Sunday, January 30, 2011
There are very few people or characters who don't care about love. There are very few people who experience little to no emotion at the death of their mother (" Maman died today. Or yesterday maybe, I don’t know. I got a telegram from the home: “Mother deceased. Funeral tomorrow. Faithfully yours.” That doesn’t mean anything. Maybe it was yesterday."). In the beginning of this novel Meursault almost seems like a failure of a person wasting away his life. As the reader we find ourselves frustrated with his character considering his lack of feeling and emotion as a problem rather than a simple characteristic.
But as the plot progresses, and especially by the end, we see how Meursault has truly succeeded in a way very few people have. His passion for the truth and to always tell the truth takes him to his very death. This passion, Camus argues, is one that isn't handled well by society and thus innocence leads to conviction.
The Stranger is a unique and unconventional answer to this question. His passion for the truth never falters which seems to be a recipe for success. Yet society turns it into a failure, death. From a more cynical view point, passion is not enough to yield success; the restrictions of society may inevitably cause some to fall.
Each character in Crime and Punishment is impure, just as all people are. There are no completely "good" characters or "bad" but struggling to remain in the middle. Although the route Raskolnikov takes is "criminal", he attempts to prove a point and follows it through to completion.
He has published an article on crime, one that few take notice of yet illustrates his motives from months even before the murder. Raskolnikov elaborates:
"As for my division of people into ordinary and extraordinary, I acknowledge that it's somewhat arbitrary, bit I don't insist upon exact numbers. I only believe in my leading idea that men are in general divided by a law of nature into two categories, inferior (ordinary), that is, so to say, material that serves only to reproduce its kind, and men who have a gift or the talent to utter a new word...The first category is always the man of the present, the second the man of the future. The first preserve the world and the people in it, the second move the world and lead it to its goal" (227).
This long, elaborate passage sheds a spot light onto Raskolnikov's mission in his murder, to prove if he himself is an extraordinary man so as to "move the world" towards its goals. Does he persevere? In a way, he does. He conceives this idea, wrestles with it and decides to test it. As he experiences such psychological anguish he continues to struggle with accepting the fact that he is not an extraordinary man but punished as an ordinary one. In a way he prevails in the simple conception and execution of an idea with the courage to test such a risky hypothesis with his own life. He gains a new understanding and knowledge of the world through his grappling. Raskolnikov kisses the feet of Sonia saying, " I did not bow down to you, I bowed down to all the suffering of humanity" (279). He is in search of understanding and grasping what it means to be human, what is means to suffer, and how the world moves forward.
In a way it could also be seen that Raskolnikov fails, settling into a "comfortable" life in Siberia with Sonia. He let's go of his theory and complies with the comforts of the world and the following of custom. He fails psychologically as he drives himself mad, unable to fully regain his footing again. And he could be viewed as a failure to society, committing murder for what he views is right instead of following the law. But he succeeds in a sort of courage others may not ever have, to challenge the system and try and answer it: "...it wasn’t a human being I killed, it was a principle! So I killed the principle, but I didn’t step over, I stayed on this side...All I managed to do was kill. And I didn’t even manage that, as it turns out..." His ultimate failure comes from staying "on this side," for not stepping over but allowing himself to be tied up in the rules of society.
Through Raskolnikov's struggle with his theory, he finds success through the passion and commitment he gives to his idea but failure creeps in when he is unable to reach completion and remains on the side of complacency. Therefore, through passion and commitment there can be success, as long as we don't stub our toe before we fulfill the plan.
Friday, January 21, 2011
"Yea, there thou mak’st me sad and mak’st me sin
In envy that my Lord Northumberland
Should be the father to so blest a son—
A son who is the theme of honour’s tongue,
Amongst a grove the very straightest plant,
Who is sweet Fortune’s minion and her pride—
Whilst I, by looking on the praise of him
See riot and dishonor stain the brow
Of my young Harry. O, that it could be proved
That some night-tripping fairy had exchanged
In cradle clothes our children where they lay,
And called mine Percy, his Plantagenet!" (1.1: 77-88)
Here King Henry expresses his frustration with his son and how he wishes the honorable Hotspur were his rather than Hal. But there is a truth behind Hal that the King does not notice. Among his immature ways he is preparing a stage for success and in one of Hal's famous soliloquies he is ready to rise to the occasion:
"My reformation, glitt’ring o’er my fault,
Shall show more goodly and attract more eyes
Than that which hath no foil to set it off.
I’ll so offend to make offence a skill,
Redeeming time when men think least I will" (1.2: 220-224).
And Hal, by the end of the play, truly has allowed his successes to glitter over his faults. In battle, he saves his father from death and in this gains favor and redemption.
So how can a "failure" become such a success? And why was he considered such from the beginning? The conclusion I can draw from this book is the fact that to prevail in adversity comes from a person's own initiation and motivation. Prince Hal has complete power over his success, it simply becomes a matter of using it. This book demonstrates the necessity of motivation and desire, and we get to see the spectrum of a man who both rejects and eventually utilizes his passion.
To prevail (and fail) is a choice.
Monday, September 13, 2010
Oedipus is presented with a mountain of adversity impossible to overcome. But why does he lack total ability to succeed? Why must he fail? The answer comes down to his fate. He was destined to “fail” from the beginning. Sophocles would answer the question stating that certain people are destined to prevail and destined to fail. It doesn’t require a certain level of intelligence or strength, a social position or support system. It comes down to our predetermined fate.
Tuesday, August 31, 2010
Why is Quoyle prone to failure? While millions of other men in their thirties are thriving, he is struggling to find success anywhere. He is hopelessly in love with a woman who could not care less for him, and when she passes away he continues to love her greatly. In and out of unappealing jobs, two daughters his wife tries to sell before her death, parents who commit suicide, and his one best friend to move away. His life seems to be the picture of disappointment. Part of his failure I believe comes from his personality. He is a drifter and a follower. He doesn't know any better, has no motivation and simply does not even know what to do. In order to prevail in adversity, one must have the strength and motivation to do so. Quoyle may not even realize what a disappointment his life has become.
But, there is a turn. Just as in The Odyssey, throughout the course of the book Quoyle begins to grow. He moves his family to Newfoundland (ironically) and slowly learns what real love is through his daughters. He finds his niche in writing "The Shipping News" at the Gammy Bird. And as he learns about his past in Newfoundland, he finally severs the ties of his old life into a man of true character.
Interesting. A man, seemingly a failure, finds a way to prevail. His collections of inadequacy eventually transforms into the ultimate success. This goes to show that with strength and motivation, through growth, even the people that fail can prevail.
Monday, August 30, 2010
Adversity and growth walk hand in hand. There is never a day where we as humans are not faced with difficult decisions or difficult realities. Typically, as soon as satisfaction and comfort stretch out their feet, the hardships knock on the door to shake us back into our struggling realism. But in the face of adversity, what causes some individuals to prevail while others fail? Why do some people succeed while several cannot overcome? And why are we sometimes able to defeat the difficulty when other times we fall flat?