Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Independent Reading Posts: The Alchemist

While reading the first section of the novel I noticed that perhaps Coelho is questioning religion. He seems to be questioning religion in the sense that he is doubtful about its use in finding God and personal fulfillment. On page 10 the narrator reveals one of Santiago’s thoughts about religion: “I couldn’t have found God in the seminary.” This shows how structured theology and structured religious instruction may not allow a person to find God, therefore stressing that one must make a personal, freer effort to find God. Coelho also seems to criticize religion when the narrator mentions the image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus that was in the dream interpreter’s room on page 11. The woman interprets the dream the best of her abilities and then asks for ten percent of Santiago’s treasure. The atmosphere in the woman’s house doesn’t mesh with the religious images that are present. The woman not only lacks a sufficient interpretation but then greedily asks for a treasure that hasn’t even been discovered yet. She is a somewhat shady and greedy character that relies on supernatural perhaps magical methods. So to have religious figures around, the author, in a way, devalues religion.

Coelho expresses much social commentary in this section. The narrator describes on page 16 how people think they know what is best for others yet never for themselves. This message is definitely relatable to today’s society and gives the novel a philosophical quality. He again criticizes society on page 23 when the King of Salem describes how society establishes false connotations about people and how these connotations stop people from fulfilling their dreams. Overall it seems that he is trying to stress ideas of individualism and fulfilling one’s own expectations rather than those of society.

Going along with the theme of society, the theme of maintaining an image is prevalent as well. On page 19 Santiago doesn’t want to ask where the kingdom of Salem “fearing that he would appear ignorant”. Santiago also made up stories to impress the merchant’s daughter which we find out on page 17. Coelho is establishing a theme about image perhaps in order to express its negative effects later in the reader. As of right now Santiago is characterized as a person who feels pressured to maintain and image in order to be accepted and to protect his character.

To respond to Mary’s first post before I read your post I too thought it would be interesting to read another of Coelho’s novels. The only problem that may occur is that it would be hard to contrast techniques and writing style if we use the same author. Anyway I definitely noticed that Santiago represents a Christ figure. The flock of sheep lead the reader to this conclusion, but also the way the King of Salem sends Santiago on a journey which reflects how God sent Jesus to Earth. This again emphasizes the religious undertones of the novel so far. To respond to Alinne I too noticed the name thing and again the names reflect the religious theme of the novel.

December 7, 2008 10:44 AM

Blog 2 ,Pgs. 48-79

First I’d like to express my opinions of the novel so far. The novel is full of philosophical meaning and deeper messages that explore issues in life. The problem is that these messages are too obvious and cliché for my taste. It is apparent to the reader what the Personal Legend is meant to represent, one’s true destiny, the destiny that will provide ultimate fulfillment. The theme of following one’s dreams without allowing anything to deter the person, is simply too obvious. One several occasions the narrator and other characters will say profound statements or adages like “Sometimes, there’s just no way to hold back the river” (59), meaning that sometimes people cannot stomp out their desires. The people that Santiago is encountering seem a bit too wise. These proverbs that are being used hither and thither don’t give the reader much of a challenge. As a reader I want to be given the chance to decipher the message.

Another point of irritation is that there are too many of these profound themes to follow, including following one’s dreams, destiny and fate, beginner’s luck, change, listening to nature, omens, and the universal language. I guess all of the themes are interconnected but it sure is overwhelming for me as a reader to try and comprehend each of these themes. Also, it seems like Coelho is trying to achieve too much, he’s trying to get too many messages across. He should have limited the number of themes and symbols he used. But that’s just my opinion; maybe I’m missing his point…

To Mary, you mention the theme of oneness. I interpreted this “oneness” to mean individuality meaning oneness with oneself. That being said, I do see what you’re saying. It does appear that Coelho is unifying nature, God, and people. This concept does clash a bit with my post on section one because I interpreted Coelho to be denouncing societal unity in the sense that individuals shouldn’t assimilate to society. I may be confusing assimilation with unity by using these terms interchangeably. Switching gears, Mary’s point on the crystal merchant, is interesting. The merchant serves as an example of someone who has put his dreams on hold and has reached a comfort zone without reaching his dream. The merchant teaches Santiago this lesson. Later when Santiago convinces him to follow his purpose in life, the merchant experiences great success. Again this shows the benefits of leaving comfort zones in pursuit of greater happiness and success. The namelessness of the merchant emphasizes that he is simply an example and allows the reader to focus on the deeper message that he reveals.

December 7, 2008 11:21 AM

Blog 3, Pgs. 80-104

In this section birds, especially hawks are mentioned. After doing some casual research, I found that hawks were frequently used in Arabia for hunting and in ancient Egypt they were directly related with the human soul. This is interesting because in The Alchemist Santiago’s soul seems to be in accord with nature including the hawks which serve as omens and the hawks help him to “hunt” down his dream. Changing topics, in this section Coelho appears to criticize love. He pits love against one’s Personal legend. Although the Englishman mentions that without love dreams would have no meaning, it is apparent that Coelho also wants to express that lave shouldn’t stop person from achieving their dreams. This becomes clear on page 97 when the Santiago thinks, “Love required [the shepherds] to stay with the people they loved”. Since so much of the novel is based on the idea of movement in achieving dreams, I concluded that Coelho is criticizing love that holds are person back from their goals, love that creates a premature comfort zone.
Another topic I want to address is the setting, specifically the setting of this section. The arid desert is contrasted with the lush oasis. The oasis is located in the center of the desert, at the center of chaos. There is war and uninhabitable conditions in the desert. The oasis in contrast, is a war free zone where people have settled. Therefore I’ve concluded that the desert represents the hardships that stand in one’s way on the journey to their dreams. The oasis represents the comfortable zone where people remain due to fear of facing hardships to achieve their goals.

Responding to Mary’s third post, she mentions “The Englishman follows the rules of the book in order to achieve his dreams while Santiago follows the instinct in his heart…”. This is a great observation. This conclusion was totally over my head, as I couldn’t really figure out the role of the Englishman. Coelho is using the Englishman to compare to Santiago, which in turn compares the methods used to reach one’s goals. This message could be interpreted to mean that using other’s interpretations and information (which is symbolized by the books) is less successful than following one’s own heart. In response to Alinne’s third post, you make a good point when you say “The purpose of reaching a Personal Legend is to experience”. We therefore can say that the experience is symbolized by “the journey”. I agree with Mary’s suggestion, perhaps we can focus on this theme when choosing the second book. Alinne’s brings up another interesting point: one only needs three persons to achieve their Personal Legend. It’s a creative philosophy and is a bit radical but I think that Coelho is laying out that suggestion so that we as readers can apply it to our own contexts. Not to be facetious, but this novel is similar to a motivational speaker. Maybe that is the mood that Coelho wanted to achieve.

December 7, 2008 12:32 PM

Blog 4, Pgs. 104-138

The alchemist arrives riding on a horse dressed in all black. Due to the religious undertones, I immediately related this scene to the Book of Revelation in the Bible, specifically the part about the four horsemen. Because this book is full of religious allusions, I decided that it maybe this is what the alchemist in black symbolized, but honestly I don’t know how to connect the idea any further than that. In the Bible the four horsemen are indicative of evil and hardship. The alchemist on the other hand is Santiago’s guide and is a righteous, wise character. Perhaps the alchemist is related to the horsemen and the Book of Revelations in the sense that he reveals his wisdom to Santiago and he indicates the beginning of imminent hardships on Santiago’s journey. This connection may be a bit of a stretch but I though it was worth mentioning. Oh just remembered, to back up this argument on page 132 the narrator says, “It is said that the darkest hour of the night came just before the dawn”. This reflects the idea of hardship during the apocalypse that the Book of Revelation mentions. Then after this time of turmoil, eternal paradise will be achieved.

Love is brought up again in this section. Coelho points out that love, although it seems like the ultimate treasure, may be a false dream. Santiago argues that Fatima is his greatest treasure and the alchemist rebuts by saying, “She wasn’t found at the Pyramids…”(115). Since Santiago’s treasure is at the Pyramids, there is no way Fatima was truly the treasure. On page 120 the alchemist then says that “…love never keeps a man from pursuing his Personal Legend. If he abandons that pursuit it’s because it wasn’t true love…the love that speaks the Language of the World”. Here, the idea that true love allows personal fulfillment to be reached first, is stressed.
Coelho separates the idea of life and fate. These two elements are often seen as the same: one’s life is one’s fate. Here Coelho defies that belief. The alchemist tells Santiago, “Later, we simply let life proceed, in its own direction, towards its own fate”. So it seems as if life will just roll by when a person choose to allow it to do so. The difference between life and fate is that a person can choose their fate by taking control and taking action, in the same way that Santiago is reaching his Personal Legend. If a person doesn’t take some control then life will take control and lead the person to another, perhaps undesired, fate. It is also interesting that Coelho separates life from the person. Generally, we think that life and a person are the same thing or at work in unison. Here Coelho separates them to show that we must strip away every part of our being to understand our true “Personal Legends” or destinies.

To add a quick note, on page 135 when Santiago asks who the heart helps the alchemist responds by saying “…they do help children, drunkards, and the elderly, too”. All of these groups have one thing in common: they are all naïve to a certain degree. Since the heart dictates the emotions maybe Coelho is saying that the naive allow their emotions to dictate their choices or their lives. Just a thought.

In Mary’s third post she makes a thought-provoking point. I noticed the role of women in the book but I chose to not give it much thought. To answer her question, the book would definitely have a different effect if some of the gender roles were reversed. Women appear to have simple, similar, and trivial Personal Legends in the book. All the women of the oasis have the same goal while the men seem to have more dynamic dreams. After all of the talk about not letting anything stop one’s personal legend, it does seem that the book becomes hypocritical when it discusses women’s dreams. Also, I agree that there is definitely a double-standard in society. Women are somewhat berated for abandoning the family to pursue her dreams.

I find a lot of the themes in Coelho’s book contradictory. Mary mentions that “asking others for their opinions and advice only steer us to more confusion”. While I can see how this is apparent in the book, especially because asking for advice can steer someone looking to achieve his/her Personal Legend in the wrong direction. I mention in my first post that the idea of individualism is present throughout the book. At the same time Santiago meets and gets advice from several characters on his journey. He uses their advice to gain his own personal success. Since both sides of the argument are present, Coelho may be trying to say that listening to advice is helpful and necessary as long as it doesn’t detract from one’s Personal Legend.

December 7, 2008 1:33 PM

Blog 4, Pgs. 138-167

In this section Santiago finds his treasure. It happens to be at the ruined church, the exact place where the story started. This definitely emphasizes the idea that the journey was the more important than the treasure. Santiago learns so much important philosophical information on his quest, information that he would have learned if he didn’t set out to get his treasure. If he would have been informed about the location of the treasure from the beginning then he would have had no need to take the journey. Therefore he would have not gained the valuable knowledge that he learned along the way. He would have also missed out on true love. An significant question to consider is: What was Santiago’s the Personal Legend, the gold treasure or the wisdom that he gained along the way?

As for my opinion on the book and the ending, I did enjoy reading this novel despite some elements of the book that I disagreed with and disliked. The book effectively keeps the reader’s attention due to its mystical quality and suspense. The journey allows the reader want to keep reading in order to find out what the end of the journey has to offer. Overall, I found this book interesting and appreciated its use of mystical themes.

To address Mary’s post about the books purpose, I think we can all agree that the most obvious purpose concerns the journey to one’s dreams. She mentions, “I feel as though Coelho is showing his audience the true importance of one’s dreams is the journey to achieve it”. I totally agree. All of the little themes of the book combine to form this all-encompassing theme. In one of my previous post I mentioned my conclusion and overwhelmed feeling due to the abundance of little philosophical themes. Although I still feel that there were too many little themes to keep track of, I do now see that they all contributed to create the importance of the journey. I also agree with Alinne when she says that the journey allows the adventurer to mature in order to handle the treasure of their Personal Legend. Along Santiago’s journey he learns a lot about handling money which in turn allows him to be able to handle having the treasure. Like Mary said, it’s funny that this is the theme that Mr. G suggested; it was as if we took our own circular journey in search of a theme while reading this book.

December 7, 2008 2:23 PM

Tom Phillips: Explicating A Humument (Final Step)

On page 136 of Tom Phillips' A Humument, Phillips questions love’s supposed complexity and significance through his use of wordplay and a visual metaphor. In order to enhance the clarity of his message he strategically uses dynamic, contrasting colors that emphasize important aspects of his illustration. These elements combine to create a general message about questioning established assumptions.

Phillips uses a pun as the foundation of the page’s message. From this word play, the visual metaphor is developed. The word play deals with the word “love-match” which has a dual meaning in the context of the page. Normally one would interpret “love-match to mean a romantic compatibility between two persons. According to Phillips’s illustration, the word “love-match” is metaphorically depicted as actual lighted matches. This play on words allows the reader to draw parallels between the nature of a simple, tangible object, the match, and the nature of complex and abstract concept, love. The unusual nature of the wordplay further reflects the idea of questioning established assumptions. The initial, accepted interpretation of the word “love-match” is completely disregarded and an unusual interpretation is used instead. Also, wordplay can be seen as rather humorous literary technique. Humor lessens the seriousness of the subject, in this case love, therefore Phillips questions the assumed seriousness or significance of love. Overall, the word play introduces the basic theme of the page while supporting the other elements of the argument.

Arguably the most apparent feature of the page is the visual metaphor. The illustration of matches on the page symbolically reflects the idea of love discussed in the text. This metaphor is multifaceted and therefore serves several purposes. Again, the greater theme of the page is concerns comparing the tangible with the abstract, the simple with the complex. Matches are rather insignificant, discardable objects that eventually burn out. This suggests that love eventually will “burn out” as well and that love is also insignificant. Matches are simple objects too, insinuating that perhaps love is not as complex as assumed. It is clear that the matches symbolize love not only by the clear play on words but by less obvious visual elements. More specifically love’s unifying nature is exemplified through the illustration therefore allowing the viewer to conclude that the matches symbolize the nature of love. Generally, that fact that the illustration directly reflects the text gives the page a coherent and unified quality. The illustration represents the exactly what the text is describing, allowing the message of unification and parallelism to be clearly presented and emphasized. This theme of unification is also seen in the placement of the matches. The two matches are parallel to each other with significant distance between them. This was done in order to stress the disunity or solitary nature of two persons before they experience love. The smoke rises from both matches and begins to merge at the top of the page, symbolizing the unification that love induces. Since smoke has a flowing and unifying quality it is an ideal symbol for love. Visually, the viewer is able to see the comparison between love and the matches which makes the message clearer and more effective.

The colors in the illustration strategically direct the viewer’s attention to specific aspects of the picture. This puts emphasis on the message presented on the page. Phillips chooses to use the dynamic colors, orange and yellow, in order to direct attention to the rising smoke (or perhaps flames) produced by the matches. The vibrant colors against the pale green background draw the viewer’s attention to aspects of the illustration that symbolize aspects of the nature of love. The colors simply emphasize the comparison and make it more apparent to the viewer.

Perhaps by choosing such a metaphor, Phillips is trying to say that love is not as important as society makes it out to be. Love is obviously held in high esteem and seen as complex and would rarely be compared to tangible objects as trivial and simple as matches. The comparison is humorous and quite extreme which suggests that Phillips was trying to portray a radical message. Looking past love, perhaps Phillips is using this specific metaphor to draw attention to a broader idea. He could be suggesting the importance of questioning established thought. The techniques that he utilized on this page effectively suggest this message.

December 3, 2008 1:19 AM

Independent Reading Posts: Siddhartha

Part 1 A

When reading Siddhartha I immediately noticed the flowery use of language. Anaphora is the more apparent technique that Hesse uses. The anaphora is reflective of the subject matter. Buddhism and nature, two of the novels major themes so far, are subjects that tend to be flowery and dramatic. Therefore the use of a technique such as anaphora helps create this quality; it establishes the tone of the novel and subject matter. There are also several series of rhetorical questions. These questions are used to characterize Siddhartha as an inquiring mind or perhaps a confused person in need of guidance. When I noticed the frequency of Siddhartha’s questioning I immediately connected to the Greek philosophical figure Socrates. The Socratic idea of questioning established beliefs and the rejection of blind faith is apparent in the beginning of this novel, more specifically in the characterization of Siddhartha. I just find it interesting how this novel, a novel concerning a completely different culture and religion, can relate to ancient Greek philosophy. Both the themes in Siddhartha and in The Alchemist have this universal quality.

On pages 10 and 11 the heart is mentioned several times. The heart is the source of feelings, intuition and decisions according to these two pages. This further supports the idea of individualism that Hesse establishes. Since the heart is seen as the representation of the Self, the individual, Hesse is trying to establish the idea that one’s heart should determine one’s goals. Hesse pits blind faith and listening to one’s heart against each other. This is clear when Hesse contrasts Govinda and Siddhartha. Govinda immediately follows Buddha while Siddhartha listens to his heart and sets off on his own journey. Just to be more specific, Hesse is comparing blind faith with individualism.

Part 1 B

Responding to Mary’s post 1A, I agree that the anaphora and other repetition is used too frequently to the point where as a reader you feel like Hesse is overemphasizing his point. Also the continuous anaphora gives the text an elevated and overly dramatic tone. While this may establish the tone for the novel, it can become quite distracting for the reader. As for how I feel about Siddhartha, I do agree that he can be rather arrogant, but I do appreciate that he is following what his own being tells him rather than simply accepting what others say. Continuing on the idea I presented in part 1A, I think Hesse characterizes Siddhartha in this specific way in order to present and support the message about blind faith and self-fulfillment. Finally, Mary brought up a great point that I initially overlooked. When comparing Siddhartha and Santiago you mentioned that Santiago left his herd and Siddhartha left his father and the Samanas. Perhaps both authors are making statements about individualism. Leaving the family and companions that one has seems to be the only way to achieve one’s true goal. Both authors could be saying that such people get in the way or totally stop one from reaching their personal goals.

December 23, 2008 10:29 AM

Part 2 A

In this section I thought it the role of nature vs. society was rather interesting. Siddhartha was a Samana who lived in the forest. Here he was being thought spiritual lessons. Here he was gaining substantial religious knowledge but apparently it wasn’t enough to satisfy him. Siddhartha leaves the forest, this place of knowledge, to pursue the type of knowledge he desires. He goes to a grove in what seems to be a town to pursue such knowledge. He even shaves his beard and promises to get new clothes to wear for Kamala’s sake. Sorry for summarizing but my point is that it is unusual that he would enter society and take on societal values in order to find peace and enlightenment. Typically characters in these types of novels escape to the forest and into nature to find self-fulfillment. Hesse may be trying to compare the types of fulfillment: fulfillment one acquires in society versus fulfillment in nature. Nature is used in an opposite way in The Alchemist when Santiago tries to become one with nature and to understand the universal language of nature, in order to achieve his personal goals.

A quick side note. I looked up the name Siddhartha on Wikipedia and it said that that name was the former first name of Gautama Buddha more commonly known simply as Buddha, the creator of Buddhism. It is interesting that this is Siddhartha’s name when another Buddha is mentioned. Which is the real Buddha? I’m confused. Is this novel about the Buddha and are there more than one persons named Buddha, is Buddha simply a common title?

Part 2 B

I agree with Mary that Siddhartha seems to be shedding his old self during his journey. I feel that he is stripping down the layers of his personality in order to discover his true self, the self that is the core of his being. This again goes along with the theme of achieving individualism that I mentioned in my previous posts. The importance of one’s “Self” is stresses so far in the novel and in order to reach one’s purest form, one must rid themselves of the superfluous details of his or her life. This is what Siddhartha is doing.

To respond to your prediction I do see what you are saying. It does seem like Siddhartha is working backwards to achieve his goal. This seems to be an ideal book choice because it contrasts, in this way, well with the journey in The Alchemist.

Finally, I agree that Siddhartha is becoming increasingly arrogant. His greedy character is showing through much more like on page 69 when Siddhartha is eating “everybody’s bread” and when the narrator says that Siddhartha “was never concerned about Kamaswami’s troubles”. Mary brought up a good point, I find it ironic that Siddhartha is trying to influence others to think like him, when he initially embarked on this journey because he didn’t want to be influenced by other’s thoughts anymore.

December 23, 2008 11:15 AM

What Would Charles Olson Say?

In the interview with Elizabeth Alexander, Colbert posed simple questions about poetry, and although the simplicity of the questions was used as a comedic technique, these questions were so simple that they proved powerful and ironically insightful. The first of the series of comical questions was “Poems aren’t true are they?” To which Alexander responded by explaining that poems are not “strictly factual” but are “emotionally true” and “true to the language that [they have]”. If Olson was asked this same question he most likely would have agreed with Alexander’s response. According to his essay Projective Verse, Olson did believe poems to reflect true, sincere feelings. When explaining how a line of poetry is formed he writes that lines develop from “the HEART, by way of the BREATH, to the LINE” The heart, being the source of true emotion, is responsible for producing poetry. Therefore the poetry produced is true. Looking at this question through Olson’s eyes, it is important to recall that Olson often referred to producing poetry as a transfer of energy. Taking that point into consideration, it is only logical that if honest emotional energy from the heart is transferred to poetry then that poetry is honest as well. Also, according to the film, Polis Is This by Ferrini, Olson’s intent was to get readers to understand the dire effects of industrialization in Gloucester and the pivotal role of the average citizen. When discussing such topics, topics that were taken with apparent seriousness, Olson spoke and wrote with honesty, would never have reason to lie. So according to Alexander and probably Olson as well, the emotional truth in poems is what makes them “true” as opposed to the adherence to factual information.

The second question was phrased in a simple manner similar to the first: “What’s the difference between a metaphor and a lie?” Alexander’s response was that metaphors are comparisons that allow readers to understand a greater idea in relation to something else. Colbert then argues, “Why don’t you say what you mean?” If Olson was present for this interview he may have responded to this question by first agreeing with Alexander’s basic explanation of a metaphor. Then he may have defended the use of metaphors, a technique he uses in his poems, Maximus of Gloucester, To You and The Song of Maximus, by explaining that lies are an act of dishonesty and do not help a reader understand poetry, while metaphors are used with the intent to help not deceive.

As for Olson’s thoughts and opinions on Alexander’s work, although their writing techniques were rather different, Olson perhaps would have appreciated Alexander’s poetry more for its themes rather than its form or delivery. In Alexander’s poem Praise Song for the Day, her thoughts on the everyday life and role of the common citizen in relation to his or her surroundings, history, and context are prevalent. Olson’s poetry tended to focus on locality and the life of the common citizen. That being said, when it comes to the question of how he’d respond to Elizabeth Alexander’s poem Praise Song for the Day, Olson would appreciate certain aspects of this poem because the theme of “the citizen” is retained. For example, Alexander writes,

A woman and her son wait for the bus.
A farmer considers the changing sky.
A teacher says, Take out your pencils. Begin.

These lines simply demonstrate the daily routines of citizens and the continuing daily action that Olson discusses in his essay, Projective Verse. Olson writes, “ONE PERCEPTION MUST IMMEDIATELY AND DIRECTLY LEAD TO A FURTHER PERCEPTION.” Alexander’s work reflects this thought technically in the sense that she maintains a continuous flow of action. She mentions the pair waiting for the bus, the farmer and then the teacher, one after another in a continuous manner. This is exemplary of Olson’s idea of immediate connections between perceptions. Also, in some parts of her poem Alexander’s use of commas reflects this idea as well. The idea of parts constituting a whole is an idea shared by both poets. In her poem, Alexander uses the word “we”, mentions the idea of individuals existing together in America, and love transcending “marital, filial, national” relationships. All of these ideas focus on the greater idea of citizenship and the togetherness that comes with such citizenship. In Olson’s essay he discusses how the “part of a whole parts come together to make a whole like the community”. Both poets address similar topics and therefore Olson would have enjoyed that aspect of Alexander’s poem. Finally, similarities in the use of imagery, particularly sound imagery, are present in both Olson’s Maximus of Gloucester, To You and Alexander’s poem. In Praise Song for the Day she writes:

All about us is noise. All about us is
noise and bramble, thorn and din, each
one of our ancestors on our tongues.

While he writes:

The fixed bells rang, their voices
came like boats over the oil-slicks,
like milkweed hulls

Olson uses sounds to describe the city around him and to metaphorically describe a larger idea. Alexander does the same in her poem. Therefore, taking the similarities between the two excerpts into consideration, Olson would have appreciated the use of sound imagery in Alexander’s poem.

Olson’s presence would have allowed viewers to gain interesting insight on the topics presented, but his death prevented such opportunity. As for Alexander, she addressed the questions with a simplicity that helped the viewer understand her point. And although differing in style, both poets provide somewhat similar insight of the world around them, from the viewpoint of a citizen.

February 2, 2009 7:37 AM

The Research Paper Step 4: Picture Description

The Banksy Flower

When looking at this image the first that captured my eye was obviously the large yellow flower on the wall. This was clearly meant to be the focal point of the artwork. This fact is interesting within itself because it causes the viewer to question why Banksy would want this image emphasized. The flower, since the sixties, has been a symbol of peace. It allows serves as a symbol of nature and innocence. This symbol is put on a street or urban background perhaps to show the contrast or to call for peace or environmental awareness. It could also serve as a reminder of carefree innocence, an idea often lost in the often cold city. Also the size of the flower is enormous. This clearly puts emphasis on the image and could serve to stress the artist’s message. The fact that Banksy decided to draw a flower in an urban environment could be making a statement about urbanization versus nature. The flower is yellow obviously to match the color of the street lines but the interpretation of the color is interesting. On the street, the lines which are color yellow do not induce feelings of happiness until the lines are shaped into a flower. Yellow is characteristically a bright color associated with happiness. One aspect of the picture that I noticed was the subtle curve in the two lines just before they begin to shape the flower. I cannot determine what purpose this would serve but it may be to separate the street lines from the flower lines. Another aspect of the flower includes how the two lines on the street merge to create one holistic image. Therefore one could conclude that the lines are used to show continuation and unity. Concerning the medium, the idea of a flower and what it represents clashes with ideas of graffiti. The flower appears have been done with a spray paint can due to the visible dripping. This creates an interesting contrast to the point where the viewer all most forgets that they are looking at graffiti. The subjects matter clashes with the medium.

As for the surroundings, the wall, besides the flower is beige and rather plain. The flower adds both beauty and intrigue to the normally ignored and simple wall. Banksy could have wanted to draw attention to the area by beautifying it in his own way. The street background or location is contrasted with the conspicuous, huge, bright yellow flower. The difference between the city and nature is showcased. The location that the flower is drawn in seems to be a city but at the same time, residential. This could show a certain degree of disrespect or what critics would call “vandalism”. The location may have been chosen for a bit of shock value since graffiti is not exactly accepted in residential neighborhoods.

After noticing the enormous flower, with closer observation I observed a drawing of a painter next to the flower. The painter is sitting on a bucket holding a long paint brush with yellow paint on one end. The painter is dressed in casual street clothes with a mask across his face. The flower in comparison with the drawing of the spray painter is huge; therefore the emphasis is put on the flower while the emphasis on the painter is detracted. Also Banksy chose to draw a painter in the first place. We all know that Banksy created this piece of artwork so why draw in a painter? Perhaps he wanted to take the attention away from him, maybe the painter serves to symbolize how the artist is minimalized in comparison with his or her artwork, or maybe it was done just to add cleverness to the artwork.

As for the emotions that the image invokes, there exists an array of possible reactions. For me I saw the flower, its color and size included, as a playful, humorous and overall jovial piece of artwork. The amateurish style of the flower specifically brings ideas of childhood innocence to mind. This is contrasted with the painter who appears to be at least, a teenager and who looks rather serious. When looked at more seriously, the flower, as I stated before, could be calling for peace or environmental awareness and in this case gives off a vibe of unity and social awareness.

February 23, 2009 7:35 AM

Hamlet Video Blog Hamlet Act 3 Scene 1

Based on the acting, setting, and other cinematic elements the best portrayal of Hamlet’s state of mind during his famous soliloquy is the first video clip featuring Laurence Olivier. This scene focuses on Hamlet’s mounting confusion and madness. By simply reading the text one most likely would expect such a scene to be quite dramatic and serious due to the soliloquy’s subject matter. Laurence Olivier brilliantly captured the emotions, tone and overall mood of the soliloquy in his depiction.

Each video uses various techniques to convey a unique interpretation of Hamlet’s soliloquy but the first video uses many cinematic techniques collaboratively to produce an interesting interpretation. The first video clip featuring Laurence Olivier emphasizes setting and uses it in a strategic manner to reflect Hamlet’s mood. The scene opens with shots of the roaring ocean and later the scene transitions to Hamlet sitting upon a cliff over the ocean. The physical set mirrors Hamlet’s words “Or to take arms against a sea of troubles” (81). Interestingly, his figurative language is interpreted literally here. The stormy environment is symbolic of the conflict and uncertainty of the situation and the fact that the violent waves wait below Hamlet foreshadows impending disaster, a disaster implied by the lines “The heartache, and the thousand natural shocks/That flesh is heir to” (81). The idea that great trouble in life is inevitable is expressed through those lines and through the symbolic ocean. Continuing on the subject of setting, Hamlet is constantly surrounded by what appears to be clouds or fog which is again symbolic of Hamlet’s his uncertainty about his situation. From his famous opening lines “To be, or not to be, that is the question” (81), it is clear that Hamlet is in a state of deep contemplation. The setting aids in expressing this point. Hamlet’s sits alone on a cliff for a portion of the scene before finally walking about. His physical isolation is reflective of his internal or mental isolation. The setting contributes to the effective interpretation of the scene and shows that the scene is multifaceted.

As for the actor, his delivery of the lines and his actions combine to produce an exemplary depiction of Hamlet’s state of mind. Throughout the scene Olivier maintains a calm and pensive tone. At some points he closes his eyes, as in deep thought, and at others it will appear that his mouth is not moving but his voice is still heard. He also often looks around as if he is searching for something, perhaps an answer to his problems. He chooses to pause between lines and therefore appears to be contemplating his situation. Finally his movements are slow a dramatic which serves the same purpose as his other actions: to show his preoccupied mental state. For example, he takes the sword out of his shirt in a slow, cautious manner and therefore makes him appear as if he is preoccupied by the thought of death. The slow, drowsy delivery could also represent the sleep that Hamlet frequently references. Therefore the slowness would reflect the slowness that comes with sleep, or in this case death. Olivier’s physical movements and delivery allow the audience to recognize his thoughtful state of mind and internal conflict.

The camera’s position and areas of focus are important to note as well. During the beginning of the scene the camera focuses on Hamlet’s face and head. This clearly directs the focus to Hamlet’s mind and therefore contributes to the idea of deep thought. The camera, at times, focuses in on Hamlet’s eyes. When viewing this, the saying “eyes are the mirrors to the soul” comes to mind. Thus focus on the eyes probably was used to show that Hamlet’s thoughts can be determined by looking into his eyes and what he is saying comes straight from his soul and is sincere. Other than that the camera stays still during long portions of the soliloquy which allows the viewer to totally focus on Hamlet.

Other cinematic techniques include the music which was strategically selected to reflect Hamlet’s mind and confusion. The music begins with what sounds to be violins. The violins create a dreamlike sound which could be symbolic of Hamlet’s the surreal state of Hamlet’s mind. As the music progresses and with the addition of heavy wind instruments and the roaring ocean, creating a deeper sound, the music becomes ominous. The music also picks up speed, dramatizing the scene. The sound of the music at this point resembles a downward spiral which is reflective of Hamlet’s actual spiraling state of mind. The music then simply fades out and Hamlet’ begins his soliloquy. The music is another example of symbolism throughout the scene and is an example of how the creators of this film thought to tie together all of the film’s cinematic elements to produce a successful portrayal of Hamlet.

The audience can appreciate the consideration of and attention to cinematic detail demonstrated in this scene. All of the cinematic elements, from set to camera movements, merge together seamlessly to produce a scene that is textually accurate. The time taken by the director and his or her strategic thinking is apparent. The cohesiveness of the film’s elements and the strategic direction are quite effective and contribute to an improved understanding of Hamlet’s frame of mind. This clip succeeds in portraying the mood of the scene which is necessary to understanding the message of the soliloquy.

March 5, 2009 9:15 PM

Blog 'passage explication' on one paragraph in Volume 1

Page 43, 7th Paragraph

For some brief context, in this scene Mr. Brocklehurst visits Gateshead and summons Jane. Jane makes note of what she observes concerning his physical appearance and then he questions Jane on her behavior and character and the following exchange occurs.

In uttering these words, I looked up: he seemed to me a tall gentleman; but then I was very little; his features were large, and they and all the lies of his frame were equally harsh and prim.
“Well, Jane Eyre, and are you a good child?”
Impossible to reply to this in the affirmative: my little world held a contrary opinion: I was silent. Mrs. Reed answered for me by an expressive shake of the head, adding soon, “Perhaps the less said on that subject the better, Mr. Brocklehurst.”
"Sorry indeed to hear it! she and I must have some talk;" and bending from the perpendicular, he installed his person in the arm- chair opposite Mrs. Reed's. "Come here," he said.
I stepped across the rug; he placed me square and straight before him. What a face he had, now that it was almost on a level with mine! what a great nose! and what a mouth! and what large prominent teeth!
“No sight so sad as that of a naughty child," he began, "especially a naughty little girl. Do you know where the wicked go after death?"
"They go to hell," was my ready and orthodox answer.
"And what is hell? Can you tell me that?"
"A pit full of fire."
"And should you like to fall into that pit, and to be burning there for ever?"
"No, sir."
"What must you do to avoid it?"
I deliberated a moment; my answer, when it did come, was objectionable: "I must keep in good health, and not die."
"How can you keep in good health? Children younger than you die daily. I buried a little child of five years old only a day or two since,--a good little child, whose soul is now in heaven. It is to be feared the same could not be said of you were you to be called hence." Not being in a condition to remove his doubt, I only cast my eyes down on the two large feet planted on the rug, and sighed, wishing myself far enough away.
"I hope that sigh is from the heart, and that you repent of ever having been the occasion of discomfort to your excellent benefactress."
"Benefactress! benefactress!" said I inwardly: "they all call Mrs. Reed my benefactress; if so, a benefactress is a disagreeable thing."

This passage is exemplary of the conflict between perception of the outside and internal truth. Throughout volume one of Jane Eyre, the words “silence” and “sound” are used frequently. Here specifically, Jane reveals that her true, sincere sentiments are contained silently within her when she says, “my little world held a contrary opinion” and “Benefactress! benefactress!” said I inwardly: "they all call Mrs. Reed my benefactress; if so, a benefactress is a disagreeable thing” It appears that whenever the truth is present it is present in silence rather than outward declaration or if the truth is vocalized, it often tends to come in the form of an uncontrolled passionate outburst. It also appears that much of what is said, especially what is said by Mr. Brocklehurst, and the Reeds, is false. For example, Mr. Brocklehurst proclaims his Christian doctrine when in actuality he is a self-indulgent hypocrite and Mrs. Reed is often vocalizing lies about Jane Eyre’s behavior. This quote shows the separation of truth and falsities in relation to or in terms of internal and external expression. Also outward appearance is given much attention in the novel so far. The first part of this quote, when Jane is describing Mr. Brocklehurst, she is viewing him through with a skewed viewpoint. To expand, Jane is a child and rather small, therefore she falsely gauges Mr. Brocklehurst’s size. Vision allows a person to perceive the outside, and in this case vision perceives what is false since so far in this novel the external is often false. Again this part of the quote reiterates the idea of false appearances, false external interpretation.

Appearances throughout the novel have proved to be rather deceiving. The ideal, pleasant façade at Gateshead and Mr. Brocklehurst false projections of piety and self-deprivation are a couple examples. This quote makes an indirect point about perspective when gauging appearances. Jane says, “but then I was very little”, therefore she realizes that Mr. Brocklehurst’s size may have appeared exaggerated. Appearance proved deceitful due to a skewed perspective. This connects to the idea that what is external to one’s person can often be false because such external elements are often sensitive and dependent on perspective. The author is making a statement about the superficial thought, and what is perceived by the senses, in other words, the tangible. More specifically she is denouncing reliance on the senses alone and is perhaps is advocating the use of emotion, intuition, and abilities of interpretation that stem from the mind. When Jane produces a witty, atypical answer to Mr. Brocklehurst’s question about hell, the idea of looking past the common or the superficial is apparent. Jane clearly utilizes a logic that is deeper than a superficial understanding of how to avoid damnation to hell. Another point concerning the reliability of the narrator includes the fact that children, because of their stature, their underdeveloped minds and immature understanding of the world, tend to generally have distorted interpretations. This factor can cause the reader to question their trust in the narrator who is recalling her thoughts as a child.

The novel is somewhat critical of Christian doctrine or rather the interpretation and use of Christian doctrine by people, particularly adults. In this case Mr. Brocklehurst is defending his argument by using aspects of Christian belief as a way to produce fear and to punish. In earlier parts of the novel Mrs. Reed uses Christian beliefs to support her distorted arguments against Jane. This interpretation of Christian doctrine stands in contrast of how children like Helen interpret the Bible. Helen approaches Christianity in a more sensible manner. She, more so than Mr. Brocklehurst, considers the calm, rational, pious side of Christianity rather than focusing on the negative. Again these conflicting interpretations can connect back to the idea of perspective: the adult perspective versus that of children. Another connection to the points made above includes the idea of sound versus silence and what is true versus what is false. Helen who tends to be a quiet child preaches a true explanation of Christian doctrine, while Mr. Brocklehurst, who is a much more vocal character preaches a skewed Christian message. This reiterates the point that what is silent and internal is true while what is vocalized and external tends to be false.

Note to Mr. Gallagher: I meant to post during my period 7 study today but when I plugged in my flash drive I found that my blog post didn't save on it so I just posted when I got home.

April 14, 2009 4:56 PM