Sunday, October 23, 2016

Life is Explosive: The Symbolism Behind the Grenade in Trust

For me, one of the most confusing aspects of Trust last Friday was what the grenade that Matthew kept by him at all times. So, in this blog post, I intend to give some definition to it.

First, when Matthew explains why he has the grenade in the first place to Maria, he says he has it "just in case". From here, as well as the movie's climax, it is implied that he keeps the grenade just incase life becomes meaningless to him, causing him to effectively commit suicide. However, due to the nature of the grenade, the explosion could just as easily kill or hurt other people just as easily as it could kill Matthew, leading me to believe that the purpose of the grenade, as Matthew describes it, isn't to kill him: Matthew keeps the grenade to prevent others from following the same path that he did. Theoretically, Matthew could drive people away from a certain building or area by using his grenade - stories of a grenade going off in a place like a factory or house would easily drive people away from that area out of sheer paranoia.

From here, I began to notice a trend between the places where Matthew takes out the grenade and comes close to pulling its pin (or actually pulls it at the end of the film): they are all places where Matthew feels vulnerable and unsatisfied with himself. In both his and Maria's houses, Matthew seems to feel unwelcome and frowned upon by the parents of each household(his father and Maria's mother)  due to the way they treat him (with his father abusing him and Maria's mother treating him like a pest).  On numerous occasions, Matthew undermines the authority of the computer factor he is employed at, implying that he feels that the job wasting his potential and the potential of others, leading him to feel useless and monotonous.

All of these themes are confirmed when Matthew pulls the pin at the end of the film, only for the grenade to have a delayed explosion. In my opinion, this delay, which seems to dictate if the grenade is to explode or not, is supposed to be representative of Matthew's opinion of the meaning of life, with the grenade exploding if he can't find meaning in life and the inverse happening if he can. However, even when he is with Maria, the grenade still explodes, showing that Matthew still doesn't know the true meaning of his life. However, the grenade's delay seems to show that Maria triggered something in Matthew that gave him some semblance of a reason to live. Despite this, Matthew's future is left questionable at the end of the film, with him going to jail. Nevertheless, the grenade's delay still gives hope that Matthew will find meaning in his life, just not with Maria.

Trust and "Apple Mac 1984": Finding Thematic Common Ground

In the 20th century, Theatre of the Absurd emerged as a style of theatre with a particular focus on the ideas of existentialism and absurdism. Trust, is a movie with clear connections to the Theatre of the Absurd and The Stranger.  Similar themes exist between not only Trust and The Stranger and the Theatre of the Absurd, but also between Trust and the iconic "Apple Mac 1984" commercial.  The "Apple Mac 1984" commercial depicts the lives of mindless, homogenous drones, brainwashed by an all-seeing tyrant until a girl with a sledgehammer liberates the drones from the tyrant’s speech. The meaning of the commercial is clear: the individual must not accept the principles of any established authority as incontrovertibly true. Similarly, the film Trust conveys the idea that because humans live in a chaotic and meaningless universe, they should shake the bonds of society to live life in any way they want. This theme is clearly asserted in Trust when Maria approaches the husband of the woman who kidnapped the baby. Both Trust and the "Apple Mac 1984" commercial emphasize forging one's own identity and not accepting what is thrust on you by society. 

Trust Me, I Will Catch You

Recently in my English class, we watched the movie Trust from 1990.
The best part of the movie, in my opinion, is when Matthew tries to find a job that will suit him. He is very intelligent and capable man but he cannot emotionally work with a television. He hates TVs. After he meets Maria he decides to take the job of fixing TVs because he wants to have a family with Maria, therefore, he must be responsible and bring money to the family. After a while of forcing himself working on something, he despises he noticeably changes.
Maria: Can you stop watching TV for a minute?
Matthew: No.
Maria: Why?
Matthew: Because. I had a bad day at work. I had to subvert my principles and kowtow to an idiot. Television makes these daily sacrifices possible. Deadens the inner core of my being.
Many people do have bad days at work because of unfair treatment. The company he works for can definitely use his brain and improve their production but instead, he's forced to do the mindless work of putting the parts together. He became so numb from his jobs that he watches the TV he despises so much to forget the bad day at his job.
Maria: Your job is making you boring and mean.
Matthew: My job is making me a respectable member of society.
Even right now many people work on the jobs they despise because of the society expectation or the money needs. People are ruined by the jobs they do not enjoy. Matthew making the same sacrifice for someone he respects and admires, Maria.
There is a lot of examples from our daily lives that we do not notice or refuse to accept. That is why the movie is weird and disturbing to watch.

Friday, October 21, 2016


Our English class was gifted with the pleasure of watching a movie for the past couple of days. The movie was called Trust which is ironic because I trusted that the movie would be enjoyable. It was not enjoyable. The plot is interesting and well thought out. The movie is about a girl named Maria Coughlin who basically has the worst day ever. She got pregnant by her boyfriend who dumped her after hearing that she is pregnant. She dropped out of high school. Her dad suffered a heart attack after an arguement between them two. As a result of the father's death Maria was kicked out of the house by her mother. In comes Matthew who doesn't know Maria but they meet each other later in the movie. Although Matthew is a genius he is in and out of jobs. He lives with his father who doesn't really like him. One day these two meet in an abondon house. Now let me stop there because this sounds really good. You don't know what the girl is going to do, you are anxious to see how they are going to tie in Matthew to all of this. What has made the movie unenjoyable is the dialogue. The dialogue was really awkward and seemed out of place.  

Trust in Babies

The film trust explores a young woman's transition to womanhood, and how much sooner it happens for women than it does for men. Every single woman in the film has some kind relationship with babies, and the relationship for most started when the women where teenagers. For several of the characters, they were pregnant when they where teens, oftentimes by obligation, and therefore forced to start their adult life before they had even finished their teenage years. The film almost seems to view pregnancy as a right of passage for women to understand just how difficult it is for them to experience a long, uninterrupted adolescence. Maria's sister's friend and Maria's mother both used the pregnancy to get what they wanted, so pregnancy ended up giving them some sort of agency, although it was a shadow of the freedom they had before they where pregnant. Maria's sister becomes trapped, her children are taken away from her by divorce, and she misses them, but she also gains freedom by not having them around. The woman who stole the baby at the convenience store is a victim in a whole different kind of way. She believes a baby will make her happy, and not being able to have one allows society to hold her hostage, as she believes she will never be happy until she has a child.

A Nabokovian Way of Watching a Movie

Recently, we have been watching the movie Trust. Unfortunately, I was out the first day and so I was originally rather confused. However, as time as gone on and I have watched more of the film I have actually come to enjoy my lack of character development.

The early part of the movie sets up much of the internal strife between characters. However, lacking any of this knowledge I have been able to view the film more objectively and without bias. This very Nabokovian way of experiencing literature has been a unique and challenging experience for me. I cannot empathize with the characters and am thus forced to look at them objectively and try to understand who they are and what they represent.

This new perspective has been an interesting and fulfilling experience that going forward I will try to emulate but with whole story.

Meursault and Mathew, Twins?

Trust is a film which embodies The Stranger. In his book, The Stranger, Camus is able to show the thoughts of a man named Meursault. Throughout the book, Meursault is shown as a passive person who does not respond to others the way that society says he should. One example is when Marie asks Meursault if he loves her. His response is passive and does not care either way. This is only one example from the book, but throughout the story he acts in this passive manner. 

In the film Trust the main characters act in a similar way. Mathew asks Maria to move away from his mother. He says all of the different ways he feels about her, and tries to stay away from the concept of love. She asks him whether all of these things such as wanting to be together result in Mathew loving Maria. Mathew is passive about this circumstance. He comes to the conclusion that he does, but something in the manner of ¨I guess so." Both Trust and The Stranger are similar because the main characters are passive and go with the flow when the circumstance is the thought of love.


Trust and The Stranger surprisingly have a lot in common. From the dulled monologue to the unusual characters, they both seem to portray carry the same types of themes. In The Stranger, it is not hard to recognize the level of indifference that Meursault regards his relationships with as well as everyday activities. He finds pleasure in doing things that usually would not be something that someone enjoys, like sitting in a room by yourself looking out of a window the whole day, or following a random woman down the street. 

But he does share this unique quality with the main character in Trust, who is also different in many ways: she is pregnant in high school, she "killed" her father, and she agreed to marry a man who is much older than her. However, they both share something eerily similar: their regard for love.

In the book, Meursault does not care if he marries Marie, he is very nonchalant about the situation as a whole, and agrees to marry Marie because, "why not".  A parallel can be drawn between this proposal and the proposal between Maria and Matthew, who agree to get married out of the blue with a conversation that was very dull and lacked any sort of emotion. Matthew agrees to marry Marie, but also says that what he has for her is not love, but respect and admiration. 

Both of these situations create marriages that do not revolve around love, but circumstances.  

Maria and Meursault

Trust and The Stranger are two very different pieces of fiction, but they do have some similarities. I think the biggest similarity between the two are the main characters; Meursault and Maria. Meursault goes through life very passively with no strong opinions. While Maria definitely has strong opinions, they both have the same "I don't care" attitude about things that directly affect their life. The main difference between the two characters is that when Meursault's mother dies, he isn't really directly affected by it, but when Maria's father dies, she turns her entire life around.

Trust In The Stranger

The movie Trust and the novel The Stranger have a surprising amount in common. The first thing I noticed was the dialogue of the film. It is very similar to the blunt and matter of fact style of writing that Camus employs. Most of the conversations between Matthew and Maria in Trust seem just like Meursault and Marie in The Stranger.

Another convincing parallel between these two works is the way the characters handle their relationships. In The Stranger, Marie asks Meursault if he loves her and if he wants to marry her, but Meursault responds in a way that perplexes Marie. He does not conform to the system of traditional lovey marriage. In Trust, Matthew says he wants to marry Maria because he admires and respects her, but is hesitant to say that means love. He too wants to stay away from the traditional system of marriage.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Meursaut in 'Trust'

While watching the film 'Trust' after finishing Camus' novel 'The Stranger', there are lots of pieces of Meursaut in the soul of that movie. While no character is truly identical to Meursaut, there can be some similarities in Matthew and even in Maria.

There is a scene in the film when Maria brings up the notion of killing herself, then Matthew pulls a grenade out of his pocket and states that he always carries it with him "just in case". This scene for some reason really embodies Meursaut to me, I think with the general lack of caring about life reminds me of Meursaut a bit. Both characters are both living but also accept that death is the outcome of their lives.

While Maria and Matthew are similar in some ways, I feel that they do convey more emotion and empathy for themselves and others than he does. For example, Maria is really hurt when her boyfriend blames her for her pregnancy, as well as when Matthew has to repeatedly clean the bathroom he gets annoyed. They both however are not afraid to 'defy' against people in higher power than them (when Maria slaps her father, or when Matthew tries to bargain with the TV man that is trying to hire him). However, throughout the film, I believe that more and more of Meursaut grows in those two characters.

The Overlapping Aura in Trust and Wes Anderson Movies

The artistic styling in Trust reminds me of the typical Wes Anderson film. The blunt acting, absurd story line and existential angst are similar to movies such as Moonrise Kingdom and The Grand Budapest Hotel. The main characters in these films embody existentialism to a certain extent.

Matthew from Trust likes to think that he lives by his own rules, but is really under the control of his abusive father. Although incredibly skilled, Matthew quits his jobs in order to experience a sense of self-control. When it comes to relationships, Matthew is a cold-standoffish character that does whatever he pleases without worrying about other's feelings. Until he falls in love with Maria, there is a veil of nothingness taking control of his life. There seems to be no purpose, and the constant cleaning of his bathroom is a symbol of this life without aim. Matthew's character is complicated and while he does try to live an individualized life, is still a puppet to society and his father. 

Sam and Suzy in Moonrise Kingdom are similar to Matthew in that they both have existential aesthetics, but are under the control of their parents and boys scout leaders. The two loner children run away together because they are in love and no longer want to live with their parents or spend time at boy scout camp. Sam does not want to conform to the boy scout way, while Suzy refuses to listen to and live by her parents rules. Both characters live together in a remote cove, free from external influences, and focus solely on each other and their lives until they are forced home by the adults of the movie.

Similar to Matthew, Sam, and Suzy, M. Gustave from The Grand Budapest Hotel is also a loner. Gustave has an existential aura and has odd relationships with the characters in the movie. When one of the elderly women who he is sleeping with suddenly dies, Gustave brings his only companion, Zero, with him. This action exemplifies the disconnect Gustave has with the external world. Zero is the brand new bell boy at the Grand Budapest Hotel, and Gustave barely knows him. Gustave's willingness to bring a young boy who he has no emotional connection with, and to consider him one of his closest comrades, to the funeral of his lover is absurd. Also, Gustave seems to be indifferent when seeing his dead lover, and is more worried about protecting the precious painting that he inherits from the elderly admirer. 

These characters are all connected to Meursault from The Stranger. They all share an odd sense of indifference to emotional aspects of the world and yearn for a sense of control in their lives. 

No Need For Men

The movie trust is a very confusing movie. I have watched the movie for two days because I missed one day and the movie and the characters have gotten really weird. But something I did find interesting was the talk between Marie's mom and Matthew. She goes on a rant talking about how bad men are and how actually Marie did her a favor by slapping her dad as she says she slapped him right our of this world. She then goes on to talk about how women don't need men to have babies. That all they need to do is go to a sperm bank and can have babies like that. It reminded me of a book that unfortunately I cannot remember. In the book it talks about how women are evolving and don't need men for anything and I thought that it was an interesting comparison between the movie and book.

I Don't Trust Trust

The movie Trust inflicts an odd amount of relatable-ness, while still keeping the audience at a distance from the characters. The aesthetic of the movie gives a very "off" feeling about watching it added in with the story line of slightly twisted suburban families gives a movie that you feel the need to look away from, but are drawn to so much more for that reason.

With the severe difference in colors of the movie, there is a dramatic emotional effect that is inflicted on the audience. Some scenes have a darker tint and may be a shade of blue and these scenes tend to be more emotional and dark, whereas the scenes with a sunlight background or are outside during the day have a more open and exposed feeling to them. Sunlight does not equate to joy in this film, and this is clear during some of the first scenes.

The story alone is enough to make the audience cringe and cry at the same time. The experiences that the characters go through is enough to want to push them in the right direction, while other times it makes the audience want to cry because of all of the unfortunate events that happen to each character. The uncomfortableness of the characters adds to this effect as well. This adds to the anxiety of the audience's desire for a positive event to happen, as well as an added interest to the story and the movie overall.


The movie Trust is a very peculiar movie. Throughout the film there are many interesting aspects of each character and how their interactions express a unique way of life. What I found most interesting in the film was the relationship between Maria and Matthew.

Maria seems almost the opposite of Matthew in the beginning. Her careless and spoiled attitude to others is what brings her to realize that she knows nothing of what life is, and how to live it. Having a baby with a football player that doesn't actually love her also pushes Maria to this realization. After the death of her father, her mother became strict and dominated over her. Throughout this whole process she changes into a new character with the help of Matthew. Matthew is ill tempered and very discrete individual who has a negative reputation. Also like Maria, he is dominated by a parent figure. He is constantly obeying his father by cleaning the house, particularly the bathroom. Maria and Matthew's relationship is unique and interesting in different parts of the film.

One part in the film that is unique is the conversions between Maria and Matthew. When they talk to each other, you can feel little emotions and meaning to what they are saying, They sound robotic and speak fast with each other, which is amusing. They don't respond like this to others, its just them.

Another particular part was when Matthew invites Maria to sleep in his house. After Matthew leaves, Maria gets comfortable, she makes a mess with the food and the milk.  She leaves it there almost knowing that someone might clean it up. Matthew's father arrives and sees this mess, and shortly after Matthew arrives as well . Then there's this tension building up between father and son. Father abusing his son because of the mess, because of Maria. What stuck out to me was when Maria invited Matthew to stay with her, to get away from his father. She is saving Matthew from this dominating parent figure and later on Matthew tries to do the same. Maria's mother dominates her by making her do all these chores and also taking care of her by combing her hair and fixing her food. Matthew sees how controlling Maria's mother is and wants Maria to leave with him and drinks for it. This part shows the similarities of parent aggression and how both rescues one another from it. Also just to mention in both cases the parents needs the child to be under them and would fight to keep it that way.

Matthews and Maria relationship is very odd that I have never seen before. The film Trust truly brings out a new perspective on human relationships to its audience.

Meursault, Marie, Matthew, and Maria... and Milk

Before I try to think of other random words starting with M to throw into the title (magic? maroon? make america great again?) let me say that The Stranger and Trust, while thematically similar, contain very different messages.
Both Meursault and Maria are living these "stripped down" lives in which they have little need or desire for material goods and have disavowed the comforts that hold meaning for most people. However, their paths quickly diverge.
Meursault continues to live this type of life till the day he dies and never buys into the systems that humans use to create meaning in their lives. Maria on the other hand strips her life down but then (note I have no idea how this movie ends and could be terribly wrong about everything) proceeds to build her life back up. She seems to lose all faith in love, family, and education but then is able to regain this faith in these systems and this time it is on her own terms. She finds her own versions of these systems in Matthew, going back to school, learning new vocabulary, etc. and is able to become happier because of it.
These differences between main characters result in completely different meanings. In The Stranger Meursault is happy because he didn't participate in the systems but Maria is happy because she built her own.

(And yes, I didn't mention Milk or Marie even once so I just want to say I'm sorry to let everyone down. I know everyone was looking forward to a deep discussion on the Milk Motif)

Unlucky Dialect

The film Trust is a work of the Theater of the Absurd. It focuses largely on the idea of existentialism, expressing what happens when human existence has no meaning causing all communication to break down.

In Hartleys film the dialect between characters is spoken with little or no feeling behind the words. On top of this the exchange of words are often brief and rapidly fired back and fourth between the participants of the conversation. From this style of dialect Trust has shown that a majority of communication amongst the character has broken down or is non existent. Hartley has really pulled off a masterpiece, undeniable even just by looking at the films conversation.

Lather. Rinse. Get Married. Be Unhappy. Repeat.

“‘Do you hate your husband?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘Do you think you’ll get remarried?’ ‘Probably.’”

There are certainly allusions to existentialism in “Trust” (directed by Hal Hartley), and this interaction between Peg and Maria is one that struck me. I was mainly intrigued by the seemingly Sisyphean structure of Peg’s life: get married, be unhappy, get married, be unhappy. The same task until she dies; pushing the boulder of holy matrimony up the hill just to watch it roll right back down. Sure, she hasn’t gotten remarried yet, but Hatley presents marriage in a disapproving-enough way for the audience to infer that Peg will, indeed, be unhappy when she does.

Peg’s unhappiness, at first, seems to contrast “The Myth of Sisyphus,” despite the fact that the movie and the essay illustrate the same philosophy. Camus argues that Sisyphus is the happiest man alive, for he has accepted his fate and released the need for higher meaning in his life. Through this detachment, he has taken control over his punishment. Peg, on the other hand, is certainly not the happiest woman alive. She pushes up the boulder, and although it’s fun at first, she loses interest, becomes depressed, and lets it roll back with regretful disdain. Is there any way she could be happy with a task such as this?

To answer this question, we must first look at the task itself: marriage. It seems to be the cornerstone of a healthy society. It produces children and allows men and women to fall into convenient and productive roles. Hartley, however, depicts marriage differently. In his world, marriage changes people for the worst - most obviously portrayed in Matthew’s transformation to “boring and mean” soon after he proposes to Maria. Through Hartley’s lens, the idea that marriage is beautiful and healthy is societally fabricated. It is also, however, necessary if one would like to conform to social norms and live a quiet life. This is Peg’s dilemma: keep pushing the stone to keep the peace, or ditch it altogether, thus possibly declaring war on the ideals that envelope her? From the quote above, it seems as if she will keep pushing. Does this mean she will never achieve contentment?

If Peg lets go of the importance and accepts the inevitably melancholy end of her marriages, will she subsequently detach from the expectations imposed upon her? Or is believing that they will have a melancholy end the very thing that secures the fact that they will? Detachment may be the route that Hartley suggests we take, but perhaps a certain level of devotion to relationships is necessary to optimize the fulfillment we gain from them. Then again, devotion to a relationship is what got Matthew punched in the stomach by his father, Maria taken advantage of by the football player, and the woman at the bus stop time in a psychiatric ward. Perhaps donning Hartley’s lens simply means taking off the one constructed by the misguided ideals of our country.

Matthew vs. Meursault: Battle of the Existentialists

As I watched Trust I tried to see how it ties into The Stranger. I began to see similarities between Matthew and Meursault. And then I thought about it and decided the similarities were merely on the surface.

Sure, both characters show little emotions. Neither one of them believes in this so called love. Both men seemingly do not care about the world around them. But something seemed off when we began to watch Trust.

I do believe that Meursault is what the definition of existentialism is. I understand how Camus would want to show his existential beliefs through his character. But that is not the point I am trying to make.

I do not think that Trust really represents an existentialist point of view. Specifically, in Matthew. On the surface, yes, he does not believe in a lot of what society says he should. But, then he meets Maria. He allows her to stay in his house, he wants to get her out of an abusive household, and he wants to marry Maria. All of those things say he cares for her. You do not help someone you just met that you do not care for. He may say he does not love her, but the foundation of what society calls love is there. Matthew sacrificed himself for another human. I believe that is something an existentialist might not do. As someone who does play into the love idea, I would struggle to have the heart Matthew does with Maria. Unless I deeply learned to "love" her.

As far as existentialists go, I think Meursault has won.

The Key is Mutability

There are many works of theater and film that come embody the ideas set forth in Albert Camus' The Stranger. In a broader sense, these works demonstrate the complete absurdity of our lives. The fact that this absurdity is in the form of a play or a film helps the audience feel and understand what exactly absurdity looks like and feels like, therefore making it a much more tangible theory.

One such play is No Exit by Jean-Paul Sartre. In this play, three characters, Cradeau, Inez and Estelle, are trapped in Hell. Essentially, the play represents how our lives are framed by death. Rather, in death we are complete, meaning we are no longer mutable, and no longer have the capacity to act as a radical self. In the play, the three characters attempt to reach this radical self, but, since they are dead, they cannot. They find that they are wholly dependent on each other to become anything other than what they are. 

The idea of changing ourselves and our identities is also present in the 1990's film, Trust. In this film, characters discover their lives changing rapidly and quite unexpectedly. The main character, Maria, is even preoccupied with the word "Vicissitude" and it definition. The idea of how certain people can change another person is even brought up in a discussion between Maria and a doctor from an abortion clinic. While talking, Maria mentions how she feels she has changed her soon to be husband and his personality. He is no longer dangerous and spontaneous, now he has become dull and placated. The doctor then asks whether or not Maria thought he had changed her. Maria responds affirmatively. 

Although these two works mention discuss our lives and our identities in seemingly differing situations, they are essentially two sides of the same coin. In life, our surroundings and perceptions of others are constantly changing, and naturally we will change along with this tide. In fact, our duty in life is to take charge or our identity, our self, and assert ourselves, regardless of others. Maria's preoccupation with the vicissitudes of life in many ways exemplifies this struggle. On the other side of the coin, we see in death we no longer have the opportunity to assert ourselves and learn how important it truly is to become the strongest self you can become in life. Therefore, these two works exemplify how important it is to be able to change, mutate, transform and evolve so that we can grasp the ability to transcend and assert ourselves in the best way possible. 

Awkwardness in Trust

In the 1990 film, Trust, director Hal Hartley introduces a unique take on 'the theater of the absurd'. Although this film was created 40 years after the peak of the theater of the absurd movement, the film is known as a modern adaptation of the movement.

I think that one of the most notable aspects of the film is the intentional awkwardness it portrays. In the interactions between each of the characters, Hartley displays a level of awkwardness and realness that is uncommon in most mainstream films. One moment Maria is sitting on a bench with a stranger, and the next moment she abruptly demands that the stranger give her five dollars. This level of absurdity is key to the film and how it stands out from major Hollywood productions.

I think that this strategy shows the audience their own expectations of movies that society has imposed upon them. The audience expects Maria and Matthew to rejoice and embrace one another when he asks her to marry him, but of course that is not what happens. Maria climbs onto a ledge and does an impromptu trust fall. I think that this unexpected response in one example of how Hartley uses awkwardness to express the theatre of the absurd in the film Trust.

TRUST Me, It's Funny... (and dark)

The 1990's film "Trust" leaves viewers pondering aspects of life that we probably (hopefully at least) never had the pleasure of encountering. Whether it be keeping a live hand grenade on you at all times, murdering your own father, or debating an abortion, "Trust" dwells deep into the depths of loneliness. This film offers an insight on the struggles of some not-so normal lives.

The movie gives off a dark, desolate vibe, which actually makes you feel for the characters. You see Maria and Matthew battle the pain in there lives, and mostly lose. There is an overcast shadowed over them, and all you want as a viewer is to see them succeed. It seems at every turn there is yet another murky result waiting for them, endlessly enwrapping these kindhearted characters into despair.

It's not all so gloomy though, as the dark tone can actually be a bit humorous at times. Throughout all the fog,  a drinking contest between Matthew and Maria's mom, are just small pieces that you cant help but chuckle at.

"Trust" offers a unique outlook on what it's like to be by yourself in this world, but when matched up with someone just as abandoned as you, you are never truly alone. 

Trusting in Absurdity

Al Hartley's Trust has been introduced as a work of the "theater of the absurd". Theater of the absurd is defined as "drama using the abandonment of conventional dramatic form to portray the futility of human struggle in a senseless world", and emerged in the late 50's primarily in Europe as a new style of film that focused on existentialism.

It's pretty obvious that Hartley has thrown most of dramatic convention out of the window, and has created a work that is, quite obviously, absurd. Through his direction, he seems to create a work perfectly fitting the mold of absurdity laid down before him.

In moments that are meant to seem awkward and weird, Hartley grasps at what he is truly looking for in his quest for absurdity. Unfortunately, many of these instances were predictable, and because of it he failed to hang on to what he had been reaching for. Instead of finding deeper meaning in the scene, the surface awkwardness is what seemed to stick. It appears to me that the "perfection", for lack of a better term, of his absurdity takes away from the innate absurdness.

It's hard to judge a film without having yet finished it, and perhaps it will change my mind by the end. And it's not as though I don't like the film, in fact, I think it's perfectly fine. It just seems to me that on his journey to find peak absurdity, Hartley only scratched the surface

I Kind Of Wish I Was Sisyphus

My first read through "The Myth of Sisyphus," I didn't understand much of what Camus was trying to tell his readers. Why was it supposedly so nice to spend eternity giving every ounce of your strength to something you knew would never go anywhere? I read it several more times and discussed it with a competent English class and it made more sense, but I didn't agree with Camus.

After more time passed and I stopped thinking about "The Myth of Sisyphus," I realized rather suddenly what Camus meant and I actually agree with him on some points. If I were in Sisyphus' shoes, I would be pretty happy. Not having to eat, drink, sleep, or worry about actually accomplishing my only task would be a huge relief. There would be nothing to do but think and with no doubts about death or the meaning of life (after all, what meaning could life have beyond rolling the boulder?) I would be free of worry. With no one to bother me, I could think up great stories and keep my mind active. Also, rolling a massive boulder for an eternity is bound to get you in great shape.

Not so bad, in the end. But there would be no end.

Have a Smoke?

Often, when people smoke, they do it for comfort. It's warm and feels good and gives you something to think about. They continue their habits and soon get addicted. It's a physical connection that is extremely hard to break. While the physical aspect of smoking is present in The Stranger, it has a deeper meaning than addiction. Meursault smokes for a majority of the book, but once he is imprisoned he is forced to stop.

"There were the cigarettes, too... Once I was in my cell, I asked to have them back. But I was told I wasn't allowed. The first few days were really rough... Later on I realized that that too was a part of the punishment. But by then I had gotten used to not smoking and it wasn't a punishment anymore." (78)

He stops smoking, understands the punishment, and becomes accustomed to the cig-abstinence. He is later offered a cigarette before his trial. "The policemen told me we had to wait for the judges and one of them offered me a cigarette, which I turned down." (82)

He turns it down but doesn't even sound tempted. It seems as if he doesn't have an ounce of desire for the cigarette. Which is strange because most ex-smokers would be physically attracted to the thought of having a smoke. He is not. I believe that he might actually be tearing off the last social fetters that remained from the outside world. He sees the problems with the society he lived in and realized he didn't need the fake comforts that come with it; ergo, the cig's gotta go.

Philosophy: Shots Fired from Thomas Nagel

Image result for thomas nagel

In the West, ever since Fyodor Dostoevsky wrote Notes from the Underground, there have been philosophical counterarguments and challenges to Existentialism, some of which fall under determinism in the debate against free will (the latter of which Existentialist thinkers side with), but they tend to be insufficient because, for how strict and technical they are in interpreting scientific laws and rules, they still have to acknowledge the prevalence of a mystery or higher justification behind determinism.

One of the few Western philosophers that I think has successfully, for a lack of better words, "proved"  the fallacies of Absurdism and to a lesser extent, Existentialism, is Thomas Nagel, whose main interests are the philosophy of the mind, consciousness, politics, and ethics. In his essay The Absurd, he questions why life may feel absurd along with where the theory of absurdity emerges.

Firstly, Nagel fires a shot at the assumption that life is meaningless because none of our actions nor those of past and future generations have any meaning nor will matter in millions of years. He goes along with the idea that we are indeed "tiny specks in the infinite vastness of the universe; mere instants even on a geological time scale," (717) yet refutes the claim that any of this makes life absurd or heavy. Instead, Nagel reasons that existence and life is meaningful without any need for reductionist theories. does not consist of a sequence of activities each of which has as its purpose some later member of the sequence. Chains of justification come repeatedly to an end within life, and whether the process as a whole can be justified has no bearing on the finality of these end-points. No further justification is needed to make it reasonable to take aspirin for a headache, attend an exhibit of the work of a painter one admires, or stop a child from putting his hand on a hot stove. No larger context or further purpose is needed to prevent these acts from being pointless. (717)
In other words, Camus has misrepresented the process of justification as a mere retreat from death and absolute ends. But that is not to say that Nagel thinks that logic and rationales go above everything else; he seems to agree with Camus that existence itself is overwhelmingly vast and thus impossible to fully express, it is just that Existential philosophies tend to move in a rather vacuous direction to compensate with said vastness.

Later on in the essay, Nagel reviews Myth of Sisyphus. As we all know, Camus's essay advocates for Sisyphus, the proletariat of Greek mythology and a tragic hero, to defy the gods and to defy the supposed authority in our lives. This, Camus thought, was the only way to salvage our dignity and be true to ourselves. Here is what Nagel has to say:
This seems to me romantic and slightly self-pitying. Our absurdity warrants neither that much distress nor that much defiance. At the risk of falling into romanticism by a different route, I would argue that absurdity is one of the most human things about us: a manifestation of our most advanced- and interesting characteristics. Like skepticism in epistemology, it is possible only because we possess a certain kind of insight-the capacity to transcend ourselves in thought. (726-727)
He wraps up his essay concluding that it is irony, not despair or heroism, that constitutes Absurdity. I would elaborate further, but the essay is better read than paraphrased. I'm just a student of literature, not of philosophy, after all. Below is a link to The Absurd:

The Solo Life is the Only Life?

You can succeed in life!  As long as you detach yourself from everyone and everything.  Our recent class discussion about life's "deceptions" such as love, family, happiness, etc. left me at a stand still.  Essentially, everything we have been taught that is important in our lifetime means nothing.  They are pointless distractions.  My whole life, especially the last few years, I've been trying to figure out what really matters in my life and what I should let go of.  Now, after that lesson, I'm utterly lost again.

We read The Myth of Sisyphus, illuminating one of Camus's theories.  His overall statement is that Sisyphus’s fate is no different and no worse than our own.  There is no hope in our lifetime.  Our life is simply what we make of it. I agree with this statement. Everyone has the ability to look at life either optimistically or pessimistically but, in my opinion, there are other things in life that we don't have control of that can make this theory harder to live by.

For example, one argument I made in my evaluation of Camus's theory was mental disorders. While watching an interview with Louie C.K. he talked about acknowledging the sorrows of life and living through them instead of hiding from them by, for example, going on our phones. I agree that facing your fears and being aware of certain emotions in life is important but the amount you focus on them is questionable to me. With mental disorders such as depression, you tend to focus on the bad at an extreme level which can be dangerous at times. That's also why I feel it is important to have relationships with people. Even though you are, in the end, the one that overcomes these struggles, it is still incredibly important to have the support from friends and family to help you both during and after recovery.

Overall, I find his theory interesting and I'm willing to look at my life more through his idea but I don't think I want to detach myself from the relationships I have made and sacrifice the possibility to create the amazing memories I do with them.

Two men, one goal

        So far the in class film, Trust,  has had a few connections to the last novel we have read, The Stranger. But so far the biggest connection between the two, happened when the main character of Trust, Maria Coughlin, is at the abortion clinic and is having the conversation with the nurse. Here she comes to the realization that the only reason her boyfriend likes her is because of her physical aspects. In the film she wistfully said,"My ass, my breast..." and continues to list off her used body parts.
        The main connection i see between this scene and The Stranger, is the theme of the importance of the physical world. Maria's boyfriend only focuses on the physical aspect of her, and is the only reason why he is interested in her. He only wanted a physical relationship and nothing more. Which can be directly compared to Meursault's relationship with Marie. Meursault is only interested physically with Marie, which can be inferred by the amount of public kisses, and coitus they have. We also can tell from Meursault's indifference to get married to Marie. So both men, express indifference to emotional part of the relationship, but both will gladly take part in the physical part of a relationship.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Run For the Hills! And No, You Can't Bring Rover

My problem with existentialism is that it seems incredibly isolation-inducing. It calls us to essentially abandon everything we've ever known, call B.S. on it all and make the active decision to "take the leap" towards awareness and hope we land somewhere with our body still in tact (though hope, an existentialist would say, implies a presupposed sequence of events and that, of course, is defective and therefore we should simply leap). To this I say: "Ok. I'm with ya. I'm following. I'm alright with that - I can accept that I am part of a system and that alone is reason to question things."
 However, I am not 'ok' with being perpetually alone. What if the ones around me whom I love don't choose to also disconnect? My grandma very much believes in God and the goodness in humility and quiet, hard work. She believes in heaven and the afterlife and the miracles of Jesus - am I being called to turn my back on her and wish her the best in her 'futile' existence? That is not something I am comfortable doing. What about my baby cousin? She has had absolutely no control over anything in her life thus far, but inherently she contributes to the system she was born into. I am supposed to allow her to grow into her own person without external help because any of that would contaminate and predispose her existence in society? Well, I can't picture a parent bringing a child into the world and then deciding to "let em figure it out". Perhaps those parents out to attempt to raise that child in a existentialist setting where they could form a family system-denying fight squad, something akin to "The Incredibles" with a stark twist. But then, what if young Friedrich Wilhelm feels oppressed by the system that has been created by denying the ultimate system? Is he now obligated to distance himself from that world as well simply because within it he has a specific life layout (that is derived by objecting to the conventional life layout, but nonetheless)? When and where does the cycle end?

I have trouble seeing existentialism's answer to the natural human need for community. And, truly I would love for someone to provide me with the answers to these questions. I want to like existentialism but I need to (as I'm sure most of us do) investigate its strength from all angles before that happens.

Three Words I Never Thought I'd Hear Together: Wish, Execution and Hate

"For everything to be consummated, for me to feel less alone, I had only to wish that there be a large crowd of spectators the day of my execution and that they greet me with cries of hate."

The last line of The Stranger was very powerful for me. It surprised me and summed up the essence of Meursault's character. At first, I thought that he was just being arrogant. But then, I thought that maybe he wanted to leave his mark on those who disliked his way of living. His life would've had meaning if he elicited a negative emotional response in his haters. Would be at peace knowing that the rest of society hated him? Would he have been glad to leave the world where he was unwanted? He won the game of life by being at peace with himself. He did not feel the need to change just because society said so. Part of me hates him, yet the other part admires him. 

Monday, October 17, 2016

Femininity in The Stranger

One of the more intriguing parts of The Stranger is its portrayal of its female characters. The story opens with the death of Maman, an event that does not seem to affect Meursault much at all. If anything, he finds it inconvenient. At his mother's funeral, Meursault appears perturbed by the heartbroken elderly women who attend it. His relationship with his lover Marie unfolds throughout the rest of the book, but without much development between the two.

Meursault follows a common pattern in the way he sees women- he is either annoyed by them, or feels attracted to them. Before he later stated that he found his mother's death inconvenient, Meursault described her death with surprising nonchalance. "Maman died today. Or yesterday maybe, I don't know." (Camus 1) At the funeral, he appears to find the elderly womens' grief annoying. The way he views Marie is very obvious when he sees her during his trial. "Marie entered. . .From where I was sitting I could just make out the light fullness of her breasts, and I recognized the little pout of her lower lip." (Camus 93) Although his staring at the parts of her body that are the most sexualized could be excused as normal part of their relationship, it is also likely that he was used to sexualizing women he did not find annoying.

This lack of female characters that do not possess stereotypical characteristics may be reflective of the mindset of the period Camus wrote this book in. Even now it is nearly impossible to find a "strong female character" that breaks away from the sexualization and objectification of women in media, so it is not surprising that there is no presence of strong female characters in The Stranger

Wait...There Were Women In The Stranger?

Women presented in The Stranger tend to be in the background of the entire book. Meursault's partner, Marie, is presented to the reader as weak and solely reliable of Meursault. Marie doesn't seem to care that Meursault doesn't love her and she even tries to stick by him after he murders someone with absolutely no explanation. Her undying devotion to Meursault seems a bit odd because I don't anyone who could ever love someone that shows zero amount of mutual affection. The only time Meursault shows any type of affection is when he is experiencing the physical pleasure of sex. Any type of love Meursault has for Marie is simply physical, not emotional. Similarly, Meursault doesn't cry at his mother's funeral and he doesn't sympathize with Raymond's ex-girlfriend when she is brutally beaten.

This book was written in 1942, when women were simply put in the background of society so it is not surprising that Camus' female characters were the sidekicks of the story. Camus' choice to use Marie as only a pleasure tool for Meursault shows how objectification of women was also widely accepted back in 1942. Meursault only shows any type of fondess when physical interaction is happening, showing that the only necessary role for women to play in a relationship is the physical part. The women in The Stranger were parts of the machine to show Meursault's robot-like emotions and his lack of empathy. 

Maybe I Just Like the Color Purple

In modern day America, we are constantly surrounded by the ¨systems¨ that our English class has recently deemed fake. If I turn on the radio at any point, there is a very large chance that the song that is playing relates to love, family, religion, or friendship. While we have been taught that these subjects are the "essence" of life by society, the newly introduced topic of existentialism discusses the fact that humans use said values to cover up the inevitable suffering in our daily lives. And, if by chance the music does not revolve around one of those topics, but death or pain instead, it is most likely the artist's intention to make such pain and sadness easier by writing and performing musical pieces.

So, if I am to completely agree with Camus for a second and ponder the fact that I will only be truly happy once I come to terms with the fact that the only event that will occur in my life for certain is death, I will still find myself being unhappy. "Impossible!" Camus would say. However, I think quite the opposite. Sure, pain and suffering is inevitable and coming to terms with that horrific statement may make it a bit easier, but that does not mean that I cannot believe in love or surround myself by what I consider to be my family and friends! It does not at all mean that I simply go to temple to further cover up the sadness that is bound to invade my life at some point or another, nor does it mean I can't go on an adventure with the sole purpose of exploring the world around me. 

Think about this, all you Camus followers. And, I'm not at all trying to criticize you or say that I do not see your point of view, because I honestly do. But, Camus focuses on the idea that we must break away from society and have our own beliefs. We should not keep our hair long or cut it short just because we have to fit the gender standards that society has subconsciously assigned. You may even consider that I only like the color purple because it is a very common feminine color of interest and I am just following in the footsteps of the important female figures in front of me. Whose to say I don't like the color purple because I just like it? Not because of anyone else's influence or gender norms, but because I discovered the color one day and thought, "hey, this color is for me!" ?

I highly agree with the fact that society has implicated very strong standards, whether it be gender or racially based. I also think, however, that it is very hard to be an individual with different opinions and beliefs from everyone else. At some point, we come together to agree that certain things are better than others. So why say that it is wrong to come to such a consensus? I do think that it is important to be unique and an individual, but at the same time, I personally never could have gotten to this point without the support and love from people in my life, nor do I think I would be any happier if I did. And while those people have had great influences on my life, I still feel as though I am living my own life, not just one that society has created.  

"Stranger Danger" Fears

I find Camu's belief that life is pointless - and to achieve meaning or "true happiness," means coming to terms with the mundane nature of the regularity of every day life, rather depressing. To me, Meursault is the epitome of someone I would never want to become, Camu has created someone that I tend to lose sympathy for as the novel progresses.

Part of me wonders what Camu's goal was in creating this character - someone that the reader felt connected to, and thus felt overwhelmed with pity when he was sentenced to a depressing death? Or someone the reader scoffs at, feeling relief that Meursault seems to be getting his due?

I do see obvious signs that society is punishing Meursault for staying true to his convictions - for being lifeless and unfeeling in a emotion-filled world. But I also see Meursault at fault. I cannot feel totally bad for Meursault because I do not see him as the "hero" in the story. He is still someone who kills another man, one that does not think about his actions, and someone I would never want to become or even associate with.

You Can Have a Great Life! But Only if You're a Wealthy White Man

Alright, so perhaps the title is a little cynical, but I have been having some major problems with all this existentialist theory. We all die in the end, that much I buy. But that's about where I draw the line with existentialism. Can I really believe that acknowledging that life is made up of meaningless suffering will make me the freest person ever? No. Is that because I'm a woman? Maybe!

I think it is extremely elitist to say that merely accepting your fate will make it better. Take Sisyphus, for example. Camus claims he was the happiest man to ever exist simply because he understood that his fate was filled with suffering, so now he could be free. On a more mortal level, the logic is that if we understand that all of our lives kind of stink for no reason and that all the social institutions familiar to us merely try to cover that, then we can be free to be whoever we want to be.

I would be surprised if Camus could look in the face of a Syrian refugee mother (hypothetically, of course) and tell her that if she accepts that her life and the lives of her children are all absurdly horrible, then they are truly free from any pain and misery. Make your own choices! Fly away if you want to!

Maybe I am misunderstanding existentialism. Maybe there is some profound explanation that Camus would throw at me, and I would fall at the feet of all existential philosophers. But Camus is dead, and my understanding of this theory is that it is a privileged one. I'm not saying I can even begin to understand oppression; I am a white girl from River Forest. But I know stories of the prejudice people have faced, and I could not even begin to imagine telling them that they should just accept the absurdity of their fate in order to be free from all their suffering. I mean, could you?

Raymond and Meursault: Fundamentally Similar Characters

Throughout the course of the The Stranger, Albert Camus contrasts Raymond with Meursault. Meursault is characterized as being amoral, passive, solitary, relatively modest, and intelligent. Raymond, however, is characterized as being immoral, aggressive, outgoing, chauvinistic, and ignorant. Despite these differences, Meursault and Raymond are made out to be similar in one fundamental way: both Meursault and Raymond are outsiders. It is through The Stranger that Albert Camus voices support for the philosophical theory of Absurdism - a theory that maintains that humans absurdly seek to find meaning and value in a meaningless world. Absurdist philosophers advocate for embracing the absurdity. To the Absurdist philosopher true freedom is attained only when the individual recognizes that the universe is meaningless. Most individuals fail to recognize that universe is meaningless and defiantly search for meaning. However, as they are represented in the book, Meursault and Raymond embrace the absurdity. Rather than search for meaning to life, Meursault and Raymond spend time doing whatever it is they feel like doing. It is because Raymond and Meursault behave in such a different and unfamiliar way that they are subject to the scorn and rejection of society. Thus, Camus presents Meursault and Raymond as two fundamentally similar characters.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Analyzing Our Captivating Class Discussion on "The Treadmill of Life"

A bit unexpectedly, last week in class we had an interesting class discussion. The topic varied at times but generally it was about "the meaning of life." I thought that there were ties to The Stranger in the sense that Meursault does not follow the typical life of those around him. Meursault is a great example of someone who does not follow "The Treadmill of Life" (I interpret this as someone who follows a unique path in life, one that was not expected to be followed by peers or society.)
I really enjoyed this conversation because I think it is timely for all of us seniors applying to colleges. Not attending a college next year is a bold move, there is so much risk because if for someone reason the career path you choose does not work out you are at such a disadvantage. When applying for a job there will likely be a lot of people competing for it who have a college degree. Yet so many of the great pioneers and entrepreneurs in human history did not graduate college (Steve Jobs, Richard Branson, and Bill Gates to name a few.) Yes of course I will admit these people are genius of their own right, they had a plan that did not require college. 
While I like to think of myself as someone who takes risks and trys new things, I do not have the guts to not go to college. I don't have a plan for what I would like to do with my life yet so it would probably not be the smartest decision to not go next year, but still it is such an interesting idea.

The Comfortable Chair

I think that its really important to realize what Sisyphus represents in Camus's writing from any perspective. In my perspective Sisyphus represents the modern way us humans conquer life, which is an on going repeat of itself. The same things over and over again. To me Sisyphus represents the ongoing treadmill of human's way of life. This life somehow satisfies humans. Getting to the top is one thing but to have yourself work towards the same goal every day represents no progress. Like most humans, now a days, having the same goal everyday would make any person satisfied. Which is sadly the lazy majority of us humans. If anything gets a bit too complicated most humans avoid the challenges and use other sources of joy to reduce the stress. Over the summer I watched an episode from a netflix series, I can't remember what show, but I thoroughly remember one of the members of the show claim, "Today I think we educated kids to be settled in the comfortable chair. You have your job, your little car, and a place to sleep, and all the dreams are dead. You don't grow on a secure path. All of us should conquer something in life. And it needs a lot of work."

I think that this quote most thoroughly represents the character Camus uses in his myth. Sisyphus is someone that is settled with their job since its the same thing everyday. Sisyphus is sadly satisfied with doing the same thing everyday and that bothers me. This quote ties into what Camus wrote because the specific feelings that Sisyphus felt were similar to the boring people described in the saying. Like the quote mentions, Sisyphus will never grow in the path he has made by rolling the rock to the top of the hill. Sisyphus never really conquers anything different which to me shows the frustration of unproductivity Camus writes about in his myth.  

If We All Had Funny Names, Would We be Happy?

Shortly after reading Camus's essay "The Myth of Sisyphus, I read the ending chapters of his novel The Stranger. And although I admit to some bias of recency, I couldn't help but see parallels between Sisyphus and Meursault. Despite the fact that both these characters have names that I find difficult to pronounce and even harder to spell, both characters embrace existentialist thought and reject the societal systems that govern ours lives. And in the end, both characters find freedom and happiness despite their objectively desperate situations.

In Camus's interpretation of the story of Sisyphus, Sisyphus's futile struggle is not the ultimate form of torture, in fact, he is happy. By accepting his fate, accepting the absurdity and the meaninglessness of the world, Sisyphus rose above his task and became truly conscious. Camus argues that Sisyphus is able to conclude that "all is well" once he accepts his tragic fate. Similarly, Meursault is able to find happiness and open himself up to the "gentle indifference of the world" once he becomes free from the system of hope (122). Like Sisyphus, he recognizes the meaninglessness of the world and therefore peacefully accepts his imminent death.  Before this revelation and his outburst at the chaplain, Meursault was obsessed with the idea of hope, exemplified by his wish that he would be killed with a poison that was only effective nine times out of ten. However, after Meursault accepts that life only leads to death, he is able to to recognize that he "had been happy and was happy again" (123).

Overall, both Sisyphus and Meursault accepted their tragic fates and therefore were able to escape the systems surrounding them. This grand escape enabled both characters to find happiness in an authentic life.

Society's Impact Upon Meursault

"The procession seemed to me to be moving a little faster. All around me there was still the same glowing countryside flooded with sunlight. The glare from the sky was unbearable." Pg 16

"The sun glinted off Raymond's gun as he handed it to me. But we just stood there motionless, as if everything had closed in around us. We stared at each other without blinking, and everything came to a stop there between the sea, the sand, and he sun, and the double silence of the flute and the water. It was then I realized that you could either shoot or not shoot." Pg 56

At both points in "The Stranger" the environment seemed to be a huge role that impacted Meursault's decisions. In the first quote, Meursault is in the funeral procession and it seems as if the sun is pressuring him to do something. The impression I get is that the sun/environment is society and society is pressuring him to feel something or to cry and he does not give in. In the second quote, where Meursault is with the Arabs, Meursault is impacted only by the environment because he describes everything around him in that moment. It seems to me that again the environment or society is pressuring him to do or not do something. In this case it is to either shoot or not shoot the Arab. Society mandates a following of certain morals to live life and Meursault (in that moment) is choosing between following society's footsteps and being his own person. These points in the book are made by Albert Camus to show Meursault's struggle between submitting society's needs and rising above all of his pain and suffering to be his own person.

Emile Griffith, Boxer at Rest

As I was doing my AP Art History homework, I stumbled across a piece of work that reminded me of Emile Griffith, more recently known as the main character in the play Man in the Ring.

Boxer at Rest - Image from Google

This bronze sculpture, Boxer at Rest, comes to us from the Greek Hellenistic period. The artist is unknown, but the sculpture is estimated to have been created anywhere from 330 to 50 B.C.E. It now resides in Rome after being excavated in 1885.

Emile Griffith - Image from Google

Although the features of Emile are not exactly identical to Boxer at Rest, they share the same general physicality. 

The reason the sculpture reminded me so much of Emile is the emotion conveyed by his posture. Still wearing his boxing gloves, he sits slumped over, defeated, and physically wounded. It is believed that the boxer sits between fights, looking hopelessly behind him at his next opponent. 

It is very likely that Emile felt this way as well, perhaps after his fight with Benny Paret. Following Benny's death, Emile did not want to continue fighting, but knew there were opponents in his future just like Boxer at Rest.

Maman's Existentailism

"So close to death, Maman must have felt free then and ready to live it all again. Nobody, nobody had the right to cry over her. And I felt ready to live it all again too. As if that blind 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" (122).

Not only does this passage perfectly sums up the ideas of existentialism that Camus illustrated throughout The Stranger, but it is Meursault's first expression of any sort of positive feeling toward Maman. I guess the two are tied together. Meursault's beliefs, or lack of them, reflected in the existentialist ideals he represents, are the only things he is dedicated to. Not in that he demonstrates passion about them, but because he is devoted to telling only what is absolutely true.  This is contrasted with Meursalt's attitude toward his mother, indifference taken to the extreme.

Now, however, Meursault sees a reflection of his existentialism in his mother. He realizes that she, knowing she was close to death, was able to live her life for herself. This proximity to death is what allows Meursalt to also let go of the societal systems previously imposed on him, giving him a new freedom. He is, with the perspective of someone so close to death, able to see that the meanings given to life are actually meaningless, and able to just live. Rather than the sadness and depression normally associated with death, Meursalt finds that his closeness to death brings freedom and happiness and understands that his mother experienced the same thing, giving a meaning to her death, that offsets any sadness in it.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Meursault's Decision

After Meursault has been sentenced to death, he thinks to himself, "I had just denied my appeal and I could feel the steady pulse of my blood circulating inside me" (115). At this point in the story, Meursault is accepting his fate. He understands that one day he will die. 

Later, Meursault refuses to see the chaplain. However, despite his acceptance at his death, Meursault still fears it a little. When the chaplain finally does come, Meursault states, "When I saw him I felt a little shudder go through me...I told him it wasn't his usual time" (115). He understands that the chaplain coming at a different time means that his execution is near. The shudder is the small part of him that still feels worried about what is to come.

One Last Testament

"I had only one wish that there be a large crowd of spectators the day of my execution and that they greet me with cries of hate" (123).

Meursault has accepted his oncoming death, but he still wants one more thing. To me, this one last thing contradicts his indifferent demeanor, but it also emphasizes his beliefs. Throughout the novel, Meursault has carried an uninterested personality, which made me naturally think that he would be indifferent about his death and his beliefs in relation to others' beliefs. When Meursault's last wish is to see an angry crowd at his execution, I think that means that he wants a large crowd to believe his own beliefs and be angry about the reasons for his wrongly execution. This thinking is in violation of an indifferent attitude, but it delves into the character and complexity of Meursault one last time.
Meursault thinks that his ideas are the right ideas- similar to how we all think that we are right- but I never thought that his dying wish would be to be believed by others. When Meursault engaged in a heated conversation with the priest, I would have guessed that Meursault wouldn't care to push anyone else to believe what he believes. Due to his strong sentiments, Meusault proves to be an activist of his ideas. He feels that people should follow within his existentialist views.
But is this really Meursault?
If being existentialist values avoiding change caused by outside influence, then should we still believe in Meursault's so called existentialism if he wants to be the one that sways others' opinions? Or is Meursault the one that is swayed by relying his dying wish on the presence and state of mind of the others that show up at his execution?

Friday, October 14, 2016

My Experience With Existentialism

Somewhere around 8th grade, I had a shocking realization about leaving primary school, the only thing I had ever known, behind. The next step was high school, then college (as my teachers threatened), and then, my young brain decided, DEATH.
This was a truly terrifying notion. Around this time, my aunt, who was the same age as my father, died of a terrible liver cancer. Therefore, this meant that I could lose my father anytime and consequentially, I could also die at any time.
I was transformed by this realization for the worst at first. I would have anxiety attacks, thinking about the endless black abyss that was going to overcome me too soon (there was no way I would be faithful to any religion from any early age).
However, it led me to embrace the idea that I could do whatever I want, usually in a self-serving way, because I was going to die no matter what. Kind of like YOLO, but You Will Die Regardless (YWDR). Not as catchy!

Now, I have finally made it to high school, and I'm almost at college, just one stepping stone away from death, according to my middle school ideas. After hearing about existentialism in our class, I realized that I magically, prematurely subscribed to that exact school of thought.
Perhaps my slow but sure emergence as a radical subject had to do with the fact that I distanced myself from my peers quite young. I was "too tall," I was a "foreigner," I was eventually even "gay and un-dateable." I had realized that others sometimes alienated me, and I was having anxiety attacks because I would "die soon." Only one solution was available: I stop caring what the Others think and, therefore, I can do what I wish.

My constant struggle, however, is that the world around me is built for people unlike me. Therefore, I often end up subscribing to societal ideas because otherwise I am unable to do anything I would actually enjoy. How will I eat good food, for example, (a very basic human pleasure and one I highly prize), if I don't have money, which I would accomplish by getting a job, which I would accomplish by attending school? I must work in the constructed system!
If anyone can recommend a way to retract from the system completely but still accomplish such pleasures, please do tell me (:

Existentialism in The Stranger

The ending of The Stranger perfectly captures the ideas of existentialism. At first Meursault is having a hard time accepting the fact that he will be executed because he feels he does not deserve to die. He is entrapped in the worldly view of justice and it is not until Meursault rids himself of his false hope that he can come to terms with his execution. His acceptance eventually leads to his happiness. Meursault says,
"As if that blind 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. Finding it so much like myself—so like a brother, really—I felt that I had been happy and that I was happy again. For everything to be consummated, for me to feel less alone, I had only to wish that there be a large crowd of spectators the day of my execution and that they greet me with cries of hate."
Once Meursault accepts that life has no meaning and that life can only lead to death, he is set free. He is free from the societal systems people tried to impose on him and he is free to be himself. For Meursault, embracing the ideals of existentialism allows him to live authentically.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Meursault´s Trial: The Right to Judge

For me, Meursault´s murder trial was incredibly disturbing, especially considering the context behind it, as well as my knowledge of Meursault as a person. Despite the trial allegedly being about the murder he committed at the end of Part 1, the prosecutor takes notable focus to all of the aspects of Meursault´s life up to the murder. In short, Meursault is judged by the jury more as character than as a criminal.

Despite Meursault being fundamentally amoral, both the prosecutor and defendant manipulate information about his life to make him appear evil or good, respectively. To further emphasize this, I found it particularly interesting that there is no mention of any of the people connected to the murdered Arab were brought up as witnesses by either side, with all of the witnesses specifically being characters introduced to the readers by Meursault. In turn, the actual crime that Meursault committed becomes almost irrelevant to the trial, with all of the evidence and conclusions from both lawyers being drawn by farfetched correlations between Meursault´s past actions. However, the scariest part of the entire trial is that Meursault cannot explain himself ideally to the courtroom because he believes there is no favorable way for his life to be presented tot he unexperienced eye (i.e. anybody but the reader). He´s been put into a situatuion in which he feels like he can´t win or lose, because he cannot portray himself in a way that would allow for either result. This made me wonder - what right does the court have to judge Meursault as a moral or immoral person when he is truly neither? What is the symbolism of Meursault being judged for his past actions near the climax of the story?

Off With His Head

"Mounting the scaffold, going right up into the sky, was something the imagination could hold on to. Whereas, once again, the machine destroyed everything: you were killed discreetly, with a little shame and with great precision." (page 112)

The guillotine is one of the things Meursault thinks about while he is waiting in prison to be executed. Specifically, he is disappointed because he always thought to get to the guillotine, prisoners had to climb stairs to a scaffold, but actual guillotines are set up on the ground. What is the significance of having Meursault dwell on his disappointment with the guillotine? He frequently refers to the guillotine as "the machine" and says it destroys everything, so I thought it was symbolism for the "machine" of society that wants to eliminate him.

Meursault's disappointment with the guillotine being on the ground, and thus "on the same level as the man approaching it" could be his way of surmounting his punishment with scorn, just like Sisyphus. Maybe I'm reading way too much into this, but by putting the guillotine on the same level as Meursault, is Camus saying the morality of the "machine" is no better than Meursault's own?

The Reader and Meursault

In the first part of The Stanger, Albert Camus uses blunt, action-driven tone to establish the indifference the narrator, Meursault, views the world with. Despite the narrator's journey through several emotionally charged situations (attending his mother's funeral, a marriage proposal, and making heavily moral decisions), he does not seem to care about others' opinions, the consequences of his decisions, or societal norms. Meursault's rejection of the social paradigm is so brazen that it ultimately results in his death. 

As I read the first half of The Stranger, I found myself increasingly absorbed in Meursault's world. At the end of Chapter 6, when Meursault shoots the arab man, I initially did not give his actions second thoughts. As the "sea carried up a thick, fiery breath", and "the trigger gave", and "it was like knocking four quick times on the door of unhappiness", I could not relate the absurdity of the murder to the absurdity of Meursault's character (Camus 59). Meursault was hollow, a vessel to view his world, my world, and society through.

Camus's accomplishments do not solely lie in the story's existentialist themes, but also in the richness of his main character. Meursault is so perfectly insouciant to the constructs of the world that the reader cannot help but meet Camus's outsider with the same indifference. This is, to rely on Nabokovian language, the true "magic" of The Stranger; the reader simultaniously completely understands Meursault and is completely perplexed by him. This is because the reader views Meursalt's world through existentialist eyes, yet lives within the social paradigm that Camus uses Meursault to challenge.

Marry Marie?

"When she laughed I wanted her again. A minute later she asked me if I loved her. I told her I didn't think so. She looked sad. But as we were fixing lunch, and for no apparent reason, she laughed in such a way that I kissed her," (page 35).
I used to think that Meursault was falling for Marie and would eventually marry her. In the first part of the novel it seemed so clear that he was falling for her because whenever she would laugh, he felt a sudden urge to kiss. I feel that if you are in love with someone when they do something very minor and you feel the need to be close with them, even if it is just a minor action.
"For example, I was tormented by my desire for a woman. It was only natural; I was young. I never thought specifically of Marie. But I thought so much about a woman, about women, about all the ones I had known, about the circumstances in which I had enjoyed them, that my cell would be filled with their faces and crowded with m desires," (page 77).
While reading the end of part two, I realized that Meursault never truly loved Marie. He liked her company but never really longer for anything more. It was clear to me that he only wanted something mostly physical with Marie when he stated "I never thought specifically of Marie," this statement somewhat shocked me since I had thought that Meursault was falling for Marie. Meursault desired sex when he was in his cell, so much so that at a point he feels like his cell is filled with his desire. If he had loved Marie he would have thought of being with her specifically rather than just someone he had been with along with dozens of other women. Marie never stood out to him, just like the other women in his life. I don't think Meursault is incapable of love, I think he's incapable of opening himself up to the idea of being with just one person.

Emile Griffith, The Man in the Ring

I decided to join my English class to the University of Chicago to see a play called The Man in the Ring. The play takes place in the 1960s- 1970s. The play was about a foreign man named Emile Griffith who suffers from dementia and chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). He has frequent night terrors about the bad things that have happened in his life. We learn about his past. He was a young adult when he came to America looking to become a baseball player. He went to a factory looking for work and the boss of the factory suggested that he does boxing. He goes on to win many boxing matches and many boxing titles. One notable boxing match was when he killed a man in the ring. This ending up haunting him for the rest of his life. It is worth mentioning that the boxer is gay. That wasn't the problem. The problem was how explicit they were about it. I watched two men fore playing sex on a bed. Not only did I find this unnecessary but fit seemed irrelevant to the story. You're probably thinking I am homophobic because I probably wouldn't be complaining if it was a man and a woman fore playing sex. Well to be honest I wouldn't be complaining but that doesn't mean I am homophobic or I don't accept gays in anyway. Look I find two men kissing uncomfortable but they definitely have the right to do that. I just feel that some of those scenes were not needed and for some people in the audience it was unwanted.

Monday, October 10, 2016

What Meursault's Relationship with Raymond indicates about his personality

Through their initial encounters, the reader is quickly able to pick up on a few key characteristics about Raymond. ""He beat me up! He's a pimp!" "Officer," Raymond asked, "is that legal, calling a man a pimp like that?"" (pg.36) "He'd been followed all day by a group of Arabs. One of whom was the brother of his former mistress." (pg. 40) Raymond is someone who blatantly abuses woman and believes that it is an appropriate way to treat woman as well. While Meursault discusses and witness the cruel mistreatment he doesn't seem to be intimidated by it, but rather excepting of it. Although Meursault does not treat woman like Raymond does, he still seems to have no pity for the Woman Raymond abuses. Meaursault's reaction is another piece of evidence to the argument that Meaursault is lacking empathy in his personality. This is obviously first seen through how he deals with his mother's death, now it is seen through his relationship with Raymond. Although there have been some slight indicators that indicate otherwise, for example "I realized he was crying. For some reason I thought of Maman." (page 39) So far the story really has not revealed enough about Meaursault to prove that he is not lacking in empathy.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Trial to Prison

"It was then I felt a stirring go through the room and for the first time I realized that I was guilty" (90). Meursault states that he feels guilty. After he kills the Arab, he never gives his feelings towards his predicament and seems to be just going through the motions. When he goes back to prison, he never gives a care to whether or not he feels that he is guilty or not.

Later, during the the questioning of the defense witnesses, one of them claims that Meursault is a victim of "bad luck." The prosecution argues that he is no different then the murderer in the patricide case that follows them. Meursault does not seem to show much feeling except for concerns about his own lawyer. Is Meursault accepting his fate of his actions or does he feel that he is a victim of the "bad luck?"

Rage Against the Systems

Has Mersault acknowledged that the true essence of life (as defined by Mr. Heidkamp) as pain and suffering? Some would argue no, that he still seeks to appreciate the illusions of life when he becomes engaged to Marie, that entering matrimony lends meaning to his life. 

I would argue that Mersault has rejected the a fair amount of the systems that society enforces by observing them in an impersonal fashion. He takes note of the way the world functions around him, as well as that structure's effect on his life. To accept a system, your mind has to be limited by it, you have to believe that it is simply the way life was meant to be lived. Mersault does not do that. He illustrates this most clearly in his interactions with his lawyer. He has removed himself from the idea that interpersonal relationships are valuable for a emotional reason. He doesn't try to connect with him as a human, and sees the lawyer as merely a means to an end.

Transcending the Human Dependency on Suffering: Keepin’ it 100 with Death

When asked about the true essence to life, many of us immediately think about our families, friends, and doing the things that make us who we are and who we strive to become.

So you can imagine, then, the indignation that might erupt when told that none of that really exists.

In yesterday’s discussion, we as a class entertained the idea that the things we consider to be fundamental truths of life are nothing more than myths we use to cope with the randomness and explainable nature of suffering and death. These supposed myths, which included everything from love to religion, are very clearly bonded to our human emotions, and dismissing them as illusions used to compensate for anguish resulted in an understandable amount of disagreement.

But before dismissing this theory, allow us to take a step back and consider it in a different light. Lives are finite. Whether or not we choose to accept our own mortality and our guaranteed suffering as a fundamental truth of life is a different situation. Once we accept these things as truths, we can better analyze these things that we consider to be the “true” essences of life and see them for what they really are.

To say that the things we hold dear are simply distractions from the pain we all inevitably encounter is not necessarily a bad thing. It does not imply that the things that make us who we are do not matter at all; the fact that pleasure exists in a world where natural tragedy goes unexplained is a testament to this. We as humans can choose to make light of negative situations, just like we can choose to accept our own mortality and suffering.

Think of a funeral; some cultures view it as a time of mourning while other cultures use it as a time to celebrate the full life of a loved one. This is an apt analogy for this exercise. The sooner we choose to wholeheartedly accept what we consider meaning to be a distraction from pain, the sooner we can aptly appreciate what makes us who we are.

The Sun Made Me Do It

Throughout the novel thus far, we have seem a common correlation between the sun and Meursault´s anger/annoyance. This first appeared while he was walking to his mother´s funeral. Rather than being sad at the fact that he mother recently died, he was upset at how hot the sun was. This, of course, was odd, but it was not remarkable-it seemed to fit in with his off balance character quite perfectly. However, this theme reached a whole new level when the story progressed and Meursault ended up on a beach with a gun and a known enemy.
The sun was starting to burn my cheeks, and I could feel drops of sweat gathering in my eyebrows. The sun was the same as it had been the day I buried Maman, and like then, my forehead especially was hurting me, all the veins in it throbbing under the skin. It was this burning, which I could not stand anymore, that made me move forward. I knew that it was stupid, that I would not get the sun off me by stepping seemed to me as if the sky split open from one end to the other to rain down fire. My whole being tensed and I squeezed my hand around the revolver (59).
Mersault´s hatred of the sun grew to the point where it pushed him, in a sense, to kill a man. Throughout this whole section, he continues to blame this brutal murder on the sun and its unbearable heat. Is this just because of  his peculiar personality in general or is he too ashamed to accept the terrible act that he had just committed?

A Stranger Indeed

“But soon I lost interest in his movements; my temples were throbbing and I could hardly drag myself along. After that everything went with a rush; and also with such precision and matter-of- factness that I remember hardly any details”

Mersault, at least throughout the first chapter doesn’t seem to connect to any of the characters around him. He doesn’t empathize, or seem remotely comfortable around them. This detached air was most clearly shown in the quote above, where he describes his experience of his mother’s funeral. He doesn’t remember any details, which seems strange. That could stem from two possible causes, extreme grief or extreme apathy.

Either way, it stood out to me that Mersault was so incapable of recalling the events of his own mother’s funeral. Most people would use that event as a method of receiving final closure, of saying goodbye to his mother for one final time. He does the opposite, scrubbing her completely from his recollections. This shows that he is out of touch with his own emotions at his mother's death, and unable to express them completely.

This lack of self-expression reveals that Mersault is not only a stranger to his mother and his peers, but a stranger to himself

I Kill a Man And Most Forgive Me; I Love a Man and This Makes Me an Evil Person

The play Man in the Ring, a semi-biographical piece about boxer Emile Griffith, did an amazing job of giving a well-rounded view of his life; speaking not only about boxing but also mental illness, abuse, and being gay.
The title quote is one that I remembered word for word from the performance. It was spoken by the real Griffith in an interview, and spoke the whole truth about being different while in the public eye.
This was easily one of my two favorite moments, the other being a staging choice made by the theater.

The striking impact of this quote was as Griffith realized the reality of his situation and the toxic implications of "having to be a man." The reason the audience could empathize so well with Griffith at this point was because of a frankly brilliant idea from the playwright: portraying Luis, Griffith's partner, as his doting caretaker first.
I've seen too many pieces where the fact that the protagonist is queer is the sole plot point, and it's used to alienate the character from the "other, normal" people. MitR was able to make Griffith's bisexuality just another thing about him (that happened to have enormous repercussions), and this made him human. From one queer to another, thank you!

The lighting designer was equally brilliant, and, while this was even discussed in the round table discussion after the show, it deserves to be noted.
There is gruesome footage online of the fight that resulted in Benny Paret's death, so the theater had big shoes to fill in terms of the drama to live up to. They decided on switching between a shaky flash of light from a lone lightbulb and total deprivation of sight, making the audience rely only on sound. This made us empathize with Paret literally getting his "lights knocked out."

MitR was a fantastic example of how to make your audience empathize with your protagonist, and how to portray someone who is part of a minority group accurately but not laying it on too thick. I'd love to see more of this!

Absolute Value?

Mr. Heidkamp’s lecture yesterday had everyone’s head spinning. It brought up many points that we agreed with and many that we didn’t. Obviously, his convictions - that pain, suffering, and death are the only absolutes and that the systems we create to justify them are harmful to one’s being - are not commonly applied in day-to-day life. Although I agree with much of what he says, I think this may be for the best.

It is, indeed, a certainty that all things living will die. This is the only absolute, in reality - the sole aspect of life that is undeniably certain. Thus, life is fairly absurd. There is no real reason for it, other than that we are born. We must not live for love and happiness, for so much of life is devoid of these emotions. We must not live for pain and suffering, for these are inherently unpleasant things.

So why, once born and sentient, do we choose to continue living?

Heidkamp argued that the systems we use to make order from the chaos of life’s meaning block us from reaching true independence. But they also give us reasons to live. Without love, morals, expression, etc., would being alive be more attractive that being dead?

This is why I believe that there is very little harm in buying into certain systems. If believing in God or unconditional love makes life bearable, then by all means, believe. Fabricating lies and cover ups such as these can do a lot of good in preserving one’s life.

Conversely, if these systems are cover ups, then is life actually more valuable than death? Obviously, suicide and murder create suffering in the lives of those left behind. But if we all become comfortable with death being the only certainty, with the fact that everyone we know will die, then the absence of life will become as meaningless as life itself. Is this enlightenment, or justification for genocide?