, the change from a traditional narrative held by native cultures to the translation of a Colonial world was particularly difficult. Afterward,

Under the grip of colonial culture, the originating theories of the native cultures that were taken over were less than ideal for the development of the culture. A notable case, happens to be explored by Paula Gunn Allen who’s area of study includes that of the Laguna-Acoma Keres. This tribe is a matriarchal society, who’s oral tradition fell under the interpretive impression of colonial society. Specifically as the translation occurs, “The cultural bias of the translator inevitably shapes his or her perception” (Allen 2005). This skewed perception of the culture, as Allen argues ends up altering both the oral tradition, and the culture that it came from; because both are irrevocably connected to one another. This is devastating from a feminist perspective because the Oral traditions of the Laguna-Acoma Keres show a rare perspective of a matriarchal culture in a native setting. However, Allen is quick to point out that a pure feminist interpretation will also lead to error in translation. The concept that she instead believes would be most suited for interpreting the theory of this culture is a combination of a feminist-tribal analysis. This reasoning of a merged viewpoint, would “provide a tribally conscious feminist with an interesting example of how colonization works” (Allen 2017); or in other words a perspective that goes beyond the classic approach to feminism and to incorporate the cultural struggles into the theory.

While this example of feminism in a tribal setting speaks to the plight of a native culture in literature. The western colonization that occurred is also a culture in of itself. The woman of this culture that sought to be a writer was met with harsh disdain. As Virginia Woolf explored in her plight to the inadequacies of being a woman born in this time “any woman born with a great gift in the sixteenth century would certainly have gone crazed” (Woolf 898), besides bringing forward woman’s suffrage to the forefront Woolf coined the idea of women beyond the sexual roll that was the norm in both relationships and character. “women, like men , have other interests besides the perennial interests of domesticity” (Woolf 899), is a startlingly bold claim for equality among genders. That women and feminism could travel beyond the idea of women against the common oppression, and that perhaps the blame for this cultural stigma did not lie with women alone, but instead with the concept of gender of itself. In Androgyny Woolf goes the extra step to argue that without gender roles holding back humans that “it transmits emotion without impediment; that it is naturally creative” (Woolf 901), in reference to the mind under this androgynous state. Woolf, and other women who practiced feminism under colonial rule, managed to open up the ideas of not only woman’s suffrage under a patriarchal society. But that feminism in of itself is not just a theory of one single sex, but a counter movement to the distinguishing of gender as a term of worth.

Long after the colonial power faded away the scars of the hegemony remain implanted in society. The roles of gender are still enforced in what Berlant and Warner call “national heterosexuality” (Warner 2600), which takes the subjectivity of privacy and seeks to quantify it into a wholly sterile practice. This state of privacy then effectively leeches out the intimacy from every day life leaving a separate distinction between privacy and intimacy “its ideal world are protected by the spectacular demonization of any represented sex” (Warner 2602). Beyond the role of limiting the societies that function on intimate communities, both heterosexual and homosexual alike, this cultural sterilization leads to a gap that needs to be filled. The hetero normative response to this is with the concerns of everyday life outside of the private realm, however for those that cannot be filled they band together to form a counter culture to which they belong. This removes the subjectivity of privacy and moves it into an open field where it can be experienced at large. In effect the change that a post colonial world has made is a fracturing of theory and practice, despite the attempts to regain the colonial heritage that is long since dead.

The historical progress of feminism takes the turns that one would expect given age and thought. What originally started in literature as a way to end woman’s suffrage has grown into a battlefield to eliminate the stereotyped gender roles that society has thrust upon humanity. The difference in modern literature in comparison to the contemporary works show the progress of reaching higher levels of theory, as the methods and topics change with the time, feminist theory has adapted to address these new concerns.

Romanticism and Beauty

Justin Brewer

English 206

10/14/13

 

Romanticism and the Beauty of Realization

When reading, how do I interpret the words on the page? As I reflected on this issue, it came upon me that in the context of reading I relate most to the events and emotions on the page, to myself and not towards an outside facet. When reading you insert yourself into the piece, in order to better relate to the emotions and issues of the characters involved. You must interpret the world through your own experience first. This simple truth becomes evident, as all we know must come from an outside source at some point. Before our being can evaluate and respond to an action something must warrant a response. In this way I am sympathetic towards the romantic plight of understanding the internal workings of human nature. As the poets Shelley and Poe struggled to capture the essence of man, I wish to better evaluate my own position of mind by empathizing with the features of literature. The beauty of Romanticism is the process that you undertake in order to reach this point of realization.

In order to understand what occurs in life, I find it better to organize my own thoughts based on the action or affect that is on the page. Poe as a method of writing used a similar technique to begin the process of crafting his works. Going onto “prefer commencing with the consideration of an effect” (Poe 639), a deliberate way to work towards creation would be first having a goal in mind. I agree with this interpretation of the creative process wholeheartedly. Furthermore the act of choosing intent over spontaneity, as Shelley preferred, has more power to it. If something is created by you, or even interpreted in your head, the thoughts are yours and with this ownership you should claim responsibility for your reasoning.

Now a flaw in this logic may come to light when attempting to grasp the issue of taking inspiration in from the outside world versus your own individual thoughts. In particular, Shelley who had the notion that poetry came as an expression of “the beautiful which exists in thought, action or person, not our own” (Shelley 596). This should mean that our desires to create are not are own claims. Then do you but totally attribute to a higher power? I cannot agree with this idea, and while I do agree that there is a certain aspect of beauty that can only be brought into literature from the outside, it is how the feelings are ascribed into words and action that makes a piece relevant to the audience. This aspect of the process is fundamental to understanding both the romanticist movement as a whole, and how these works fit into the grand scheme of literature. To understand the emotion needs a vessel of form, that must in turn have a creation.

Forming an image requires the work of the brain, while adding beauty requires the work of the imagination. The separation of a physical and imaginative portion make is supported by Shelley. As he points to imagination is what “collects the brightest rays of human nature and divides them and reproduces them from simplicity” (Shelley 599), I enjoy the allusion to the act of division. The idea that one example can resonate to spark a myriad of other responses from within. In the act of making Romanticist literature I would call these fractures of thought the inspiration that an writer draws from . Yet a fractured medium will still need to be given form from the brain to enact anything that can be experienced as beauty. Poe wished to create this form with a “design of rendering the work universally appreciable” (Poe 641); with intention to tailor the work to the viewer. You have yourself a completed creation when this imaginative idea and form reach the medium of writing. This work would then have all the aspects to render it both a tactile beauty, while consolidating the human experience by the inspiration of the fused form of the Self and the outside universe. A work that can then be experienced by the audience, and then interpreted, or mixed with the experience and judgment of the individual observer. Whether this judgment condemns the work to be good or bad is of little consequence, as long as the observer and the work can relate and interact with each other in order to create a meaningful stimulation of the mind, and through it the soul.

In discussing a soul, I do not mean a part of a person, but rather that the soul is the individual itself in full. The nature of a soul would be a unison between the mind and imagination in harmony. In order to gain an understanding of the romantic beauty a work must spark this unison and actively engage it. A person’s brain will only see the literal meaning, and the imagination will fail to grasp the form that the author had the intent to create. As Poe describes the workings of beauty, that these two forms are “absolutely antagonistic to that Beauty which, I maintain, is the excitement, or pleasurable elevation, of the soul” (Poe 641). This experience contains many emotions, thoughts and feelings, that while given a form still allude the audience, and even perhaps the writer. I would contribute then that when the soul has truly been engaged in a piece, that the end result is the attainment of a sublime state. A state that is met with confusion, and though it may be frightening somehow allures the audience to continue on. Many times this has happened to myself during particularly emotional or tense times in a literary work. As I struggled to bring into myself the emotions that I think that I should feel to properly convey the situation. Now this state may be intriguing but it is also problematic. Particularly, when you need to interpret literature for the sake of criticism. Perhaps the reason that Shelley attributes his poetry to a divine origin is because, the sublime is almost instinctual in nature, or the closest that a human can get to a base state of mind. Without direction it would be easy to be swept up into the antagonistic experience and lose your sense of self to the work as Shelley so often describes.

How then do you make sense of that which has no discernible sense to begin with? As the sublime is often stated to be “infinity, irrationality, fear, and terror” (Norton 12), and while this appears to be a question of philosophy, I assure you it can be interpreted. The key to doing so lies in the very definition of sublime, which is made of individual parts. These parts can then be separated out from the state of the sublime and analyzed. My interpretation of what can be considered the complete form of Romanticism is to view it from within myself, as a part of my own experience. By identifying with your own string of emotions, in relation to the work it becomes possible to re-piece together this torrent of ideas and feelings into a form once again. Where there is a form to create, there is a reason behind its creation, and this interpretive element brings together the romanticist piece and the beauty in which it gives to the audience.

The true mark of Romanticism is the steps it takes to understand it. By giving yourself to the task you intrinsically learn of your own human nature in order to one day relate better to others. As all humans are unique the final interpretation can of course also vary. However, these differences in my opinion just lend to the complexity and beauty of a piece. While Poe and Shelley may not have the same style of creation, I feel the goal is still the same in that they wish to evoke a feeling that is unique to the case that only romanticism can bring.

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Gattaca: The Swim Back.

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The evidence for the theme of perseverance can be found in the swimming scenes. Vincent knows that under ordinary circumstances that he cannot beat his brother so the alternative for this is to go with one intention. Either he will give his all and succeed, or he will die in the process, this leaves nothing to chance and everything to the skills that you have earned over a lifetime not your genes.

Gattaca Discrimination

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The main character Vincent, gives an example through his own life experience to the discrimination that he was born into and is now forced to live with. This example starts at the 3 minute and 50 second mark, and reminds us of a time very reminiscent of America during the early segregation movement. Even though the law may “defend” the individual in name only. The persecution that the person faces is still as real as any outward act.