Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

The Left “Defect”

April 27, 2010

       Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, tells the infamous account of Scout and her brother, Jem’s, childhood, and their fascination with the mysterious Boo Radley. The story depicts the innocence and curiosity of the children growing up in the stereotypical, southern community of Maycomb, Alabama. Within the story exists a few meticulous symbols that can easily be overlooked, or simply seen as a coincidence. Lee expresses the “godliness” of two prominent characters in To Kill a Mockingbird to further develop the presence of underlying benevolence in the story. Both Atticus Finch and Tom Robinson bear left-sided impairments which are clearly noticeable to the reader, but it’s a detail that can be easily disregarded as one of  the story’s quirks when written.

        Atticus’s nearly- blind left eye and Tom’s stunted left arm are hardly coincidental. Acknowledging the fact that left-handedness was once associated with the wrongdoings of the devil, right-handedness has been indubitably favored in the past. Just a few decades ago (around the same time Lee sat down to tell this tale), some people remained adamant in the belief that left- handed people possessed some sort of devilish characteristics based on a few superstitions and verses in the Bible. For example, the book of Matthew states  “Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.’ … Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, ‘Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matthew 25:31-34, 41). In this verse, God is condemning all to his left, cursing them to forever belong with the devil.

         There is most likely no truth behind the suspicion linking the devil and left- handed people, but this myth plays a very vital role in the symbolism behind To Kill a Mockingbird. The inability for Atticus and Tom to have proper function from their defective left-sided parts emphasizes their god like qualities that appear throughout the novel. When old Tim Johnson became sick with rabies, Atticus was the man that Sheriff Tate declared as the best shot in town, despite having almost no use in his left eye. When Tom’s trial was held, he, himself was the only evidence that could prove his innocence. His stunted left arm proved that he couldn’t have possibly committed the rape he was accused of (even though the town declared him guilty).   

            Another familiar superstition is the act of tossing salt over your left shoulder with your right arm to ward off evil spirits and bad luck.(2) Additionally, parents have always taught their children to “start off the day on the right foot,” not the left. Another example from Christianity, it is the right hand that gives the blessing and makes the sign of the cross, a clear emphasis on the right hand’s importance. Each of these examples may or may not convince one in believing the myth, but this does provide enough background to acknowledge Lee’s association between the godliness of the characters and their inability to commit wrongdoings. They are strongest representations of justice in the novel.

            In addition to his left-eyed impairment, Atticus takes part in other illusions of saintliness in the novel; one scene in particular stands out. The evening that Tom Robinson is staying overnight for the upcoming trial, Atticus experiences a sense of duty and responsibility towards Tom’s well being. Atticus instinctively knew that Tom would have a few unwelcome visitors in jail, so he went out of his way to stay outside the jailhouse that night. Lee describes the physicality of the scene very intentionally. Atticus sat outside the gothic-like jailhouse, solely shining under the bare bulb he’d brought from home. This image conjures the thought of a guardian angel looking down from the beaming light of heaven, or perhaps God himself, watching over and protecting his children. He sat calmly, reading and waiting. Atticus was plenty aware of the danger he was putting himself in, but it was the just thing to do.

           The left -sided defectiveness that Lee applied to Atticus and Tom Robinson create an added depth and hint of godliness to their characters, that readers may have previously overlooked. What seems to be a mere coincidence, this fine detail actually supports Lee’s message in a very beneficial manner.

Works cited:

1. Lee, Harper.(1960). To Kill a Mockingbird. New York, NY: Grand Central Publishing.

2.. http://www.anythinglefthanded.co.uk/lefty_myths.html

March 12, 2010

Confined to Reality

             The Vietnam War created a great deal of hostility and divergence amidst the American spirit. It was very hard for many citizens to comprehend exactly what they were trying to fight for; they would often hear of the unnecessary killing that took place on both margins of the war. When veterans returned home from the hellish battle, most roughly wounded, they did not receive the gracious receptions they had expected. In Oliver Stone’s epic story, Born on the Fourth of July, Ron Kovic (played by Tom Cruise) is one of the aforementioned veterans that feel as if they deserve more honor and sympathy from their homeland. Just like each fellow marine, he volunteered to give himself to his country, for the elusively positive outcome of fighting the Vietnamese. Ron refuses to be confined to the reality surrounding him. Aside from a disrespected war, Ron is facing mental roadblocks that keep him from accepting the  shifting world around him. His paralysis keeps him physically separated from viewing the present effect of the war. As the film progresses, Stone shows prominent scenes that unmistakably demonstrate Ron’s confinement. 

            When the audience finally sees Ron after he has returned to the states, he is barely recognizable; paralyzed, unshaven, wearing his face with a permanent look of anguish. When his doctor finally consults him after what seems months of waiting, he is informed that he might have to lose one of his legs, mostly in part because the poorly established recovery facility doesn’t have enough of the appropriate equipment to properly rehabilitate its tenants. Ron doesn’t respond to the news very calmly. In fact, he  immediately rejects the doctors counsel, “No Doc, I have to keep my leg,” even though the doctor admitted there is a one-hundred percent chance that Ron will never be able to walk again. Its also apparent that this scene shows how indifferent the facility staff is to Ron’s situation, casually stating that he’ll probably need to lose one of his limbs. When Ron wins the fight to keep his leg, he still feels determined that he will walk again, maybe even wrestle like he’d enjoyed before. He has a false sense of hope that his life can return to the way it was before Vietnam.

            Another ill- defining moment for Ron regards the reunion of him and one of his previous girlfriends. Out from the recovery center, and functioning successfully in his wheelchair, Ron was feeling very hopeful for the future. Visiting his old girlfriend, it’s very possible that he was wishing they could pick up where they’d left off. To his dismay, Ron discovers that not only is she engaged to another man, she has an entirely new life that completely crashes with Ron’s world. She is a main participant in fighting against the war and the center of many demonstrations. She has moved on. After hitting Ron with the news, she further tries to persuade Ron to publically speak at one of the gatherings, emphasizing that “they would listen to him,” especially since he feels so misunderstood and disrespected as a wounded veteran. At the end of this scene, she and Ron are progressing alongside the demonstration area when Ron abruptly stops. He has hit the end of the sidewalk, and been halted by the elevated pavement to which she has already stepped onto. This symbolizes Ron’s confinement to ‘his side’, while she (and the rest of the United States) has moved on, desiring peace and rejecting the war.

            Returning home was a very troubling experience for Vietnam veterans. It was such a conflicting war between the people and the government, the nation never fully understanding the purpose of the war; leaving many of the veterans like Ron, abandoned and disdained. 

Works Cited

1. Kovic, Ron, Oliver Stone, A. Kitman Ho, Tom Cruise and Kyra Sedgwick. Born On the Fourth of July . Universal City, CA: Universal Home Video, 1998.

The Best Years of Our Lives…

February 17, 2010

In William Wyler’s The Best Years of Our Lives, Homer is one of three war veterans who is  anxiously returning to the homeland to finally see his family and sweetheart, Wilma. Unfortunately, Homer lost both his arms in the war and was given hook prosthetics for hand replacements. Although the navy taught him the basics fairly well, it will undoubtedly present a struggle for Homer when operating his new hooks especially when he wants to show compassion and sensitivity. It’s quite obvious that hooks are not the most inviting things to see when shaking hands or receiving a hug. He has qualms of how everyone will perceive and act towards him. They may treat him like a fragile child or worse, like a villainous monster.

 Once home, Homer received a warm but awkward welcome from most. His primary dilemma is not only his fear of  Wilma and his family’s reaction to his hooks. His crucial setback is his inability to accept himself as a valuable man without the functionality of  hands. He has been forced to live without the use of the tools that make most everyday activities possible like dining with his family, opening doors, and changing his own clothes. He feels worthless. His depression causes him to seclude himself from his family when he feels they don’t understand what he’s going through. He  pushes Wilma away, even though he loves her. He wishes that everyone would treat him ‘normal’, just as before. Homer is dreaming the impossible which prohibits him from accepting his current reality.   

Homer became paranoid while attempting to adjust to his new civilian life. He becomes better at performing daily activities, but he still feels as if some of the others mock or secretly pity him. In one scene, Wilma is making an effort to communicate with Homer to discuss the future of their relationship. During their talk, Homer noticed the neighborhood kids staring into the window peering in on the couple. He assumed that they were trying to catch a glimpse of his hooks. Heated, he shouted with a menacing glare, “Wanna see the monster!” as he jabbed through the glass and shattered the window. The kids were just trying to spy on the engaged couple, not meaning to cause any harm or dispute. This demonstrates how mentally unstable Homer is and shows how uncomfortable he is with his new permanent physical state.

In the pivotal scene of the film, Wilma comes to see Homer one late night, worried because her parents are trying to send her away in hopes she will forget about him. She makes it very clear that she wants to stay with Homer and begin their life together. He insists that she will become unhappy and eventually despise him for all the things he can’t do by himself. He would become dependent on her assistance and she would grow tired of constantly having to attend to his needs. She adamantly claims that she has to at least try being together or she would always wonder what could have been. At that point, he takes her upstairs to show her what she has never seen before. Homer stood in his room, shirt and hooks off, revealing his complete vulnerability to Wilma. In that state, Homer had to rely on her to open the door if it were to shut, button his shirt, and put his hooks back on in the morning since he was unable to do it himself. She graciously accepted Homer in her arms, assuring him that she wanted to be the one there that he could always rely on. Homer finally gained the happy ending that he had wished for, an incredible achievement for any war veteran.

Works cited:

1. The Best Years of Our Lives. Dir. William Wyler. Screenplay by Robert E. Sherwood. By Mackinley Kantor. Performances by Harold Russell, Cathy O’Donell. 1946. videocassette.

Control film

January 25, 2010

      In the film, Control, the audience is quickly introduced to the demanding lifestyle of the fame- hungry Manchester band, Joy Division. We as viewers are exposed to the main character and lead singer of the band, Ian Curtis, who not far into the film experiences a change that will forever alter his way of living. It is very obvious that living with any diagnosis like epilepsy would be a grave struggle. For Ian Curtis, it was perhaps a slight bit more difficult to accept his diagnoses, especially when considering just how determined he was to lead the band into rock recognition.

            What is not so obvious in the film, is the irony that is demonstrated when bearing in mind the presence and allure that Ian Curtis tried so hard to prove he possessed when on stage and in his personal life. He spent every moment of his life (besides when he was alone or having seizures) displaying an outsider persona of someone who had complete control over his actions, didn’t care what his fans thought, as if he were not ashamed of his epilepsy at all. When in actuality, Ian’s world was falling apart and he was beginning to lose control over every facet of his life.

             Ian became renowned for his live stage performances , especially when he began to repeatedly act out the “epilepsy dance.” It’s not exactly clear why he came up with those specific moves and arm gestures. Perhaps he wanted to share with his audience how much he didn’t mind having epilepsy. If he showed that he possessed  ‘control’ over his movements and dramatic motions on stage and the audience accepted it, maybe it would show them how much ‘control’ he had over his [life]disease, too. He was merely trying to deceive the crowd with his blatant stage show.

            Aside from his band’s career, Ian is also responsible for being a loving husband to his wife and father to his child. He realizes that he is not being a good father, neglecting to spend time at home because he spends all of his “free time” on the road traveling with the band. Making Ian’s marriage begins to unravel when he and the band start performing more often at better venues. At one point in the film when the band is playing at a well- known club, Ian failed to put his own wife (who was also pregnant at the time) on the guest list, making her feel  extremely neglected and irritated with Ian. Making matters even worse, Ian picks up one of the fans (who turns out to be a very bad influence) at one point during their tour and continues to see her throughout the rest of the film.

            Ian sadly spent the majority of his down time being depressed, alone. He came up with the song, “ Isolation” at that time, which contained exceedingly personal lyrics ( even suicidal) about his own deep feelings which he felt no one could understand. Ironically, the song turned into a “genius” hit, the perfect combination of fast music and   depressing lyrics (that no one thought twice about taking seriously at the time.)

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January 20, 2010

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