All posts by Victoria A.

Self Discovery or Escaping the Truth

“Perhaps as we say in America, I wanted to find myself. This is an interesting phrase, not current as far as I know in the language of any other people, which certainly does not mean what is says but betrays a nagging suspicion that something has been misplaced, I think now that if I had any intimation that the self I was going to find would turn out to be only the same self from which I had spent so much time in flight, I would have stayed at home. But, again, I think I knew, at the very bottom of my heart, exactly what I was doing when I took the boat for France”. (23)

pages may differ due to different edition

After the car accident David tells his father that he is going to find a job and live on his own instead of going to college. This is all part of David’s plan to live a life of his choosing without the input of his father and Ellen. As David leaves for France he reflects on his intentions for leaving, stating that he wants to “find [him]self” (23). Although the act of “finding oneself” often describes self-discovery, I would argue that David is not in search of who he is as an individual, but instead he is afraid of his feelings and believes that by fleeing his location he is also escaping true identity. I think that David is not only scared of his father’s reaction but the reaction of society as a whole. Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin was copyrighted in 1956. The majority of Americans during the 1950s could be described as homophobic. During this time homosexuality was seen as a mental illness, abnormal, and those who identified with being gay or were even thought to be gay could be denied federal jobs because they were seen as a security risk.

In chapter one of the novel we are introduced to Joey and his relationship with David. Initially they were best friends but one day after spending the day together and drinking, they had sex. After spending the night together David says, “above all, I was suddenly afraid. It was borne in me: But Joey is a boy” (9). Although David shares that “[they] gave each other joy that night” and that “it seemed, then, that a lifetime would not be long enough for [him] to act with Joey the act of love”, he later expresses that he fears the reaction of his father and Joey’s mother if they were to find out (9). David has genuine feelings for Joey but it is his fear of what society would think of him that prevents him from further acting on these feelings and as a result he does not spend time with Joey for the remainder of the summer.

Despite David’s attempt to escape from his identity he continues to struggle with it while in France. His fear of society’s response to his sexuality reappears in France when David realizes he has romantic feelings for another man, Giovanni. This fear is even pointed out by another character in the novel, Jacques when he says David is scared of his relationship with Giovanni, and that their relationship will “change [him]” (62).

Greta’s Transformation

“‘ It must be gotten rid of’ cried the sister; ‘that is the only way, father. You must try to get rid of the idea that this is Gregor. The fact that we have believed so long, that is truly our real misfortune. But how can it be Gregor? If it were Gregor, he would have long ago realized that a communal life among human beings is not possible with such and animal and would have gone away voluntarily.’” (69)

By the end of Part III of the narrative we see that Gregor’s physical condition brings about numerous problems for his family. Since he is no longer working, it forces the rest of his family to work to make up for the loss of income. Gregor later drives away the lodgers and causes a lot of tension within the home. Also because Gregor cannot communicate with his family, due to his increasing inability to speak as time progresses, the family does not know his desires or what he is thinking.

It appears to the reader that although Gregor is still a member of the family, because he no longer can assist in the family’s financial situation, he was of no use to them. After overhearing his sister’s request Gregor feels unwanted and depressed, and dies the next morning. This is especially sad because not only was he stressed about his family’s financial burden when he was still a man, but also when he is an insect. He expresses that he planned on sending his sister to conservatory regardless “the great expense, which that must necessitate and which would be made up in other ways” (35).

I think that it is significant to recognize that it is Gregor’s sister, Grete who makes the suggestion to get rid of Gregor. Initially it was Grete who was taking care of Gregor and providing him with food. She even argues with her mother that altering Gregor’s room was the best option for him, as that would allow him to climb up the walls and across the ceiling. But as the story continues the one person in the family who appears to be the most compassionate towards Gregor, his sister Grete, becomes frustrated and loses hope that Gregor will return to the brother she once knew. Although Gregor’s transformation is the focus of the narrative, Grete’s transformation is also significant. In the beginning she is the only one there to assist Gregor, but at the end she gives up hope, and convinces her parents that they do not need him.

 

Pangloss vs. Life Experiences

“ ‘It is demonstrable,’ he would say, ‘that things cannot be other than as they are: for, since everything is made to serve an end, everything is necessarily for the best of ends.” (4)

At this point in the novel, all of Candide’s knowledge comes from Dr. Pangloss. The novel describes Candide as “listen(ing) attentively, and he trust(ing) innocently” (4). Candide never questions what Pangloss says because he admired Pangloss and considers him to be “the greatest philosopher in the province and therefore, in the world”(4). In addition, at this point in the narrative Candide had no personal experience of what it is like to live in the outside world. Candide’s first experience in the outside world is not until he is kicked out of the castle after he is caught kissing Cunégonde.

As children grow up they are constantly being shaped to behave, act and think a certain way by parents, other family members, and people in authority; like pastors and teachers. There comes a point where children/young adults no longer base all their beliefs on what they have been told, but also on their own personal experiences. Experiences that cause them to have to think on their own, and question what they have been taught and what they believe in. This also occurs to Candide as he is forced to live a life outside the castle, which was the only life he knew. There are moments during Candide’s journey that confirmed Pangloss’ theory that “all is best in this world”(9). An example of this is when the Anabaptist Jacques takes Candide in and provides him with some bread, bear, and two florins. There are other moments where Candide is forced to question Pangloss’ theory. After being flogged for the second time Candide says to himself “if this is the best of all possible worlds, what must the others be like?” (16). These life experiences cause Candide to reassess the lessons Pangloss taught him and also allow Candide to form is own opinion and beliefs. These life experiences lead to self-discovery and influence the way Candide sees the world.

 

 

 

 

Test Post: Wilhelm Meister

“After I had learnt something, it began to seem to me as if I knew nothing, and I was right: for I did not see the connection, and after all this is the whole point” pg 25

The quote I chose follows the moment when Wilhelm looks behind the curtain and finds the puppets that were once so full of life, and a source of joy and entertainment, being packed into a drawer. This discovery leaves him both puzzled and astonished.

In our last class we described youth as being naive. Although as youth we act as though we know everything, in reality we do not, and it takes moments of deep thought and complete confusion to realize it. Such moments of confusion then lead to discovery. These discoveries not only include understanding the world around us but also discovering who we are as individuals. Discoveries of one’s passions, one’s desires, and what one wants to do with his or her life, can also occur after such moments of confusion and this is the case with Wilhelm. Wilhelm’s love for theatre and plays develops on this day, and influences him as he transitions into adulthood.