One of my favorite movies of all time is the animated film the Iron Giant. This movie follows the path of a young boy who befriends and influences a gargantuan, sentient giant made of metal. In the movie, the boy name Horgarth teaches the giant the importance of self identification, and that “you are who you choose to be.” This particular quote spoke droves to me when I read a particular line in Everyday Use from Alice Walker’s In Love & Trouble: Stories of Black Women. The narrator reads “I am the way my daughter would want me to be: a hundred pounds lighter, my skin like an uncooked barley cake. (Walker 48)” While she states this, she goes on to talk about her adventures as a rural woman of the land, living a pastorale life, much different then how her daughter wants her to be. In truth, it is a shame people, literary or not, are constrained by society to carry on as someone that they do not recognize in the mirror. One of the greatest gifts that we as a species posses is the innate ability to go about choosing a path that is higher then simply eating and continuing our species. We can forge our own destinies and choose to be whoever we want, although, if only it were that simple. It seems that another facet of society is telling us where to go and who to be. I thought that this aspect was just a trait of today’s society, but Walker’s tale takes place in the turn of the 20th century. It seems that as long as human beings interact with each other, we will forever strive to be someone who society approves of, rather then be the person of whom we want and choose to be. (SPOILER ALERT) The Giant did choose who he wanted to be, a savior, and if we can use it as an example, both in literature and in reality, then perhaps we can too choose who we want to be
Before I delved into Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray, I took a few moments to absorb Wilde’s preface regarding his thoughts of art. Within the preface he states a myriad of different tenants that an artist should follow. While many of them are useful and in accordance with that of an artist, the last few pillars of an artist were a little unclear to me. In the last few lines of his preface he states “we can forgive a man for making a useful thing as long as he does not admire it. The only excuse for making a useless thing is that one admires it intensely. All art is quite useless.” It seems rather uncanny to me that he might finish his preface on this note. To a first time reader of Dorian Gray, this is the first taste that they would get, a first impression of the novel before delving into it. Is Wilde trying to tell us that our journey through his novel will be a useless endeavor, or simply that all of art has no rhyme or reason to it. And what about this man who makes art? We cannot forgive him for admiring his art? In my opinion, much of art is meant to be admired. For it is a reflection of the artist’s soul, opening themselves to the harsh eyes of the world and a form of self expression that is meant to be seen by others. An artist would not simply create something and not be proud of his accomplishments and not hope that other denizens would see the hard work and dedication that it took to bore a little piece of their imagination into the world. While it may seem that other pieces of art may seem useless, all art should be admired and celebrated, for it is the greatest symbol of humanity in the world: the willingness and drive to create and innovate. Art is not useless; it might not be understood, it might not be comprehensible, it might not be the most aesthetic object of the earth, but it is still important. Because we make it that way, it is whatever we want it to be, and that is why it is so important.
After reading through Act I of Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House I gathered some interesting insight regarding humanity through the fictional characters of Ibsen’s play. Through his writing, a certain facet of human beings has been brought the light, and I find that the comparison made between the fictional characters of yesteryear and the millennials of today share some of the same qualities. But before I go ahead and underline a possible vice of my generation and species, I would first like to point out that I am an instigator of this facet.
As a future teacher, I have founded a creed, that “the best of part of life is playing a positive role in someone else’s story. And that it is enough to make you happy for the rest of your life.” Essentially, I find purpose in life by interacting and hopefully inspiring those under my tutelage so that they might pursue and succeed in their life’s ambitions. While it seems that this reason for living is self sustaining, I have come to find that it is not. I have found that for me to feel as though I have a purpose in life, I must derive that purpose from other human beings. That I define my self-worth from other people. While this reason might seem a little farfetched I have found that many of the characters of Ibsen’s play also derive their self worth from other places
In the beginning of the play we find two characters at very different emotional states. Nora, is over the moon with happiness. While Kristine seems to be stuck grounded to the earth, in spite of the her recent misfortunes. Nora seems elated because of those who surround her; she has three lovely children of whom she barely interacts with because of the nanny, and a financially well off husband that will not even allow her to snack on macaroons. Despite the glaring problems within Nora’s family she seems completely content, deriving much of her happiness and self worth from children she can boast about and a husband she can get an allowance from. She states “I must say it’s lovely to have plenty of money and not have to worry. Isn’t it? (Isben 9)” I guess it is Nora! Meanwhile as Nora enjoys her over controlling husband and vacant children, Kristine goes to further underline this human quality. After losing her mother and her brothers grow old enough to find sustainable jobs, Kristine finds herself in the need of another purpose in life, deriving it from Nora. In a conversation with Dr. Rank, Kristine states “I have come to look for work”, to which Dr. Rank responds”is that supposed to be some kind of sovereign remedy for being run down?” Kristine responds adamantly, saying “one must live, Doctor (Isben 18)” So it seems that after every person Kristine derives her purpose from goes away, only then does she resort to finding work. And not even work she finds by her own merit, rather work she asks for from a friend she has not seen in years.
So do we as humans only find happiness by deriving it from others? By receiving a purpose given to us by other human beings. It may seem that way, but I digress.