#88: Fire Emblem

fire wallpaper

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Since I started playing games as a young kid, I’ve been fascinated with blazing swords, fiery dragons, and relentless warriors of the fantasy genre. It’s something of an obsession, as I still play World of Warcraft from when I was in 7th grade and still write fantasy campaigns for Dungeons & Dragons when I have the time. If you read my most recent book review, you also know I love The Witcher and the book series that accompanies it, too.

So let’s talk about something new. Fire Emblem: Heroes is a mobile game I play from time to time, mostly at the gym or in the bathroom. It’s deceptively strategic, full of skills and knowledge you have to know in order to compete at the highest level of Arena play. There’s also, of course, a high bar for entry marked by money. If you have money and are willing to spend it, you can achieve as high as possible in this game. It’s a “pay-to-win” game if I’ve ever seen one, and yet I’m fascinated by it, too. I don’t spend money on it, at least never very much, and I try to limit how often I play. Considering my dad is (or was, I’m not sure any more) obsessed with Candy Crush and has spent hundreds of dollars trying to pass through all the levels, I’ve definitely learned my lesson from my elders. It’s not a good idea to go too overboard with games.

This game features everything great about fantasy games: dragons, deep lore, fascinating characters, and unique combat. You set up a team of four heroes (whoever you own) and you charge into battle against legions of other heroes, sometimes villains, sometimes not. My favorite mode is the Tempest Trials, when your group of four heroes needs to fend off wave after wave of randomized enemies for powerful rewards. Needless to say, that’s my kind of mode.

Advertisements

Book Review: “The Last Wish”

Good, solid fantasy reading. Sapkowski has a genre veteran’s writing style, indulging in picturesque setting descriptions, while the characters and their interactions make up the bulk of the story. Introduces many of the characters met in The Witcher video game series, which as a fan was a treat. Fairly quick, easy read that would be a serviceable introduction to any fan of the games. I can imagine it confusing someone unfamiliar with the games as background, though. Also, the writing has moments of sloppiness in its transitions from combat, to dialogue, to description within a single scene; near the book’s end, it became difficult to keep track of certain events. Not for everyone, but enough for me to commit to reading the rest of the series!

Of course, examples of fatphobia and misogyny abound in this text, with Geralt at one point referring to his rival and lover Yennefer as a “fat woman… or a hunchback.” Misogyny comes primarily through the side character Dandelion, Geralt’s personal bard, troubadour, and Sancho Panza himself, but a little bit more mischievous and a troublemaker. Dandelion wishes to seduce pretty much every remotely attractive lady around him, and feels his inferiority complex sting him whenever a woman rejects his advances, which is always. It’s meant to provide a bit of humor, I suppose, but his repeated insistence gives the interactions a different tone. While I was by no means expecting a book based in the Middle Ages to be progressive and forward-thinking, it still stood out to me. I don’t think all this necessarily detracts from the book, considering the setting, but it does feel a bit more “current” than the rest of the story; it makes me step away from the book and view it from a more contemporary lens, and I feel less than sympathetic to the characters.

This all being said, The Last Wish is also full of remarkable, interesting, fleshed-out characters, many of whom are female. Nenneke, Geralt’s friend and high priestess of the temple of Melitele, is presented as the book’s “voice of reason,” giving the protagonist opportunities to recover, refresh, and reflect on his misgivings. Her story intersects each of the short stories, bringing the overarching narrative back to the present, in a careful way. Yennefer, though described somewhat grotesquely, is smart, wily, and full of charisma. Calanthe, the queen of Cintra and brief antagonist of chapter 3, speaks with a regal tone and diction in front of her guests, but lays down the mask in front of Geralt; this juxtaposition of styles helps the reader view Calanthe as a complete character, while also exposing the royal family’s corruption.

Overall, a fascinating story that I would recommend if you’re interested in the genre. Otherwise, it won’t convince you to fall in love with fantasy, unless you already are familiar with the games, in my opinion.

Three out of five stars!

Story of the Week: “The Awakening”

Hello fellow bloggers! I ought to stop calling it Story of the Week if I haven’t been writing an entry every week, right? It’s a catchy title, though, and it’s fun too.

Today, I will take a look at The Awakening by Kate Chopin. As a feminist and proud supporter of women’s rights, this novel strikes a chord in me. Published in 1899, it functions as a wondrous starting point for the literary theory of feminism, as well. Feminist studies, as they developed and grew in prominence through the 20th century, owe some of their significance to Chopin, whose novel attracts readers of all perspectives through its strong protagonist in Edna Pontellier. However, it would be a crime against the novel’s intrinsic greatness to study it solely as a piece of feminist criticism. With that said, I will be discussing The Awakening as a psychological piece, as the psychological side of the novel tends to also attract readers.

After the break, I will begin with some feminist criticism.

Kate_Chopin

The Awakening‘s protagonist, Edna Pontellier, is the focus of the novel, as she partakes in an internal journey to “awaken” from the social structures that she, and thus by relation women of her time, have suffered through by the  patriarchy. Thus, the narrative largely focuses on Edna’s journey of enlightenment, and how she reaches that point. Ultimately, the way in which she becomes enlightened makes the story so sensational and intriguing. The plot details add to the social commentary that Chopin is arguing.

Edna first moves to New Orleans with the hopes of escaping a familiar structure that would normally force her to live and survive on a farm for the rest of her life in Kentucky. She realizes that that kind of life is not ideal for her, so she makes a change. She marries Leonce Pontellier, a man whose social status attracts her. In reality, Edna harbored no love for her husband, Leonce, and wanted to escape the monotony of Kentucky in the only surefire way.

By the middle of the novel, Edna is experiencing some mental difficulties, so to speak. Leonce begins to worry for his wife, who begins to distance herself from New Orleans culture and society. While New Orleans is usually depicted as a partying place with happiness and carelessness abounding, the novel takes a secondary perspective of the city. In a similar way that Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire analyzes New Orleans, The Awakening focuses on the outskirts of the city, and the depression that comes from underneath. Edna begins her transformation here, while she distances from society. It is while she is away from the world that she realizes how much control society has in enforcing its norms and standards. Thus, Edna serves as a feminist icon for trying to alter the societal corruption of females.

Edna undergoes a series of tests that ultimately serve as stepping stones on her journey of enlightenment. Most importantly, Edna learns to swim. By learning to swim she is learning to survive in a world separate from society, the natural world. Edna’s ultimate ending once again pays attention to Edna’s learning to swim earlier in the novel. It is a sort of reciprocal ending, but even the most uninsightful of readers can realize that her suicide of sorts is a symbolic way for her to finally escape society, through water and nature. By drowning at the end, Edna manages to escape the patriarchy. Otherwise, she would not have been able to live the way she wanted to, which was her “feminist goal.” Being able to do whatever she would want to would prove to the reader that she has achieved freedom and equality. However, Edna realizes that it’s impossible for her to achieve that desired freedom. For one of the first feminist novels, Chopin really shines and illuminates the struggle that late-19th century had to endure to achieve basic human rights, the kind of rights that white men have had for centuries.

One of the biggest conflicts for Edna involves her marriage to Leonce. Originally, she had married Leonce to escape Kentucky and head to a more lively place where she could live a vibrant, free life among the party-people of New Orleans. Unfortunately, her ties to Leonce burden her ability to be free. She first experiments with a known-womanizer named Alcee while Leonce is on a business trip in New York. At this time, Edna wishes to experience the different kinds of love available to her. One of the most important aspects of being free, she believes, is the freedom to love. Her marriage impedes that freedom. Marriage, a social custom, impedes Edna’s sexual desires. Whether she is justified or not may come up for debate, but on the feminist interpretation of the novel, Edna should be able to experiment how she likes such that she can defy the dominant, patriarchal, systematic society that controls her every move. Would a man be punished equally for the same crime? Even the partying atmosphere of New Orleans doesn’t seem to promote her freedom, as her friend Adele, who represents a sort of societal conscience for Edna, denies she meet Alcee, who has hooked up with just about every other girl in the city.

A better question to ask in this situation is, do Edna’s restrictions and limitations reveal a greater problem for female equality? In the late-19th century, women were forced into roles, while men were able to choose their destinies, so to speak. Women were bred to be mothers and caretakers, stay-at-home parents who raised their children and made their husbands happy. Edna is a proper example of a female lead who neglects that role, and searches diligently for a new one in New Orleans. The character of Edna Pontellier played a large role in establishing different gender roles for women in the United States. While The Awakening was censored upon publication for its stark portrayal of a strong female protagonist who defied the roles she was intended to fit into, it became a popular hit regardless of its censorship.

Another important question to ask regarding the novel would be: For how long has female sexual desire been revealed and explained so openly? In America, the answer is simple: since Kate Chopin. In her short story “The Storm,” Chopin pays further attention to sexual desire in women. Previously, both male and female authors tried to limit their depictions of females desiring anything aside from the pleasure and happiness of their husband and children. Is that fair? Not really. For years and years, authors of all origins have written freely about male sexual desire. The Awakening seeks to awaken America, and the world at large, and show them that females can crave and lust for things just as freely and openly as men. At the time, the novel was considered unethical and immoral. Now? The times have changed, and a new appreciation for The Awakening has developed. The times have certainly changed since Chopin’s era.

170px-The_Awakening_Chopin

Next in the story, Edna meets Robert Lebrun, the true source of her “awakenings.” In Robert, she sees something unique and charming. Robert represents what she really, truly desires outside the realm of marriage. Robert presents a tough task for Edna, to decide what she wants in life. From there, she awakens. Her enlightenment begins from meeting Robert and partaking in sexual relations with him. Those relations intensify as her awakenings become more apparent and real; the paralleling of these two is intentional. The more Edna meets with Robert, the more she neglects her children as well. Is it okay to neglect your children, even if it is to prove a point?

At this point, in my opinion, Chopin begins to shine as a writer. Her style really takes shapes as she describes the massively changing feelings which Edna experiences. Edna’s complications with her marriage and Robert add for great content to write about, especially as Chopin’s lyrical narration shows it all. If you are interested in a unique narrative style, Chopin’s The Awakening is worth the read. While reading, I felt as if the author really enjoyed what she was writing about, as if the social issue of gender injustice was clawing at her throat for so long and the only way to present her argument came in the form of a creative novel. And what an argument she presented! So incendiary that it caused censorship upon its initial publication!

While Edna’s relationship with Robert escalates, she is visited by her dear friend, Adele, who I mentioned earlier. Adele clearly symbolizes the perfect female ideal of that time period. Despite their friendship, Adele and Edna butt heads in direction. While Adele cares for her husband and children, Edna would prefer to stay with Robert, and pretend they never existed. It makes for a great side-conflict, and by the end of the novel the side-conflict comes to the forefront of the plot. Adele and Edna are clear symbols, in this case, which Chopin must enjoy manipulating through her intricate plot of self-discovery and awakening.

Robert eventually flees to Mexico, under the guise of a business opportunity. He is a hard-working businessman and, at times, he must leave on a whim and pursue such ventures. However, unbeknownst to Edna, Robert uses the business opportunity as an excuse to leave New Orleans, as he sees their relationship as a failed endeavor because of Edna’s marriage. Meanwhile, with Adele telling her to conform and Robert gone for the foreseeable future, Edna turns to Mademoiselle Reisz, who is receiving letters from Robert. Reisz serves as an ideal for Edna to strive for, as a foil to Adele. Reisz plays music, acts freely, and enjoys life. Eventually, Reisz reveals to Edna her letters…and in them, Robert proclaims that he is still thinking about Edna! What a surprise!

With renewed hope, Edna perseveres. Eventually, Robert returns. At the same time, Adele is having a baby in the hospital. While Robert proclaims his love for Edna, Adele is going through the final stages of childbirth. Robert explains to Edna why he left her, but then Edna is called to by a letter from Adele. She leaves Robert and visits Adele at the hospital, as she had promised she would do. Edna returns home to find Robert gone, with a letter telling her that he has left forever.

Then, she swims out to the Gulf of Mexico and drowns in the same waters she had awakened from earlier in the story. Tragic ending! Does this decision promote the idea that there is no room for a free, independent woman in that society? Does it promote depression, tragedy, and conformity? Ultimately, I believe that the ending serves as a glimmer of hope. Obviously, Chopin used the setting for Edna’s first awakening to show a sort of reciprocal turn of events. The hope comes from Edna, who is now free from the world. Although she is dead, she successfully managed to escape everything she wanted to escape from. Adele would no longer want her around, and the love of her life had disappeared forever as well. It’s a tragic ending, but it leads to, in my opinion, a mature decision on Edna’s part to finally escape the world she so wanted to live without. Does that decision make her weak, or strong?

Now, there are many symbols, aside from the characters, that are worth talking about in this novel. Throughout the story, the narrator relates Edna to that of a white bird. That bird flies freely above the world, above society, and does what it pleases. At the onset, Edna is compared to a bird that is imprisoned. If the bird is able to escape the prison, it can fulfill its dreams. However, while stuck in that prison, the bird cannot fly, nor can it move or interact with others. Even at the start, while Edna follows her family through Kentucky, she is tied down by social constraints. She escapes Kentucky only to be put into a larger cage, in a marriage with Leonce. Has she escaped? No, not yet. In her house, away from family, Edna keeps birds of her own. She is visited by birds, too. The influx of avians and more seems to prove that the protagonist really dreams of becoming just like them. Or perhaps she is one of them, but is limited by a broken wing, thus making her weak?

When Edna commits suicide by drowning, she uses courage to do the deed. However, as she passes downward into the depths of the sea, the narrator says: “A bird with a broken wing was beating the air above, reeling, fluttering, circling disabled down, down to the water.” The bird, in this case Edna, has perished completely.

This story is truly intense and worth reading yourself. I hope my post here has helped you all understand the story better, or has convinced you to pick it up. Until next time, friends!

Story of the Week: “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn”

Hello everyone!

Today, I will be talking about one of my personal favorite classics in Huck Finn. What a book! Also, I apologize for not posting much. I’ve had too much to do recently, with finals approaching and preparation for summer (job hunting, internship searching, etc.) occupying my time. I’ve spent a lot of my time on this blog preparing this post. I love this book, and I hope you will appreciate it more after reading this!

Now, I want to mention that this book is highly controversial. It features the n-word over 200 times throughout. However, it reveals the racial ignorance and delusion in the antebellum American South in a unique and revealing way. It uses satire and seriousness to show this point, which is common of Mark Twain, the author. Racial ignorance and stereotyping was everywhere in the American South during this period. The genius of the book is in the way in which the author reveals said ignorance, through the incredibly compelling main character. 

c06-48

Clearly, Huck Finn is an American classic, similar to the Great Gatsby, which I talked about last week. And while the ending may depreciate the overall quality of the novel, the rest of it remains endearing and intellectual all the same for readers to enjoy. One of my old English teachers used to say: if you turn your brain off for the last part of the novel, you’d enjoy it a lot more than if you had it on.

Alright, no more ranting about the unfavorable ending! Time to provide background!

Mark Twain, if you haven’t heard the name or read his fiction before, also called Samuel Clemens in some parts of America, is a true gem of satire and fiction. Much of his work comes – or at least is partly inspired – from the experiences of his own life, growing up in the 19th century in America in Mississippi. Twain was upset with the world as he was writing. Although he grew increasingly cynical as he aged, it came from his dissatisfaction with the state of public opinion. He saw Huck Finn as a novel capable of changing American society for the better, towards more racial acceptance, and towards a more negative and cynical view of the era he lived in. Unfortunately, the societal change would come posthumously. Twain wrote Huck Finn with all the intention in the world of creating the Great American Novel. Did he achieve it? I’d say he did.

In my opinion, much of the greatness of the novel comes from its perceived innocence and adventure at the inset and its intellectual enlightenment and fulfillment by the outset.

The story is about young-but-ignorant Huck Finn, previously seen (chronologically speaking) in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. He enters a physical, mental, and moral journey that takes him from Mississippi to the Deep South of antebellum America. Most critics, including myself, see Huck Finn as a classic tale of a young character losing his/her naivety and innocence as he explores a mature, ever-changing world.

At the onset, Huck is part of a religious, theological world. He is under custody by the widow. Although she is well-meaning, she controls him and his development, ensuring he follows the (somewhat corrupt) morals of the world. Twain is a notoriously hard critic of organized religion, and expresses that through Huck’s orphan parents here. Ultimately, Twain is a satirist so it’s important to remember that whilst reading. Of course, if you are sensitive about the effects that organized religion had on the “justification” for slavery in the South, I recommend taking Twain’s points lightly.

The plot of Huck Finn is truly its highlight, in my opinion. Although The Catcher in the Rye and To Kill a Mockingbird are renowned by critics for their “loss of innocence” stories, I believe that Huck Finn is the greatest example that American literature can provide. While the story is primarily about Huck and the slave Jim, it talks to the entirety of social change and development in the 19th century.

In an unfortunate turn of events, Huck Finn’s father returns when he discovers that Huck has a lot of money stored in the bank, and wants to claim it at his legal, rightful guardian. The unfortunate part is that his father is an alcoholic child-abuser, and will soon be taking Huck away from his guardians (who weren’t necessarily the best kind of people in hindsight, but kept Huck “civilized” and “stable” while he was with them). Huck didn’t want to be civilized by his guardians anymore, but he also didn’t want to necessarily return to his father, who only wanted him for his money. Thus, he devised a plan to escape from his father and exploit his drunken tendencies. As he escaped from the small hut/house that his father built by a stream, away from civilization, Huck triumphed by outsmarting him. A rite of passage!

He escapes to Jackson’s Island, where he stumbles upon someone who will change his life forever – and no, not a future romantic interest. Huck Finn’s previous guardians owned a slave named Jim, who had a family but was removed from it by the people who bought him. Of course, Huck Finn stumbles upon Jim. Huck was always taught by his guardians that slaves were lesser people. They shouldn’t be trusted, respected, or talked to. But, because of his innocence and supposed “immaturity” and “uncivilized” nature, Huck looks past those thoughts and thinks of Jim as a human being. Thus, the story of Huck Finn is under way.

And that’s only the beginning. From there, it only gets better (until the ending) and from there, you see the relationship of a “dumb, stupid, uncivilized boy” named Huck Finn and a “dumb, stupid, uneducated slave” named Jim develop into respect, admiration, and bonding. The moral circumstances of this friendship are profound. Mark Twain’s point lies in the fact that the only person capable of seeing the truth, the enlightenment of things, is a young immature uncivilized boy who can barely read and write. It is when one is resistant to the education that culture and society demands of a “civilized” boy that you begin to break the mold. And Huck Finn certainly breaks many molds as he travels down a river, on a raft, with a slave.

As Jim and Huck travel down the river, they plan to take the Ohio River back up to free territory. Unfortunately that doesn’t work out for them, as they miss the spot they needed to go to. Instead, they end up traveling down the Mississippi River into the Deep South. During the day, Jim needs to hide. He is a slave who Huck’s previous guardians and town officials are looking for. Huck’s father is looking for him. Everyone’s looking for something, and they need to stay safe. When it’s nighttime, they are free to roam. This is a symbolic contrast, present in the novel because of Twain’s brilliant satirical background.

The novel is dominated by symbolic contrasts. Along with the contrast of night and day, civilization and nature are also significant. As the shade of night protects the duo from harm and being caught, so also does the river. The Mississippi River is Huck’s protective parent. The sides of the river, which are inhabited by towns and people, are dangerous. The river, which is an embodiment of nature, instinct, and impulse, is kind. Keeping in mind that the book was written before naturalism became a study, this is a pretty profound development. Although naturalists believed that nature is unforgiving, unpredictable, and ruthlessly uncontrollable, the roots of the study lie in Huck Finn, in my opinion, because of the great attention that Twain places on nature.

Huckleberry-Finn

Huck notices these contrasts and adapts to his environment very quickly. While he’s around robbers and felons, he’s quick on his feet. There’s one instance early into the novel where Huck and Jim encounter a sinking boat on the side of the river. As they look closer, there’s three thieves in there debating their shares of the rewards and money they just stole. Meanwhile, the ship is sinking. They don’t realize that. Huck does. Huck also realizes that Jim needs to be safe, so he leaves the ship when he can’t find Jim there. This small story is another example of Twain’s indictments of human behavior. These thieves may be cunning, but not particularly bright. They lack common sense. Huck, on the other hand, is cunning, but also realizes that he’s going to sink with the ship if he doesn’t get off soon.

Another example of Huck thinking quickly on his feet occurs when some local town officers try to examine his raft. There’s a tent in it, and Jim hides in there. Huck doesn’t want the officers to reach Jim, by no means. For that reason, he can’t have them search the small tent he’s in. So, in classic Huck fashion, he claims that his family is in the tent, and that they have smallpox. He says it’s very contagious, and that he might have it too, so it’s best they leave the raft and not catch it from him or his family. Genius.

This is the kind of maturation that Huck needs, and it’s ultimately what he gets throughout the journey. While his guardians wanted to teach him reading and writing, he wanted to go into nature, into the world. He’s realistic, understanding, and mature, though. At the end of the novel, the reader understands that no one else really shares in Huck’s realistic maturity. Huck is uniquely intelligent yet uncivilized.

Although I’ve disparaged the ending of Huck Finn quite a lot so far, I did enjoy Huck’s eventual revelation. He abandons Tom Sawyer.

In The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, we see a host of random fantasy out-of-this-world adventures courtesy of the Romantic hero, Tom Sawyer. Mark Twain denied and disliked the Romantic movement of the early 19th century. He disliked it so much that, in Huck Finn, he has the main character, who by now is seen as someone capable of understanding and acting upon complex moral situations at such a young age, defy Romanticism completely. He does so by abandoning Tom Sawyer, the Romantic hero. While it is arguable that Tom is a complete, all-encompassing Romantic hero (I’d hardly give him the title ‘hero’ to begin), he certainly serves to embody the values of Romanticism.

The Romantic movement valued aesthetics, emotion, and feelings. It enjoyed the natural and reveled in the supernatural. From Romanticism, people value staring off at a setting sun over the horizon, enjoying the overflow of emotion and thought as you sit there. A Romantic poet would ask for you to record your feelings verbatim. Romanticism also asserted the importance of nationalism. Now, why does Tom Sawyer embody this movement?

Tom Sawyer is usually the source of great, bounding, incredibly unnecessarily complex ideas and plans to either get money, honor, or some kind of fantasy. He’s big on fantasy. The entire imagination of Romanticism comes directly from Tom. As the novel nears its end, Tom is reintroduced. It spirals downward at this point. All of his complex ideas represent Romanticism. And, when Huck is finally fed up with Tom and his fantastic plans, he abandons him in an ultimate act of maturity and defiance. Not only is he defying all of Romanticism, but society as a whole. At this point, Huck is truly individualistic. He has the choice to go back home, but he refuses. He doesn’t want to be trained to be civilized any more.

How about that? What a great piece of fiction! If you’ve read it, I recommend you do so and immediately spark up a conversation with me about your thoughts. I’d love to hear them. As this is one of my favorite pieces, I enjoy discussing it in deeper detail. And although this piece is somewhat long, I’ve only touched on the novel’s surface. There’s so much more to talk about!

Until tomorrow, fellow bloggers!

Story of the Week: “The Great Gatsby”

Hello everyone!

I wanted to coincide this post with the publishing of my poem, “Gatz the Great,” but then I got very sick. Instead, I am posting this almost a week late, and I feel embarrassed for that. However, the series goes on!

Last time I did a story of the week post, I talked about three books that had a significant impact on my knowledge of English literature. I discussed One Hundred Years of Solitude in great detail and campaigned for people to read it. Now, I will be discussing a more well-known, popular book, I believe. The Great Gatsby is a perennial novel. It transcends its time period and has great importance in American literature. When I read it for the first time, I knew I was reading something special, something great. Gatsby!

Gatsby_1925_jacket

I’m sure almost everyone on WordPress has read this book or have been exposed to it before this post. I’m not sure whether I’ll be able to shed new light on it, but I do want to showcase my appreciation for F. Scott Fitzgerald’s greatest work here.

While although I can summarize the plot fairly quickly, there is much more to be analyzed about the plot within. One of my greatest praises for the book–and one I’m sure others share as well–is how, in its shortness (it rounds out at around 200 pages usually), it manages to create one of the most realistic, intriguing, and complicated scenarios in American literature. A man who has returned from WW2 (Jay Gatsby) seeks to find his pre-war lover again (Daisy Buchanan) and discovers that she lives in New York City with her husband (Tom Buchanan.) He moves to NYC in an effort to rekindle their flame.

At its most basic level, that is the plot of The Great Gatsby: a love story. But it’s also a tale of redemption, economic pursuit, cultural gratification, popularity, the American Dream, and others. I enjoy this book because it seeks to create a simple and understandable narrative with a much more complex thematic and symbolic infrastructure. Because the story is about love, it will stand the test of time. But because the story is about much more than just love, it will be read in literature classes for many more years.

One of the essential structures created by Fitzgerald is the dichotomy of Old Money versus New Money, used symbolically through the novel. This dichotomy was at its most prominent during the Roaring Twenties of American history, when America was supposedly at its economic and cultural peak, and when this novel takes place. Simply put, Old Money represents people who inherited their money and did not work for their wealth. New Money represents people who participate in shady or opportunistic practices in order to make a name for themselves, and to reach wealth. In New York City, the section or town of West Egg is dominated by New Money and East Egg by Old Money. The Buchanans live in East Egg, and Gatsby lives in West Egg. The distinctions are clear, then.

However, with all this said, we are leaving out who, arguably, the story is all about! The narrator! Nick Carraway, the relatively modest neighbor of Gatsby in West Egg, comes from the Midwest to study at Yale. There, he meets Tom Buchanan. Nick is Fitzgerald’s way to epitomize the (somewhat) upper-class shooting for the American dream. Nick, and one other character who I have yet to mention, are America.

When Nick comes East to NYC, he has grand ideas for how successful he may end up becoming. Along the way, he realizes, through a few important events, that the American dream he had been shooting for was a myth, an illusion all along. It was not within his reach because Old Money was always there to blast his dreams to peaces, or perhaps the dreams of some of his friends.

Nick Carraway learns from Gatsby, as he also learns from Buchanan. Because he is friends with both of them, he is capable of seeing through both of their eyes, capable of understanding them. What he discovers by the end of the novel is what makes it all worthwhile. Nick is my personal favorite character in this novel.

George Wilson, a car garage owner in the “Valley of Ashes” (more on that later), is married to Myrtle Wilson. The Wilsons are the other half of the American dream: they represent the lower class attempting to reach impossible heights. George Wilson buys the garage with hopes that he can achieve economic stability and possibly prosperity somehow. However, he is exploited by Tom Buchanan for his cars, while Tom is also having an affair with his wife, Myrtle.

It’s one giant jumbled and complex situation that ultimately goes to show that the American Dream is, in the end, a farce. Fitzgerald believes that so long as Old Money has authority over the world, the presence of New Money will never be respected or successful.

And then there’s Gatsby, the titular character with a knack for economics who ruins his own dreams by believing too much in the power of love in a much-too-civilized world. His life depends on the past, and not on the future.

If you haven’t read The Great Gatsby before, I recommend you pick it up. It’s a perennial classic, and for good reason. It is a Great American Novel in itself. My favorite part of the book is not the complicated plot or anything like that, it is the writing style of Fitzgerald. He writes beautifully. Every sentence he writes feels alive, vibrant. There’s a classic quote on nearly every page.

For those of you who have read the book before, and have studied it diligently, you know that I have left much out of this review. Too much detail and information can, at times, be overwhelming. Especially with this book!

I hope you all enjoyed this latest Story of the Week segment, I know I did! If you’d like, I love to chat with commenters about literature so drop a comment and we can do just that!

Thanks for reading, and until next time!

Story of the Week: “One Hundred Years of Solitude”

one-hundred-years-of-solitude

This is going to be a long one.

Throughout my time reading books, I’ve stumbled upon three that mean the most to me. These books have been, above all else, of paramount significance to me; one has shaped how I read, one has shaped how I write, and one has shaped how I think.

The first book, the one which has shaped how I read, is The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain. The second book is The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. The third one is the masterpiece I’m about to analyze and review here.

You’re probably wondering, how can a story like One Hundred Years of Solitude change how I think?

You probably haven’t read it, then.

The book takes place in the small town of Macondo over the course of one hundred years. The Buendía family settles and resides in this town in the middle of nowhere, expecting prosperity and homeliness. Originally, the settlement has zero contact with the rest of the world. The Buendía family, with its patriarch José Arcadio Buendía, makes this settlement with high, almost utopian hopes after leaving the town of Riohacha. But there is so much more to it than that!

From there on,  José Arcadio Buendía and his wife, Úrsula Iguarán, ensure that the utopian land of Macondo becomes a positive place for their family to be born in and live in. Along the way, many, many new people join the town, and it grows to a point that they had never dreamed of. The town becomes a representation of not just a utopia for their family, but the Latin American world at large. It comes to be a place of immigration, emigration, and innate prosperity all through itself.

Macondo, the setting of the story, is an interesting, confusing place to the people who live there. Rarely does anything stay the same. At its core, it is place where growth occurs. The inhabitants of Macondo seek refuge, but also security and growth. It experiences all that the world has to offer it, in terms of what a story can handle. It changes, progresses, grows, matures, develops, and becomes every bit as real as any other place. The world centers on Macondo.

As a note, because this book takes place over the course of one hundred years, you meet many people with many names. The book chronicles many generations of the Buendía family as they live and prosper, so to speak, in Macondo, which is intended to represent a fictionalized, fantastical version of the country that Gabriel Garcia Marquez grew up in, Columbia. Probably the most confusing and limiting part of the book is the usage of similar names. For example, you meet a host of Aureliano Buendías and José Arcadios, as well as some Aurelianos and Aureliano Josés. It’s a confusing book at first, but you grow into it as you read and immerse yourself further into the story. It is worth your attention to naming, regardless of how confusing it may seem at first. The confusion, even, may add to the reading because of how things may seem to blend together, as they should after a certain point in the book.

Obviously, I admire this book. However, it deserves your attention because of everything it does right. The author, the great Gabriel Garcia Marquez, writes beautifully. A lot of his great, romantic-style writing blends from the translation of the novel from Spanish to English. (If you can read Spanish, it is worth reading as a companion to the English version, I think. I’ve studied Spanish for five-six years and know it reasonably well, and reading both versions has enlightened my perception of the language used in the novel. I recommend that to anyone.) As well, the plot is brilliant. It delves into political complexities, emotional and familiar controversies, the magical and mystical fantasies of the people, and more. It studies the way people behave, human nature, the nature of a community, Jungian & Freudian psychology, theological studies, postcolonialism, imperialism, impressionism, modernism, postmodernism, family structures, militarism, and an innumerable amount of other ways to perceive it. In the end, though, the story is about the nature of solitude and isolation. Everything else, then, stems from that. A study of one seemingly simple concept turns into a study of the entire human race in a masterful, almost mystical story of a family that’s just trying to live.

In fact, a few people from the class I studied this novel in originally had written a paper and presented a thesis proclaiming that Marquez illustrates Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity, the Big-Bang theory, and includes studies of black holes. It was so convincing that it floored me. With an author like Marquez, anything is possible.

Marquez writes in a way akin to many of the other writers of the Latin American Boom of the 1960s: he writes about the magical, but portrays it in such a matter-of-fact, realistic way that it seems every bit as real as anything else you read in the novel. The term magic realism stems mostly from Marquez’s writing because of its popularity to readers.

Magic realism is astounding at first, but it will grow on you as you read it. I recommend reading a few of Marquez’s short stories to get a hold of his writing, too, if you have the time and motivation to truly understand this man’s genius.

In the end, One Hundred Years of Solitude holds a special place in my mind when it comes to literature. If I have hyped it enough for you, I hope you get the chance to read it as well. It’s worth your time, I’m sure. If not, perhaps in the future you will read it!

Until then, that’s all for now. If you’ve read the book before and would like to chat about it, drop a comment and I’ll gladly talk more!

Next week…Gatsby! Stay tuned, folks. See you next time.

Story of the Week: “Benito Cereno”

Story of the Week is a new feature I’ll be running here! Here’s the idea: I’m fairly sure that I read more than the average person nowadays, so why not record those readings on this blog? Reading is a great part of my major, my interests, and my life, so it fits seamlessly into the rest of my activities. Who can deny the unique feelings exuded from reading a great story? I’ll be recording my experiences reading great stories and explain why you all should read them, too!

melville_pic

Herman Melville

Avid readers and students of literature should easily recognize this legendary American storyteller, Herman Melville, with utmost appreciation, respect, and reverence (in my humble opinion). After having read Moby Dick in full twice, I ventured into other Melvillean  stories, such as Bartleby and Benito Cereno. Unfortunately, I finished Bartleby weeks ago and had not had this blog around that time so I was unable to record my feelings toward that story! However, I finished Benito Cereno today.

Not many would claim Melville to be the most audacious and diversified of authors: while he is a unique storyteller, most of his stories share the same style and idea. Cereno captures the seafaring tales of Moby Dick and the barefaced, mundane essence of Bartleby into one. At times, the story can drag, but it is a short one that is worth the time spent reading if not only for the ending and the mysterious reveal midway through the story.

The story of Cereno is simple. A Massachusetts whaling ship captain (sound familiar?) named Amasa Delano, who is traveling in his Bachelor’s Delight at the beginning of the story, meets the master of the San Dominick named Don Benito Cereno off the coast of Santa Maria. Captain Delano visits the San Dominick and observes much of the activity going on around the decrepit ship. Delano is confused by the state of the suffering ship. He wonders much about Don Benito and his captaining skills, but nonetheless urges the crew of the San Dominick that he will help their ship return to form. Don Benito is constantly accompanied by his young black slave named Babo, as well.  Mystery, suspicion, and secrecy pervades Don Benito’s atmosphere, as Delano mentions throughout his time meeting with him. Slowly but surely, the story tenses and much of the plot thickens. Without directly spoiling anything, I can remark that Melville puts his all into this story to startle the reader. While the story may seem dry through the first half, the second half picks up rapidly and leaves the reader with a more than satisfying ending to boot. The first half’s dryness begins to make sense, and it all comes together brilliantly!

Benito Cereno is written with attention to detail and hypothetical imaginations; essentially, it is Melville. While I won’t say that this is his best story – that’s his greatest work, Moby Dick, by a great margin simply because of its astounding significance to American literature – Melville shines here, as he always has. 

I had an entertaining time reading this story. I recommend that the readers of this blog check it out if they haven’t already. Apparently, most people have read this story in high school once in their lives. Being younger than most students of literature, I can see that this post may be bringing up unfortunate memories of having been forced to read this inconceivable story during your sophomore year. If you were in that situation, I pity you! The story is a demanding one. However, if you are familiar with Melville, you won’t find this story to be too difficult of a read. While it may be a bit more difficult than Bartleby, it’s the same as Moby Dick in style. It’s about 80 pages in my edition, which is not very long from my experience of reading stories.

Try it! Read it! Experience the story!

Next week, I’ll be talking about One Hundred Years of Solitude in detail while I read my next story, which I won’t unveil just yet! Solitude is a beautifully written novel by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, who I wrote about in a previous post here. More people need to experience it.

Rest in Peace, Chinua Achebe

chinua-achebe

On March 21st, 2013, great author Chinua Achebe died in his home. He was 82 years old, and a legendary author of his time. I have not read his works, but I know many who have been touched by his acclaimed novel, Things Fall Apart.

This post comes a little late. He died three days prior to today, but as an aspiring writer I am more than obligated to pay homage where homage is certainly due. The time of a post should not dictate the significance of it.

I have read the novella Heart of Darkness. Much of the controversy surrounding the novella stems from Chinua Achebe’s harsh, intellectual criticisms. When Achebe published Things Fall Apart, the possibilities for literary criticism about this novella exploded. In my opinion, both works are significant and great. This man deserves your respect, especially after death. He has mine.

Inspiration from Wordsworth!

uewb_10_img0734

To my followers and readers, you’ll soon understand that I enjoy and respect a variety of different writers for their talents and influence on me. I recently wrote a post wishing Gabriel Garcia Marquez a happy 86th birthday, and now I want to examine another great writer, but from a different time period. William Wordsworth, who wrote primarily in the 19th century, co-developed the Romantic literary movement with Samuel Coleridge. As poets, they sought to restore the world back to nature, to re-examine the things we take for granted, and to appreciate the world blooming around us. However, this movement grew around the time of the Industrial Revolution. One can view Romanticism as a backlash against Industrialism. It was a battle of human development versus nature itself.

William Wordsworth wrote one of my all-time favorite sonnets in iambic pentameter about the subject of nature and its place in a human-dominated world. I would like to share this poem with everyone, for many may have forgotten it. Although it applied the most in the time of the Industrial Revolution, its significance does not diminish over the course of time, for humanity has continued to industrialize and materialize through time.

As well, I would like to point out that this sonnet served as inspiration for my other poem, “Down the River”. I had been reading from Wordsworth in English class while I wrote it.

And now, for the sonnet: “The World Is Too Much With Us”. Enjoy!

The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
This Sea that bares her bosom to the moon,
The winds that will be howling at all hours,
And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers,
For this, for everything, we are out of tune;
It moves us not. –Great God! I’d rather be
A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn;
So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;
Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;
Or hear old Triton blow his wreathèd horn.
 

I hope you all continue to appreciate nature. What is your interpretation of this great sonnet by Wordsworth? I’d love to hear what people have to say regarding it.

Happy Birthday Gabo!

Today is a significant day in the world of literature. Today marks the 86th birthday of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1982. If you have ever had the pleasure to read one of Gabo’s great works, you should easily recognize the importance of this man. In my opinion, he ranks as one of the greatest writers of the past century. While in recent years he has been suffering from dementia, Marquez should be recognized for his amazing contributions to literature. He epitomizes greatness. His legacy is enormous, and will continue to grow as more readers discover his works. I hope that other writers will be able to share in my appreciation of this writer’s works.

tumblr_m7z6x2aG9l1qlc0voo1_400

So, what’s the significance of this author to me? Well, simply put, he made me want to study literature more deeply than I ever had before. The complexity of his works astounded me. Never since Faulkner have I encountered an author so profound and ascertainable yet brilliant all the same. After reading One Hundred Years of Solitude, I was convinced that I had read the greatest achievement in literary history. What a novel! It has so much untapped meaning and so many possibilities for interpretation. The perspectives that people in my class were able to take in understanding the novel surprised me but made my experience in reading all the sweeter. Ever since reading that novel, I have regarded Gabo as an extraordinarily complex and unique author that everyone should have the experience of reading from. You owe yourselves to pick up one of his books. He deserves all the praise that he is given.

And, to end this post meaningfully, I will enclose a quote from Solitude that I believe best illustrates Marquez’s writing and ideas:

“He dug so deeply into her sentiments that in search of interest he found love, because by trying to make her love him he ended up falling in love with her. Petra Cotes, for her part, loved him more and more as she felt his love increasing, and that was how in the ripeness of autumn she began to believe once more in the youthful superstition that poverty was the servitude of love. Both looked back then on the wild revelry, the gaudy wealth, and the unbridled fornication as an annoyance and they lamented that it had cost them so much of their lives to find the paradise of shared solitude. Madly in love after so many years of sterile complicity, they enjoyed the miracle of living each other as much at the table as in bed, and they grew to be so happy that even when they were two worn-out people they kept on blooming like little children and playing together like dogs.”