|you know that feel, bro|
Thursday, January 31, 2013
Betrayed by the worst atrociously shameful mark of femininity, the shy, embarrassed, immature, self-conscious, awkward, school girl blush in the presence of a drop dead attractive member of the opposite sex. *facepalm* I'm gonna be fricking 21 years old, hormones, please stabilize.
Tuesday, January 29, 2013
Richard Parker, Animal Alter Ego:
An Examination of the Nature of Id in Life of Pi
by Yann Martel
Nurul Kamilah Mat Kamil
Mr. S. Wise
7th March 2011
As a device of the poetic imagination and rhetorical flourish, metaphors give as much colour and emphasise to a particular message; be it a social critique or even a psychological examination (Lakoff). Animals are widely used as metaphors in Yann Martel’s Life of Pi, for example, Richard Parker; a full-grown Bengal tiger is used as a metaphor for the id of the protagonist, Piscine Molitor Patel, also known as Pi. The id is one of the three psychic zones in Sigmund Freud’s model of the subconscious mind. It is the dark, inaccessible part of human personality governed by the pleasure-principle and is oriented towards one's internal instincts and passions (“Id”). As the metaphor of the id, Richard Parker acts out in violence which eludes Pi’s own potential for violence. Pi also has to tame Richard Parker in order to coexist with a carnivorous beast in the same way as one would repress the dangerous inclinations of the id. Due to this, Richard Parker’s presence creates emotional tension within Pi. Thus, Richard Parker embodies Pi’s id as he has violent tendencies, is difficult to restrain and creates inner conflict within Pi.
Evidences of violence are illustrated in the killings of the hyena, blind Frenchman and the meerkats on the carnivorous island by Richard Parker. In Pi’s narrative of an alternate version of his survival story, the hyena was actually the cannibalistic cook who killed Pi’s mother and a Chinese sailor. Pi has admitted to killing the cook and says that, “A knife has a horrible dynamic power; once in motion, it’s hard to stop. I stabbed him repeatedly” (391). It proves that human beings do have an innate capacity for evil and destructiveness (Daniels). Other than that, Richard Parker also kills the blind Frenchman. Even before the killing, Pi has a delusional conversation with Richard Parker, suggesting vile menus like “brain souffle’” (309). Pi not only transgresses his vegetarian principles, but he also goes as far as using the dead Frenchman for his bait and chews on his meat. Cannibalism becomes a necessity in dire circumstances and is even recognized by even such a great authority such as the Catholic Church upon the conduct of life, which shows that a human being is mostly likely to resort to cannibalism as an animal would (“Donner”). At the same time, the human consumption of human flesh has also been a means to enforce social control (Goldman). When chancing upon an island, Richard Parker also kills a group of meerkats “that he did not even eat” and it was “beyond his [own] need” (339). In contrast to the situation when he killed the blind Frenchman, this is not an act out of necessity; rather it is due to the frustration of basic needs (Wollstein). Pi has been deprived of company and food, and this deprivation causes him to lash out in aggression, evident by Richard Parker whose “pent-up hunting instinct” (339) is unleashed by the sight of many preys. This suggests Pi’s mental state at that time. As a result, the aggression is actually the reaction to circumstances in which essential requirements of human nature are unfulfilled (Wollstein). All in all, all these evident killings by Richard Parker are an illustration of the violent tendencies of Pi’s id.
Due to the murderous nature of Richard Parker, he has to be restrained. However, it is done with much difficulty. If Pi has not set the boundaries on the lifeboat or establish that he is the alpha animal on board, Richard Parker could have easily made him his meal, as he was the biggest threat to Pi’s survival. Richard Parker is only concerned in satisfying his own basic needs and Pi could have been “[his] next goat” (124). The need to eat, to drink, to eliminate wastes, to avoid pain, and to gain sexual pleasure, Freud believed that aggression is also due to these basic biological drives (“Freudian”). This parallels the description of the destructive nature of id. The id seeks immediate gratification of these impulses (“Freudian”). If it were released, basic human nature would only lead to destruction. Therefore, there is a need to control human nature with the hypothetical super-ego (“Learning”). The super-ego is the total opposite of the id. It represents internalization of . . . the rules of society, and functions to reward and punish through a system of moral attitudes, conscience, and a sense of guilt (“Superego”). Pi’s inclination to religion provides him his moral compass and forms his superego. Although circumstance forces Pi outside of his religious norms and even go against some of his principals, he still expresses guilt and feels a need to control Richard Parker, his id. Pi realizes that he cannot get rid of Richard Parker, “I had to tame him. It was at that moment that I realized this necessity. It was not a question of him or me, but of him and me” (206). In doing so, Pi’s attention is redirected from fearing Richard Parker to taming Richard Parker. For this to happen, another element of the human personality comes into play, the ego. The ego is the representative of the outer world to the id and is oriented towards perceptions in the real world (“Ego”). Pi as the ego satisfies within certain boundaries the needs of the id (Phaneuf). Pi has to provide Richard Parker’s only with consideration that he has the means to do so despite the fact that Richard Parker needs to be constantly fed the same way the id always demands immediate gratification, yet the ego has to sometimes defer gratification due to the lack of means to satisfy the id. Being the biggest threat that needs to be controlled due to its nature of demanding immediate gratification, Richard Parker is a strong embodiment of Pi’s id in the sense that he is difficult to be restrained.
“I was thirty or so feet from the lifeboat, the distance that about rightly balanced my two fears: being too close to Richard Parker and being too far from the lifeboat” (195). Conflicts arise as the id, ego and superego compete over dominion, yet one cannot make do without the other, so is the case with Pi and Richard Parker. Richard Parker has always been a source of conflict for Pi as Pi fights an internal battle to gain control over Richard Parker, yet he is afraid of him. At the same time, his worst fear also becomes a dear companion throughout the ordeal and he feels mixed emotions when Richard Parker leaves him without saying goodbye. “It is the irony of this story that the one who scared me witless to start with was the very same who brought me peace, purpose, and dare I say even wholeness” (204). If in order to satisfy the id, the individual transgresses the superego’s laid down moral sanction, this will cause an inner conflict within the constituent parts of the mind, [inclusive of id and ego] (Thornton). At times, Pi has to rely to his id to give him the drive to fight for life, while at certain times, the superego or ego acts to control the id. “Richard Parker was such a magnetic pole of life” (122). Richard Parker plays an important role in his survival as he gives Pi the spirit to keep on living. The influence of an individual's needs and desires both have a strong impact on the direction of their behavior (Rabideau). However, as Pi washed up the shore of Mexico, Richard Parker leaves Pi. Pi’s return to civilisation shows Pi’s return to order and civilisation, the superego’s stronghold. The super-ego creates within the subject boundaries and therefore a sense of the territory of the self, it enforces the external by linking it to a more or less naturalised sense of identification and, finally, it polices the relationship and attitudes of the subject in relation to the external reality which is now moralised as ‘civilisation’ (Tester). Pi testifies “I couldn’t have done it without you” (361), and still misses Richard Parker even in years to come as he relates his story to the author. Being alone could be very painful; a time of utter despair, which is why Pi needed Richard Parker with him (Rokach). He would have gone insane if he were on his own. When marooned, the superego has a smaller voice as opposed to the id. Among the conflicts that challenges Pi’s principles is the killing of animals for food. He feels guilt at first when killing a fish, but as he progresses, he no longer feels the guilt as it becomes a necessity for him to kill. Pi is most intimate with Richard Parker during his time of near death. He goes blind and has a conversation with Richard Parker. At this time, his superego is the weakest and Pi “lost all fear of death, and [he] resolved to die.” (305). One of the innate desires of id is the instinct of death. Every person has an unconscious wish to die (Boeree). Death is a means of escape to the hardships of life, an end to sufferings. Sometimes this desire for peace, for escape from stimulation is directed away from the self and is released in the form of aggression, cruelty, murder, and destructiveness (Boeree). All in all, despite fearing Richard Parker, Pi seeks to control Richard Parker, who ends up being a dear companion to him at times of dire circumstances. This, in turn, causes Pi to have mixed feelings about Richard Parker. Ultimately, as Pi’s id, Richard Parker is an inseparable entity from Pi’s self.
In conclusion, the embodiment of Pi’s id by Richard Parker is most apt as Richard Parker displays violent motives, is difficult to restrain and creates inner conflict within Pi. Despite those qualities in Richard Parker, he has somewhat enabled Pi to survive as the tenacity and the drives of the id pushes one to keep fighting for his life. The id is the “madness that moves [people] in strange, sometimes inexplicable ways. This madness can be saving” (51). Although one is compelled to find means of fulfilling the demands of the id, at the same time, he has to control the id to ensure that it will not be his destruction. The id also gives one a purpose and a drive to keep on living. All in all, the id is not merely a negative side to the human nature; it is a life force that keeps one going.
Word count: 1749
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Goldman, Laurence R. "Cannibalism - World, Body, Life, History, Time, Person, Human, Constructing History with Cannibals, Constructing Fiction with Cannibals, Constructing the Practice of Cannibalism." Encyclopedia of Death and Dying. n.d. Web. 03 Mar. 2011.
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Martel, Yann. “Life of Pi” United States of America: Harcourt. 2007. Print.
Phaneuf, Margot. "Defense Mechanisms among Our Students." Infiressources. n.d. Web. 04 Mar. 2011.
Rabideau, Scott T. "Effects of Achievement Motivation on Behavior." Great Ideas in Personality--Theory and Research. Rochester Institute of Technology, Nov. 2005. Web. 05 Mar. 2011.
Rokach, Ami. "Loneliness Then and Now: Reflections on Social and Emotional Alienation in Everyday Life." Academic Source Complete. EBSCOhost. n.d. Web. 05 Mar. 2011.
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Tester, Keith. "Pleasure, Reality, the Novel and Pathology (Commentary to Zygmunt Bauman: Freudian Civilization Revisited )." Journal of Anthropological Psychology 21 (2009): 23-26. Department of Psychology University of Aarhus. Web. 05 Mar. 2011.
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Wollstein, Jarret B. "The Causes of Aggression." International Society for Individual Liberty: Libertarian Activism Worldwide. n.d. Web. 03 Mar. 2011.
Implications of the Interpretations of Islam:
Comparative Gender Studies in
Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s Infidel
and Davar Ardalan’s My Name Is Iran.
Nurul Kamilah Mat Kamil
Mr. S. Wise
May 5, 2011
The status of Islam‘s relevance and compatibility to modern context such as individual women’s rights is a debatable issue. Presently, in Muslim communities, discrepancies in gender equality still occur despite the claim that Islam has already given women their rights. Muslim women are being discriminated against in education, are deemed unfit to lead in some countries and they don’t have rights to their own bodies and opinions. These discrepancies, examined in Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s Infidel and Davar Ardalan’s My Name Is Iran are caused by the different interpretations of Islam.
A woman’s education opportunities are stripped as they get married because the society demands women to be homemakers and faithful wives to their husbands. Some of them don’t even get the chance to finish their education as they are married off to their family’s man of choice, “even though most of the girls were reluctant and some were petrified” (Ali 78). Due to stringent perspectives of how a “marriage should be” (Ardalan 211), education no longer becomes the priority of married Muslim women. Although Ardalan was not completely restricted from pursuing education compared to Ali, her husband was still not being supportive of her financially and morally, “I realized that I wanted him to support me to better myself and my children’s lives through my own education” (Ardalan 210). The circumstances that both Ali and Ardalan faced are both contradictory of Imam Bukhari’s encouragement of the husband as the wife’s guardian to ensure that she improves her education (Sahih Bukhari, 3:46:723). Strict adherence to society-conceived gender roles causes this unfair implication onto Muslim women as men are regarded more deserving for an education as they can contribute more to a country in leadership. When in Saudi Arabia, Ali commented that “It wasn’t fair that we weren’t allowed to go out with him and do all the things Mahad could” (Ali 50). Gender segregation in schools also led to the differences in syllabus between girls and boys because some fields are considered inappropriate for a woman’s nature (Hamdan). However, Ardalan had a somewhat secular upbringing which allowed her more freedom in education. To her family, “gaining knowledge … was life itself” (Ardalan 71) and every family member should pursue knowledge regardless of gender. The Muslim community are also taught to oppose Western teachings, and this caused much discontent to Ali, “As much as I wanted to become a devout Muslim, I always found it uncomfortable to oppose the West” (Ali 109). In contrast, Ardalan’s childhood experiences had direct exposure to the West as she went to an American high school as her grandparents agreed “that it was best to raise the children in America” (Ardalan 49), while Ali only had her Western exposure in her childhood through harlequin novels. Islam does not completely oppose Western teachings and does encourage pursuing it, as it is complementary in acquiring knowledge (Gbadamosi). Therefore, it is evident that different communal interpretations of a woman’s rights to education in Islamic teachings are a cause of gender inequality in Muslim societies.
Man rules over woman; even Muslim communities are not spared from this traditional norm that is detrimental to women’s rights. In many patriarchal Muslim societies, men are perceived as the leaders and breadwinners of the family and women were attributed the role of the homemaker. The women then end up confined to their homes and are not allowed to work as the “money earned by a woman has never made anyone rich” (Ali 121) and a “pious woman should not work outside the home” (Ali 67). The fact that the society puts more value “on male experiences and perspectives [makes man more deserving of] the privileges given to them, and resulting [in the] devaluation of women’s status, no matter what contributions they make” (Wadud 100). The confinement of women in a patriarchal society is psychological as one would feel conflicted with the majority if one does not conform to the mainstream (Leung). However, it is stated in the Quran, men and women can both have a share of what they earn, meaning that both men and women can work (Quran 4:32). Another issue is women’s position in religious rituals. Why is it that for most rituals which involve men and women, the men is appointed to lead prayers and such, and not the women? “Why does Allah will it? He made me too, but he always prefers Mahad” (Ali 44). Wadud shares the same view with Ali and adds, “Gender separation in the mosque also reflects gender disparity through space and the opportunities that limit women’s access to or participation in the mosque activities and especially in decision-making” (Wadud 175). With only the exception of religious practices, women have equal opportunities to men because the ruling concerning acts of worship is that anything not prescribed in Shari`ah in explicit texts is prohibited, so that people may not innovate matters in religion not ordained by Allah (“Yusuf”). There is no denial that women are created different from man, therefore, both genders play different roles in religious rituals, but their piety is equally valued. The different roles that they play do not necessarily mean that one is better than the other. In Iran, women were forbidden from political involvement and “decisions were made at the highest level within the patriarchal clerical establishment” (Ardalan 250). Wadud expounds the argument, “If women only demonstrate and exemplify their ability to be “like men”, or to be victims of patriarchy, then nothing is learned from them over and above men in the pulpits, at the head of the line, as well as in the parliament” (Wadud 182). Since the only difference of gender roles for women is only in religious matters, it does not limit women’s opportunities in other aspects of life, or their opportunities to be better Muslims because a woman's role on earth is not limited only to childbirth. As a Muslim, she is required to do as many good deeds as any other man is required to do (Azeem). So, it is permissible for a woman to make contributions in politics, especially if it is for the betterment of the nation. Even Aisyah, the wife of Prophet Muhammad, led an army in the Battle of the Camel and became a source of reference for many people at that time (Geissinger). In short, contributions from both genders are essential in the development of nations, especially in leadership. Although some practices in Islam veered to be patriarchal due to social norms, it should not limit women’s opportunities to contribute to leadership in other aspects outside religious rituals. It is only due to the different interpretations of Islam that Muslim women face limitations in leadership positions.
A key issue of women’s rights is the fight against the objectification of women and to prove that women have rights to their own bodies and opinions. In Ali’s clan, the women could not object to the groom the clan has chosen for them, otherwise they were considered a disgrace to the clan. “Love marriages were a stupid mistake…You sank into a hideous destiny of impurity, godlessness and disease” (Ali 79). Ali even married a man named Mahmud just to have sex (Ali 140), because a Muslim could not engage in pre-marital sex. Marriage is not just for the pleasures of sex, but it is also an institution that a man and a woman find companionship and a refuge from the trials and tribulations of life (Patel 37, Quran 30:21). A woman is not a plaything in the hand of man but a spiritual and moral being who is entrusted to him as a sacred pledge to which Allah is made a witness. The wife is, therefore, not meant to provide sensuous pleasure only to the male, but to fully co-operate with him in making the life of the family and ultimately of the whole humanity significantly meaningful (Sahih Muslim). In certain cultures, arranged marriages are common, but Islam actually gives the liberty to choose one’s partner based on certain guidelines (Sahih Muslim 8:35:3457). A woman has a right to deny her father’s choice if she does not will the marriage because a woman who has been previously married is more entitled to her person than her guardian, and a virgin must be asked for her consent for herself (Muwatta’ 28:2:4). Although some Muslim communities make it a practice for arranged marriages, forced marriages have proven to be more detrimental than beneficial. Islam emphasizes compatibility in a marriage, and considers mutual affection in choosing a spouse. A woman’s sexuality is also suppressed with the justification that “a man’s erotic thoughts were always the fault of the women who incited them” (Ali 110). “Girls in Somali were excised and the practice is always justified in the name of Islam…Imams never discourage the practice: it keeps girls pure” (Ali 31). This tradition is pervasive because of the insistence of imposing righteousness on the society by certain groups of people and justifying their violent acts by “endlessly quoting the famous verse from the Qur’an” (Sardar). This practice of controlling women is not a teaching of Islam, rather, it has its roots in foreign customs, like the Byzantine and Persian cultures of female seclusion and the female circumcision from North African traditions, and is practiced today only among the Muslims of that region, along with many non-Muslims (Aykol). Islam does not view sexuality as a taboo subject, rather it is regarded sacred, and promotes marriage as an institution that will maintain societal order and as a channel for sexual pleasure among the spouses. Lastly, the patriarchal society also deems women fickle and unable to make decisions for themselves, so the decisions are made by the men. “Certain decisions, he informed me, were better made by the men of the family” (Ali 127). Ardalan and the Iranian women at the time of the Revolution had the awareness to “assume the right they had to rule over themselves instead of imitating the West or the East” (Ardalan 136) after reading Ali Shariati’s work. In Islam, the concept of shura, literally meaning counsel in Arabic, encourages participation from all members of the discussion regardless of gender. Therefore, women can and should offer their opinions to make their own decisions as well as decisions for an organization as a positive change is only balanced if it is made and agreed by all the individuals involved (Farooq). Conclusively, the suppression of women’s rights to her opinions and her body due to different interpretations of Islam causes gender inequality in Muslim communities.
In summary, Islam is interpreted differently due to differences in cultural context as well as other political reasons. Some may be stricter than the other and even detrimental to both women and society in aspects of education, leadership and the woman’s individual rights itself. Therefore, it is best to consider the interpretations that best comply with the modern understanding of human rights which also stays true to Islam’s vision of an egalitarian society.
Word count: 1829
Ardalan, Davar. My Name Is Iran. United States of America: Henry Holt and Company. 2007. Print.
Aykol, Mustafa. "Islam, Women and Sex: Debunking a Few Myths - Hurriyet Daily News and Economic Review." Hürriyet Daily News and Economic Review.
6 Apr. 2010. Web. 16 Apr. 2011.
Azeem, Dr. Sherif Abdel. Women in Islam Versus Women in Judaeo-Christian Tradition: The Myth and Reality. Kingston: Queen's University. n.d. Web.
15 Apr. 2011.
Chapin Metz, Helen. “Saudi Arabia: A Country Study.” Washington: GPO for the Library of Congress. 1992. Web. 15 April 2011.
"Dr. Yusuf Al-Qaradawi Comments on Females Leading Co-gender Friday Prayers and on Women Leading Other Women." Islamopedia Online. n.d. Web.
16 Apr. 2011.
Ertürk, Yakin. "Promotion and Protection of All Human Rights, Civil, Political, Economic, Social and Cultural Rights Including The Right To Development." Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.
14 Apr. 2009. Web. 12 Apr. 2011.
Farooq, Dr. Mohammad Omar. "Women Scholars of Islam: They Must Bloom Again." Social Science Research Network. 20 Jan. 2011. Web. 13 Apr. 2011.
Gbadamosi, Saliu. "Islam Is Not against Acquiring Western Education -chief Imam." Nigerian Tribune. 22 Oct. 2010. Web. 16 Apr. 2011.
Geissinger, Aisha. “‘A’isha bint Abi Bakr and her Contributions to the Formation of the Islamic Tradition” Religion Compass. Volume 5, Issue 1: pages 37–49, January 2011. Wiley Online Library. Web. 24 Apr. 2011.
Hamdan, Amani. "Women and Education in Saudi Arabia: Challenges and Achievements."International Education Journal. Shannon Research Press, 2005. Web. 22 Apr. 2011.
Hirsi Ali, Ayaan. Infidel. United Kingdom: Simon & Schuster Ltd. 2008. Print.
Leung, Rebecca. "Women Speak Out In Saudi Arabia." CBS News. 24 Mar. 2005. Web. 14 Apr. 2011.
Muwatta’. Compendium of Muslim Texts. Berkeley: University of Southern California Press. University of Southern California Centre for Muslim-Jewish Engagement. 2009. Web. 14 April 2011.
Patel, Ismail Adam. Islam the Choice of Thinking Women. United Kingdom: Ta-Ha Publishers Ltd. 1997. Print.
Sahih Bukhari. Compendium of Muslim Texts. Berkeley: University of Southern California Press. University of Southern California Centre for Muslim-Jewish Engagement. 2009. Web. 14 April 2011.
Sahih Muslim. Compendium of Muslim Texts. Berkeley: University of Southern California Press. University of Southern California Centre for Muslim-Jewish Engagement. 2009. Web. 24 April 2011.
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Sardar, Ziauddin. “The Struggle for Islam’s Soul.” New Statesman. 18 Jul. 2005. Web. 15 Apr. 2011.
Wadud, Amina. Inside the Gender Jihad: Women’s Reform in Islam. United Kingdom: Oneworld Publications. 2006. Print
The Loss of Innocence:
A Theme Analysis in Lord of the Flies
Nurul Kamilah Mat Kamil
Mr. S. Wise
6th September 2010
The loss of innocence is a prominent theme in The Lord of the Flies, as it prevails from the beginning to the end of the story. Innocence is defined as the state of being unsullied by sin or moral wrong; lacking knowledge of evil (“Innocence”). In the context of this novel, loss of innocence occurs when the boys discover the innate evil within themselves. This knowledge causes a change in the boys’ behaviour and thinking. Some succumb to bloodlust, while some gain an insight of the natural evil in man that enables them to somehow resist yielding to it. The theme is portrayed in the protagonist, Ralph, the other boys on the island, as well as the antagonist, Jack. This loss of innocence is not learnt or moulded from social conditioning; rather, it is the direct consequence of the deterioration of civilisation that exposes the boys to the darker side of the human nature.
The first analysis is in the protagonist himself, Ralph. At the beginning of the story, Ralph still had a carefree attitude; still remotely unaware of the seriousness of the situation. Before coming to the island, Ralph is used to a world of obeying rules and adults. The “realized ambition” of not having any grown-ups on the island delighted Ralph (12), instead of distressing him as Piggy was. According to Michael Gelven, it seems an almost natural disposition of the human race to trivialize the possibility of evil when time or circumstance affords us any distance from it, which is why, at this state of innocence, Ralph has yet to suspect any presence of evil among them . However, as the story progressed, Ralph acquires a new sense of responsibility as he was elected chief, advocating the importance of having rules to establish a society and keeping a signal fire to increase their chances of being rescued. He also starts to think differently-“He found himself understanding the wearisomeness of this life” (95). To him, rescue was no longer a game, and they had to put serious effort in doing so- “We’ve got to make smoke up there-or die” (101). He also criticized Jack’s hunting, “The smoke is more important than the pig, however often you kill one” (101). This shows the conflict that is taking root among the boys, which is the competing impulses that exist within all human beings: the instinct to live by rules, follow moral commands, and value the good of the group against the instinct to gratify one’s immediate desires and act violently to obtain supremacy over others (“Themes”). In the end, most of the boys lose out to the thrill in hunting and rejects order and civilisation. At this point, Ralph realizes the capacity of evil in man. Even at their tender age, they were still susceptible to turn evil. With this new knowledge, he weeps at what they’ve become. In the end, Ralph also loses hope for rescue. This is a stark contrast from the carefree little boy with wishful thinking at the beginning of the novel as opposed to the boy with a more wary and pessimistic outlook on life that Ralph becomes at the end of the novel.
The second analysis is from the group of boys, namely, the supporting characters: Roger, Samneric and Simon. The four of them each experience different transformations in losing their innocence. Roger started off as a quiet boy, but he ended up being the most demoralized of the boys. In Chapter Four, Roger and Maurice were throwing stones at Henry, but they purposely missed because of the “taboo of the old life” (78). Taboos are temptations (Holland), and this is what drives Roger to become savage. Roger was brought up with the social norms of right and wrong, but now in the absence of adult authority, what could stop him from yielding to that temptation? As an example, after hunting, the boys made a new ritual of dancing as a recreation of their hunt. They have someone to pretend to be a pig, at first, it started off as a sort of children’s game, but when people started to get hurt, that shows a loss of innocence, because children only pretend to be violent (“Mockingbird”), but later on, their games were no longer child-like and were actually violent. The climax of Roger’s violence was when he caused Piggy’s horrific death of being crushed by a boulder. Meanwhile, Samneric began as supporters of Ralph, but towards the end, they were pressured to betray Ralph. They were aware that savagery was a force that was growing more dominant on the island, and later on, they eventually give in to it- “They understood too well the liberation into savagery that the concealing paint brought” (212). In this way, Samneric represents the weakness of human nature, when pressured, the twins decided to join the dark side (“Character”). Simon, on the other hand, seems to retain his goodness. Even from the beginning he was very helpful and generous as he helped Ralph build the huts when everybody went to play, and he was deeply connected to nature. Simon also experiences a loss of innocence when he stumbles upon the revelation of the darker side of the human nature after he encounters the ‘lord of the flies’, who said, “You knew didn’t you? I’m part of you” (177). He is aware that the irrational fear of the beast is causing the boys to act dangerously and that the only thing they should fear is themselves as they have developed the capacity to kill (Ebdon). At his loss of innocence and discovery of the nature of evil, Simon had wanted to warn the other boys. However, this insight had cost Simon his dear life as he was killed by the boys as he was mistaken for the beast. It was ironic in a way that he himself became the evidence of his own discovery. Here, it is apparent that civilisation is the lacking key element causing the new erratic behaviour among the boys (“Loss”).
Lastly, this loss of innocence is eminent in the antagonist, Jack Merridew. Jack seems to be the justification of a quote by Rhodes Boyson, “Children are not born good; they have to be disciplined; otherwise they are a threat to the rest of society” (Holland). Jack, at first, couldn’t bring himself to kill the piglet he found when he, Ralph and Simon were exploring the island. “The enormity of the knife descending and cutting into flesh” and the blood was unbearable for him (41). At this time, Jack was still held back by the morals and proper behaviour that society has instilled in him. When he started painting his face, he feels liberated from self-consciousness and he is able to behave as someone else and not worry about consequences (Ebdon). Hunting gave him a sense of power, and somewhere along the line, the line between animals and human beings were blurred in Jack’s perception as long as he can “impose his will on a living thing” (88). Simon was beaten to death like the boys would to a pig. Jack does not feel any remorse for this. This is because his numerous hunting trips have refined his skills to kill, until at a point, he no longer feels remorse for the lives he takes, and his innocence is lost (Chowdurry). Later on, Jack rejects order and refuses to cooperate with Ralph. In trying to get Ralph impeached, he uses his rhetorical skills to twist Ralph's words. In defense, he offers to the group a rationale that "He'd never have got us meat," asserting that hunting skills make for an effective leader. (“Jack”). His high opinion of hunting skills, over practicality and intelligence, in a leader shows how savage he is becoming. Jack was also a strong influence in transforming the other boys as well. According to Christiaan Hind, Jack’s almost godly presence rationalizes anything, and everything he orders them to do is done. That is the reason the fear-stricken boys easily give in to Jack’s order, no matter how immoral it may seem, even to the extent of hunting Ralph. Jack’s desire for power and manipulative ways often causes friction with Ralph and eventually breaks up the community. Jack has transformed from a boy who was once the head of the choir and head boy a school into a morally-depraved and violent savage in the loss of his innocence.
As a conclusion, the loss of innocence is indeed the direct consequence of the deterioration of civilisation that leads to the discovery of the evil nature in man. In a society, where there are rules and order, the society is disciplined and conditioned, but in a situation where civilisation is deteriorated and the society rejects order, the true nature of evil in man is uncovered. If one is not aware of this nature, one might easily be succumbed by it, but if one is aware of it, one would have the capability to suppress it, as what Ralph had done, and achieves a sort of moral victory to restore humanity in a society.
Word count: 1516
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Social Structure Dystopia:
A Theme Analysis in The Time Machine
Nurul Kamilah Mat Kamil
Mr. S. Wise
October 20, 2010
H.G. Wells was considered a visionary at his time, and the father of science fiction. Through his didactic writings, he made predictions of the future, including the evolution of social structure. In The Time Machine, he predicted the human race would evolve into two different species, the Elois and the Morlocks, due to a capitalist social system that is taken to extreme levels. Human beings no longer appreciated knowledge, and language had regressed to a “sweet and liquid tongue” (29). Wells believed that this was a consequence of social stratification. However, Well’s pessimistic view of the future may not necessarily be true because his writings were influenced by his background , his negative perception of human nature and his pessimism of the future of science and technology.
Born to a shopkeeper and a housekeeper, Wells’ impoverished family background is one of the reasons that compelled him to write about class struggles. “Again, the exclusive tendency of richer people … is already leading to closing, in their interest, of considerable portions of the surface of the land.” (57). In 1700, 80% of the population of England earned its income from the land. A century later, that figure had dropped to 40% as more people turned to manufacture (“Lecture”). This resulted in a new class division: The factory owners and the workers. The workers were mistreated by their employers and they gained only as much as the surplus value. It became evident that the strikingly different lifestyles of the workers and upper class were made more prominent by the Industrial Revolution (Lovett).These conditions further spurred Wells’ belief in the outcome of social stratification as put forward in his novel. In contrary, these conditions weren’t permanent as social mobility was possible, given opportunity and education. Wells was able to break out of his own class to become a teacher and had a brief involvement in politics. Despite the misery prevalent in many quarters and the chaos created by periodic "busts," the majority of workers during the second half of the 19th Century were better off than their parents (Brian). Living standards were improving with the industrial revolution. When urbanization began, the government had to make improvements to the living conditions of the people. Expansion in international trade also increased the nations’ income to make further investments in production and improvement of living conditions. Later on, Wells was involved in the Fabian society which supported Marxist views. Wells was heavily influenced by the society and this is evident through the protagonist, the Time Traveller, who first thought that the perfect place of the future was a result of a Communistic rule as he muttered “Communism” (53). In fact, at that time, there were many other writers who wrote about class struggles, such as Karl Marx and Herbert Spencer, who could have influenced Wells’ writings. Karl Max believed that a working class revolution must occur because the class that maintains rule forcibly over other classes by means of economic oppression is considered a dictatorship rule (“What”). To make a Communistic view seem like the ideal doctrine, Wells had to show that the Capitalist system will bring about negative impacts in the future. For this purpose, Wells had chosen the Elois and Morlocks, as the model for a Capitalist social structure dystopia. Meanwhile, political and social revolutions in Russia and France have inspired many social movements in other parts of the world in favour of Communism and a new world order. However, not all of these revolutions brought about positive changes. Not only was there bloodshed in the process, but the new societal order wasn’t stable because total equality cannot be achieved as power is still abused by a single individual. Communism is an unstable system, which, inevitably, descends into a totalitarian government, Stalinist, fascistic or neo-nazi (Cantu). In short, Wells’ background of poverty and emergence of class division during the Industrial revolution as well as influence from other writers and international events had as much influenced The Time Machine, and the pessimistic view he has on social structure evolution.
Wells also had a strong conviction that human beings’ selfish nature overpowers his other values - “Man had been content to live in ease and delight upon the labors of his fellow man, had taken Necessity as his watchword and excuse, “(71). To Wells and many Communists, this seemed unjust as the wealth has to be redistributed to ensure fairness among the nation. Then, there will be no discrimination or oppression. Slogans of social justice appealed to the “saintly side” of human beings, and “noble thoughts of putting oneself before others” (Pilgrim). Ironically, even Communism can be consumed by the human beings’ inherent selfish nature that Wells claimed was the root of the Capitalist social system problem. The nature of power is such that it corrupts minds and absolute power corrupts absolutely. An example of how communism can concentrate absolute power over a whole nation, in the hands of a single man, would be the Stalinist Russia (Pilgrim). It is evident that although Communism seemed like the more ideal system, yet, it is not any better than Capitalism. In fact, it can incur other problems, because there is a need to control every person in the state to ensure that everything is all fair, and when one person is appointed to do so, power eventually tips in favour to that single person. Eventually, the Communist government develops into an autocracy or dictatorship. Until now, many Communist governments have fallen, and have not lasted as long as other forms of government. It is clear that Capitalism's cycles may be irrational and painful, but they proved in the long run less destructive than vain attempts to control every aspect of large modern economies (Brian). Britain herself didn’t become a Communist state, despite the emergence of social stratification due to Capitalism because people became more aware of human rights. Wells’ effort to make a new world order a goal of Allied policy resulted in a declaration of human rights issued by a committee of public figure under his chairmanship that helped pave way for the less sweeping human rights declaration of the United Nations in 1948 (Wagar). Human beings’ emotional intelligence does not regress with the advancement of technology. In the novel itself, Wells expressed his hope that man had not completely lost his virtue - “even when mind and strength had gone, gratitude and a mutual tenderness still lived on in the heart of man” (102). Ferdinand Tönnies, a German sociologist suggested that human beings relate to each other as a community, in which people are bound together by common traditions and ties of affection and solidarity (Radcliffe-Brown). In fact, emotional intelligence becomes more important as our societies become more complex. The human being’s capacity for emotion does not enable a human being to relate to one another unemotionally. Human beings have an incredibly rich and complex emotional life that provides value to our experiences, motivation to our actions, and a dimension of communication beyond spoken words (Jackson). As the pace of change is increasing, a person's cognitive, emotional, and physical resources will become increasingly important. And this will improve both productivity and psychological well-being (Amar). As long as human beings still have emotional capacity, a society won’t collapse. In a nutshell, Well’s belief of the overpowering selfish human nature in his criticism of Capitalism is counter-argued with the fact that human rights are eventually being recognized and human emotional intelligence does not regress with a progression in technology .
In addition to that, Wells’ also had a pessimistic view of the future of science and technology - “I grieved to think how brief the dream of the human intellect had been. It had committed suicide. It had set itself steadfastly toward comfort and ease,” (87). At his time, Wells saw the birth of many new inventions that facilitated the Industrial Revolution, such as the cotton-spinning devices and the steam engine. Most of those inventions came about for industrial purposes, and nothing more. Most people were optimistic about the further milestones they can reach with Science at that time, but to Wells, technology only benefitted a certain group of people not all classes. “The rich had been assured of his wealth and comfort, the toiler assured of his life and work.” (87) However, it can be argued that the reason for the adoption of innovations by larger groups is the example of higher status groups, which are reference groups for other people. Successful innovations, which affect the majority of the people of a society, tend to follow a pattern of diffusion from higher to lower status groups (Radcliffe-Brown). At Wells’ time, Science and Technology was at its infancy and Wells had not lived long enough to see the wonders Science had done for mankind. Science has helped human beings understand themselves more than before. It is an integral part of human development. It seems almost impossible to think that all our discoveries will come to finality. Auguste Comte, a French philosopher and sociologist, advanced a "law of three stages," according to which mankind progresses from a theological stage, which is dominated by religion, through a metaphysical stage, in which abstract speculative thinking is most prominent, and onward toward a positivist stage, in which scientific theories based on empirical research come to dominate (Radcliffe-Brown). This is because not only does the human brain develop with advancement in Science, but at the same time, the developing human brain also spurs further advancement in Science. Presently, technology is quickly evolving. From discoveries of new disciplines of science like nanotechnology and biomedical science, human beings are making their way to a prosperous knowledgeable society. With the increasing capacity of information storage and transfer via the internet, almost everyone has access to knowledge within a click of a button. Wells’ pessimism of the future of Science and technology is due to the fact that during his time when new inventions were being made, the technology only benefited an exclusive group. However, Science, in truth, has benefitted human beings more than hindered human beings in the long run as it is an integral part of human development.
In conclusion, although the premises of social structure and science were explored with such imagination and insight, an individual’s writings are more often than not influenced by his perceptions and beliefs. Due to emotional capacity, most of one’s life experiences, like upbringing and social events, as well as environment would profoundly affect creative thought processes. Of course, people are generally entitled to their own views, so it is up to the readers themselves to be critical of the message conveyed in a novel, as to whether or not it is plausible or not.
Word count: 1786
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