Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Beloved and Happiness

It seems almost taboo to discuss Beloved in the spirit of happiness. However, I would argue that there are moments of happiness in this novel, whether they are self-manufactured or based on a weak support. These moments are therefore fleeting.

Denver feels happiness when Beloved first comes to 124 because she has a companion. Her sister has finally returned to keep her company and to love her. Then, that day on the frozen pond when Beloved chokes Sethe, Denver begins to realize that her original happiness towards Beloved was possibly incorrect because she may want to hurt Sethe. When Beloved begins to take advantage of Sethe and becomes demanding of everything Sethe has, the happiness Denver feels towards Beloved is very diminished. I think to an extent, Denver still loves Beloved but she just doesn't understand why she has taken such a turn for the worse. She doesn't understand Beloved's actions yet yearns for the normalcy that she thought Beloved would bring.

Sethe too feels this immediate happiness towards Beloved and believes that Beloved will truly enrich her life. When their relationship becomes one of dependence rather than equal cooperation, Sethe feels again enslaved in the actions of another. This time though, she doesn't have the strength to overcome the chains Beloved places on her because of the immense guilt she feels about Beloved's death. Beloved allows her to feel guilty with no hope of atonement. Her happiness is again fleeting because it was based on the false notion that Beloved would be a benefit in their lives. The true moments of happiness for Sethe were the times that Paul D was there; first when he returned in the beginning and then again when she went crazy at the end and he was there again. Morrison is showing that we must be selective in the moments that we choose to be happy about.

This is the first novel in which the idea that you can create your own happiness has been challenged. Morrison creates such tragically beautiful characters that she doesn't allow for them to create their own real happiness. It's either that she doesn't let them or they are too burdened by their other worries that they cannot attempt to create happiness.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

The Stranger Post

When I first began reading The Stranger, I was incredibly upset at the book as a whole. Mersault's apathetic attitude to EVERYTHING drove me up the wall. It wasn't until we got into our small groups for concept mapping and we learned a little about Camus's past that I began to actually understand his character. He is merely a product of the society in which we live, and he feeds on the opinions of other people. He is only apathetic because he feels like no matter what, our lives will be meaningless. However, I think that when he is in the prison is when he discovers his mode of happiness. Very seldom does he actually use the word "happy" throughout the novel, but when he does, he is talking about memories of certain places or about Marie. When he is in the prison and he actually has time to think to himself about his life and what he did, he doesn't really feel guilty for the murder that he committed, but he is very upset at the thougths that people have about him for committing it. He is so dependent on the opinions of other people that he prevents his own happiness. It's ironic really because he doesn't do anything to change the opinions that people have of him, but he wishes for better opinions. His character proves that each person determines his or her own happiness in the world and yet other people impact our happiness just as much, even though we shouldn't let them. This book was utterly brilliant in so many ways and uncovered so many truths about humanity that otherwise would have lain dormant in the minds of this AP Literature class.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Metamorphosis and Happiness

In Kafka's short novel, Metamorphosis, he absolutely addresses the idea of self-created happiness. Gregor believed himself to be happy when he was working for his family's income. It was the thing that he knew how to do best and he liked having a constant something in his life. However, when he went through his metamorphosis, he realized that working at his job did not provide him happiness and he couldn't manufacture it just by helping his family.
I think his metamorphosis was in some ways a relief to him because he finally felt that he could figure out what he was really supposed to do. He was still the same person (fundamentally) and still enjoyed the things he had previously, such as art and his sister's violin playing. Gregor expected that after all he had given to his family over the years, they would help him in any and all ways possible after this difficult transformation, however, they basically tossed him aside to fend for himself. In that regard, Kafka shows that even though we may take the right steps to happiness, we cannot always create it for ourselves.
Kafka goes even further in this assertion by causing Gregor's death. Gregor realizes that he has become a burden on his family and he no longer wishes to create such stress. Though he was under the impression that they loved him, he suddenly realizes that their love did not go any further than their pocketbooks. It's a bold assertion on humanity that causes us to really wonder if working hard for our families and loving them will really ever be enough if we need them just as much one day. It certainly says something about the importance of trusting or not trusting the people around us.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

Just a refresher (more for me than anything), my big question is "How do we, as humans, manufacture our own happiness merely through our thoughts?" Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man fits perfectly with this question. Stephen personifies the idea of "manufactured happiness". However, his manufactured happiness is not meant to seem fake or superficial, but it is merely his honest happiness that we see through his soul.
His "portrait" is his soul and he is an artist because through his life, he is painting the portrait of his soul. With each experience and new endeavor, Stephen adds a little more paint to the canvas and carves a little more of his sculpture. He manufactures his happiness through his constant artistry. Through Stephen's story, Joyce shows that each person in and of themselves is an artist. Whether we have any talent to draw, sculpt, sing, or dance doesn't matter. Each person has a soul and each soul must be created piece by piece. Joyce is showing that it doesn't require natural artistic talent to be an artist, because every person is born with an innate talent for art and a medium through which to express that art.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Happiness and Rivers and Tides.

While watching Rivers and Tides, I found a lot of connections to my big question. Andrew Goldsworthy literally created his own happiness-- and has spent his entire life in the pursuit of his own happiness. This film really touched me, because it showed me just how much perseverance you must have sometimes in the pursuit of your dreams. Especially when he was building the rock sculptures and they kept falling over, he amazed me with who he just kept starting over. He had such a vision in mind and was not going to quit until it was captured and created for the world.

What I found so interesting about his work is how temporary it was. He knew that the icicles would melt, that the red clay dye would wash away with the river, and that the sticks would eventually break. However, he created all of these things for the pure purpose of necessity. He believed that he owed it to the earth to showcase its beauty and unleash its potential. Andrew Goldsworthy really knew how to create his own happiness and how to create his own beauty and purpose in the world. There was something truly magical about watching him work in nature.

Monday, October 12, 2009

King Lear Post

In Shakespeare's play, King Lear, Lear constantly tries to achieve happiness, but he fails in the pursuit. He gives his land kingdom away to his daughters to make them happy and live the rest of his life with them, however, when they turn him away, he seeks his other daughter's hospitality. He goes to her to find happiness from the one daughter who ever truly loved him. Although he is happy with Cordelia, she dies and he is left again unhappy. Lear challenges the idea that it is possible to create your own happiness, or at least to maintain that happiness. He worked so diligently to be happy and to live a good life, yet fate and other circumstances continually challenged his ability to create his happiness. He also presents a new idea: Even if we can create our own happiness, is there any possible way to sustain it, or must it be constantly renewed?

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Big Question, Summer Reading, and Oedipus

Though somewhat a work in progress, my big question is: "How do we, as humans, manufacture our own happiness merely through our thoughts?" This question has been prominent in my life for four or five years now. Do we have the capacity to just wake up one morning and decide to be happy? Granted, I understand that conditions such as depression may lessen one's ability to choose happiness, yet I believe that, to an extent, it is possible for everyone. For a long time, my shyness and often self-conscious outlook prevented me from feeling completely happy. Sophomore year, I became a section leader for the marching band and was forced to break out of my shell in order to lead others. Through this, I attended a leadership workshop hosted by Dr. Tim Lautzenheiser, a band director, motivational speaker, and so much more. Among dozens of others, one thing he said really had an impact on me. He said, "Act like you want to be, and you'll be like you want to act." Since I wanted to be happy, I began to act that way, which began a phase of my life full of happiness. This transformation, however, did not occur over a day or even a short period of time, which is where I think a lot of people get hung up. People try to be happy, yet when they don't get immediate results, they give up.

This question appeared in my summer reading book as well. I read Atonement, and the main character, Briony, was stuck in a constant prison of guilt for a rash decision she made early in her life. She strives for atonement her entire life, yet she never atones herself. Since she cannot forgive herself, there is no way for her to reach atonement. Briony never had happy thoughts because she was so burdened with guilt. I believe that as humans, we can not only manufacture our own happiness but also, our own unhappiness. The power to be happy lies within our own minds.

I discovered this question while reading Oedipus Rex also. When Oedipus discovers the atrocities of his marriage and children, he destroys his own happiness by gouging out his own eyes, thus condemning himself to a life of blindness. The discovery of his paternal murder and marriage to his mother presents the opposite side of this question. Oedipus demonstrates that under some circumstances, it may be impossible to create your own happiness, for sometimes, the unhappiness is too great.