What Makes Racism and Not Equality

This is a post about the work “Letter to my Son” by Ta-Nehisi Coates and it’s relation to the book “Native Son” by Richard Wright.

Overall thoughts:

I think Ta-Nehisi Coates goes into great debts about what it meant to him growing up in a black community and how that was completely different from what it meant to grow up in a white community. The simplest difference was life or death.

Coates uses his own experiences to connect with his son, explain to him how his childhood was about his parents trying to keep him out of trouble, meaning trying to keep people (such as cops) from thinking that he himself was trouble. Coates also details ideas about how when learning about Black History month in school, students were taught about Black leaders and their movements, however he also points out that though those movements accomplished many social and political goals, the didn’t quite achieve the equality of blacks’ and whites’ opportunities.

I really like how he points this out, we study Black History month, the sacrifices and nonviolent movements that led to the end of lawful segregation and move opportunities for black people, however it stopped there. Many races and ethnicities today are confined to different parts of the country, different parts of a city, between different lines. These confining borders only serve to restrict the opportunities and experiences they face. Furthermore, Coates points out how certain communities have to face the “streets”, where drug dealers, gangs, and all forms of violence are prominent. Even if children that grow up in these areas are allowed an opportunity to get out, their community represses them with different forms of violence and death.

One of the main words that struck me was how he wrote “They made us into a race. We made ourselves into a people.” It’s like he is pointing out that before they was no concept of race until slavery and oppression took hold, by white people around the world. It wasn’t until that point that race had been in existence. He goes further to say, that despite separating people, Blacks rose up and were able to display that they weren’t just a race, a category of humans that were inferior, they are a group of people that have their own culture, ideas, and beliefs that make them equal to anyone else.

Coates goes further in depth about the inequality between blacks and whites economically, socially, and politically and how that affects the opportunities and the situations they face in life. He lists series of crimes committed against black people specifically for their race, and how the controversy has struck the nation.

Relating this to “Native Son” by Richard Wright

I think in many ways Coates’ words and ideas relate directly to Wright’s words in the novel. Wright presents a setting of the Black Belt of Chicago in the 1930s and how this setting limits the Black people. Wright describes how Blacks are unable to buy houses anywhere else, because they are not sold to them, in addition to this, the Blacks face higher rent that whites would. Wright speaks out about how this segregation and oppression of blacks has led to them not having a chance to achieve much in their lives, leading them to scour the streets for survival. 

I would say that Wright’s discussion of the conflicts that Black’s faced in the 1930s is what was faced before Coates’ time period right after civil rights. The presentation of how before and after the civil rights movement indicates that though things got better, the specific issue that opportunities were still limited during Coates’ childhood, during the setting of the novel, and even today indicates that this strive for racial equality is not finished. Where Coates presents his childhood to his son, and discusses the tragedies that have struck his race during his son’s childhood, he compares how things were bad during his childhood, things were worse pre-civil rights, but he also shows that things are still not where they need to be today.

When analyzing both “Native Son”, and “Letter to my Son” I think it’s important to look at the the time periods, and conditions presented in both works, and the message of how equality still has yet to be achieved. I also feel it necessary to those in the class that are neither black nor white, to look at the situations presented in both cases and think back to whether in their own history of their country or people, and whether they have faced similar problems. The issues presented by both works only detail issues of equality between Blacks and Whites, but I think in throughout the history of the world, oppression has been a major issue between groups of people, and when looking at these two works though you might not be white or black, being able to relate in another aspect makes the arguments and ideas clearer.

 

 

The Plausibility of the Setting of The Handmaid’s Tale

The Handmaid’s Tale is another interesting Post Apocalyptic/Dystopian novel. In this book by Margaret Atwood, the setting is a combination of geographical and societal elements. In this Post America society, Gilead, as the main character Offred refers to it, Atwood hints that the society is set up in a town called Cambridge, Massachusetts.

 

Now, this geographical region could easily be discarded as just another place, where this society was chosen to set up. However, this New England area was where the Puritans first began their new life in the new world, where they were free form religious persecution. The Puritans were a very religiously devout Christians, who followed the bible to the letter (of their choosing that is), and held grave superstitions against anyone who did not believe in their ways.

 

Similarly, Gilead is set up as a religious society where the only religion is Christianity, and serves to solve the problem of infertility. The group that leads the society are called The Eyes, who are led by a older Christian men, most of which who hold the title of Commander. These men were the ones that tore down American society as it was in place during the 1980s. During the 1980s, the topic of abortion was being debated across the country, as people began to question whether there was a true separation between church and state in the American government, and whether a woman was truly responsible for her own body. Atwood takes the religious extremist idea form this time period, and puts it in place as the laws of Gilead, where each woman has their own role that is assigned to them. They are either: a wife, a Martha (a servant), or a Handmaid. The Handmaids are the true representation of these extreme religious ideas, as they are the women that birth the children. They are covered from head to toe, and are required to birth babies, to keep the society going. Abortion is illegal in this society, and so is the concept of men being barren. Outside this area however, Offred discusses how there is a war raging on between rival factions of Christianity. This is another interesting idea, as religious wars have been going on since the beginning of religion.

 

So, when studying this society, many people question whether this is actually a possible outcome for a Post American society. Looking back at when this novel was published in the 1980s, it is slightly possible that extremist ideas of religion, and women could take root within a new society. It’s also even possible for a religious extremist group of people to take over a nation, and completely convert it into a radically secular society. There have been examples of this throughout history, more recently, the take over of the Taliban in Middle Eastern countries such as Afghanistan. However, I think Atwood for got to take in America’s standing within the world. She solely focuses on the internal aspects of American society, and not the international view of it. Today, and in the 1980s, there are a lot of countries, and organizations (legal and illegal), that depend upon American society remaining the way it is and was. IF America were to have a religious apocalypse, more likely than not, many organizations, and other countries would get involved to stabilize America, or even try and take over it.

 

It’s not exactly probable that a religiously extremist group, be it part of the government or an independent organization, would simply murder every single member of the government and simply assume power. First off, that’s a lot of people to kill, and in a society that’s already depleting in numbers due to infertility, the motive for killing that many people doesn’t quite seem rational. Second, what country in the world during the late 1900s, wouldn’t try and involve themselves in America’s problems. After WWII, American had become a world power, an international police. The entire world had something invested in America policing other countries, or staying out of other countries.

 

Looking at the setting for this novel, it’s pretty clear that Atwood had interesting and partly plausible ideas of religious extremism taking root within American society, and influencing governmental decisions and laws. However, Atwood fails to discuss the influences of other countries and organizations that depend upon American society remaining the way it was during the 1980s. It’s just not entirely plausible that every country in the world would simply sit back and watch as America becomes a war zone for rival factions Christianity, and holds a society where the only objective is procreation, and controlling of women. There are too many economic, and political factors that are just not considered.

Conflict ~ The Essence of Plot (in The Road)

The essence of plot is conflict, and a story always has a central conflict, it can be apparent, or it can be hidden under layers of metaphors, and themes. Cormac McCarthy makes the conflict blatant yet with layers of debt to it in the novel, “The Road”. Before I begin describing the conflict and how it develops the plot, let’s take a step back to understand the basic premise of the novel. The storyline takes place in post apocalyptic America, where all living things have died off. It isn’t clear how everything died, but McCarthy hints that there was fire and ash involved in the crumble of American society. When reading this novel, the reader can immediately tell that the main characters, “The Man”, and “The Boy”, are fighting for survival, but it’s what they’re fighting against that is not quite stated. McCarthy presents the four major types of conflict: man vs. nature, man vs. man, and man vs. himself, man vs. (in this case, lack of) society.

 

Man vs. Nature:

The setting of the novel takes place in a post-apocalyptic America, where the only living beings are humans. Now, rationally speaking, if there was absolutely nothing alive except for us humans, there’s probably a great chance that we’d eat ourselves out of house and home, quite literally. “The Road” definitely displays this idea, as the Man and The Boy scour the barren land for leftovers of preserved/processed food, which is the only thing that is left for consumption (except for other humans…). This depletion of resources has the man and the boy searching for ways to make it through to the next day, as they ration their food.

In addition to this, the boy and the man face the brutal weather, and conditions that are presented by nature. You’d think that if everything was dead, that Mother Nature would probably let up a bit, the only thing it is torturing are humans, and honestly, they have enough problems as it is in this book. Nevertheless, the man and the boy continuously have to move south (because if climate patterns haven’t changed then why should migration for warmth?) to make it through the harsh winter, with what resources they have, and can find.

 

Man vs. Lack of Society?

The fourth form of conflict is man vs. society, but I think in this case the fact that there is no society is a conflict in itself. The cause of the lack of society is obviously shown through the conflict of nature, but it is the fact that there is no society, no form of regrouping and no way to rebuild that causes this eternal chaos that is presented in the form of thievery and cannibalism. The lack of society promotes natural selection, and pushes this idea that without society man is left to fend for himself.

The lack of society also presents paternal issues between the man and the boy, the man continues to long for the way life was with society. The fact that the boy was born post apocalypse causes the two to have a major cultural barrier between them. Their relationship becomes strained as the novel progresses, as the man tries to show the boy bits and pieces of his old life through objects they find as they scavenge for resources. This cultural barriers puts both boy and man at an emotional distance, as they struggle to find ways to survive, without much comfort

 

Man vs. Man:

Now, there are probably a lot of people out there cringing and being disgusted by the idea of cannibalism, some may even believe that it’s only a theory and not an actual practice done since the beginning of humans. Is it horrible? Yes. Immoral? Possibly. But is it completely possible that when there is nothing left to eat, and there is no hope for man kind, would people actually turn to this practice? The answer is yes. There are many arguments as to why and why not people would and should not become cannibals, but the fact of the matter is that in the book McCarthy shows that people can sometimes be desperate to survive, even though death is an impending doom. As the Man and the boy move towards the south they encounter multiple bands of cannibals, and they’re are labeled as evil by the man and the boy. McCarthy presents Darwin’s law of natural selection, and it is completely applicable to this novel, as both the man and the boy struggle to not be hunted down by the cannibals, while finding ways to survive on their own without eating human flesh. It’s killed or be killed in this novel, and the man makes difficult decisions regarding his and the boy’s safety when they face these people.

 

Man vs. Self

This last form of conflict is shown in multiple ways through the characterization of the man. The man’s main goal is to make sure the boy survives, it’s the only thing that is driving him to keep going. However, there are moments in the novel where the man has to make some tough decisions, sometimes they go unapproved by the boy such as stealing from other people, and killing those out to kill them or harm them.

But though these actions may sometimes weigh on his or the boy’s conscious, McCarthy presents another form of internal conflict, that has the reader questioning whether surviving is living, and whether one can live where there is no hope and no motivation. A flash is shown back of the man and his wife, just after the apocalypse. The boy had been born, and the wife is telling the man how he should have just put them all out of their misery with the bullets in their lone pistol. This pivotal moment causes the audience to realize that the man has another decision other than to survive. We see the man wrestle with this idea, especially during moments when it looks like either the man or the boy are close to death. The man always wonders whether it is better for them to be dead than have their lives at the hands of others. It’s a battle for control over one’s life, in a setting where there is no more control. As the story progresses, McCarthy prompts the reader to question whether the man is simply surviving, and question whether there is anything left to live for in a barren world.

 

Tying in of Climax, and Resolution with Conflict

The conflict never really dies out in the novel, the climax can be argued takes place when the man dies, leaving the boy to fend for himself, no longer having someone to look after him, and guide him, but having the option to think for himself. However, this does not change the fact that the conflict of survival still remains, until the resolution where the boy meets a family who ask him to come with them, to somehow survive together. The ending is ambiguous, the song still remains the same, the essence of survival is still embedded within the open ending.

Da Rules (If only for Literature Blogs) on How To Blog

There are always going to be social and literary protocols when it comes to pieces of writing. Of course, when dealing with a blog there is a whole other aspect that affects how one should write, and that is the internet. Here are some “dos” and “don’ts” when it comes to blogging. Of course, this mainly applies to Literature blogs however, I think it’s safe to say that posting just anything written on the internet is asking for some trouble.

Do:
1. Proper grammar: blogging is like online journaling, and though some people write for themselves, it is always a good idea to make sure that you use good grammar. It makes it easy on readers, and doesn’t discredit what you are saying. Using slang is okay, it provides more incite into who you are as a person, but do not get carried away as it can detract from the information you are presenting. Even though blogging is informal, how well you use grammar affects how people view you as a blogger.

2. Analysis: When discussing a major topic, provide some analysis. Though you may be trying to present the facts, add some analysis to provide further information and interpretation into a subject. It does not have to be extremely indebt but it should be about a paragraph or a few sentences describing your thoughts about the facts and what they mean.

3. Some Background Information: This can be part of both what not to do and what to do. Background information or plot summary, when referring to literary works, can be useful to readers. It provides them with an understanding on what you are discussing and possibly analyzing. It also shows your knowledge on a literary work or subject and how passionate you may be. This can actually attract readers, if you are similarly passionate about certain subjects. This should be around a paragraph or simply a few sentences.

4. Organization: If you are discussing a topic, it’s really frustrating as a reader to completely jump from one topic to the next. Be structured, be organized and make a point to what you are saying. This may be a journal of a sorts, but not having a point in any piece of writing is well…pointless, for you and the reader.

Don’t:

1. Extensive Background information: Having too much background information or plot summary detracts from what you are discussing and analyzing. If it doesn’t help your argument in analysis, then don’t add it. If it does, make sure to summarize it concisely, but informally. Remember, passion does help make a statement, but being too passionate can come off as a bit creepy.

2. Profanity: Informal writing can often reflect how we speak, and many of us use profanity on a daily basis. However, the use of profanity can also detract from an argument or topic. There is no need to casually drop swear words every few sentences, especially if they are unnecessary. It doesn’t help what you are trying to say, even if it is a form of expression. Remember you still have an audience to consider, though this is an informal piece of writing.

What Should Be Graded By Mr. Beddingfield:

  1. Effort
  2. Creativity
  3. Some Analysis
  4. Organization

 

 

Dystopian Novels: Divergent by Veronica Roth

 

Entry 1: Describe a novel, TV show, video game, or movie that fits into the categories Post Apocalyptic and/or Dystopian

There are a lot of contemporary novels out there that fit into the dystopian genre, however my favorite would be Divergent by Veronica Roth. Divergent explores a society based upon categorizing people into different factions by their aptitudes for certain personalities. It takes place in a future realm of Chicago. The five factions of the society are Abnegation, the selfless people, Candor, the people that never lie, Amity, the ones who are always kind, Erudite, the people who crave knowledge, and the Dauntless, the brave ones. The books explores ideas of what it would be like to have a society that is built off of dividing up people by their personalities and how that would fail, since people are not just one type of personality but made up of different things.
At the age of sixteen, kids are administered an aptitude test, where they are placed in different virtual scenarios and make decisions on what to do. The test determines which faction they are most suited for. The main character, Tris, is Divergent, meaning her results for the aptitude test is not just one faction. She is immediately labeled as an outsider, she thinks differently. She isn’t just brave, but selfless, and smart, something that she has to conceal to avoid execution. When Tris switches from Abnegation to Dauntless at the age of sixteen she faces initiation into the Dauntless faction, where she has to prove that she is only ever Brave, nothing more. Her instructor for initiation is another Divergent, Four. Roth uses Four’s character to illustrate why people cannot be categorized. Four tells Trist about the tattoos that run his back, each or a symbol of the five factions. He tells her that he doesn’t and can’t just be brave, that people are made of a little bit of everything. This future Chicago society works to categorize people in an effort to create order, however Roth uses her Divergent characters of Tris and Four to show that this simplification cannot apply to humans because they are so complex.

Another aspect of dystopia that Roth uses is the implementing of “Fear Landscapes”, Roth was a psychology major and today to help people get over fears, patients go through virtual simulations to overcome their fears. When Tris switches her faction from Abnegation to Dauntless, she has to go through a series of trials to prove that she is Dauntless. The last task in her initiation is facing the “Fear Landscape”, where she faces her fears. The number of fears she has and how she overcomes them is what determines her stay in the Dauntless Faction. Roth uses the technology that is being built today and implements it into her story to create the dystopian setting where technology can determine categorize people.
Divergent is the perfect example of a dystopian book, where today we try to categorize people through technology, label them, and try to simplify them in order to have some sort of order. This can be seen with how people try and identify themselves with certain groups, be it through personality, looks, beliefs, and other ideas. Roth just shows one aspect of how categorization can be detrimental society, even though it appears helpful. Her use of “Fear landscapes” also shows how technology works in categories, numbers, and theories, which cannot fully understand the complexities of people.