All posts by kpduke

Silent Spring, The Children of Men, and Consent

 In 1962, Rachel Carson published her groundbreaking work, Silent Spring. This publication explored the many implications that pesticides have on the environment and the adverse effects on other species. While Silent Spring focused on the effect that DDT had on avian populations, the work proposed thought-provoking research that many individuals took and imagined the larger implications it could present. The ideas presented in Silent Spring can be seen in the film, The Children of Men.

In The Children of Men, the world has become infertile. There have been no new births for over 18 years, which has brought despair and chaos to the globe. While the exact reason for the infertility is not mentioned, the world of 2027 is shown to be smoggy, dirty, and unclean. In one of the very beginning scenes, just before a coffee shop is blown up, one can see a group of motorcyclists with hospital masks on, as is seen in many highly polluted cities. In various other scenes, we see thick smog and evidence of a destroyed environment. This depiction brings many of the issues discussed in Silent Spring home; what if the chemicals we are using cause harm to the human population or make our species infertile?

The idea that environmental destruction could cause infertility is not a novel one to the speculative fiction genre. The Handmaid’s Tale paints a very similar premise to The Children of Men, showing what environmental disaster can do to fertility rates and to human society. In both The Handmaid’s Tale and The Children of Men, those who are able to become pregnant lose much of their autonomy. Their potential progeny are needed to either reinforce the regime in place, or to act as a salvation for the world. Because of this, mothers lose the ability to make decisions over where their bodies go, what happens to their progeny, and many other important decisions. Going along with our discussions of consent, did these mothers consent to this sort of treatment? Did their children? Did the environmental destruction that caused the rarity and importance of their pregnancies remove their rights to be autonomous human beings? These questions are raised in speculative fiction because of the implications that Silent Spring had on how people think about the environment and how humans could potentially impact it, and in turn how it would impact us.

Frankenstein: The Modern Prometheus?

The alternative title of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is The Modern Prometheus. This title carries a hefty weight, alluding to a modern interpretation of the Greek mythological hero Prometheus. So how are the two stories related?

The story of Prometheus is one that is well known in literature. Prometheus was a titan god who lived on Mount Olympus with the other gods and goddesses. The name Prometheus means forethought, and Prometheus was said to be very concerned with the future. He went to live amongst the men of the Earth and found them living in dark and hunger. He wished to give fire to these people in order to aid their suffering. Zeus, the king of the Gods, didn’t want to give people fire as he thought that it would inevitably lead them to revolt against the gods. Prometheus disregarded Zeus, and snuck fire away from Mount Olympus to the people. Zeus found out about this, and Prometheus was doomed to have his innards eaten out by crows everyday for eternity.

So what does this have to do with Frankenstein?

Our protagonist, Dr. Frankenstein, creates life from pieces of dead beings. This creation of life could be considered analogous with Prometheus giving fire to the people. Both actions could be considered against the will of the god(s). In the story of Prometheus, Zeus strictly forbids Prometheus from giving people fire. In the story of Frankenstein, creating life could be seen as an act against God, that the creation of life is sacrilegious and unnatural.

Frankenstein thought that he was bringing something good to the world, just as Prometheus did. Both characters were looking forward, perhaps being ahead of their time. Prometheus, as mentioned previously, means forethought, and Frankenstein was looking forward to very advanced scientific developments that perhaps the world was not ready for.

Both characters paid for their actions. The monster he created tormented Dr. Frankenstein for the rest of his life, and Prometheus was forced to live in pain for eternity.

Perhaps foresight and defying religious/mythological gods isn’t a great recipe for a prosperous life.

“The Convent of Pleasure” and “Why I Still Want A Wife”

            The play “The Convent of Pleasure” touches on a variety of issues in relation to this class. Themes of sexuality, femininity, independence, and a woman’s right to choose a life alone over marriage permeate the play. 

            Lady Happy, the protagonist, comes into a large sum of money after the death of a family member. With this money, Lady Happy is expected to marry one of the suitors presented later in the play and become a simple wife. This speaks to the time period and what was expected of women. With money, Lady Happy is very eligible to marry. It is not expected of her to keep the wealth herself, but rather to marry and to give control of her estate to whoever her husband was. She decides to reject this future and live in a convent amongst other women, as Lady Happy believes the root of all women’s troubles are men.

            Another idea presented in the play was that marriage was not the key to women’s happiness, as many believed. Lady Happy rejected the idea of marriage being the ultimate fulfillment, which reminded me of many of the ideals of second wave feminism. Many of the treatises and articles of this era showed the disconnect between marriage’s portrayed happiness and the reality of the potentially unfulfilling life of a wife.  An article in particular, Judy Brady’s “Why I [Still] Want a Wife” (http://bcs.bedfordstmartins.com/everythingsanargument4e/content/cat_020/Brady_I_Want_a_Wife.pdf) embodies the idea that marriage is not fulfillment at all, but rather a large amount of work that simply causes the objectification of the woman.

            One of the quotes from the play shows this:

“Dick.

Because Women never think themselves happy in Marriage.

Takepl.

You are mistaken; for Women never think themselves happy until they be Married.

Dick.

The truth is, Sir, that Women are always unhappy in their thoughts, both before and after 

[Page 10 ] 

Marriage; for, before Marriage they think themselves [25]  unhappy for want of a Husband; and after they are Married, they think themselves unhappy for having a Husband.”

This portion of the play shows the large disconnect between what men and women think of marriage. Many of the main male characters of the play believe that marriage is what gives a wife happiness and fulfillment. Comparing this to Judy Brady’s piece, she is a wife who ponders the reasons why she herself would want a wife. A wife does everything in this article, “I want a wife who will take care of my physical needs. I want a wife who will keep my house clean. A wife who will pick up after my children, a wife who will pick up after me. I want a wife who will keep my clothes clean, ironed, mended, replaced when need be, and who will see to it that my personal things are kept in their proper place so that I can find what I need the minute I need it. “ (Brady 1) All of these tasks are supposed to bring one fulfillment, while Brady shows that this is not the case.

            What Brady’s piece satirically shows is the expected duties of a wife and how that is supposed to lead to fulfillment, yet does not. “The Convent of Pleasure” also seeks to show this point, showing that women’s fulfillment does not come from marriage.

           

 

Sonnet 129 and Why Beyoncé Gets It

Shakespeare’s brilliance is praised by millions of English majors, professors, and laymen the world over. His works comment on society, relationships, and everything in between. His sonnets especially explore aspects directly related to this class: reproduction and sexuality.

Sonnet 129 explores sexuality in a way that captures the pleasure and burden of sex.  The first four lines of the sonnet examine the emotions one goes through before and in pursuing sex. The range of emotions described, rudeness, cruelty, untrustworthiness, savagery, etc. all show the complete power that the pursuit of sex has over an individual.

In line five however, Shakespeare shows that once sex is acquired, it is despised. The rest of the poem goes on to explain that this pursuit drives one mad, and continues to do so even more so after it has been had once. The last lines, “All this the world well knows, yet none knows well/ To shun the heaven that leads men to this hell.” shows that Shakespeare believes men know better than to pursue sex, as it will take over their lives, yet they do it anyway. We see elements of treating women as objects and having no say in the matter, and that it is a men’s burden to bear.

So what does the Queen B herself have to do with Shakespeare?

As we all know, Beyoncé is the voice of our generation. In particular, she sings to how we view sex, relationships, and love. One of her most famous songs, Crazy in Love (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ViwtNLUqkMY) , shows a very similar message to Sonnet 129. With lines like, “When you leave I’m beggin you not to go/ Call your name two, three times in a row “, “Got me lookin so crazy right now/ Your love’s got me lookin so crazy right now”, and “I’m not myself lately/ I’m foolish, I don’t do this/I’ve been playing myself”, Beyoncé demonstrates the same thing Shakespeare tries to portray: sex and love make us crazy. Once we have a taste of it, we’re done for. Our emotions are all over the place, and we are “Crazy in Love.”

Thanks for clearing that up Beyoncé.