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.

Gattaca Beginning

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Here, the introduction clip from Gattaca can be seen, note that in this case society has favored gene selection over the traditional live birth. This changes the dynamic of how a person is thought at birth and how they will continue to thrive, or fail according to the first few seconds of life.