Sunday, October 25, 2015

The Title of Darkness

After finishing Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness, I started to wonder why Conrad chose his title. His choice was bold and I knew it must have a powerful meaning. My first thought was more on a literal meaning. Heart of darkness refers to the African jungle that the majority of the story takes place. The Congo is centrally located in Africa, so the word "heart" refer back to literal place of the jungle. The darkness part of the title could come from the sun that cannot penetrate through the jungle's foliage and mists. On a more metaphoric level, darkness could mean that the men in the wilderness are blinded by their surroundings and situation. This relates back to the natives in wilderness that follow Kurtz without understanding his morals and principles. The title reflects the British imperialism and its influence over the natives in the Congo. 

Marlow's Narration and Suspense

One of the somewhat infuriating things about reading Heart of Darkness is Marlow's nonlinear storytelling. For the most part he sticks to chronological order, but then, out of nowhere, he'll skip to the end. Sometimes it seems to make the story far less suspenseful. Right from the beginning, we know that Marlow's going to make it out of the Congo alive and in one piece, as he's telling the story later, so when the ship gets attacked there isn't much sense of real danger (even though the helmsman dies, but even though it upsets Marlow to the reader he's really not a large character.) The most suspenseful thing throughout the book is Kurtz, and even then Marlow jumps ahead in the story and tells us that he does meet Kurtz, and plenty of other things about him besides ("My Intended", the pamphlet.) On the other hand, telling us about Kurtz is one of the few things that keeps the suspense going. When it seems like nothing is happening while the boat is being repaired, and later when they're taking months just to go down the river, Marlow dangles the prospect of Mysterious Mr. Kurtz to keep the story from stalling. And while the bits about Kurtz on one hand seem to be revealing a lot before we even meet him, they're also designed to be really weird and make him even stranger, which is what is creating the suspense in the first place (when will we finally meet this guy?)

Marlow's narration style requires a lot of careful distribution of information to keep the story suspenseful. I'm not entirely convinced it's working.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

The Heart of Oz

While reading the second part of Heart of Darkness, I could not help but be reminded of the Wizard of Oz. Of course, the book is much darker than the movie, but there was just something about it that made me think of it. 

These men taking a long journey to meet some great man really reminded me of Dorothy and her friends going to meet the Wizard of Oz. There is so much anticipation to see what Kurtz is like, just as there is in the Wizard of Oz. In Heart of Darkness, there are many different obstacles to getting to Kurtz, as in the movie. Though there was most likely no correlation between the two, there are really some similarities. I feel like I cannot be the only person who thought of this while reading about Marlowe's journey to Kurtz. The book and the movie are two very different things, but in a way, I think that there are many similarities in things that seem very different from the outside, but once you dig deeper into the meaning of the text, you can see some strange similarities between the two.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Colonization:White and Western Supremacy

In Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness, the idea of colonialism is constantly present. When Mr. Heidkamp showed the short documentary of European colonization of the Congo, I was shocked (I couldn't watch the part where they were cutting the boy's hands off). Even in today's history classes, despite emphasis on global understanding, the brutality of colonization is never fully embodied/understood in a unit.

By watching the documentary, I felt like I was there. I believe that it can be said that colonization can also be categorized as an early form of racism. Because the idea of the colonization was to make the native people "civilized," the native people were seen as less than human. And maybe colonization is the root of "white supremacy" and "western supremacy."

Today, high schools and colleges are putting a greater emphasis on study-abroad or helping third world countries. But what's interesting is that there is still this idea of "white supremacy." Maybe this is taking it too far, but sometimes, I find the AP classes so "western." In the AP history curriculum, the only options are European History, American History and World History. For me, this gets very frustrating because it seems that the only types of history that are truly worth learning are Euro and American. It feels like the AP just clumps together Asian, South American, and African (and other areas of studies) history into one class; despite those countries having deeper roots than Europe or America.

Salt For Your Cobalt

Things we've all been thinking this week in class:
"Wow, the Belgian imperialists were such assholes."  
"I can't believe they would do that to fellow human beings"
Well prepare to feel salty everyone because we did it too. Not just the "same kind of thing"-- yes we've done that too-- but actually the same thing to the same people only a couple decades after the Belgian were done with them.
In 1960 the U.S. began encouraging U.S. companies to facilitate the production of raw materials found in third-world countries. According to Project Censored, "...the U.S literally installed the dictatorship of Mobutu Sese Seko, which gave U.S. corporations access to the Congo's minerals for more than 30 years." Unlike Belgium, the U.S wasn't looking for rubber, they wanted metals. The Congo holds 80% of the world’s Coltan reserves, more than 60% of the world’s cobalt and is the world’s largest supplier of high-grade copper. Because every little boy needed a PlayStation, the Congo was of vital economic interest to the U.S. [Okay, for a couple more reasons also...] 
When the Congolese tried to take back control of their own country, the U.S, with the help of Citi Bank, helped Rwanda keep a rebel presence in the Congo. What if Citi Bank had helped the British keep a presence in the U.S? Where would we be?
Here's my haiku. 

We're America.
We want to give you freedom.
Do you have diamonds?

If you comment on my post, please comment in the form of a Haiku.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Victorianism and Modernism

While Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness fits perfectly into the genre of colonial literature, this novel also bridges the gap between Victorianism and Modernism beautifully. This novel is contrived of both Victorian values, with the creeping of modernist ideals as well as literary format. The hierarchy seen on the steamboat mostly throughout the second half of the novel, can be referred to as a sort of microcosm form the political hierarchy  that was going on in Victorian society from 1837 to 1901. The cannibals who do all the work for the pilgrims, represent the working class, while the the pilgrims can be seen as the nobility, expecting to reap the rewards obtained by the lower class. It also wouldn’t hurt to point out Conrad’s total attitude and lack of focus on women throughout the story as well, thus far, that is ever so present in Victorian literature. While still encompassing the traditional aspects of heroism, hierarchy, and sexism evident in Victorian literature, he charms the reader with his modernistic wit and structure. The more Modernistic forms are explored through his experimentation with non-chronological narratives, using a frame narrative to creatively capture the story. Conrad approaches Victorian concepts with the modernistic aspect of breaking old conventions to explain human experience more fully.
It will be interesting to see how these two very different forms of literature transcend throughout the rest of the novel, and how they can individually and/or collectively impact Conrad’s approach on imperialism.

The Secret of the Congo

During the short video we watched in class about the Congo, I experienced a various amount of emotions. Mostly, I was upset, angry, and disgusted. I never knew that any of this went on in the Congo. After the video, I started to wonder why that isn't something we learn about more in school. I realized that I've never had a textbook that covered that part of history, and I started to wonder why that is. I wondered if maybe it was because American textbooks don't like to show white people doing bad things. I don't know if this is true, but it's something that I've noticed over the past three years. If it is true, though, I think it just shows what the real problem is. White supremacy is present in so many aspects of history, and this was just added to the list I had of my knowledge of it.

Saturday, October 17, 2015


In the novel Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad, the talk has been of imperialism in the Congo. The colonizing in the Congo has been describe to turn a man from nice and gentle,to develop a desire to assert their self respect forcibly(12). That happened to the Marlow's predecessor at the Company, Fresleven who beat a village chief senselessly in front of the chief's tribe. It shows goes to show that the effects of greed and power in the Congo eventually take full control of even the most humble individuals over a period of time. Which I believe could be a foreshadowing that as the novel progresses that Marlow might evolve and become yet another victim of superiority and greed in the Heart of Darkness.

Love in the Secret Sharer

At first while reading the Secret Sharer I got the sense that Leggatt was the narrator’s  doppelganger, meant to inspire him to become a captain who would boldly take action. Although this is a viable argument, I was increasingly convinced about the love aspect of their relationship in our class discussion. I thought that the relationship between the men was a stretch. However, as I looked more closely at the text, Conrad’s diction definitely suggested intimacy between the narrator and Leggatt. I now feel like he aimed to disguise a story about homosexual love due to the extreme controversy it would cause during his time period. This seems to make it a more complex and powerful story than I originally thought. The end of the story reinforces this point for me because he takes a major risk for Leggatt, reinforcing the love between the two men.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Insanity in the Congo

Reading the Heart of Darkness, Mr. Heidkamp brought up the connection between insanity and imperialism. This made me think of the Stanford Prison Experiment. In the Stanford Prison Experiment a fake prison was set up to examine the psychology of guards and prisoners. As time went on in the experiment, guards slowly became more and more acclimated to being authority figures, turning into more and more vicious people. This reminds me of imperialism in the Congo. In the Congo, Belgians like Marlow arrive, oblivious to their government's work. As they slowly become more and more acclimated to the brutality and lifestyle of the overseers, they become slowly more insane and vicious. This is similar to Freslevens, who initially was a very nice person, then murdered a native chief over something so small like two black hens. With imperialism, and a culture that encourages taking on a dehumanizing role, people become more and more like the archetypes they try so desperately not to be like, or pretend not to be.

Our Savage World

 1 (of an animal or force of nature) fierce, violent, and uncontrolled
 1(chiefly in historical or literary contexts) a member of a people regarded as primitive and uncivilized
 1 (especially of a dog or wild animal) attack ferociously and maul

In all these definitions is an element of violence. Thus savage must include violent nature.

Throughout the story, Heart of Darkness, the seamen keep bringing up the difference between civilized and savage. They interpret the people of the Congo as being savage whilst they are treating the Congolese like objects and killing them for their land and profitable products. In many ways the brutal treatment would make the Belgian people savage. The people leave the innocent natives with disease they are not yet prepared to deal with. Lacking mutual recognition, those that are taking the Congo as theirs deny the savage people their human rights and can be classified as evil. In this story the reality is those that are claiming civilization are exactly the opposite.

The Mystery of Leggatt

The man is considered a ghost, a lover, or a doppleganger. Some would argue one or the other but I believe Leggatt is most useful as an idea. Conrad wrote The Secret Sharer in such a way that allows the character of Leggatt to be molded into a symbol people chose him to be. Depending on one's personal views, they will find a different meaning within the story. That is why the text is so hard to explain or apply. The vast ways that Leggatt interacts with the Captain is representative of the complex relationships people form within their lives. I say Leggatt is an idea because throughout the novel, his purpose and relationship with the Captain shifts. His role as a character is to teach the captain about himself, as well as what he truly feels about and wants from the world. Leggatt should not be characterized into a certain group because that limits the potential affect he could have on the Captain. In real life, you cannot put the people around you into one group. They have various connections and purposes within your life.

Who is Leggatt really?

When I first started reading The Secret Sharer by Joseph Conrad I believed Leggatt was a figment of the Captain's imagination. He was stuck at sea because there was no wind so it wasn't unusual for him to go a little crazy. The Captain and Leggatt would whisper to each other in bed and hang out in the Captain's room all day together and to me that was just crazy man talk, making somebody up to pass the time on a lonely ship where you were the stranger. That is until Ellie jokingly said in class that these two men were in a romantic relationship and Mr. Heidkamp agreed. After that whenever I picked up the book I could only picture these two men quickly falling in love with each other. It does make sense though, the men would whisper in bed together and the Captain was horrified of the fact that somebody would discover Leggatt. If he was just a stowaway I don't believe it would have been that big of a deal to the rest of the ship. At their devastating goodbye the men held onto each other in a long embrace never wanting to let go but knowing that if anybody found out about their relationship they would be in trouble because their relationship was not accepted at that time.

Dangerous Place for Women

The Democratic Republic of Congo is one of the most dangerous countries for women. The country is as large as western Europe and is rich in its natural resources. In the east of the country, soldiers from rebel factions have been fighting for the control of diamond and mineral mines for over a decade. Their victims remain the same: women. From old women to young girls, the soldiers have used rape and sexual violence as weapons to terrorize the communities. The Women for Women organization reports that 65% of women are illiterate, care for an average of five children, and have a daily income of $0.53 in the DRC. The Guardian reports that 12% of the country's women have been raped at least once and about 48 women are raped every hour.

However, women are seeking to rebuild their lives and have created a range of opportunities for support. In 2005, the new constitution was adopted and it commits itself to improving representation of women in all levels of government. Organizations have begun to create safe spaces for women to come together to identify and discuss obstacles to becoming equal and active members of society. Local women's groups have started public awareness programs urging communities to stop shunning rape survivors and embrace them instead. The older women are performing traditional rites to help rape victims cope with trauma.Women's organizations are expanding to educate women and their husbands about women's rights, bringing hope for change.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Imperialism on Display in Chicago

Europe's fascination in the unknown is personified well by the character Marlow in Joseph Conrad's The Heart of Darkness. At an early age Marlow is thrilled by the inviting blankness of maps of South America and Africa. His childlike curiosity was characteristic of Europe's own behavior. Accounts of far away lands and exotic peoples were insufficient. People wanted to be able to see the distant culture's that their empire touched. The answer became human zoos. Artificial villages would be set up to display these "exotic" peoples, and needless to say, these exhibits were not morally sound. Though these exhibits were popular primarily in Europe, there were some of note in America as well. Chicago specifically...

In the 1893 Colombian Exposition there were numerous examples of these unfortunate exhibits featuring various Native American and African peoples. The central idea of these mock villages was not to share in the wealth of humanity's diversity, it was meant to emphasize the superiority of western civilization. Fair goers gawked and accepted the superficiality of this cultural exchange. They were just making a day of it.

This sentiment is shared by the majority of the Europeans Marlow interacts with throughout the novel. They carry on with their perceived notion of cultural superiority unchecked.

Life without Matthew???

The minute the movie Trust begins, Maria's life starts going downhill. Through various occurrences she loses more and more people in her life until she feels like she has absolutely no one and has very little purpose in the world. When Maria meets Matthew, however, a light inside her turns back on. Neither of them have other people in their lives to lean on, and end up using each other for support: A relationship of mutual recognition.

When Maria arrives at the factory knowing that Matthew is in there with the bomb, she doesn't think twice before running inside to find him. She is aware that Matthew will be arrested for bringing the bomb in and of the unlikelihood that they will be together again. I think that when she carelessly throws the bomb, part of Maria would not mind if it blew her up. Matthew is the one person who believes in her and treats her like an equal. Maybe she thought that if he was leaving her no matter what, death would not be the worse thing in the world. If only Maria had seen how devastated her mom and sister looked when the bomb went off and they assumed she was killed. This image might have changed her feelings about life and how it will go on once Matthew is gone.

Is Leggatt replaceable?

If Leggatt and the captain had met on land, say in passing or at a common place for people to go, would their relationship be different? Would the captain still hold Leggatt with such high regards? Part of the reason why they are so close is that the captain sees Leggatt as a reflection of himself. This is definitely a factor in their relationship, but they would not have achieved such a powerful bond had they not been faced with such an unusual situation. The extremity of the situation in The Secret Sharer plays a huge role in the bond between the two men. Considering the captain's awkward position as the head of a ship which he knows very little about, he is not super confident. The crew doesn't trust him very much, and they shouldn't, since he is so young and inexperienced. He gives orders knowing that they may very well be wrong. When Leggatt comes onto the ship, the captain holds all the cards since he could easily expose Leggatt. Of course, he doesn't expose Leggatt, but takes his secret as his own and protects him in his room. The captain is able to escape his world of uncertainty about his job by taking in Leggatt. Their secret is so serious and so binding that it is only natural that their relationship would progress the way it did. They are both escaping something. So, does this make Leggatt replaceable? Could the captain have developed an equally powerful bond with another man, different from Leggatt, had he entered the ship under the same circumstances? The similarities between the two men that cause the captain to see Leggatt as his other are important to the story, but maybe the captain was desperate enough for someone to be close with that he could have connected with anyone.

The Secret Lover

I'm not usually a fan of sexual readings of stories, but for The Secret Sharer, I think Mr. Heidkamp almost got the right idea. I think that the the relationship between Legatt and the Captain was definitely one of love, but I think it was a non-sexual relationship, and I think Mr. Heidkamp went too far looking for an analogy in the end of the book.

I think there is adequate evidence to show that the two were lovers. First of all, the eye contact! There's all sorts of intimate parts of this story where they look at each other and "talk with their eyes." That's something only people in love do! Maybe if they had been friends for a long time, or if they were family members or something, but they just met. Only love can bring two people that close in a short period of time. On top of this eye contact, the two always engage in "groping," encounters, like when the Captain is trying to give Legatt his floppy hat. The most convincing piece of evidence is when the Captain risks his ship and crew to drop Legatt off closer to land. The only reason he would do this is because he loved Legatt.

Imperialism is a Binary

When a nation expands into a new territory, they are asserting dominance over the group which inhabits it. In order to expand they typically must kill or flaunt some sort of power in order to get their way. They begin to define the other group as savage or uncivilized and therefore must help them become proper humans, or kill them, whichever is more convenient. This outlook puts an enormous divide between the two groups and severely dehumanizes the subordinates.

In both The Secret Sharer and The Heart of Darkness, the British are inherently the dominant force in the world. London is described as the greatest city in the world and whenever a British person encounters anyone it is made clear who is superior. In the case of the captain in The Secret Sharer, his only equal relationship is with Leggatt (assuming he is a real person) because they are extremely similar and/or in love. The number of binaries in both stories is astronomical due to the imbalance of power throughout the stories.

The Grenade

I think the idea of existentialism is very present in the movie Trust. Both main characters, Marie and Matthew, do not seem to have any values in their life. For example, Maria tells Matthew that she will only marry him if he says that he loves her. Matthew is hesitant at first and even when he finally says it, I am not completely convinced that he is being sincere. This reminds me of Meursault and Marie in The Stranger. Marie asks Meursault if he loves her, but in contrast to Matthew he is blunt with Marie and tells her he does not. In both cases the characters have lack the value for love.

Throughout the movie Trust Matthew caries a grenade around with him. In the ending scene he pulls the trigger at where he works, but it does not explode. Maria Finds Matthew sitting with his grenade and ends up throwing the grenade without a care. It takes a while to ignite, but I think the fact that she threw it so carelessly is very important. I think the grenade represents taking their lives into their own hands. With the grenade they are in control of their lives. Maria and Matthew know there is a possibility of them dying, but it does not seem to cross their mind as a big problem. This shows existentialism.

Isolation in The Secret Sharer

From the start of Joseph Conrad's "The Secret Sharer", it's obvious that one of the main themes that Conrad is attempting to establish is that of isolation.  When the author opens the story, he describes the skipper as a stranger aboard his own ship.  This theme is played on throughout the story, as the skipper has very little dialogue with anyone other than his doppelgänger, Leggatt.  Because of the skipper's brutal sense of loneliness throughout the story, the reader begins to believe that his secret sharer may actually be a figment of his own imagination.

There are several specific examples of this isolation that can be found in the text.  For example, the captain says, "All these people had been together for eighteen months or so, and my position was that of the only stranger on board." (7)  Not only does the captain feel like a stranger aboard his own ship, but he also lacks self-definition, as seen when he says, "But what I felt most was my being a stranger to the ship; and if all truth must be told, I was somewhat of a stranger to myself." (7)  This theme help to explain why Leggatt was introduced to the story in the first place, and gives the reader sympathize with the captain when he has to let his secret sharer go.

Literature Afflictions

Recently in class we began reading The Heart of Darkness and The Secret Sharer by Joseph Conrad. Joseph Conrad is an author know for his use of the English language and beautiful descriptions of scenery. I have found these stories incredibly difficult to read.

It has been said that our generation whether it be millennial or generation  z has shorter attention spans due to the quick access to knowledge via the internet that we have had most of our life. Whether this is the case or not it is hard for me and most of my peers to enjoy the language of the novel. Reading the lengthy ramblings about the sea and the ship has become painful. When I have trouble reading a book I often switch to audio but the voice of narrator about the darkness of the sea lulls me to sleep.

I've come up with several explanations to this issue. Aside from my possible deprivation of sleep, I look to the relevance of the book in today's world. I'm not rendering the book irrelevant because I see the importance in the richness of the language. However, in today's world majority of people don't know the parts of the ship or can become an explorer of someplace new, other than the deep sea or space. The need to restate the way the sun is setting four times prevents me for filling up my time with more productive things.

I hate when people make assumptions of my generation and how the internet "negatively" effects us but I can't help constantly begging the novel to give me a plot. I want Nabakov to judge me a good reader but I feel like I'm too far removed from The Heart of Darkness to enjoy it.

Imperialism -- Alive and Well

What do you think of when someone mentions "imperialism"? Perhaps a European nation expanding its rule into territory they deem "uncivilized".   Or a nation trying to expand power to colonize other lesser countries. Most people give imperialism a negative connotation and talk about the horrors that it brought, and how it's a good thing its over.

Although it may not be as pronounced, there is a new type of imperialism--a "neo-imperialism".  You've witnessed this if you have ever been outside of the United States.  American culture is fully on display. While visiting Peru recently, I could not avoid advertisement for American products.  When Coca-Cola couldn't break into the soft drink market in Peru, they simply bought the national soda -- Inca Cola.  In the midst of the quaint and historic town of Cusco, which serves as the jumping off point to the Inca Trail, American tourists are greeted with familiar aspects of home including McDonald's and Kentucky Fried Chicken.

Where another culture had previously been, Western culture has started to take over. While it may not be the blatant form of imperialism that we envision, it is still a form of it known as cultural imperialism.  The type of imperialism is conducted less by the governments of countries, but instead of the businesses which flourish in the capitalist economy.

Is this type of imperialism any better?  Are we just taking over other cultures more slowly and without violence?  We say that imperialism was a bad thing, yet it is still happening.

Explosive Existentialism

The film Trust is an interesting look at the possibility of a modern existentialist. This journey following the transformation of a teenage girl named Marie into a contemporary existentialist is filled with symbolism. Many objects contribute to the literary aspect of the movie building on Marie's journey into existentialism such as milk, clothing, and television sets. Yet one object that stood out the most to me was the grenade. While Matthew originally had the grenade, Marie stole the grenade. I believe that the grenade is the most important object and symbol for Marie in regards to her new existentialist persona. I think that the grenade serves as a constant reminder that death is certain and can happen at any moment. I thought this especially culminated towards the ending of the movie while Matthew intended to set off the grenade, yet the grenade would not go off. When Marie takes charge and grabs the grenade, throwing it off into the distance, I think she completes her transformation. She takes control of her fate and becomes an existentialist while the episode with the grenade is probably on her mind for the rest of her life due to Matthews imprisonment.

Subtle Sexuality in The Secret Sharer

While reading The Secret Sharer by Joseph Conrad, the truth of Legatt and the captain's relationship became more evident to me with each page turn.

From their first encounter, we can tell that the captain is attracted to Legatt from the way he describes him. Up until the captain describes Legatt's features, he uses almost whimsically styled language to paint an elaborate image, but while talking about Legatt's "rather regular features," he is quite literal. It's almost like he is snapped awake from this solitary, dreamlike state and finds himself in Legatt's reality.

As the story progresses, and as they have spent more time together, Conrad leaves less to the imagination about their relationship. The captain narrates,"And in the noisy cries and rush overhead of the men running away with the main brace we two, down in my cabin, came together in our usual position by the bed place," (159).

The two share an emotional connection that is inarguable. This could be taken as a bond over their likeness, but I think it goes deeper than that. The captain struggled to form a relationship with anyone until he met Legatt, because he felt inexplicably different from his crew. He and Legatt share an understanding that they can't receive from anyone else.

The pair are not only misunderstood, they are cannot possibly be understood, and I think this is because they share an attraction that was not accepted at that time. As the captain explains, "everything was against us in our secret partnership; time itself - for this could not go on forever," (153).

As the captain predicted, their romance had to come to a close so Legatt could retreat to safety, but not before they share an intimate moment, clutching each other's hands in the dark.

The only truthful secret shared by the pair was their secret and subtle love affair.

Heart of Darkness and Second Languages

The style of Heart of Darkness (and Secret Sharer, as well) is what I tend to call "poetry prose." It's technically just prose, but the way it's written, with so much vivid imagery, gives the same kind of sense that poetry does. It sort of makes me think of this line about how Marlow tells stories: "enveloping the tale which brought it out only as a glow brings out a haze, in the likeness of one of these misty halos that sometimes are made visible by the spectral illuminations of moonshine." Regardless of what it's actually supposed to mean, wow, those are some words, there. It makes my writing feel clunky and inelegant in comparison.

I just thought it was pretty amazing that these stories were written by someone who only learned English as an adult, and manages to write far better than anything I could. I can only think of one other author who wrote in English as a second language (though, if there were others who wrote as well as Conrad, then I suppose it never would have occurred to me.) And the author I was thinking of was Anchee Min, who doesn't much compare in terms of language, though it's a bit of an unfair comparison, since being a Polish noble who decides to move to England is a bit different from escaping Communist China and learning English from Sesame Street while struggling through poverty.

I suppose my point here is that I'd never considered that is was even possible to learn a language so well as an adult to the point of sounding, well, like Heart of Darkness does. I'm trying to imagine what writing a novel in, say, French would be like (answer: horrible, awful, abominable, etc etc.) Probably Conrad was a genius or something, but still, I find it pretty inspiring.

The Secret Sharer vs. Heart of Darkness

In my opinion, I think that Heart of Darkness is a lot easier to read than The Secret Sharer. I did not see much of a plot in The Secret Sharer, but in Heart of Darkness I see more of a story line.

I also like the way that in Heart of Darkness, it is easier to follow. The way that Marlowe tells his story is very interesting, and I think that some of it is almost humorous, especially in the way that he describes the doctor measuring his head. I also like the fact that Heart of Darkness deals with more interesting issues, like imperialism and the Congo. While reading The Secret Sharer, I was very uninterested and I think that really affected the effect the book had on me. I did not see as much importance of the story as I see in Heart of Darkness. Heart of Darkness is so much more dense and easier to read, but a bit harder to understand in a way. Personally, I am interested and excited to finish this story.

Who is Leggatt?

I think that Leggatt is someone who from a similar class and education as the captain. There are multiple instances where Leggatt and the captain have very many similar traits, as they both appear to be snobby Englishmen who were both Conway boys. They mention that they were both Conway boys, which shows that they come from a similar educational background. They also happen to be higher ranks on their ships. As a result, they both act snobby like they are much better than every one. They mention that the story of Leggatt as something that would happen on "Yankee" ships. In addition to this, the captain of Sephora says that Leggatt was not the type that he liked on his ship, as the Sephora's captain says he himself is a simple man and that Leggatt was too snobby for his ship. Overall, Leggatt and the narrator are very similar in their attitude and act like they come from a higher class than the others, which is why they connect on such a deep level.

Brussels, Belgium: Gateway to Hell

In class today we discussed the scene in "Heart of Darkness" where Marlow journeys through Brussels to the Company's headquarters. I was struck by all the connections that could be made between this journey and a trip to the Underworld of Greek mythology. Firstly, Marlow describes the city as a "whited sepulchre" ( 13). He is saying he is walking in a tomb, as a dead man goes into a tomb. He enters the building, where he sees two women knitting black wool. These women represent the Fates, who are often depicted with the thread of life. When this thread is cut, you die. In Greek mythology it was believed that when one saw the Fates it meant they were about to die. 

He then proceeds to the office of the Company's head, where he signs the contract to work for the Company. In this case, the head of the Company represents Charon, the gatekeeper of the Underworld. In mythology, when a soul died they were believed to have to pay Charon, who operated the boat that would transport them across the River Styx to the Underworld. For this reason, Greeks were often buried with a gold coin under their tongue to pay Charon. Marlow agreeing to work for the Company is analogous to paying Charon to transport him across the river to the Underworld.

That brings me to the final comparison, the river. In Greek mythology, souls would be transported down the River Styx to the Underworld. In the story, Marlow is about to travel down the Congo River to the heart of Africa. Through these comparisons, it would appear that Conrad is making the point that Marlow is venturing into Hell, an idea that definitely seems to be reasonable after reading some of the descriptions of what Marlow witnessed on his trip down the river throughout Part 1 of "Heart of Darkness".

The Fates in Heart of Darkness

When Marlow is in Belgium, he encounters two women dressed in black who are knitting with black wool. When I read about them my mind immediately jumped to the three fates of Greek mythology. First of all, their knitting obviously represents the thread that the fates spin, measure, and cut. Second, the fates are often portrayed as ugly old women, which, based on the description of the older one (mole on face, glasses on tip of nose, etc), these women are both ugly and old.

The women's actions also reflect the jobs of the Fates. One of them, the younger, is greeting people as they enter the building. She represents Clotho, the one who spins the thread of life. She's introducing people to their life with the Company, and she guides them into the building to create a contract. The older woman who sits and watches people represents Lachesis, the sister who measures the thread of life. The way she looks at them, how she seems to know all about their lives, captures the essence of the second sister, because after Lachesis measures their lives, she also has control over their destiny.

However, we don't see the third sister, Atropos. This final sister is the one who ends peoples lives by cutting the thread of life. Perhaps she will appear later in the story when Marlow has a close call with death, or maybe when others around him are dying. Or maybe the third sister isn't represented by a woman, but by the plump man that Marlow shakes hands with. The man is described as having a "grip on the handle-end of ever so many millions" (14). This man clearly has control over the lives of millions of people, which would make sense if he represents Atropos, as she controls when millions of people die. 

I'm the Villian

I know there's suffering. I know that thousands of miles away, across the vast expanse that is the Atlantic Ocean, people are suffering. They're starving, sick, abused in every sense, and I'm... blogging about it. I'm the bad guy. I live in a house stocked full of food, in a peaceful suburb where I attend a high school that makes decisions like knocking down an entire parking structure in order to make room for a new pool. What is wrong with me? Why am I not donating everything I own in some desperate attempt to fix the rampant inequality that plagues the world? Because I'm in too deep. I'm addicted to the life I have. I need a bed, 3 meals a day, and an internet connection. I need AC, clothes that fit, and parents that love me. I'm spoiled, and even acknowledging that won't make me change my lifestyle.  When I have disposable income, I'll donate to the Red Cross. I'll lament on the state of the world when asked. But then I'll go back to my house with everything I could ever need. I'm an white, american male and I need to detox. Travel somewhere that needs my help.  Otherwise, I might never change, and that scares me. A person without empathy is a shell. And that's the last thing I want to be.

Maria's Not So Existential Crisis

In the movie, Trust, Maria's transition from childhood to adulthood could be interpreted as an existential crisis, however, she is still very much held hostage by the system that existentialism strives to escape. While Maria does change her clothes and stops wearing the tight neon style of the time, the young clothes no longer match her personality as she experiences more hardships, such as being ostracized by her mother.

Maria repeatedly takes her future into her own hands. After finding out she is pregnant, she considers abortion. She does not simply accept the baby as inevitable. She contemplates how a child will effect the rest of her life and assesses if that is something she wants at the time. After deciding that she does not want a baby, she makes the decision independently to get an abortion and she follows through.

Unlike Meursault in The Stranger, who blindly accepts Marie's proposal regardless of his feelings, Maria takes time to think about marrying Matthew. She asks him questions like "Why would you want to get married?" In the end she recognizes her feelings and decides that she doesn't want to get married, and she calls it off.

Even though she decides not to marry Matthew, it is evident that she does in fact care about him. She has not given up on all her human relationships, as it seems Meursault has. She cares about Matthew's well-being, which is made clear when she stands up to Matthew's father for him and continuously tells Matthew to leave his father because he is abusive. She also still values human connections such as trust, which she tests using a trust fall with Matthew. Maria also cares about her mother despite the horrible things her mother has done to her. She does what her mother asks since she believes her mother is still grieving her father's death, and she first insists on staying at home to take care of her mother instead of running off with Matthew.

Maria, in fact, possesses an increasing amount of agency and responsibility throughout her transition to adulthood, which culminates in one of the final scenes with Matthew in the factory. She literally and metaphorically takes her life into her own hands when she takes a live grenade out of Matthew's hands. She takes the grenade with confidence and throws it, showing control of the situation. Maria shows increasing agency throughout the film, and as she watches Matthew get taken away, I have confidence that she will be the one who has a promising future.

Clothing as Motifs in Trust

In the film Trust, there are a lot of clothing changes. In this post I'll be going through each of the most prominent, one by one.

Maria's Dress
In the beginning of the film, Maria is wearing a fashionable (by 90's standards...) dress. It's very form fitting and brightly colored. At Matthew's house, her clothes are thrown into a puddle of soup and soiled, so she takes one of the dresses in Matthew's closet. Her new dress is plain blue cotton in a practical silhouette. This clothing change most obviously marks her transition from living a life of frivolity and trends to a life of practicality and reality. Other parts of her appearance change to supplement this visual transition: she stops curling her hair and no longer wears the lipstick she was applying in the first scene. Overall, her appearance becomes more toned down and less flashy. This parallels her change from a typical high school valley girl to a thoughtful and honest human being.

Maria's Jacket
The one item of clothing that Maria wears throughout the film is her letterman jacket. The fact that she keeps her jacket on even through her emotional transitions highlights how she hasn't completely let go of her old self. She is still the same person, only different.

Peg's Coat
Peg's signature item of clothing is her metallic gold coat. It speaks very clearly of 80's fashion, particularly young 80's fashion. Peg's coat, which reflects how her personality is still very artificial, provides a sharp contrast to Maria's change in clothing. While Maria has undergone emotional changes and become a more complex human being, Peg has not.

Maria's Glasses
Maria's glasses may be the most significant motif in the film. Maria doesn't wear them at first because, according to her, they make her look stupid. Later she begins wearing them. As Matthew is driven away in a police car, she puts them on again to see him drive into the distance. On the surface, the most obvious significance is the same as that of her dress: she conforms to fashion and artificial beauty and then later transitions to practicality. However, the glasses also can represent her sight; when she rejects her glasses, she rejects the ability to see well both literally and symbolically. At the beginning of the film Marie is blinding herself to the bigger picture. Slowly she begins to see.

Also significant is the fact that Maria is nearsighted. Since she has difficulty seeing far, the glasses represent specifically her ability to see farther (either into her future, or just seeing the big picture). She dons her glasses at the end of the film when Matthew moves into the distance. He moves farther from her, and so she has to put on her glasses to see him better. 

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Tug of War

As I have progressed through part one of the Heart of Darkness, by Joseph Conrad, I have had mixed feelings about Marlow. Right away I got the impression that he is an annoying guy that always wants to tell some obscure story at the wrong time and place. The initial narrator certainly agrees, as he states, " hear about one of Marlow's inconclusive experiences" (9). I also got a negative impression of him when he talked about the greatness of British imperialism. Watching the documentary about Congo's brutal history was tough. The explicit images and reenactments made me look down for moments at a time. My ears however, were constantly attuned to the narration of the video. I believe vicious exploitation in the past and the modern day equivalents are worth facing and reflecting upon, no matter how tough or uncomfortable. 

As part one progresses I have noticed a Tug-of War between "Marlow now" and "potential Marlow post transformation or gain in perspective". Conrad, or perhaps Marlow himself, explicitly and implicitly lays out the sides. A major explicit example of the possibility of a "new Marlow" comes from the conversation he had with the doctor. When the doctor measures Marlow's skull before the trip and Marlow asks if he sees people when they come back from trips the doctor says, "Oh I never see them,...and moreover, the changes take place inside, you know" (16). Another example on the side of Marlow's impending transformation in the Tug of War is when he reflects, "...I felt as though, instead of going to the centre of a continent, I were about to set off for the centre of the earth" (18). I think this suggests that his journey is going to be metaphorically bigger than what he planned. 

Nevertheless, Marlow's racist words and attitudes make the side of "Marlow now" in the Tug-of-War seem the shoe-in winner. In general Marlow is a racist who often uses his internal racial hierarchy to make himself feel better. For example, at the beginning of his trip on the boat he felt isolated, out of touch with the truth, and delusional, until a boat paddled by two black men appeared. He said, "They were a great comfort to look at. For a time I would feel I belonged still to a world of straightforward facts" (19). I inferred that he made himself feel better by thinking along the lines of man, this journey kind of sucks right now, but at least I'm still better off than those black men over there, the world makes sense again.

I don't know how Marlow is going to turn out, but I hope it's for the better soon. Even so, I don't believe there will be a  "winner" in the Tug of War I described. Imperialism and the superiority complex that often accompanies it is a complex topic, so the book and the characters enacting the issue is not the end all be all solution. I think one purpose of the text is to get the issue front and center. 

What do you think of Marlow or imperialism in general? Is one character's possible transformation hope?

Imperialism and Insanity

After finishing the first 21 pages of Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad, one theme that I have seen emerging is the link between imperialism and insanity. The first time I noticed this theme was during Marlow's story about Fresleven. Marlow descibes Fresleven as "the gentlest, quietest creature that ever walked on two legs." (12) However, after a few years of support of the "noble cause", as Marlow sarcastically puts it, Fresleven nearly beat a village chief to death over a dispute about two hens. The imperialistic work that Fresleven was conducting in Africa clearly affected his mental state; within a few years, he fundamentally changed from someone who was peacful and content to someone who flew into a blind rage over some meaningless chickens.

This theme is also prelavent during Marlow's discussion with the doctor. During their discussion, the docotor says that the changes that people experience in Africa take place on the inside. After this, the doctor asks Marlow if there is any history of madness in his family. Throughout their conversation, the doctor is also constantly smiling and has the presence of someone who knows something that Marlow has yet to learn. All of these signs point to a possible change in Marlow's mental state during his journey to Africa.

Will the brutalitly of imperialism affect Marlow's personality? Will this theme continue to manifest itslef throughout the rest of the book? Only time will tell.    

What It Takes to Make an iPhone

When Mr. Heidkamp was talking in class the other day about how smart phones are supposed to represent the amount of progress we have made (mostly in technology), yet the practices take us all the way back to colonization times I couldn't help but explore this information a little bit deeper. 

The video shown in class described the awful conditions that humans in the Congo had to go through to supply an immense amount of labor that King Leopold II required to create his riches. The work was long, difficult and strenuous labor that, if not completed correctly, had appalling punishments. 

Yet, how far have we really come since this time? I looked into what exactly goes into making Apple's iPhone -- a common device for most Americans -- and found some of these labor conditions to be strangely similar to previous times. According to The Week, Foxconn is Apple's labor factory located in China that supplies Apple with the majority of its products. The average wage of workers in the factory is only $2.18 an hour, and new employees are only paid $1.78 an hour. For as much as Apple makes a year it seems insane that the people that are spending hours each day to create these devices are receiving such little pay. 

Additionally, the average shift of Foxconn workers is 12 hours. Many of these employees also live on site in dorms, paying $17.50 a month to share a dorm with 5 to 7 others. So let's say an employee works five days a week for 12 hours a day and receives $2.18 an hour. That comes to an income of $523.20 a month and $6, 278.40 a year. 

Let's subtract what it would cost a month to live on site. This would mean they would only have a profit of $6,068.40 a year. 

According to Glassdoor a store employee specialist for Apple makes an average of $15 an hour. This would mean if they're working the same hours as Foxconn's workers they would be making $3,600 a month and $43,200 a year, seven times the amount that a Foxconn worker makes.

Not only is the pay extremely low, but the conditions aren't any better. It takes 24 hours to make a single iPhone, along with the assistance of 141 steps. According to one worker of Foxconn, "We are extremely tired, with tremendous pressure. We work faster even than the machines." The work is tedious, time-consuming, and all for the profit of Apple rather than the employees.

Hypocritically, I have an iPhone and probably couldn't live without it. Although smart phones represent the technological advances that have been made across the world I strongly feel that the conditions need to be reconsidered. It is absolutely insane that Apple is making so much money from their products when their laborers are not even making a living. The profit from each iPhone is on average $650, when sold for $199. I find it absolutely ridiculous that Apple allows all this money to go straight into their account when innocent people are struggling to live amidst creating these products.

How do you feel about this information?

Existentialism in Characters who are in Trouble with Society

The Stranger, by Albert Camus, and the film, "Trust", can both be seen as having the same setup and themes. Both stories are driven by existentialism. While this is the key idea to each, it is not made explicit to the reader/viewer at the beginning. The characters do not even realize themselves that they are existentialists at the beginning. For Maria, she wasn't living an existential life at the beginning of the film. She was a typical teen that was trying to fit in. Meursault was the definition of an existentialist but, he didn't really seem to think about it at all or recognize it. He went about doing things how he wanted and didn't think twice about them. Meursault realizes his existential ways and, Maria transforms to a existentialist, or at least towards one, when both characters go through issues with the rest of society. Maria becomes pregnant and loses her boyfriend. She thinks her life is over and, in all honesty, it seemed like a really tough time for her. But when everyone turned there back on her, she began to take her own path. She found Matthew, a fellow outsider. During Maria's time with Matthew, she becomes her own, independent person. For Meursault, his condemnation by society led to his examination of how he led his life. He had lived how he wanted to and for that reason he was happy. Both characters seemed to be content with how they led/were leading their lives when they embraced their independence.

Monday, October 12, 2015


Like many of you reading this post, I'm in the process of my college applications. And it's horrible. It's exciting, yeah, but mostly stressful. All that stress and pressure causes any joy I could be getting out of the process to come crashing down around me, resulting in this horrible cloud surrounding me of "oh my god this is my future that I'm basically determining right now!!". But that part is probably more just me.

It's a business, the college application process. Money has such an unnecessarily large part in it- for example, the more you can pay for ACT/SAT classes, the more likely you are to do better on the test against a lower-income student. At that point, after forking out the cash for big practice books, private tutors, and classes, how much are the tests actually measuring our raw knowledge? Is how much money we're willing to spend going to best determine our college preparedness?

The business factor of the college process extends also to paying to submit your application. Of course this can have benefits, so no one arbitrarily sends applications to every college. But mostly, I think that it's simply another money barrier for lower-income students. And as long as I'm on the topic, WHY does college cost so much? With so many students already going to school, all paying the same or different but still pricey amounts, where is all that money going? Is the massive amount of debt accumulated by students worth it, especially considering how difficult it is to find a job in your major at least straight out of school?

None of what I've been saying should necessarily be news to anyone, which makes the questions and complaints even more prevalent, since most people are already thinking about them. To close, college????!!!!! Applications!!!? Money!!??

Maria the Existentialist

In the movie Trust, there are many events and happenings that could lead one to conclude that the it is an "Existentialist" film. Maria and Matthew questions societal norms and expectations together and individually. They consider getting married, but don't. Matthew quits his job twice. Maria ultimately has the abortion. All of these events can be questioned and debated.

I couldn't come to a conclusion. Is Maria an existentialist? Is Matthew an existentialist? Then I remembered Maria's fascination with the word empirical. Matthew explains to her that empirical means "We don't know anything until we experience it." I think this is the foundation of existentialism. All decisions are made based on experience and fundamental desires and wants. And from the point Maria learns what empirical means, all of her decisions become empirically based. She decides to go to work to pay for an abortion. Maria considers marrying Matthew and then doesn't. And she does ultimately make the decision to get the abortion. She considers all angles of an argument and comes to her own decision independently of what society and the people around her believe.


Trust is a perfect example of the immense role that trust plays within relationships; whether it is romantic, familial, or a friendship. Maria and Matthew have broken relationships with their parents because neither guardian has any faith that their child can think for and take care of themselves. I believe they abuse and control their children because they don't trust themselves enough to believe they raised their kid the way they should have. The relationship between Maria and her football boyfriend failed because even though Maria had trust that they would marry and be happy, the boyfriend didn't believe in Maria enough to get her life together, ultimately ending the relationship permanently. If there is not mutual trust between two people, the relationship will forever be stuck in a place of discord, because how can a person fall for someone if they don't believe they will be caught? But even in the midst of all the pain and suffering most relationships went through in the film, Maria and Matthew were able to be positive influences on each other because they had build their relationship on the foundation of trust. They fostered a healthy relationship out of mutual respect and belief that they other will be there to support them in any aspect of life. Even though they did not end up together, the brief connection between the two characters changed their lives forever, hopefully for the better.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

The Blue Dress

As we talked about in class, for almost the entirety of the movie, Trust, Maria is wearing a plain blue dress of Matthew's mother and an over sized Letterman jacket that may have belonged to her old boyfriend. I thought Colette brought up an interesting point in class that she was transitioning into her new life (the dress), but she wasn't going to forget about her life before she met Matthew (the jacket). Her transformation physical transformation was not just physical, but also emotional. She matured after she put on the blue dress. She became interested in learning, and in having intellectual conversations.

I really liked seeing Maria transform from the high school dropout, boy crazy girl, to the smart and independent women she became. She went from being a character that I thought I was going to hate, to a character that I admired. The film really did a wonderful job in the subtle motifs such as the blue dress that made Maria's transformation so powerful for the viewer.

Proving the Love Formula

In the film, Trust, Maria constructs a formula for love. The formula is respect+admiration+trust= love. I think her formula defines love. In a relationship, each partner needs to respect the other. In Trust, Matthew and Maria both respect each other by allowing them to pursue any career they chose. They also show respect towards each other by listening and helping each other with their concerns. Partners need to also admire each other. Maria and Matthew have a great admiration for each other, which is evident by their physical attraction to each other and the way they take advice from each other. The final component of the formula requires trust. When Maria falls off the concrete block and Matthew catches her, it demonstrates that Maria really does trust Matthew. While Matthew doesn't fall off the concrete block, he does allow Maria to take his precious grenade. I think Matthew and Maria respect, admire, and trust each other, which leads to them falling in love. Some may argue that since Matthew does not get along well with Maria's family and vice versa, that they cannot be in love. However, their families are outside factors that do not affect the attraction that Matthew and Maria have towards each other. In fact, because Maria and Matthew ignore these outside factors, they are an even stronger couple. Maria and Matthew follow Maria's definition of love that I believe truly defines the meaning of love.

Is Maria an Existentialist?

In the movie Trust, Maria seems to go through an existential crisis of her own. She goes from being a popular girl who got what she wanted to having no money and nowhere to turn. Trust appears to make existentialism less sexist than The Stranger, and show that women are not just holding men back from living authentic lives. However, I don't think that Trust makes existentialism more available to women.

Maria seems to leave all social constructions in her life after meeting Matthew. However, her family, best friend, and boyfriend abandon her. She isn't the one actively choosing what she wants to do in her life, and only makes choices when she has no other options available. Throughout the movie, she tries to regain her mother's love and does anything her mother asks. She also maintains her relationship with her sister after her sister "sleeps" with Matthew.

Maria gets rid of posters in her room and changes her clothes, which seem to be a representation of her leaving popular culture and the system. I think those are a result of loving Matthew. When Maria talks to the nurse, the nurse comments on how much Maria and Matthew both change as a result of their relationship. Maria becomes more simple and withdrawn from society like Matthew. She becomes interested in her education after reading one of Matthew's books. Ultimately, Maria's biggest personal decision is getting her abortion, and it isn't really her own. Maria wants to keep the baby, but decides to get the abortion after seeing her sister and Matthew in bed together. She had already talked with her sister and a friend about how they had both had abortions, so while it was unpopular in society as a whole, it was common among those she had the closest relationships with.

Maria isn't going through an existentialist crisis. Rather, she is changing due to her relationship with Matthew and is still deeply connected to the system. If anything, Maria holds back Matthew from living an authentic life, like Marie holds back Meursault in The Stranger. Matthew is on a course to abandoning the last social constructions is his life, his family and his job, until he becomes involved with Maria. With Maria, Matthew gets another job he hates so he can support her and the baby if they get married. Matthew compromises what he wants to do what Maria needs, which is the peril of love. Love stops people from living authentic lives by making them consider other people's wants and needs instead of their own. Trust maintains existentialism as a "male" thing, and shows women prevent men from leaving the system like The Stranger.

Existentialism in Trust

Throughout the film Trust we are introduced to new characters who each go through their own existential crises. However, the only character who embraces the death and suffering in his life is Matthew. As the story progresses the audience discovers that his mother died giving birth and from that point on his father has resented him. Furthermore, as the film depicts more about him regarding his work life it is apparent that Matthew's bosses are more concerned with earning money rather than the efficiency of the computers they sell. These circumstances envelop him everyday and the one measure that he uses to cope with these factors is the grenade. Despite the fact that he does not actually use this coping mechanism until the very end of the film it is apparent that he accepts death openly and that he is almost unaffected by the extrinsic factors. Matthew at the end of the film seems to be comfortable with the fact that death may come at any point because he was able to face suffering and death throughout his life.

Friday, October 9, 2015

What's the Meaning of trust in "Trust?"

It comes down to one thing.

The grenade.

"But, Daniel, you're stupid! There's no trust with the hand grenade! They don't know if it's going to go off or not and the Matt dude is such a psycho!"

But oh, that's the point, my dear Watson!

The end of the movie has zero trust associated whatsoever and that's the point. You can trust whoever you want however much you want to but in reality, it means nothing. Maria trusts her mother, but clearly her mother is also a psychopath who deserves none. Why would she come back to that house? Because he trusts her. Her mother also probably had trust in the fact that Maria wouldn't accidentially kill her father (or, at least, that's how she explains it.) But what happened?

You know what happened.

Motifs in Trust

In the movie Trust, there are a couple different motifs that continue to appear throughout the movie. The motifs that I noticed and Mr. Heidkamp briefly mentioned were milk, TVs, and clothing. I don't really understand what the motifs of milk and TVs mean, but I think that the clothing that Maria wears during the movie show her development.
In the beginning of the movie, Maria was wearing very hip and in style clothing, that her parents deemed to be inappropriate. At this point in Maria's life, her identity is being popular, with the quarterback of the football team as a boyfriend, and a best friend.
Later in the movie, when she has met Matthew and is starting to change a bit. She starts wearing Matthew's mom's dress and her glasses. She continues to wear this for the rest of the movie. I think that this change in clothing shows how Maria kind of took charge of her life. She doesn't really care about standards of other people anymore and won't abide by the standards of society.
Clothing was a motif in Trust that showed Maria's journey and the development of her identity.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Does questioning identity make you happier?

The story starts off with Maria as the most popular girl in school, dating the most popular guy in school. Maria has a couple issues. She’s pregnant and expelled from high school; however these are issues that could have been, yet were not, resolved immediately.  In the end of the film, maria finally resolves these issues and gets an abortion and goes back to highschool, but in the meanwhile she goes through a life-changing experience that causes her to truly question her identity.
Was this life changing experience worth it? Is she happier now? I’d like to argue that she is less happy than she would have been had she had the abortion, gotten back in school, resumed her place as the most popular girl in school, and gotten back together with her smart, athletic boyfriend.  Instead, Maria gets in a much less-appropriate relationship with a man who is certifiably insane, suicidal, and who may spend the rest of his life in jail. Therefore, I believe she would have been happier had she not questioned her identity.

I do believe she is better off, though.

Had she had the abortion and gotten back in school, she probably would have followed the path of her sister and mother and gotten married early, had children, and lived a monotonous, domestic, life.
Yay for Maria, instead, she gets a life of childless isolation, as her husband spends the rest of his life in jail and she is veritably shunned from the community for being the wife of the failed suicide-bomber.

Good thing she has her thesaurus.

So is she happier? I’d say not. Better off? Maybe.
What do you think?

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

What's With the Dress?

For most of the film Trust, Maria is wearing an old-fashioned dress that she dons after Matthew's dad trashes her old clothes. We know one thing about the dress- it was Matthew's mom's. But Matthew is in his twenties at least (the actor, Martin Donovan, was 33 when the movie was filmed), so that means Matthew's had his dead mother's dress in a closet in his house for potentially 30 years. Suddenly Maria comes along, finds the dress, which fits her perfectly, and wears it for the rest of the film. So... why? What's the significance of the dress, and why does Maria never take it off?

One possible explanation is that, by wearing the dress, Maria becomes the replacement significant female figure in Matthew's life. For his entire life, Matthew's mother has been a dress hanging in a closet. When Maria puts on the dress, she brings his mother to life... which sounds super creepy given the fact that he wants to marry her. But it could also contribute to Matthew's attempts to get Maria to keep the baby and raise it with him as a family. Maria, in his mother's dress, reminds him of what his mother could have been to him. He wants to raise the baby with her so that he can experience what his life could have been like if his mother hadn't died giving birth to him.

Why doesn't Maria ever change clothes, though? Even if she was having an existential crisis, you'd think she wouldn't wear the same old-fashioned dress every single day. It seems more likely that she is shown wearing the dress over and over to exaggerate its significance to Matthew and to demonstrate her change in mindset after she meets him. Her repeated wearing of the dress is just there for symbolism, like how every man on the train had a trench coat and pipe, and how tons of cars in the parking lot had the same bumper sticker.

Is Matthew an Existentialist?

Throughout the movie Trust, one of the main characters Matthew demonstrates being an existentialist despite encountering different struggles in his life. He has trouble finding stability in his social life. He has no close relationships with anyone until he meets Maria, a woman version of him. His dad abuses him and Matthew has no job or anywhere to go. The interesting part is that he doesn't try to be an existentialist and he doesn't choose to be one. He just so happens to be viewed as one because of his internal circumstances and his response to the situation as a whole.

Even though his father treats him horribly and he doesn't have much, Matthew is an individual and he has freedom. One quote that reveals this is when he says, "Life is one big experiment, and your the subject."  He makes his own choices and he says what he feels regardless if it's right or wrong. He accepts the craziness of the world and this leads him to his discovery of Maria. Through his relationship with Maria, he develops. He has more passion for life than ever before in his interactions with others. Not that he's more passionate about living but rather he wants to make the most of his time with Maria. Because of his ability to express himself and be independent, he's living an authentic life.

In the big picture, he is very similar to Meursault from The Stranger. Both characters don't show much emotion and even though they're both separated from society, they accept being indifferent. Another similarity between them is they both don't know what love is and whether or not they have it. Meursault is in a complicated situation with Marie and Matthew and Maria don't know if they really love each other. Ultimately, they both are aware of the issues with not only their world, but also actual society. All the struggles add up, they don't have stable relationships with others, they don't know their status in life, but in the end they both keep moving, recognize the issues and accept death. These two existentialists use their time wisely in life by making choices based on how they feel. They are two interesting characters. Without necessarily realizing it, they aim to discover the meaning of life, themselves, and the concept of living through others and their own battles.


"TV is the opium of the masses"

This is Matthew's view on television from the film Trust, directed by Hal Hartley. All throghout the film Matthew fights against televisions. He refuses to watch them or to fix them. He refuses to take on a job fixing televisions because of his ideas about television, but when he thinks he will have to provide for a child he takes the job.

Once he takes the job repairing televisions, he is seen interacting with them more at home as opposed to earlier in the film when he would spend most of his free time reading. He began watching television to cope with his days at work. The film promotes the idea that doing menial work all day will lead to finding unfulfilling ways to spend your spare time.

In addition to watching more TV after Matthew begins to work more, he is also seen drinking more. After work he would turn on the television and crack open a beer. Instead of reading, or talking to his friend Maria, Matthew secludes himself to numbing his mind with what he previously stated "Would give you cancer."

Trust's take on work is that working menial jobs will make lesser forms of entertainment, such as television, more attractive than more intellectual forms of entertainment.

Monday, October 5, 2015

The Sun, the Weather, and Meursault

It would be a stretch to say that Meursault is in any way a sunshine-y man, but he is clearly affected by the sun and the weather in a way that most people probably are not. The sun practically drives him to murder a man. He was about to leave the beach, "but," he says, "the whole beach, throbbing in the sun, was pressing on [his] back." So he moves toward the spring (and the Arab).

Because he is so moved by the weather, it seems almost reasonable to say that Meursault almost sees himself as an element of nature, even going so far as to call the world his brother at the end of the story. In that light, it almost makes sense that he is so affected by his natural surroundings.

The Female Meursault

What if Meursault was a women? How drastically would "her" circumstances have changed if Meursault had been a female in the eyes of society. Camus wrote "The Stranger," with the perspective of the 1940's era: the world viewed women as weaker and less significant creatures. In the story, the female characters were written to be the play things and punching bags of the men surrounding them, and lacked any substance in their personalities or mental capabilities. They had no backbone and their role was to please the men that were interested. Would Camus have been able to write with enough depth and detail to capture the essence and inner workings of a female Meursault? Honestly, I don't think he would have. Based on what we have learned about Camus and Meursault, I have seen a great deal of similarities between the two men. Camus was able to create this complex and conflicted character because he could take from personal experience. But if Meursault had been a women, Camus would not have been able to illustrate how society would treat a women because he had no idea. He could have written it from the perspective of society, but then the reader wouldn't have been able to understand how the woman was thinking and feeling. The novel would lack the depth Camus had been able to achieve with Meursault.

Meursault and Happiness

  In the novel "The Stranger" by Albert Camus, he depicts the absurdity of life. Then, he uses Meursault to show that the only way to be happy in life is to accept this absurdity and rid yourself of all social constructions placed upon you. One way he does this is when Meursault is talking with the chaplain in the last chapter. He says "He wasn't even sure he was alive, because he was living like a dead man" (120). He is arguing that by accepting the social construction of religion, that the chaplain's life isn't worth living because he is living like he is already dead. He then goes on to contrast it with his own life, saying that he was happy and is still happy, unlike the chaplain, who has never been happy.

Sunday, October 4, 2015


The Stranger explains that the only reality of life is that everyone everywhere will one day stop breathing turn cold and die. No one can change. No one knows when it will occur, its just inevitable. The made up ¨values¨ of life are no more real than Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny. They have been constructed to distract an individual from the fear and uncertainty of realty. Meursault on the other hand has not fallen victim to the distractions of life , he has dismissed them as nothing more than what they are,distractions. He realizes what he can control and what he can not control and that fate has already been chosen for him. At the moment one realizes this then can one truly ¨live life¨.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

The Gentle Indifference

Meursault discovers, during his trial for the random murder of the nameless Arab, that the key to living happily is to accept one's fate and inevitable death. During Meursault's epiphany at the end of The Stranger, he says, "As if that blink rage had washed me clean, rid me of hope; for the first time, in that night alive with signs and stars, I opened myself to the gentle indifference of the world." (pg. 122) Meursault's rage rids him of any hope that he will survive - he has resigned himself to the guillotine. Only after he gives up this hope that he won't die, which represents the hopes all humans have that they might somehow avoid suffering and death (the only certain things in Camus' existentialist theory), can he find happiness. What he discovers, in essence, is that only through realizing that we have no power over our fates can we be content with the world, for the more we struggle against death the more unhappy we become.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Who Knew Miley Was Such An Existentialist?

Miley Cyrus is an artists who, in this day and age, rarely needs an introduction. The Tennessee born popstar has always been at the cusp of every recent cultural movement, the creator of every recent trend, and the curator of all things art. Although there are, relatively, three notable phases in which this one-of-a-kind artist inspired these cultural changes, the specific focus of this analysis is on the artist’s second phase known most famously under the edgy psyche, Rock Mafia.

Not only did this persona open up Cyrus’ dangerous side, but the rebellious lyrics and images Rock Mafia then represented, cut the manufactured chains and shackles that [once] restrict[ed] the musician. By viewing the world in this new light, Miley begins to reflect on what it means to be human, what that requires, and what it feels like physically and emotionally. Her newly found realization of the power of self discovery and independence that came of this specific era, is gratefully charted in the 2010 album, Can’t Be Tamed. While the entirety of the album is golden, the 11th track titled Robot, shows Cyrus’ desire for independence best.
It’s been like this from the start,
One piece after another to create my heart.
You mistake the game for being smart,
“stand here”, “sell this”, and “hit your mark”.
As Miley begins the piece, she shows that for the first time in her career, she is becoming cognizant of the domineering and controlling components leading up to her already success. One of the most important things regarding existentialist philosophy is self-awareness--understanding that the structures in our society, that we’ve knowingly/unknowingly created, have huge impact on one’s search for independence. Once one is hyper-aware of those contributing elements, finding way to happiness is more probable.
But the sound of the steel,
And the crush and the grind,
It all screams who am I to decide my life?
But in time it all dies,
There’s nothing left inside,
I would scream,
But I’m just this hollow shell,
Waiting here,
Begging “please”
Set me free so I can feel.
In the above stanzas, Cyrus explores her frustration and readiness to flee from the control that the world has had on her career and life. She feels the emptiness and the artificiality, however is still reliant on the surrounding world, begging it to set her free, not realizing the key is inside her.
Stop telling me I’m part of this big machine
I’m breaking free,
Can’t you see?
I can love,
I can speak,
Without somebody else operating me.
Here, Miley clearly takes the final step in successfully reaching truth in life and in herself. She self-handedly disassembles the system, letting everyone know that she is now breaking free. She can do this on her own, love, speak, she doesn’t need the world operating for her. The artist is now ready to make choices that have otherwise, been decided for her her entire life.
All this time,
I’ve been misled,
There was nothing but crossed-wires in my head,
I’ve been taught to think about what I feel,
Doesn’t matter at all until you say it’s real
In the lines above, Miley beautifully reflects on her previous state. Pointing fingers at the absurd sovereignty that had molded and shaped her every emotion and desire.  This is a very relatable feeling, however very rarely explored at the level of maturity that Cyrus expresses.
Stop trying to live my life for me,
I need to breathe,
I’m not your robot.
Stop telling me I’m part of this big machine
I’m breaking free,
Can’t you see?
I can’t love,
I can’t speak,
Without somebody else operating me.
You gave me eyes so now I see,
I’m not your robot.
I’m just me
I’m not your robot.
I’m just me…
This song continues on like this for a good amount of time, in true pop fashion. This allows the listener to really reflect on Miley’s poetic dialogue with herself and the surrounding fabricated world.