Category Archives: Academic Writing

Analysis of Dante’s Inferno, Virgil’s Aeneid, and Margery Kempe’s Book

804192989_origAn essay I wrote in undergrad comparing Dante’s Inferno, Virgil’s Aeneid, and Margery Kempe’s Book. 

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In Dante’s Inferno, Christianity was the main focus of the epic; Dante explored the underworld showing his opinion of what was sinful and what would qualify someone for Hell. In Margery Kempe’s Book, all of her stories were also written about Christianity, however, she created a sexual relationship between herself and God who was also a character in her book. In Virgil’s Aeneid, the gods and goddesses also had active roles in the storyline and helped the plot progress. Although the time periods when The Aeneid, The Inferno, and Margery Kempe’s Book were written have drastically different religious views, they all incorporated their beliefs into their writing.

Roman gods had dialogue and actively participated in the story; they were an ever-present force in The Aeneid. The gods were able to control situations depending on what they wanted, even if that was not the way that things were supposed to work out. Throughout the epic, Juno tormented the Trojans and created unnecessary problems for them even though she knew that they would settle eventually and Rome would start; she held a grudge against them which was why she incessantly tortured them. Robert Coleman said, “Divine interventions were a traditional staple of epic, conferring status upon human events portrayed and evoking a world where gods and men were closer to one another” (143). In Roman epics, the gods usually played a major role in the storyline and their over exaggerated emotions would create problems for the humans. Their intentions to create some sort of drama usually conflicted with fate, but the gods still interfered and fate worked its way around their intrusions. The Roman religion was something that became apparent in all epics, especially The Aeneid because of how it was portrayed. Religion was a major theme in that epic, threading its way throughout the plot. It was obviously a main value of the Roman people as well because of the huge part that it played within the storyline. Fate and the god’s influence would conflict with one another causing the majority of problems throughout the epic. “Gods intervene in two general ways: by manipulating the external world and by influencing human reactions and decisions internally.” The gods were real characters in the epic and interacted with other characters, showing the importance of religion in ancient Rome.

Dante’s story had mention of religion and made the rules of Christianity clear, but God was not a character. Dante also made it known what would or would not get you put in Hell, showing how strongly influenced he was by religion. Although God was not actually in The Inferno, His will was still made known by Dante and His influence was apparent throughout the entire epic. Dante the Pilgrim was positive that he was heaven-bound and went around Hell from a spectator’s perspective. However, since Dante was also the writer, he was not the innocent bystander that he appeared to be in the epic; he felt that God was merciless and that if you sinned, there was a slim chance that you could repent and avoid going to Hell. “In Dante, there is no ‘development’ properly speaking: the soul itself continues to exist without change while the life of the body is utterly destroyed” (Spitzer 82). One of Dante’s beliefs about how the Christian afterlife was that the soul could exist but the body would be destroyed. He made a lot of assertions without actually using God to say what he believed, creating an experience that showed his opinions about Christian afterlife.

Margery Kempe was controlled by religion and her stories were entirely about her interactions with God and Jesus with both acting as main characters as well. Margery sacrificed having a normal life to be entirely dedicated to Jesus; she refused to have sex with her husband, she cried out and annoyed people around her—all so that she could be pure and entirely dedicated. “Margery demonstrated her mind’s kinship with spiritual realities” (Glenn 541). Margery’s entire book is based on “her divine visions,” and how Jesus or God would talk to her and tell her how much they loved her (Glenn 541). She was known for crying hysterically all the time because of how deeply she was affected by her visions. She would be in church, for instance, and have a vision of Christ being nailed violently to the cross as if she were there watching. “By associating her own development with incidents in Jesus’s life, Margery blurs her theology with her autobiography” (Glenn 544). Margery was seen as a nuisance but could also be considered special by some because of these visions. Her writing was entirely dedicated to Christianity and her level of infatuation with God. Margery showed her views in her writing by including her crazy visions, her supposed conversations with God and Jesus, and her overall commitment to Christianity.

The similarity between them all was that they lived in times when religion (no matter what kind) strongly influenced them and they made sure to bring it into their stories. There were many reasons why these writers would incorporate religion into their pieces. In their times, making religion a main theme of their stories or epics showed the values of the society and it was a way for the writers to appease to readers then. In each society, people would only want to read about stories that they could find a way to apply to themselves, and being able to relate to the religious aspects was a good way for the authors to appeal. Life during their times were usually centered on religion, which was another reason why it was a good way for the writers to get publicity for their works. There were also trends in literature with religion threaded throughout stories. Before Virgil and Dante’s epics, Homer and other epic writers also incorporated their religious beliefs into stories. Greek and Roman writers made the gods into characters, which is a trend that Virgil kept with, and although Dante deviated from the trend of keeping God as a character, he was also dealing with a new type of epic poem and a new type of religion. Aside from having similar messages due to the fact that religion was so strongly incorporated, there were similar characterizations and plots as well. Margery Kempe was inspired by God enough to feel His presence and see Him all the time, and Dante was inspired enough to create a version of Hell appropriate to what he believed. Similarly, Virgil used religion in the way that he and other ancient Romans believed, although he himself was not entirely embodied by the beliefs. He used what he believed in his storyline, but it was not a part of him as much as it was part of the story. All three authors were able to somehow incorporate their different beliefs into their stories in a way so that they told an interesting story while utilizing what they believed. For Virgil, it was a minor point to include the gods and just something that he did as a tradition in epic poems. However for Dante, it was more of a small focal point for him to branch off from. Margery used religion as the entirety of her book and made her beliefs into part of her autobiography. In different ways, they were able to show the varying strength of religious influence in their lives.

Dante, Virgil, and Margery Kempe all integrated their religious beliefs into their writing, whether it was the main focus of the piece or just a small part of the larger story. Kempe and Dante’s stories were more focused around religion while Virgil was more focused on the creation of Rome with the gods mixed in. Regardless of their approach to writing, they were all able to show their beliefs. Margery used her visions and conversations with God to show her dedication to Christianity, Dante used his decisions as to what made a person a sinner to show his devotion, and Virgil mentioned the gods and goddesses as characters to show his views.

Works Cited

Coleman, Robert. “The Gods in the ‘Aeneid’. “Greece & Rome. Vol. 29, No. 2.

Cambridge University Press, 1982. 143-168.

Glenn, Cheryl. “Author, Audience, and Autobiography: Rhetorical Technique in the Book

of Margery Kempe.” College English Vol. 54, No. 5. National Council of Teachers

of English, 1992. 540-553.

Spitzer, Leo. “Speech and Language in Inferno XIII.” Italica Vol. 19, No. American

Association of Teachers of Italian, 1942. 381-104.

 

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Dorothy vs. Nature

ozThis is an academic piece that I wrote about The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum about how Dorothy’s connection to nature and man-made items influence her time in Oz. It was for a Children’s Literature class I took, which was probably one of my favorite classes in college.

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In L. Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Dorothy proves that she is incapable of surviving on her own in this strange new place without help from her man-made friends, the Tin Woodman and the Scarecrow, or the helpful animals she comes across such as the Cowardly Lion, the Winged Monkeys, and the field mice. Through her male counterparts, Dorothy makes her journey safely through the Land of Oz with their guidance and constant assistance on the path to maturation. When Dorothy first arrives in the land of the Munchkins, she is completely inexperienced when dealing with the environment because although the family lives on a farm, the nature they deal with is domesticated and contained; a sense of danger is necessary in the growth process and she was previously limited from dealing with anything too wild. However, nature becomes important and necessary on the path to help Dorothy grow and mature especially in this new place where she must adapt to parts of nature that she never experienced before.

From the start of Dorothy’s journey, she becomes a victim to nature and must rely on her man-made companions, the Scarecrow and the Tin Woodman, to help her along because their distance from nature gives them an advantage that Dorothy lacks. It begins with the cyclone carrying her into a strange place with the potential to damage her, but without actually doing so. She is scared but soon becomes relaxed and “in spite of the swaying of the house and the wailing of the wind, Dorothy soon closed her eyes and fell fast asleep” (Baum 7). From the beginning of her journey, nature immediately takes advantage of Dorothy and she responds in a child-like way by ignoring the issue and falling asleep instead of trying to find help or come up with a solution. After meeting the Scarecrow, Dorothy and her new ally continue their journey upon the yellow brick road and he helps her when she stumbles over the rockier surface because he is not harmed by the rocks that slow and hurt her. Since he is a more technologically advanced character by not being human and weakened by nature’s obstacles, the Scarecrow is able to prevail against it and overcome any obstructions Dorothy is slowed down by. When the Tin Woodman is acquired next as a companion, he further protects Dorothy from any threats from nature, particularly creatures that threaten her life. With his axe, he is able to create other man-made objects from the nature at his disposal and can also threaten any dangerous animal with his weapon, such as the wild cat chasing the Queen of the Mice. According to Culver, “women are…organic, or ‘meat people’ while men are more often than not manikins or robots; thus Baum’s child reader learns sexual difference as she learns what Hall saw as the more basic distinction between organic and vital organization” (619). These male companions help Dorothy to grow up quickly by being the woman in need of constant protection by her man-made friends. The fact that they are more technologically developed and distanced from nature gives them an upper-hand in the constant battle against natural elements in the Land of Oz; every time one of the two becomes absent, Dorothy’s life is once again at risk and they need to be fixed for her sake. When the Wicked Witch sends bees, scarecrows, and wolves to hurt the four travelers, the Scarecrow and the Tin Woodman destroy them all with abilities that Dorothy or the Cowardly Lion would not have been able to apply because they are not man-made creatures. The two “are taken as reminders that humanity is really transcendent and never reified, always present but never located in a specific body part” (Culver 620). In Kansas, the nature that Dorothy deals with is domesticated animals and gray land that lack any trees or other greenery. These factors give her a disadvantage when she arrives in the lush green Land of Oz and therefore she is limited due to previously dealing with nature in such a contained way.

Although Dorothy is constantly struggling with nature, she is also aided by certain aspects such as the water, which destroys the Wicked Witch, and the numerous animals that help her. The Cowardly Lion is one of Dorothy’s first positive interactions with nature; although the Lion is unable to protect her from attackers because he is either afraid or the Tin Woodman or Scarecrow act first, he offers helpful ideas and is the idea of protection since danger that comes across the group is intimidated by him. “‘A Lion!’ cried the little Queen; ‘why, he would eat us all up.’ ‘Oh, no;’ declared the Scarecrow; ‘this Lion is a coward’” (Baum 80). At the sight and mention of the Lion, any weaker threats from nature become alarmed although he actually could not harm anything due to his immense fear. Aside from the Lion, there is aide offered from the mice and the Winged Monkeys as well; the mice become allies after the Tin Woodman saves their queen and the Winged Monkeys are bound to Dorothy because of the Golden Cap. Since there is no danger when Dorothy lives in Kansas, she does not need protection and guidance. The animals she encounters would not have helped her much because they live contained lives also and would not understand nature fully either. The only aide for Dorothy in Kansas is Toto, who “made Dorothy laugh, and saved her from growing as gray as her other surroundings” (Baum 3). Although Toto is a small connection to nature, he is enough to keep her innocent and protect her individuality, which Aunt Em and Uncle Henry lack and become gray and spiritless without. Aside from animal aide, Dorothy is also able to prevail by using water to her advantage to help kill the Wicked Witch. Throughout her journey, the girl uses water to revitalize herself upon waking up; she washes her face and makes sure she has a drink of water before she can start traveling again. Dorothy becomes driven by her desire to get the silver shoe back that the Wicked Witch steals off her foot, and for the first time she protects herself and throws water in her face, causing her demise.

The split between the two worlds that Dorothy encounters is that her life in Kansas is ancient and not as advanced as the Land of Oz where everything points towards the capitalistic and technologically advanced future. Certain colors point to capital references such as the Silver Shoes, the Golden Cap, and the Emerald City, which are all vital aspects of Dorothy’s adventure. The shoes, cap, and kiss shaped like a diamond all help her get to the ultimate destination of Emerald City to see the Wizard of Oz. Oz set up the country in a way that the citizens live in fear of him but respect him regardless, and they focus on constant movement forward and on monetary values. “The conservative financers who run the Emerald City, in other words, force its citizens to look at the world through money-colored glasses” (Rockoff 739). The green glasses give a vision of a world entirely focused on capitalism and its progress through the capitalist system; the people in Emerald City are busier than the other smaller, rural towns that Dorothy encounters and it is the first city the four are introduced to in Oz. The green city is clearly more advanced technologically than anywhere else they visit, and Dorothy witnesses the people selling food and other items on the streets and customers paying for those items, which is the first instance of exchange in Oz. In Kansas, Dorothy lives a similar poor and rural lifestyle as the rest of the people she encounters before arriving at Emerald City. When she is imprisoned by the Wicked Witch, the only time she is able to defend herself is because “she had lost one of her pretty shoes” (Baum 128). Dorothy is driven by the shoes’ switch from necessity to artifice, and this drives her to unintentionally destroy the Witch for them. She then uses the Golden Cap and Silver Shoes for their charms, and realizes “the power to solve her problems (by adding silver to the money stock) was there all the time” (Rockoff 756). From the start of the journey, she wants to go home and by the end she gains knowledge and matures by acquiring new information and life lessons but still makes the decision to leave. “No matter how dreary and gray our homes are, we people of flesh and blood would rather live there than in any other country, be it ever so beautiful. There is no place like home,” (Baum 33). She has experience with nature that she can now apply to her life at home and will be able to appreciate a simpler world without technology and capitalist containment.

Throughout Dorothy’s journey in the Land of Oz, she acquires new friends both man-made and distanced from nature, and animal and directly connected to nature who help her overcome her inexperience with the environment. She is able to mature during her journey by learning how to deal with nature, which her farm in Kansas did not give her; although a farm would be thought to give a direct connection to life and the natural world, their animals were domesticated and unable to give much insight because they did not have it either. By the end of the journey, Dorothy has grown into a wiser girl that can now return back to Kansas and properly deal with the environment that she had previously been clueless about.

Works Cited

Baum, L. Frank. The Wonderful Land of Oz. New York, NY: Penguin Group, 2006. 1-

  1. Print.

Culver, Stuart. “Growing up in Oz.” American Literary History 4.4 (1992): 607-628. Web.

9 Dec 2009.

http://www.jstor.org.proxy.binghamton.edu/stable/489788?seq=14&Search=yes&term=nature&term=wizard&term=dorothy&term=oz&list=show&searchUri=%2Faction%2FdoBasicSearch%3FQuery%3Dthe%2Bwizard%2Bof%2Boz%2Bdorothy%2Band%2Bnature%26x%3D0%26y%3D0%26wc%3Don&item=2&ttl=198&returnArticleService=showArticle&resultsServiceName=doBasicResultsFromArticle.

Rockoff, Hugh. “The “Wizard of Oz” as a Monetary Allegory.” Journal of Political

Economy 98.4 (1990): 739-760. Web. 9 Dec 2009.

http://www.jstor.org.proxy.binghamton.edu/stable/2937766?seq=18&Search=yes&term=nature&term=wizard&term=dorothy&term=oz&list=show&searchUri=%2Faction%2FdoBasicSearch%3FQuery%3Dthe%2Bwizard%2Bof%2Boz%2Bdorothy%2Band%2Bnature%26x%3D0%26y%3D0%26wc%3Don&item=1&ttl=198&returnArticleService=showArticle&resultsServiceName=doBasicResultsFromArticle.

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Analysis of Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet”

romeoandjulietAnother paper that I wrote in college for a Shakespeare literature class I took. I really love reading Shakespeare and thoroughly enjoyed this class, although it was rather tough at times. I analyzed Romeo and Juliet about how Juliet’s wet nurse and Friar Lawrence acted as parents to the lovestruck teens.

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Throughout Romeo and Juliet, the Friar Lawrence and Juliet’s wet nurse acted as surrogate parents for the young lovers. However the role that the two played as surrogates led to the deaths of the two youths from their unrealized crossing of class boundaries. Romeo and Juliet’s parents were not major characters in the play and therefore the Friar and the Nurse helped the couple through their problems and also acted as the bridge between the two. Aside from passing messages along, Friar Lawrence and the Nurse also took on a lot of responsibilities that Romeo and Juliet were not mature enough to handle. Although they were not major characters, they acted as the stronger characters while the two main characters were usually weaker and more desperate.

Friar Lawrence was seen as the surrogate father for Romeo since the Montague parents were hardly in the play and there was hardly any connection between them and their son. When Romeo’s parents were mentioned in the beginning of the play, they had no idea where their son even was, creating their roles as irrelevant parent characters.

O, where is Romeo? Saw you him today?

Right glad I am he was not at this fray (lines 116-117)

(Shakespeare 1106).

The parents were only in the first and the last scene of the entire play, not really adding much to the storyline. Replacing the parents in the scenes were Romeo’s friends; instead of being with family, he was always found with his friends. They gave him advice when the Friar could not be there for him, although that was rare. Romeo should have confided more in his friends than in the Friar because they would have been staying within their boundaries while also giving him sound advice.

Friar Lawrence could be thought of as Romeo’s spiritual surrogate father as well because of his job. He is “one trained in a particular discipline, yet free to think and act on his feet” (Glover 168). Friars at the time were able to perform wedding ceremonies, perform funerals, and were also herbalists. At the time, the friars had two books that they followed: the bible and the book of nature, the Doctrine of Signatures. This was the theory that everything on earth was marked by God with a sign that described its purpose. There was also a similarity between Friar Lawrence’s role in the play and the general story of Christian religion. The Christian story is one of reconciliation with God through Love and similarly Friar Lawrence made himself into a Christ-like savior between the two families. His trying to marry the two youths was also an attempt to try and fix the feuding between the Montague’s and the Capulet’s. “The Romeo/Juliet union is not the impossible objective one might suppose, but a way to bridge the rift between the feuding Montague’s and Capulet’s” (Glover 168). However, the Friar could not imagine the problems that would be encountered from his simple planning; instead of helping the situation, Lawrence instead led toward Romeo’s death.

The Friar was Romeo’s right-hand man with giving advice and being the level head that Romeo needed when he started to stress out. Romeo had been characterized from the beginning as the perfect example of the Petrarchan lover. Romeo was effeminized by the two women he loved in the play because he placed them on a pedestal and took the role of the frustrated lover.

O sweet Juliet,

Thy beauty hath made me effeminate,

And in my temper soft’ned valor’s steel! (lines 112-115)

(Shakespeare 1122)

Romeo blamed Juliet for making him a weaker character as he fell neatly into the Petrarchian male role. When he faced trouble, Romeo was usually at a loss of what to do and depended on his father figure to help him out. For example, when Romeo was exiled from Verona for murdering Tybalt, he was unable to figure out what to do while he acted dramatically and threatened to stab himself. Friar Lawrence had to scold him and give him reasons of why he should want to live and why it would be unfair for him to kill himself. He is relieved that Romeo was merely banished, yet unhappy with the situation. “He is understanding but furious at Romeo’s lack of gratitude to the Duke for his clemency” (Glover 171). The Friar also had to devise a plan for Romeo and Juliet because Romeo was unable to calm himself for long enough to think of anything to do.

Ascend her chamber, hence and comfort her.

But look thou stay not till the watch be set,

For then thou canst not pass to Mantua,

Where thou shalt live till we can find a time

To blaze your marriage, reconcile your friends,

Beg pardon of the Prince, and call thee back

With twenty hundred thousand times more joy

Than thou went’st forth in lamentation (lines 147-154)

(Shakespeare 1126).

While being the person to calm Romeo and make him more levelheaded, the Friar also had to give him step-by-step instructions of what he should do during his exile. “[Friar Lawrence is] practical again, facing the alternatives, finding and promoting the only possible solution” (Glover 171). The Friar was his friend when he should have taken a more adult role in the boy’s life; he should have scolded the boy and showed more discipline instead of giving him options to further plunge deeper into the situation.

Juliet also went to the Friar for help and he aided her in a similar way when she was in a hysterical state. She went to Friar Lawrence after finding out that she had to marry Paris or face family exile, and she started to weep and lose control of herself. Juliet also threatened to kill herself, however she did not face the scolding that Friar Lawrence gave Romeo for the same threat. Friar Lawrence would not scold Juliet because he was not her surrogate parent; the Friar was there for Romeo in his time of need like the Nurse was for Juliet. The Friar or the Nurse would not give the other child similar treatment, but would instead treat them like a friend seeking advice. It was not the place of a parent to scold their child’s friend the way they would reprimand their child, so they keep with that sort of tradition. Friar Lawrence, however, did give Juliet instructions of what to do when she could not think for herself because of her desperation.

To-morrow night look that thou lie alone,

Let not the nurse lie with thee in thy chamber.

Take thou this vial, being then in bed,

And this distilling liquor drink thou off,

When presently through all thy veins shall run

A cold and drowsy humor; for no pulse

Shall keep his native progress, but surcease;

No warmth, no [breath] shall testify thou livest;

The roses in thy lips and cheeks shall fade

To [wanny] ashes, thy eyes’ windows fall,

Like death when he shuts up the day of life (lines 91-101)

(Shakespeare 1130).

Friar Lawrence had helped both children in similar instances when they were unable to come up with a plan of action for themselves instead of just staying out of their problems. While giving them comfort and helping them to regain their level heads, he also had to plan out exactly what they should do. Even as the main characters they were unable to devise their plans for themselves and instead needed to rely on the Friar for such things.

By the end of the play, all of Friar Lawrence’s hard work with helping Romeo and Juliet was basically useless; the deaths and problems that arose could not have even been foreseen. “It is not until the forward impetus of his plans is thwarted by that wretched plague that Lawrence suddenly perceives the enormity of what he’s done” (Glover 175). Friar Lawrence could hardly handle what he saw when he entered the tomb to wait for Juliet to awaken.

Romeo, O pale! Who else? What, Paris too?

And steep’d in blood? Ah, what an unkind hour

Is guilty of this lamentable chance! (lines 144-146) (Shakespeare 1137)

Friar Lawrence witnessed the boy who was like a son to him dead, with another man dead, and knew that Juliet was going to want to kill herself as well. “He recognizes the impossibility of the situation, and his own guilt overwhelms him” (Glover 175). His final speech to the Capulets, the Montagues, and the Prince was his way of releasing all his guilt because now “the man is dead inside” (Glover 176). The Friar told the entire story to the listeners; he told about his involvement and the Nurse’s, and at the end of his speech he put the blame entirely on his shoulders, saying he deserved punishment by law.

And if aught in this

Miscarried by my fault, let my old life

Be sacrific’d some hour before his time,

Unto the rigor of severest law (lines 266-269) (Shakespeare 1138).

Although the Prince excused him with no punishment, Friar Lawrence had to suffer for the rest of his life since his help led to the death of three innocent people; “the most significant emotional upheaval of his life” (Glover 174). Friar Lawrence felt that he deserved some sort of punishment for what his help had led to, but instead he was denied that luxury. Having a punishment would at least help him to recover from the tragedy, but instead he had to live with guilt and lack of punishment.

The wet nurse was Juliet’s surrogate mother in the play; she weaned the child and she also helped her by giving guidance as she grew older. “She is in fact the Mother, the person in whom Juliet lays her trust and confides her secret love” (Bruce 91). In the Act 1, Scene 3 the Nurse appeared for the first time involved in a conversation about marriage between Lady Capulet and Juliet. The Nurse gave a short speech about taking care of Juliet and some events that happened while she was growing up that her parents were absent for. William Toole concentrates on this speech and how it foreshadowed certain parts of Juliet’s life.

And then my husband- God be with his soul!

‘A was a merry man- took up the child.

“Yea” quoth he, “dost thou fall upon thy face?

Thou wilt fall backward when thou hast more wit,

Wilt thou not, Jule?” and by my holidam,

The pretty wretch left crying and said, “Ay” (lines 39-44)

(Shakespeare 1109).

Toole remarked that these lines represented the relationship between Juliet falling down and the sexual awakening that was in her future. It was an inevitable thing, and the act of Juliet falling down made the Nurse’s husband think of Juliet’s future sex life. The “innocent ‘Ay’ of infancy” is related to Juliet’s sexual awakening and how she might not have been ready for it. However, the casual manner the Nurse and her husband mentioned sex in caused Juliet to maintain a similar disposition for when she “acquires ‘more wit’” (21-22).

Juliet’s parents were also rarely seen in the play except for when money was concerned. In the beginning of the play, Lady Capulet approached Juliet to ask her about her desire to marry Paris. However when she does approach her daughter, she asked her questions that she would know the answer to, were she closer to her daughter. Lady Capulet needed to ask her if she would be able to love Paris because she would not know otherwise since she rarely interacted with her daughter. Similarly when Capulet talks to Paris he assumed how his daughter felt about having to marry him without actually knowing. When Juliet was opposed to the marriage, Capulet was enraged because he was wrong about his daughter and also because he might not get the money he was expecting. It was just another instance similar to how Romeo’s parents were displayed, in which the parents of the protagonists do not know their children at all. They make assumptions about their children or just flat out show their ignorance of how to appeal to them.

Sir Paris, I will make a desperate tender

Of my child’s love. I think she will [be] rul’d

In all respects by me; nay more, I doubt it not (lines 12-14)

(Shakespeare 1126).

The Capulets were driven by their love for money, and therefore Juliet was pressured into a second marriage with Paris. Although a woman at the time was allowed to deny her father’s wish of who she was to marry, Juliet was threatened with exile because her father did not want to miss this opportunity. The girl was left with no choice and had to comply. Even at the end of the play when their daughter is dead, all the Capulets would concentrate on was competing with the Montagues about erecting a larger statue of the other deceased child. Instead of involving themselves with their daughter, Capulet and Lady Capulet were too obsessed with money and their image to look more powerful than the Montagues.

The Nurse was a comic relief for Juliet when she had a troublesome time, but she was also there to cater to her every whim. If the Nurse had just stayed in her role as a wet nurse and not acted as Juliet’s friend, then Juliet’s death could have been avoided. However since the Nurse had lost her daughter, she used Juliet as a replacement and therefore did whatever the girl wanted. At the party where Juliet and Romeo first met, Juliet went to her Nurse to ask her questions about the stranger she danced with briefly.

Come hither, nurse. What is yond gentleman? (line 128)

What’s he that now is going out of door? (line 130)

What’s he that follows here, that would not dance? (line 132)

Go ask his name.- If he be married,

My grave is like to be my wedding-bed (lines 134-135)

(Shakespeare 1113).

Juliet relied on her Nurse for answers, similar to how a child would rely on a parent for answers that they would not otherwise know. The Nurse gave the girl the answers she sought, and even helped her out in other ways. She looked for Romeo to warn him not to hurt her ‘daughter,’ for the simple reason that Juliet asked her to find out more about him. “The only interest in her life is Juliet and Juliet’s happiness” (Bruce 93), and she would go out of her way to help her.

My young lady bid me inquire you out; what she bid me say, I will keep

to myself. But first let me tell ye, if ye should lead her in a fool’s

paradise, as they say; for the gentlewoman is young; and

therefore, if you should deal double with her, truly it were an

ill thing to be off’red to any gentlewoman, and very weak

dealing (lines 163-170) (Shakespeare 1119).

The Nurse’s words of warning were similar to how a parent would warn a new boyfriend about hurting or disrespecting their daughter. Bruce compares her interview with Romeo to how Capulet talks with Paris when he became a choice as Juliet’s future husband (97). The Nurse took on this mother-like role with open arms since she had been there for the girl her entire life. Bruce brings up how even after her services as Juliet’s wet-nurse were finished, she was further employed as a servant for the Capulets. She taught Juliet how to walk after weaning her, and was also the keeper of the household (96). She did not have to cater to Juliet any further, but felt it necessary to maintain the bond that was already instilled.

In two instances the Nurse had certain valuable information for Juliet that she decided to build up suspension for to have brief moments of power. When she returned from meeting with Romeo and giving him her warnings about how he should treat Juliet, the girl was found waiting anxiously. Although the Nurse knew what Juliet wanted to hear, she complained about her backaches and headaches.

Lord, how my head aches! What a head have I!

It beats as it would fall in twenty pieces.

My back a’ t’ other side- ah, my back, my back!

Beshrew your heart for sending me about

To catch my death with jauncing up and down! (lines 48-52)

(Shakespeare 1120)

All Juliet wanted was to hear what Romeo had to say about her when the Nurse went to speak with him. She built up unnecessary suspense to have a moment of power since she rarely had them. Also when the Nurse brought the news of Tybalt’s death, she made it seem as if Romeo had died. When Juliet questioned her to clarify if Romeo was dead, the Nurse did not give a straight answer right away. The Nurse had to do everything for the Capulets since she was the servant, and there were rarely any moments when she was in control of a situation. Although she wanted to help Juliet, she teased her by not giving her the information she wanted immediately to hold onto the moment for as long as possible.

Upon hearing about Romeo’s banishment, the couple fell to pieces, leaving their surrogate parents to take care of them. The Nurse comforted Juliet after finally telling her the news about Tybalt’s death and Romeo’s exile. The girl wept, thinking that it was the end of their romance. However the Nurse knew how to comfort Juliet: “she takes the desperate child in her arms, [and] she promises to find Romeo and help them consummate their marriage” (Bruce 98).

Hie to your chamber. I’ll find Romeo

To comfort you, I wot well where he is.

Hark ye, your Romeo will be here at night.

I’ll to him, he is hid at Lawrence’ cell (lines 137-141)

(Shakespeare 1124).

The Nurse told Juliet what to do and took it upon herself to help find Romeo to further comfort her. She created these responsibilities for herself to make Juliet as happy as possible, even when things did not look good. Soon after, the Nurse found Romeo in a similar state because he was equally as desperate. However she delivered the message and Friar Lawrence devised his plan to help the young couple. In their most desperate moment, the couple was unable to act for themselves and needed the aid of their parent figures to help in every way. They did not form any plans; they only wept and complained about their bad luck. The love of their surrogate parents was what saved them from earlier suicides, but also what got them into the complicated relationship they found themselves in the first place.

In her final scene of the power, the Nurse recommended moving onto Paris for Juliet to make her loss not seem as bad.

I think you are happy in this second match,

For it excels your first; or if it did not,

Your first is dead, or ‘twere as good he were

As living here and you no use of him (lines 222-225)

(Shakespeare 1129).

Although the Nurse did not agree with these words and knew that they were probably useless to the girl, she said them with her heart in the right place. If Juliet did not succumb to her father’s wish to marry Paris, then she faced family exile. “Parental control and approval and marriage were the only possibilities for a woman” (Bruce 100). The Nurse had Juliet’s best interests in mind even though she knew the girl was already married and to marry again would be sinful. The next day when she went to awaken the girl, she found her dead, and “when Juliet is dead, there is no Nurse” (Bruce 96). With Juliet supposedly gone from the play, there was no more purpose for the Nurse to be around, and therefore she faded from the play.

The Friar and the Nurse were both supposed to be characters of a more servant-like role, however when they crossed their class boundaries and acted more as friends to the couple, they helped lead to their deaths. Lawrence and the Nurse should have left Romeo and Juliet alone; it was not their place to give them advice or help them when they were in a tough situation. They had the hearts to reach out to the children in need, thinking that they could only help them. As soon as the Nurse crossed her boundary from servant to friend, Juliet was doomed. She talked back to Capulet when he scolded Juliet and did certain favors for Juliet that were beyond her job. Her loyalty to Juliet only made the situation worse, which was a message that people should not leave their roles in society even to help a desperate person. Friar Lawrence helped the two negatively by secretly marrying them and helping them in private. He went out of his way as a friar to help them and went behind the backs of their parents who had control over him in society. Both surrogate parents went behind the backs of the actual parents and by cheating them in that way, they only led the children to death quicker. If they had stayed in their lower positions in society, the couple would not have lied to their families or got caught up in the complicated romance. The second they crossed into the friend sphere with the two, they helped them attain a brief happiness and an early death.

The Nurse and Friar Lawrence were both surrogate parents for Romeo and Juliet. They aided the couple when they needed guidance or helped them devise plans when they were unable to think straight. Both parent figures helped the other child as well, usually for the sake of helping their own child though. Friar Lawrence planned out what Romeo should do during exile, and the Nurse ran around to meet with Romeo on multiple occasions despite her weak back. In the end, the Nurse was gone from the play once Juliet was apparently dead, and the Friar was left with a lifetime of guilt when he discovered the three dead bodies.

Works Cited

  • Bruce, Brenda. Players of Shakespeare: Nurse in Romeo and Juliet. Cambridge:

          Cambridge University Press, 1985. 91-101.

  • Glover, Julia. Players of Shakespeare 4: Friar Lawrence in Romeo and Juliet.

          Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998. 165-176.

  • Shakespeare, William. The Riverside Shakespeare. 2nd. Massachusetts: Houghton

          Mifflin Company, 1997. 1104-1139.

  • Toole, William B. “The Nurse’s “Vast Irrelevance”: Thematic Foreshadowing in “Romeo

           and Juliet”. South Atlantic Bulletin 45(1980): 21-30.

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Analyzing Running with Scissors

Running-with-scissorsI want to start adding in academic writing that I’ve done. I put a lot of research and effort into the papers I wrote in college and am quite proud of them. The following is an analysis of Augusten Burroughs’ Running with Scissors (aka one of my favorite novels/authors <3).

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In Augusten Burroughs’ Running with Scissors the fascination with media since childhood and the influence it has had on his life and the way he leads it is clearly depicted from the start. Augusten begins as the sole audience for his mother, at first indulging in her poems and encouraging her approach to life. “My mother is a star. She’s just like that lady on TV, Maude…My mother is a star like Maude” (6). He saw the way she acted as entertainment, which is how a dysfunctional person must seem to a child at times, and compared her to different television programs that shaped his day. Since there was little to no guidance in his life or attention from either parent, Augusten sought out television to help him draw conclusions about what normal is. This sort of life was what appealed to him at a young age and his mothers constant mention of how she was going to be famous one day was what young Augusten believed to be reality. Since he was just an impressionable child, it made sense that this was what normal people aspired for and fame was easily obtainable. It helped to shape his narcissism as well, a quality shared with his mother. She spoke to others only to hear her voice and obtain positive, forced feedback for her poetry while Augusten stared at a mirror and perfected his hair. Since he was never provided with any discipline or taught basic life lessons that could have made his transition into adulthood smoother and more natural, he had to rely on television for this assistance. Instead she created the idea that the reality one was given was not ideal, and that something better was always out there in the form of materialistic treasures and money. This mindset was why Augusten had such a fascination with shiny items and polishing different metals until they sparkled like they were new; he wanted stardom and materiality so that he could have normalcy. He wanted his mom to be a mother from television so he could have a predictable and overall happy life.

As Augusten grew up and started to realize that his mom had clear mental issues, he wanted to distance himself from her and the world that she was in. He had become a part of a world that did not resemble the television shows he idealized as a child, and he wanted nothing more than to change that and move away from the characters that surrounded him. Augusten despised his mother because of her own narcissism which inadvertently had created his. He craved attention because he never received any growing up. His father was an alcoholic that wanted to escape from the family, and his mother spoke at her son and never really included him in her escapades. He was there as an audience member to her one-person performance, but was never able to join in the act. Without these key parental figures, he was unable to transition into life correctly; he had no boundaries (which becomes more of an issue when he started living at the Finch house and was able to do whatever he wanted) and an unending desire for love. Augusten kept his relationship with Bookman going because the older man was so obsessed with him, even though he did not share these feelings in return. At a young age, Augusten also became obsessed with perfecting his appearance in the hopes that someone, anyone would pay him some sort of compliment or give him positive reinforcement that his mother constantly denied him. He had to care about his appearance and obsess over himself because there was nobody else to do that for him – until Bookman.

The way Augusten started to view the promise of becoming a celebrity was another way for him to escape the life that he had been thrown into due to the carelessness of his mother. He had the desire to start a two person singing sensation with Natalie and also a goal to design hair care products solely for having a famous label. Both of these dreams were ways that he could become a rich celebrity and leave behind the life where he had to scrounge together coins to go to McDonalds. There was also the situation where Dr. Finch “helped” him to escape going to school and convinced him to fake a suicide attempt by overdosing. Coincidentally, Bill Cosby’s daughter was in his class and he could not stand her, which was what drove him away from school. She was the constant reminder that there was normalcy out there in the way that he believed that it was brought to people: by fame, money, and a healthy upbringing – not a crazy failed poet mother. “Instead of becoming depressed that I was in the locked ward of a mental hospital, I pretended I was playing a role in a movie, possibly on my way to an Emmy” (132). To be content with any of the strange things going on in his life that deep down he understood were dangerous and not necessarily right, Augusten needed to pretend that he was in a new situation and a new life so that he could justify it all and escape the current situation by pretending to be somewhere else.

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Bastard out of Carolina

bastard

ANOTHER random essay from my Modern American Fiction class! This was actually one of my favorite books that I read that semester <3.

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The image of fire is very prominent throughout Dorothy Allison’s Bastard out of Carolina, especially when referring to the anger that starts to possess Bone as she grows older from the first time Daddy Glen molests her.  The first notable instance of it is when she masturbates to a fantasy where she is trapped and a nearby haystack is set on fire.  The entire time she imagines vividly the struggle and trying to escape the blaze, a characteristic that becomes central to her life.  Until Mama leaves Bone after the final rape, Bone is constantly in a threat of danger around Daddy Glen.  She is always struggling to escape by finding a way to tiptoe around his emotions and avoid upsetting him so he will not beat her, or finding a refuge with one of the other relatives so she can avoid his presence entirely.  The idea of playing with fire and knowing that it is only in her imagination is something she can entertain, but when it becomes reality and the escape becomes essential it is no longer pleasurable.  In her fantasy she has control over living and has the reassurance of knowing that she will survive because she can open her eyes and come back to reality.  However, when Daddy Glen attacks her, that danger is her reality and she cannot just open her eyes and escape from it; the real kind of danger is not one that she can control and therefore she cannot find any pleasure in it.  When the beatings became more consistent, she no longer dreamed of fire when she masturbated but instead of people watching her being hit.  She wanted the compassion and the witnesses, and the idea was exciting to her to know that she could be innocent still when she was always made to feel as if she had done something wrong and her purity had been stolen.  She became a sacrifice for the people who were being forced to watch, as if she were being beaten for them, which was another situation that was the opposite of her reality and was something that she could again control.  It is again similar to how she has such an attachment to the sharp hook on a chain; she can relate to the chains because she is also attached to something dangerous that she cannot escape.  Bone constantly found situations far from her true life that she could control to masturbate to because they were her only escape from the life that she had started to hate.

Another particular reoccurrence where Bone experiences a lot of imagery relating to heat or fire is when she is angry, which becomes pretty often the more Daddy Glen beats the innocence out of her.  His abuse becomes so frequent and there is never a reason to it that Bone can comprehend, which drives the pureness of childhood out of her and fills instead with anger.  This pain is afflicted upon her and she sees no reason to have any happiness with the realization that the world is unfair and that maybe life is not worth being happy about.  “My insides were boiling, and my skin burned.  My hatred and rage were so hot I felt like I could have spit fire.  When she put her hand on my wrist, I felt the hairs on my forearm tingle and stand up.  A cold electric current ran up to the back of my neck” (258).  Bone starts to respond to most situations with anger and with the understanding that almost everything will come back to hurt her or there is no good in them to start with.  There is no longer a point in trusting because she trusted Daddy Glen and that did nothing positive for her life.

Her friendship with Shannon Pearl also has a lot of fire imagery, especially Shannon’s death where she is literally consumed by flames.  Both girls have a lot of negative experiences in life so far and no longer see the use in having a positive outlook.  Their innocence has been robbed of them, for Shannon by other people who comment or treat her differently because she is ugly and for Bone by Daddy Glen.  When Bone first met Shannon, she expected to be able to have deep conversations with a girl who would have a beautiful personality despite her horrible appearance.  However, Shannon ended up just being an ugly little girl that had scary thoughts about murder or torture.  This was a reality check again for Bone where the things she imagined and desired were not how the world actually worked.  She wanted to have a life where she could control the outcome of her negative situations, where she could escape from pain before it became unbearable, and where an ugly girl had a beautiful insight.  However, she is trapped in an abusive household with her stepfather and Shannon Pearl is just as ugly inside as she is out.  The fire which drove her rage and eventually focused the way she led her life was similar to how a fire can spread through a dried out area.  It will take over the area and keep growing if there is not enough force to stop it, similar to how the abuse of Daddy Glen was not stopped – both events lead to seemingly irreparable damage.

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