The Beast… without the Beauty: Lord of the Flies Edition

While both of these images may seem harmless at first, their disturbing, yet true depiction of The Lord of the Flies (by a cynical William Golding) is spot on. Throughout this classic novel studied by numerous high school students around the world (reluctantly for most), Golding shares with the readers his view on mankind’s inevitable inner evil through the allegory of British schoolboys crashing on an uninhabited island (shoutout to Golding for somewhat inspiring a favorite TV show of mine aka Lost). One of the most prevalent ways Golding shows his ideas is through the concept of a “Beastie” on the island. While no one truly ever sees this beast in its entirety, all of the boys find themselves afraid of its possibility. Many choose to refuse the idea of a beast (and the fear that comes with it) while others who do believe in its existence are originally mocked for doing so (the poor littluns… and Simon). Two children in particular, Ralph and Piggy, try to convince the others that this Beastie isn’t real so that order and reason might keep the hope of rescue alive and govern the survivors, as seen with the left side of the first picture. They try to build a mirage of the stability and order of civilization, when in reality the native savagery is being brought forth in each of the boys, noted on the right side of the first. And while most of the children, save one, are not entirely wrong in believing that this beast is a live creature who has taken away the hope of rescue (the signal fire can’t be lit on the mountain where the beast dwells), what they fail to realize is that there never was any hope for rescue in the first place. This beast they are all so afraid of does not exist in the physical environment of the island. This so called beast is found within themselves. And if this beast is inside one’s own heart, escaping the island won’t end the savage evil that is beginning to consume them. The beast will forever live in their own souls and cannot be escaped merely through the security and order of civilization. Ralph and Piggy fail in attempting to do so by “rebuilding” their ideal version of a civilization, yet still having troubles, that Golding suggests are caused by the builders themselves. Simon comes to this conclusion after a very strange, but enlightening epileptic episode involving a dead pig’s head and lots of scavenger flies. After this experience, Golding pushes further this idea of the Beastie being part of humanity by choosing to now refer to it with a lowercase b, as the beast, creating a more general term that alludes to the fact that this beast isn’t a singular specific animal; rather, it is a dark layer found in each member of the human race. A beast that drives 12 year old boys to hunt, assault, and kill pigs for the fun of it. A beast that drives a ritual chant “Kill the pig. Cut her throat. Spill the blood.” A beast that leads little children to kill one of their own, so encompassed in the power and pleasure of pain. All because of the beast. And the irony is, the one person who knew the truth about the beast’s identity, ends up being the first direct casualty of it. The boys are so busy striving for the power position, killing the beast, and enjoying the freedom of savagery that they fail to realize that the beast is literally and figuratively staring them in the face. Boom.

lotfbeast

The Game of Chess: a Queen or a fool’s (check)mate?

When Prospero draws open the curtain in Act 5 of the Tempest, King Alonso, along with readers everywhere are not prepared for what is revealed to be on the other side. While most would suspect the unveiling of the almost-married Miranda and Ferdinand, few except what activity these two are participating in. Just this tid-bit about them being almost married and the surprise that ensues after the curtain is drawn will lead many people to a dirtier, yet logical conclusion involving, as Shakespeare puts it, an “oozy bed.” However, to the surprise of many, these two are found at quite the opposite end of the spectrum. Instead of participating in anything remotely scandalous, Miranda and Ferdinand are simply enjoying a game of chess. Yes, you read that right, chess. On an island. In the middle of nowhere. Behind a curtain. A nice game of chess between a prince and his soon-to-be bride. Although this innocent game is quite a surprise to many, this game of royal players has a much deeper significance than what lies on the surface.

Like most literary works, playing chess, can’t simply be put in a book to mean literally playing chess. If it was written literally, there would be no point of reading Shakespeare in English class, nor would there be a point in a literature class at all. But as usual, Shakespeare (most likely) had a theory behind this special game of chess. I believe it was used to show us Ferdinand and Miranda’s rise throughout the eternally long 2 days that make up The Tempest. Chess is a game of strategy, as seen through the scenes of this play, the entire work is basically Prospero unfolding his strategy of revenge on his brother and the regaining of his dukedom (which he never quite wanted it the first place, but for the moment, that is as irrelevant as Nikki and Paolo in Lost). Like a player of a chess game, Prospero designs his strategy according to the most probable decisions, or moves, of the other player (in this case, Antonio and Alonso). All the while, trying to protect his queen, which so happens to be Miranda, so the other team cannot capture her. Although Miranda would be compared to the queen if this play was a game of chess, the readers (or players 😉 can’t forget that a queen is still a pawn- a fact Prospero reminds us of frequently. Prospero is a controlling man in his nature and he definitely uses Miranda as a pawn in his own little game, in order to retake his dukedom victoriously. On the other hand, Ferdinand, himself is a pawn in his father’s game of chess, having to listen to him and “make the moves” his father lays out for him. However, when Ferdinand is separated from his father and when he runs into Miranda, the two finally are able to rise up to the position of kings (or queens respectively themselves) and gain a firmer hand on their own future. This symbolic rise from pawn to royalty represents the children’s ability to rise above their parents decisions and start playing the game according to their own strategy. Their victories or losses that used to be based on the wishes of their parents are now in their own hands, quite literally if we are talking about a game of chess. But as seen with the past players, aka (Alonso and Antonio vs. Prospero), being a master of a game is not always a good thing. Now that they have the power, the true question is what will they do with it. Their parents were both corrupted by this power and used their pawns to carry out their very questionable plans, so what will this knowledge and power do to their innocence? Shakespeare ends the play with this question, leaving the audience with the theory of the power of knowledge fresh on their minds, shedding some light on a whole new perspective (as he tends to do so often in this play) of the game of chess.

50 Shades of Grey, Tempest Style

Like a typical Shakespearean piece, the Tempest is no disappointment in the area of themes, motifs, deeper meanings and an opportunity for plunging analysis at every turn. One of the major themes that has repercussions throughout this play, is in fact, the forces of good and evil. While many times, it is relatively easy to determine the hero and villain of a story, this is rather gray area in this work of good ol’ Shakespeare.

Although Prospero and Miranda are no doubt the protagonists and main characters of this tale, Prospero’s role has more of an evil quality than one would usually gather from the key figure in this story. Yes, he is Miranda’s father and has done a good enough job of raising her into a bright, young woman, and yes he was wronged by his brother Antonio after he back-stabbingly stole the dukedom from Prospero. However, this does not my any means make Prospero the saint or angel of the story. Rather than a symbol of goodness, Prospero continues to be seen as a very controlling man who likes to have everything and everyone in the palm of his hand. A great example of this being in Act 1, Scene 2 when he keeps interrupting his own story to unnecessarily check to make sure the very attentive Miranda is being the good audience he craves, as seen in, “…Thou attend’st not,” (1-2-106. Another one of Prospero’s seemingly evil ways is in his use of supernatural power. Not only did it get him into trouble with his dukedom (“Those being all my study, the government I cast upon my brother and to my sate grew stranger, being transported and rapt in secret studies.” 1-2-92-95), but it also gives him the ability to wreck a noble’s ship in order to seek revenge on his brother, Antonio. He uses this magical ability to enslave both the creatures, Ariel and Caliban, although they were on the island before him. And while Ariel is happy to serve Prospero, Caliban, who was the original island inhabitant, despises both Prospero and Miranda for being enslaved, since they technically set him up for failure by teaching him human knowledge of the rest of the world. Furthermore, the character of Caliban, portrayed as a monster, is typically viewed as a villain, but truly it is the knowledge give to him by Prospero that really got him into trouble. Caliban attempted to rape Miranda, and although this is an unacceptable crime in the eyes of mankind, the typically viewed “monster” didn’t realize the depth of this action. In his mind, it was morally ok because he would’ve been populating the island with his own descendants as its rightful ruler. After all, he was ruling the island before the arrival of Miranda and Prospero as seen in “This island’s mine by Sycorax, my mother, which thou tak’st from me,” (1-2-396-397) While many believe that Caliban is the driving force for evil in the Tempest, it can be noted that Prospero is, in fact, not the “good guy” of this story, faced with his own controversial ideas and actions. Overall, the gray area along the lines of morality/good and evil is definitely a present theme in this enticing Shakespearean work.

Miranda and Prospero on the Island

caliban Prospero_and_miranda wrecked ship

The Odyssey’s Philosophy: The Truth about Lies

The ancient Greek tale of Odysseus, like other Greek myths, was originally used to not only entertain people, but to rather educate them on the world and themselves. When most people who are familiar with The Odyssey try and decipher a key lesson of the story, most agree that the moral is about humility vs. pride. I have to agree that this is the case, but what most people overlook is the philosophy about truth and lies that can be discovered in Odysseus’s decades long adventure.

As philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche claims, “What men avoid by excluding the liar is not so much being defrauded as it is being harmed by means of fraud… what they hate is basically not deception itself, but rather the unpleasant, hated consequences of certain sorts of deception. It is in a similarly restricted sense that man now wants nothing but truth: he desires the pleasant, life-preserving consequences of truth.” What I believe Nietzsche is trying to explain here, is the fact that mankind doesn’t really care about the truth or dishonesty, in themselves, but rather the effects that are caused by truth and lies. This is proven true during many occasions throughout The Odyssey. One example is when Odysseus and his crew arrive at the island of the Cyclops, Polyphemus. Rather than escaping after gathering supplies, Odysseus decides to remain in the great Cyclops’s cave, and ends up having to deceive Polyphemus in order to avoid being eaten by this Cyclops. Eventually Odysseus comes up with a plan to hide under Polyphemus’s treasured sheep, which he lets out every day, in order to escape, as well as lying about his true name, and telling the Cyclops that he was Nobody. As a result of the lie, no other Cyclops comes to Polyphemus’s aid, and Odysseus ends up getting away with his men and P’s treasured sheep. However, Polyphemus does not hate the lie that Odysseus fed him about his name, or even the deception that led to Odysseus’s escape. The Cyclops, truly hates the consequences of this dishonesty; he hates that because Odysseus lied to him, Odysseus and his men were able to escape, and he also despises that the deception is what let them get away. He hates the results of this deception, not the dishonesty in itself. Later on in the story, Odysseus and his men come to the island where the goddess, Circe, lives and get entrapped by her lies. The men are perfectly willing to go in and dine at Circe’s banquet, as she tells them all the food and drink are welcome for them to eat. They are willing to stuff themselves with her enchanted array of food, but as soon as this enchantment allows her to turn them into pigs, they despise this lie. They didn’t hate her dishonesty when she was persuading them to eat the food, they hated what happened because they believed the lie; once again the result is what they do not like, not the lie. Furthermore, much of The Odyssey is told in retrospect, as Odysseus tells his story to the King, and this in itself proves this consequence vs. lies and truth theory. The King asks Odysseus what has occurred in order to decide what to do with him. But the truth (ironically) of the matter is that the King is not looking for the exact truth of Odysseus’s tale, but rather how well he can entertain the King using it. The King is looking for the pleasantries of the truth, not the honesty, itself.

The Chosen One: My Chosen Hero

There are many traits that people use to describe a hero: selfless, strong, brave, kind, and perhaps most of all, extraordinary. These certain characteristics can describe a multitude of figures, whether real or fictional, yet in my opinion there is one character I have experienced in this world that truly fits the bill. Although he may be fictional, I believe Harry Potter is one of the best examples of a hero because of his remarkable ability to boldly protect the ones he loves.

Harry Potter, like most stereotypical heroes, may have been set out from other wizards at birth with his unlikely resistance against the dark wizard’s, Voldemort, murder attempt, but this is not what makes him a hero. Yes, he may have been called “the Boy Who Lived” and that certainly is what made him famous as a child, but his true heroic power lies in his heart. Throughout all 7 books (and 8 movies), Harry Potter continues to get himself into dangerous situations, in order to protect his loved ones. Whether it is facing a two-headed professor (mentally inhabited by Voldemort’s spirit) as an 11 year old, killing a basilisk to save his future wife (and yes, best friend’s sister…I’m looking at you, Ginny), turning back time to aid his “criminal” godfather’s life from a past betrayer, participating in a risky tournament (despite being 3 years too young) which brings him face to face with the one man who wants to kill him above all, watching his beloved Professor die before his eyes, or setting off on a mission to end Voldemort, Harry proves his love for not only his friends, but the world as he presses onward for the greater good of the Wizarding and Muggle world. Harry is even willing to die in order to safeguard all of those around him, giving up his fight since birth against Voldemort, in order to save the world. He welcomes death happily, if it would protect his loved ones’ futures. His huge heart for people is further proven by his band of admirers consisting of no small amount of wizards and witches alike. You would think that his courageous love would be a reflection of the love he was shown in his childhood, but the surprising, and even more amazing truth is the fact that he grew up knowing hatred, not love. His parents, Lily and James, certainly cared for him deeply as a baby, but after their deaths, he was faced with the bitterness his aunt, uncle, and cousin gave him with on a daily basis (he lived in a cupboard under the stairs for 11 years for crying out loud!). Mr. Potter didn’t experience true love until he came upon Hogwarts, a school he calls home.

Overall, Harry Potter is a true hero because of his sacrificial love that he gives out so freely. This love is what has made J.K. Rowling’s wonderful character an inspiration to millions around the world, as well as becoming a global phenomenon. Harry Potter may be referred to as “The Chosen One,” but in my opinion, he is my Chosen Hero. Thank you, Harry Potter for showing the world and myself what a selfless hero is.

Harry battles the Dark Lord for the final time

Harry battles the Dark Lord for the final time

How can you not love that smile?

How can you not love that smile?

He even loves animals :)

He even loves animals 🙂