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Beatur sita corruptatenum ea que laborepe omnit ipit moluptates re nissit aut fugia velenimin epe omnit ipit moluptates re nissit aut fugia velenimint,omnis aut aute nemquat ustium vero corehen ihicidisci odipsae offici un emquat ustium vero corehen ihicidisci odipsae offici untacest dolorero tem quas ut aut quiae etur autam, apicia sum quidebi sc m quas ut aut quiae etur autam, apicia sum quidebi sci-tibus atias ate denis est explitate pratus porat pa qui cupta natemposte is est explitate pratus porat pa qui cupta natempostemsandae sequo dellore omnit, odi si velibea sero beataqui diatur alibus dellore omnit, odi si velibea sero beataqui diatur alibusdolum repudam solo et voluptatur rempos et aut quiant parior seque pe olo et voluptatur rempos et aut quiant parior seque pelillaut illab iminvelest, cuptate ctotatibus est, aliandunt ulloreium fuga. velest, cuptate ctotatibus est, aliandunt ulloreium fuga.Nem sum et hit harum quodi adia vero tem ea vero oditaqui sunt as eat rum quodi adia vero tem ea vero oditaqui sunt as eatuseostiis min conet doluptiunt. eostiis min conet doluptiunt.Luptatur aut quossum quid ex ex esciis eum fugitiu ntorum dem ilitat a sum quid ex ex esciis eum fugitiu ntorum dem ilitat alis et accum et inulpa voluptatiis mo expliae pelit, elestiist, velecerum re lab a voluptatiis mo expliae pelit, elestiist, velecerum re lab cum harum quos ditate pelibustius earumen ectassum-inverios excepero cum harum quos ditate pelibustius earumen ectassum ore volores doluptis corem quis repratur, aut as aligenrcide rferiae nonsecea pliqui aborrum accatus re nulliat

Semicolon

an Arts and Humanities Students’ Council Publication

Fall 2016


Semicolon

Semicolon is published bi-annually by the Arts and Humanities Students’ Council of the University of Western Ontario. Semicolon is generously funded by the Arts and Humanities Student Donation Fund. The Publications Team would like to thank the Donation Fund Committee, the students who submitted essays, and the rest of the Publications Committee who volunteered for the essay review board. Semicolon accepts A-grade essays from any Arts and Humanities undergraduate student within the University of Western Ontario. To view previous editions or for more information about Semicolon, please contact the Arts and Humanities Students’ Council in Room 0N20D in the International and Graduate Affairs Building. Editor-in-Chief Academic Managing Editor Creative Managing Editor Copy Editor Layout Editor

Alero Ogbeide Lauren O’Donnell Areesa Kanji Katie Fowler Kimberlyn Hawkins

Special Thanks to the Publications Committee: Sofia Berger, Camille Inston, Alicia Johnson, Megan Levine, Simone Miklosi, Alexis Pronovost, Julia Sebastien

Disclaimer: The sole responsibility for the content of this publication lies with the authors. Its content does not reflect the opinion of the Arts and Humanities Students’ Council (AHSC) or the University Students’ Council (USC). The AHSC and USC assume no responsibility or liability for any error, inaccuracy, omission, or comment contained in this publication or for any use that may be made of such information by the reader.


Letter from the Editor Writing essays can be hard. We all came from high school having mastered the hamburger essay. We had the whole introduction, the three-paragraph in medium-weak-strong argument order, and the final paragraph beginning with “In conclusion…” down pat. Suddenly, we were thrown into this new place where we walked into class, and the first thing the prof said was, “Forget everything you’ve learned about essay writing and the hamburger essay. This is what I want.” And then you’re bombarded with rules about paragraphs, MLA, APA, Chicago style, punctuation inside of quotes, using “I,” not using “I,” focussing on analysis instead of the thesis or vice versa – and the list goes on. Every professor has a different list of their essay expectations, and it’s all we can do to keep up and comply. But eventually, we learn, we understand, we finally get it. We know whether to italicize or use quotation marks for the title of a play, how to say “In conclusion” or “This demonstrates that” in a myriad of ways, and we know how to hit and sometimes exceed the word count without filling our papers with fluff. That’s what Semicolon is all about: it showcases all those students who, whether it was a one-time thing or they’ve hit their stride, finally got it. These essays are both for your reading enjoyment and to inspire. If you haven’t written an A-grade essay yet, don’t worry! You will. And when you do, please send it our way so that, like the students in this publication, we can give you the recognition you deserve.

-Alero


Contents

1

Singing in Her Song She Died: Femininity, Beauty, and Death in Alfred Lord Tennyson’s “The Lady of Shalott” and the Aesthetic Culture of Victorian England Brenna Pinckard

5

Lost at Sea: Water as a Representation of Limbo in Coleridge’s The Rime of the Ancient Mariner and Conrad’s Heart of Darkness Emma Graham

10

Going with the Flow: Donald Creighton’s use of Literary Devices in The Empire of the St. Lawrence to Naturalize Imperialist Exploration and Expansion Julia Sebastien

12

The Self Versus Society: The Conflicted Self in the Poetry of Sylvia Plath Laura Brooks

16

Doubling Up: Selfhood and the Double in Sylvia Plath’s “The Bell Jar” Lauren O’Donnell

21

Man’s Labyrinth: Guillermo del Toro’s failed attempts at breaking a misogynistic narrative mould in the film Pan’s Labyrinth Sydney Brooman

24

“I have fed mine eyes on thee; I have with exact view perused thee”: How William Shakespeare Utilizes a Metatheatrical Structure to Alter Audience Perceptions of Notorious Characters in Troilus and Cressida Sarah Gilpin

29

Audience in Endgame: The Witnessed as Witness Thomas Sayers

33

Towns Built to Change - Permanence in Arcade Fire’s “Sprawl I (Flatlands)” and “Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)” Victoria Wiebe


Singing in Her Song She Died: Femininity, Beauty, and Death in Alfred Lord Tennyson’s “The Lady of Shalott” and the Aesthetic Culture of Victorian England Brenna Pinckard

Death and feminine beauty appeared to be inextricably linked in the Victorian era, as morbid depictions of feminine bodies became a popular aesthetic for art and literature. This deathlike standard of beauty was made concrete in paintings by the Pre-Raphaelite brothers: depictions of young women with sickly pale skin, emaciated frames, full parted lips, and passive poses became the feminine ideal. It is not the reality of death, then, that is so beautiful, but instead the fantasy of it. Artists and writers at the time did not capture the decomposition of a corpse in each morbid and scientific step, but rather detailed the moment breath left the body. There was a distinct fascination with the very moment life escaped them, before death could turn their pallor too grey or maggots could worm their way into cavities of the body. That this moment was so often depicted through feminine bodies speaks to the role of women and the explicit gendering of bodies during this time. This resonates with the ways in which female bodies are coded; woman is the “Other,” a deviation from the norm that is a site of “intense curiosity” particularly for the male observer (Bronfen 66). Female chastity was also “the archetype for human morality” in the Victorian era, thus eliciting more sympathy upon the death of a feminine figure opposed to a male, particularly if she is young and virginal (Cott 223). A woman’s body is a mystery at the same time as it is something to be policed and held to a high moral standard. Alfred Lord Tennyson’s “The Lady of Shalott” embodies this connection between female beauty, innocence, and death, detailing a woman’s transition from a domestic sphere into a public one, resulting in her untimely and therefore “lovely” death (Tennyson 169). That women are viewed as most beautiful in death speaks to the value of their lives; that beauty is the quality which is so valued in their deaths speaks to women’s value in Victorian culture as a whole. The Lady of Shalott is isolated in a distinctly domestic space, in which she much weave by “night and day” without sparing a glance at the more industrialized world of Camelot, lest a mysterious curse fall upon her (Tennyson 37). She is meant to focus on a trivial domestic duty as the world goes on behind her, thus making her existence a sort of non-existence in which her only understanding of reality comes through misshapen shadows on her wall. It is only when she notices the “burning flame” of Lancelot in her mirror that she is compelled enough to leave, and it is this “flash” of longing and sexuality that is both her saviour and her downfall (Tennyson 105). The recognition of her sexuality and desire for more than a life of shadows and reflections is what allows her an existence, although it is an incredibly brief one. Here, the Lady of Shalott “refutes otherness ... and embraces her liberty” (St Jean 33) but the curse falls upon her before she can act on it, as a dead woman is only worth celebrating so long as she is chaste and innocent. This is an example of the “depersonalisation of Woman through death” (Bronfen 72), as she sings her song until her death, but floats “silent[ly] into Camelot” (Tennyson 158). By the time she reaches the public sphere her person has left her, and she is merely a spectacle to be looked upon, and nothing more. “They read her name” which she has painted on the boat, which could arguably be read as a remainder of a identity and an assertion of her selfhood, yet “The Lady of Shalott” is not truly a name, but a title imposed upon her (Tennyson 161). Her inscribing her name onto the boat could 1


instead be read as a misguided attempt to prove her identity to herself, as the poem never gives the reader a reason to believe this is actually her name, but simply insists “she is known in all the land” as The Lady of Shalott and that the reapers who hear her song refer to her as such (Tennyson 26). This speaks to the ways in which feminine identity is constructed by society, and the ways in which a woman’s overall image is superior to her interior selfhood. Lizzie Siddall, another woman famous for her deathly beauty, had the spelling of her name changed to “Lizzie Siddal” by Dante Gabriel Rossetti as she grew famous, symbolizing the loss of identity as she transitioned from individual into an object of desire (Orlando 612). This mirrors the Lady of Shalott’s attempted transition into the public world. She is able to get there, but only on the condition that she becomes a fully passive product beforehand, and perhaps this is the mysterious “curse” (Tennyson 116). For a woman in this period, to become a working member of society was to renounce femininity, unless she was to renounce agency instead. Lizzie Siddall “attempted to cross [the boundaries of the separate spheres] by pursuing a career in art, which proved difficult as women’s art was considered to be of a distinctly feminine sort, and belonging to a different sphere (St Jean 44). Lizzie Siddall instead became known for looking “thinner and more deathlike and more beautiful and more ragged than ever,” (Orlando 613) and therefore much like the Lady of Shallot, she managed to reach the public sphere but was viewed as dead upon arrival, worth a glance only for her “lovely face” (Tennyson 169). It is not the death of any woman that is celebrated as intrinsically poetic and beautiful, but the death of a woman who is both young and innocent. It is the death of a virgin that is fascinating, not the death of an individual or even just a woman. The woman must be a virgin yet also sexually desirable; she must cater to the complex paradox that holds her to a high moral standard at the same time as it objectifies her. The Lady of Shalott’s abandonment of the domestic sphere is spurred by the “bearded meteor” that is Lancelot; her agentic epiphany is not brought on by romantic love, but desire of an intensely sexual nature (Tennyson 98). For it is not the “two young lovers lately wed” that causes her to break the curse, but Lancelot, who is described by Tennyson with multiple references to light and flame imagery, insinuating that something within the Lady of Shalott is suddenly ignited (Tennyson 70). It is not a moment of genuine and deeply considered love, but a brief moment of pure sexual attraction that temporarily eliminates thought from action. Her realization that “the curse [has] come upon [her]” seems to be an afterthought, an accidental consequence of her sudden lust (Tennyson 116). After this line, the poem then separates into its fourth and final part, and Lancelot is not mentioned again until his appearance in the final verse. It is not confirmed, then, that the Lady of Shalott floats toward Camelot in hope of meeting Lancelot, but instead the discovery of her sexuality has ignited her desire for further exploration, both of the world and the self. That she dies before this is possible is significant to the ways in which a woman’s death is only worthy to be depicted by art and literature if she is pure. The figure of woman “comes to allegorise the danger of sexual lust,” and so to remain a virgin in death becomes “the sublime example of a Christian longing for the immutable and unchanging perfection of each resurrected individual” (Bronfen 66, 68). The Lady of Shalott remains “robed in snowy white” as she floats lazily through the river, as passive and pure as she can be in her death despite her initial bout of sexual desire (Tennyson 136). This contrast between sexuality, wholesomeness, and death can be seen in the painting Venus Verticordia by Dante Gabriel Rossetti, in which the woman in the painting is presented as 2


“golden-haloed, bare-breasted temptress bearing forbidden fruit” (Orlando 619). Though she is sexualized and gazes directly at the onlooker, there is a glassiness behind her eyes that expresses little desire; and the halo and roses that surround her give her an air of innocence. Her presentation is gently titillating, but mostly virginal, and therefore the painting captures the potential of sex as well as the purity that comes from withholding it. Her worth, much like the Lady of Shalott’s and many women of this time, comes in the fusion of sexuality and virginity. The interest lies in the idea of temptation without succumbing to it; an Eve figure that dies before she has the chance to bite the apple. The woman in the painting evokes the idea of death with her vacant expression allowing the ideal of “woman as ethereal being to be venerated in her intact splendour” (Bronfen 68). The Virgin Mary “functions as an epitome of .... immortal beauty and bliss [and as] an allegory for the defeat of death and the promise of eternal life, precisely because in her mythic construction the materiality or body is missing from the start” (Bronfen 68). Similarly, Venus Verticordia shows only parts of the woman’s body, the rest of her eclipsed in the innocence of roses, whilst the Lady of Shalott exists only in “wave[s of] her hand” and a “song that echoes cheerily,” a myth among the reapers in her own right (Tennyson 24, 30). It is only in death’s passivity that this myth is able to continue. Looking upon her in death, Lancelot “muse[s]” with a detached complacence, declaring she “has a lovely face” and requesting God “to lend her grace,” stripping The Lady of Shalott of her earlier sexual awakening and cementing her as a wholesome, pure, and pretty woman for whom the Christian faith should look on kindly, but not deeply (Tennyson 169, 170). A woman’s death is synonymous with beauty because in death a woman is a blank canvas to be imbued with any sentiment or extravagant ideal. She becomes a space for the male poet or artist to create for himself his ideal of woman without needing to consult her interior life, for in death, there is no such thing. The physical body, then, becomes the true essence of a woman. Edgar Allen Poe once stated that “the death of a beautiful woman is, unquestionably, the most poetical topic in the world” and this is perhaps because in death, a woman’s beauty is truly the property of those who look upon it (Bronfen 59). There is no individual inside to contest otherwise; in death, it can be argued that a body is no longer a subject, and is now truly an object. In both “The Lady of Shalott” as well as many paintings by the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, there is an anonymity to the women that plays a significant role in the reasoning behind why exactly they appear so beautiful. As the Lady of Shalott drifts ashore onto Camelot, the crowd wonders “Who is this? and what is here?” and their only answer is the name she has transcribed onto the boat’s prow, a title which was likely imposed upon her by others (Tennyson 163). The Lady of Shalott then becomes an empty vessel onto which Lancelot can ascribe whatever virtues he wishes, similar to the subjects in the Pre-Raphaelite paintings. The masculine need to paint a woman as deathlike or vacant likely stems from male anxieties regarding female sexuality, as well as a subconscious desire to control that which they do not understand. Similarly, “fear of death [in Victorian Britain] is so strong that European culture has made the corpse into a taboo,” and perhaps in pairing anxiety about death with that of female sexuality, a comforting unification is felt (Bronfen 60). In using death to eliminate fears about female lust, male artists are then able to use one fear to control another, ultimately harnessing both and resulting in feelings of power and safety. Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s painting Beata Beatrix depicts a woman in prayer, that he claimed not to “represent Death [but instead to resemble] a trance in which Beatrice 3


seated at a balcony overlooking the City is suddenly rapt from Earth to Heaven” (Orlando 623). The woman’s expression depicts a cross between spiritual and sexual ecstasy, and her trance-lake state recalls the Lady of Shalott as she ventures toward Camelot “like some bold seer in a trance/Seeing all his own mischance” (Tennyson 128-129). A “trance” is the state of having little thought or direction, of being hypnotized. In both Beata Beatrix and “The Lady of Shalott, both are appearing to experience both their sexual awakening as well as their death simultaneously, and are doing so in a vaguely detached and peaceful manner. There is nothing urgent or powerful about either image; Beatrice waits with her hands in prayer for death, whilst the Lady of Shalott’s final song drifts gently away as her “blood [is] frozen slowly” (Tennyson 147). If beauty is the gentle death of an anonymous, chaste woman, then neither death nor a woman’s sexuality appear frightening any longer. Instead, these fears become an object of the male gaze and therefore evolve into a site of masculine power. In death, women remain “Other” as they are still anatomically different, yet are a more easily understood and controlled Other. Though “The Lady of Shalott” and Pre-Raphaelite paintings depict women as deathlike, passive subjects in order to combat possible fear, that this is necessary speaks to the power of female sexuality due to the moral agency that is intertwined with it. In contemplating art that depicts or describes women as “gleaming shapes” with thin frames, pale skin, and a “glassy countenance,” women are presented as delicately as possible in order to diminish their threat (Tennyson 130, 156). They are often depicted dying in nature, as the Lady of Shalott is in her riverboat, or Sir John Everett Millais’ Ophelia. Women are often associated with nature, as “the agency that heals the wound of death’s presence in life even as she is also seen as its source,” they give birth but are also seen as the originator of death (Bronfen 69). To create harmony between what can often be most frightening and unknowable in art (such as nature, women, and death) is to feel as though one can better understand and better control these things, when really all that is being depicted is a fantasy. There is no true way to control nature, just as there is no true way to control sexuality, but art often can feel as though it is an imitation of reality, when in actuality it is an imitation of our subconscious desires, fantasies, and fears. Victorian Britain’s obsession with deathly pale women in passive poses likely has very little to do with beauty, rather beauty instead is much more connected to the cultural anxieties that result in its idealized creation. A woman’s “curse” is not her sexuality or her imprisonment in a domestic sphere; rather her curse is her position is the world as “Other” and all the fearsome power that accompanies it.

Works Cited

Bronfen, Elisabeth. Over Her Dead Body. New York: Routledge, 1992. Print. Cott, Nancy F. “Passionlessness: An Interpretation of Victorian Sexual Ideology, 1790-1850”. Signs 4.2 (1978): 219– 236. Web. 28 Mar 2016. Millais, Sir John Everett. Ophelia. 1851-52. Tate Gallery, London. Khan Academy. Web. 31 Mar 2016. Orlando, Emily J. “’That I May not Faint, Or Die, Or Swoon’: Reviving Pre-Raphaelite Women.” Women’s Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal 38.6 (2009): 611-46. ProQuest. Web. 31 Mar. 2016. Rossetti, Dante. Beata Beatrix. 1864. Tate Gallery, London. Rossetti Archive. Web. 31 Mar 2016. Rossetti, Dante. Venus Verticordia. 1864-8. Russel-Cotes Art Gallery, Bornemouth. Rossetti Archive. Web. 31 Mar 2016. St Jean, Amy Ujvari. “Unearthing Elizabeth Siddal: The Voice and Vision of a Pre-Raphaelite Artist and Poet.” Kent State U, 1999. ProQuest. Web. 31 Mar. 2016. Tennyson, Alfred Lord. “The Lady of Shalott.” The Longman Anthology of British Literature. Ed. David Damrosch and Kevin J. H. Dettmar. United States of America: Pearson, 2010. 1181-1185. Print.

4


Lost at Sea: Water as a Representation of Limbo in Coleridge’s The Rime of the Ancient Mariner and Conrad’s Heart of Darkness Emma Graham

In Christianity, the Bible never explicitly mentions the existence of a place called Limbo (What does the Bible say about Limbo? 2016). However, it is not uncommon to hear the term used to refer to the Christian afterlife. It is usually described as a space “in-between” two more defined states, like a halfway point connecting one world to the next. Limbo is seen as a state of mystery, isolation, and transition, similarly to how writers portray voyages at sea. They are both places where a person enters a surreal and unfamiliar environment that tests their strength and quality of person. In other instances, Limbo is seen as synonymous with the idea of purgatory; the difference being in how the soul does not passively accept judgement, but rather it is burned clean of its sins before being subjected to moral trial (What does the Bible say about Purgatory? 2016). In Coleridge’s The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, the ship’s journey serves as a representation of limbo where the Mariner’s actions decide the fate of his soul. Similarly, in Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, as Marlow sails deeper and deeper into Africa, the jungle and its inhabitants take on a dreamlike, supernatural tone. The environmental shifts in both works reflect the state of the characters’ souls as they explore the unknown, either to seek atonement for their actions or enlightenment of the world around them. Only when they reach their spiritual goal are they allowed him to return to the mortal world. Both Heart of Darkness and The Rime of the Ancient Mariner tell their story through the same framework. Instead of getting to see the action first hand, the main character tells the reader of it retrospectively. Due to this setup, and the dark nature of the stories, both texts have a foreboding atmosphere; they are warnings rather than just tales for entertainment’s sake. In fact, the moment before Marlow begins speaking, the sun sets on the listeners and they are “stricken to death by the touch of that gloom brooding over [them]” (Conrad 4). The darkness falling to envelope the crew foreshadows the themes of his story. The Mariner and Marlow are men who have journeyed into a vast unknown and come out the other side alive, yet eternally haunted by what they have witnessed. They yearn to pass on this great knowledge to anyone who will listen. The contrast between them is, however, what that knowledge is. When they start their respective voyages, the Mariner and Marlow seem to be ambitious sailors eager to get out to sea. By the end, they become something very different. It is through this slow transition that the reader sees the effect that the surreal, spiritual experience has had on their psyches. Where the Mariner seeks (and succeeds) to gain atonement for his sin of shooting the albatross, Marlow wishes to gain knowledge of a strange, foreign world, however, instead he gains a new, terrible knowledge of his own. When the Mariner begins his voyage, he sails so far that the sun rose “higher and higher every day, / Till over the mast at noon” (Coleridge 29-30). The sun’s position being perfectly in the centre of the sky and perfectly in the middle of the day signifies that he and his crew have reached the equator. On his way back, he mentions the equator again, claiming that the sea 5


creature dragging the boat from underneath the water hesitates a moment before breaching the line (Coleridge 386-388). This idea of “crossing over” into a strange, unknown world is a common element of supernatural stories. Sometimes writers show this concept as a child stepping into a mushroom ring or a lone traveler entering a forbidden wood; for the Mariner, this moment seems to be sailing to the exact centre of the globe. Another common paranormal element is the new world having strange or abnormal qualities. For example, Coleridge depicts a thick, mysterious mist that blankets the ship, the sun rises and sets in the wrong place, and huge emerald ice floes at what is supposed to be the hottest place on Earth. When the Mariner crosses into limbo, nature becomes the unnatural. The poem takes on a different tone as it begins to increasingly repeat itself and personify the landscape: “The ice was here, the ice was there, / the ice was all around: / It cracked and growled, and roared and howled, / like noises in a swound” (Coleridge 59-62). The Mariner’s narrative starts to blur the lines between the living and the landscape. He repeats the word “ice” multiple times making it seem as if he is having increasing trouble speaking and begins to describe the floes as having voices, “growling” and “howling” as if they were animals or perhaps monsters (Coleridge 59-62). This is only the beginning of his speech and thought devolving. Later on he falls into more manic lines; he claims that the moon is watching him and that he hears voices interrupting his prayer (Coleridge 240-246). The outer world takes on frightening human qualities as the state of the Mariner’s soul begins to bleed into existence around him. Marlow has a similar effect overtake him as he describes the growing darkness of the Congo’s depths. Gradually throughout the story, his train of thought begins fracturing and veering off course. He pleads to his listeners, “Do you see him? Do you see the story? Do you see anything? It seems to me I am trying to tell you a dream...the notion of being captured by the incredible...” before breaking off into silence once more (Conrad 27). The use of repetition in Marlow’s speech, like the Mariner’s, displays his state of mind. The repeated questions show is desperation to tell his story, to be understood, and warn others of Kurtz’s downfalls. As he continues on, the abstract and unnatural qualities of the environment begin to emerge. Marlow uses the uncanny to add a fantastical quality to his descriptions. The narrator notes, “Flames glided on the river, small green flames, red flames, white flames, pursuing, overtaking, joining, crossing each other...” (Conrad 7). This scene is not unlike when Coleridge describes the Mariner watching the sea set on fire (128130). The lights dancing on the Thames’ surface betray how water and supernatural experiences are still so connected in Marlow’s mind. Descriptions like this only become more frequent as the text ventures farther and farther into the darkness. In Richard Pedot’s piece on the landscape of Heart of Darkness, he mentions this concept of the uncanny, saying, “Michael Levenson pointed out the “uncanny” geography of darkness which merges the antithetical images of the centre and the periphery into a “spatial paradox”: “To travel to the edge is to find oneself at the heart, and to approach the center is to stand on the threshold. In Heart of Darkness the center lies on the circumference; the middle is on the periphery” (156). He is discussing the confusing, unnatural way Marlow describes the jungle. The river does not seem to follow the laws of physics, in that it almost feels as though Marlow is traveling nowhere, making no progress into his journey. He barely scratches the surface of the mystifying darkness and he almost goes mad along with Kurtz and so many others. He can neither physically nor metaphorically gain perspective of their situation and 6


state of being until he escapes. The strange, unnerving descriptions of the scenery align with the concept of limbo. Marlow sails into a different world in order to gain enlightenment on the one he has left. To Marlow, the jungle is an entirely new world. It does not hold anything familiar to even the veteran eyes of a naval explorer. It seems to defy his understanding of time and distance. Like the Mariner’s, Marlow’s limbo actively responds to the creatures living in it: ships keep breaking, heavy, cotton-like fog envelopes the crew for days, and the native population acts in ways completely enigmatic (and almost supernaturally) to the invading colonists. On top of all this, people seem to keep going mad after spending any more than a year on the river, “The other day I took up a man who hanged himself on the road...The sun [must have been] too much for him, or the country perhaps” (Conrad 15). Like the Mariner’s crew, people keep dying very suddenly “at the rate of three a day” (Conrad 14). The more time Marlow spends on the river, the stranger everything becomes. Where the Mariner’s limbo reflects back the quality of his soul, Marlow’s limbo reflects back the quality of the imperial world as a whole. Their intentions are sickly, so their workers become sickly. Their motives are dark and sinister, so the jungle is dark and sinister. Marlow attempts to find understanding of the ivory tradesmen only to have his perception muddy. Only when he is struck with disappointment upon meeting Kurtz does his vision become clear. Marlow also receives many warnings to stay away from the Congo before he sets sail. On numerous occasions he remembers feeling uneasy and as if something was a little off even while he was only registering. A few animals like black hens and donkeys die to provide foreshadowing. He goes as far as saying, “Where the merry dance of death and trade go on...Nature herself had tried to ward off intruders” (Conrad 14). The Mariner is also given a chance turn-away from entering Limbo in the form of an albatross, a “Christian soul”, arriving to presumably guide the ship. Now the purgatory-like aspects start to show (Coleridge 65). The albatross is the trial that limbo presents for the Mariner to prove the true quality of his moral soul. He is tested on whether he will respect or whether he will harm a guiltless thing of nature. He fails. He provides no explanation why, instead just bluntly stating, “I shot the albatross” (Coleridge 82). Coleridge does not prepare the audience (or the wedding guest) for the Mariner’s confession, it seems to be almost thrown in at the end of the stanza, unexplained and moved passed much quicker than one would expect such a crucial plot point to be. It startles the listeners and lets the questions surrounding its implication hang open in the air. This helps the significance of the act become evident. Crime against nature has a direct correlation with a person’s soul. After the Mariner kills the albatross, nature’s conditions worsen significantly. The water becomes still as glass; the lack of wind stops the ship dead in its place. The sailors initially praise the Mariner saying, “Ah wretch! ... the bird to slay, That made the breeze to blow!” (Coleridge 9596) Yet, soon everything begins to rot and take on a discomfiting and “slimy” quality. Repulsive sea creatures rise to the surface and begin surrounding the ship as the Mariner perceives the ocean being set on fire. The slaughter of the albatross has not brought them clear skies and easily sailed seas, but rather divine retribution. Now that committing sin has spoiled the Mariner’s soul, it seems everything around him will spoil as well, including his fellow crewmates. All the sailors start to 7


waste away due to dehydration and heatstroke. The Mariner specifically states that he killed the bird exactly nine days after its arrival. Following the Christian themes Coleridge presents, the Bible describes the ninth day of the seventh month to be the Day of Atonement, the only day of worship that is defined by fasting (The Bible Study Site n/d). The Mariner, along with his crew, atone for his sin by being deprived of all food and water; the lack of wind forces them to fast until Death himself comes to release all but the Mariner from this world into the next. The others do not have unfinished sin hanging over their heads and, therefore, are allowed to leave limbo for death. The Mariner still has not achieved his goal and must remain to complete his atonement. Allusions to religion are a common theme in both Heart of Darkness and The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. Usually, they address Christian concepts like sin, atonement, or divine right, and this paper addresses the concepts of limbo and purgatory, however sometimes other faiths are spoken of. One example is the Ancient Greek figures, the Fates. When Marlow goes to sign some papers before he boards the ship to Africa, he takes notice of two women knitting in the waiting room. They sit on either side of the entrance, like gatekeepers, waiting for someone to arrive. When someone does, the younger one leads them inside while the other assesses them with her wise, all knowing gaze. The knitting is an allusion to how the Fates would create a string of yarn to represent a person’s life and cut it when it was their time to die. Later on her refers to the native slaves as pilgrims on numerous occasions and that both them and the enslavers “prayed to the ivory” (Conrad 23). The religious undertones, not only strengthen the theory of entering limbo, but also add a heavy weight to the characters’ actions. It implies that what happens in both works has divine connotations. If the significance of the Mariner and Marlow surviving Limbo is to tell the masses their warning stories, then these warning stories may be the will of God. Both stories actually turn out to be very similar: Do not unnecessarily harm nature or living beings or you will suffer the consequences. That is, do not shoot albatrosses and do not ravish other lands after you have enslaved their populations. Limbo provides Marlow and the Mariner with this atonement and enlightenment respectively. To achieve his desired atonement, the Mariner must meet with two divine beings: Death and Life-in-Death. When they arrive to gamble over the lives of the men, Death wins all but the Mariner. For the rest of the two-hundred crew, they arrived in limbo only to pass on into the next life, either in Heaven or Hell: “The souls from their bodies did fly, - / They fled to bliss or woe! / And every soul it passed me, / Like the whizz of my crossbow” (Coleridge 221-223). The Mariner instead is forced to remain living in Limbo and suffer for his sins amongst the staring corpses and vile sea creatures infesting the waters. Life-in-Death and her terrible skeleton ship allow the damned Mariner to redeem himself instead of simply being sent to Hell for his crimes. The poem continues to grow more urgent and even manic in its tone as he describes reality rotting away; the Mariner tries to pray beneath the eyes of his dead crewmates, and personifies the moon as mocking him, “Her beams bemocked the sultry main” (Coleridge 240-267). While the setting itself may speak to the state of his soul, his perception of the setting speaks to the state of his mind. His personification of the landscape shows him slipping into madness due to guilt and grief. Only when he blesses the water snakes does his soul earn blessing itself. He had achieved atonement in limbo for his sins and, predictably, the environment acts accordingly. 8


The immediacy in which limbo snaps away from being in a state of punishment is jarring to say the least. The poem goes from a decaying, hellish wasteland to pouring rain onto the dying passenger and sending flocks of angels down to sail his ship back home. This shift highlights the supernatural elements of the setting as well as making the connection with the Mariner’s soul abundantly clear. Limbo changes with his spiritual cleansing in quick, dramatic fashion. He saves himself by recognizing the beauty in God’s creatures and, in turn, repents for his original sin of shooting the albatross. He is then sped back home without a second’s hesitation as beautiful, singing spirits possess the crew and allow him to slip into blissful rest. Purgatory has successfully made the Mariner complete his moral trial and burnt him clean of all heavenly affronts. He does not get to return to his old life completely; however, he is taken back to the world of the living, but Life-inDeath still won his soul. He is freed from limbo but he must continue to suffer as pain sprouts in his chest unless he tells his story and teaches others its lesson. Coleridge’s Rime of the Ancient Mariner and Conrad’s Heart of Darkness use their supernatural genre and religious undertones to explore the concept of limbo and how the nature of the human soul is tied to the nature of its surrounding environment. The natural world, and humanity’s treatment of it and each other, is seen to be intrinsic to Christian morality. For Coleridge, not only is nature the cause of the Mariner’s original sin and eventual redemption, but also the means through which his state of being is communicated to the reader. As well, Conrad uses nature and the preciousness of human life to display the sins and ramifications of imperial society’s crimes. Both the Mariner and Marlow voyage into the unknown only to fall into the uncanny. Through suffering and torment, they both gain a better understanding of the world and the responsibility to communicate this knowledge to others. The whole poem has a kind of fairytale-like moral to it designed to teach one about the power of the supernatural and punishments for living without morality. Both stories teach that it is not a person’s motivations that define their actions, but the results that they bring for both themselves and the world.

Works Cited “Meaning of Numbers in the Bible The Number 9.” Bible Study Site. The Bible Study Site. Web. 14 Jan. 2016. <http://www.biblestudy.org/bibleref/meaning-of-numbers-in-bible/9.html>. “What Does the Bible Say about Limbo?” GotQuestions.org. Got Questions Ministries, 2016. Web. 14 Jan. 2016. <http://www.gotquestions.org/Limbo-Bible.html>. “What Does the Bible Say about Purgatory?” GotQuestions.org. Got Questions Ministries, 2016. Web. 14 Jan. 2016. <http://www.gotquestions.org/purgatory.html>. Coleridge, Samuel Taylor. “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.” The Broadview Anthology of British Literature. Vol. B. 2nd ed. Eds Black et al. Broadview, 2014. 284-291. Print. Conrad, Joseph. Heart of Darkness. Ed. Paul B. Armstrong. Fourth ed. New York: W.W. Norton, 2006. Print. Pedot, Richard. “Encountering the Unmappable: The Landscape in Heart of Darkness (Joseph Conrad).” Spatial Practices.11 (2011): 271,285,14.ProQuest. Web.

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Going with the Flow: Donald Creighton’s use of Literary Devices in The Empire of the St. Lawrence to Naturalize Imperialist Exploration and Expansion Julia Sebastien

In Donald Creighton’s book, The Empire of the St. Lawrence (1956), he describes man’s drive to use the St. Lawrence River’s to travel to and conquer foreign lands for the “western commercial empire” (7). To naturalize man’s imperialist exploitation of the river, Creighton links man’s use of the river to his natural, biological needs, using metaphorical language and personification of the St. Lawrence River. In some parts of the text, Creighton describes the body of water as the human body’s circulatory system; elsewhere, he links the river to a female seductress, tempting adventurous males to indulge his biological urge to explore her body. By linking the St. Lawrence River to natural, biological processes and urges in this way, Creighton characterizes man’s attraction to and exploitation of the river as natural and biologically necessary human urges. Creighton uses metaphorical language when describing the river to link man’s dependency on the St. Lawrence to the circulatory system. For example, Creighton calls the St. Lawrence a “great transportation system” (8) that “le[ads] from the eastern shore into the heart of the continent” (1). By referring to the river as a “transportation system” and by using the “heart” metaphor, Creighton evokes the circulatory “system”, which transports blood and nutrients between the body and the heart through arteries and veins. This parallel between man’s use of the river for transportation and blood cells’ use of arteries and veins for transportation implies that both uses are natural and biologically necessary. Creighton further links man’s use of the river to the circulatory system when he states that the St. Lawrence river “exchange[s]” “manufacturers of the old world … for the staple products of the new” (8). This exchange echoes the circulatory system’s function of “exchanging” deoxygenated blood cells for newly oxygenated blood cells. Here too, Creighton links ’s man’s use of the river for “movement, transport” (6) and exchanging resources to the natural and as the body’s biologically necessary use of veins and arteries for moving, transporting and exchanging blood cells. Another instance where Creighton uses literary devices to naturalize man’s use of the St. Lawrence is when he personifies the river as a woman who “invite[s] journeyings” to explore her body (3). Though he never uses the female pronoun “she,” Creighton attributes seductive capabilities to the St. Lawrence River, implying that man’s urge to penetrate the mysteries of the river is as natural and biologically necessary as his urge to penetrate a female. For instance, Creighton personifies the river as a seductress when he writes it “invited journeyings” of “unfettered and ambitious” men to explore “the central mysteries of the continent” with “promises, [and] … whispered suggestions” (5, 12). By personifying the river as one who actively entices and invites men, Creighton suggests that man’s attraction to the river is as primal and as natural an urge as his attraction to a sexual mate. The author further sexualizes man’s attraction to the river when he describes how man’s “dream … of the St. Lawrence runs like an obsession” and that “men followed each other … planning and toiling to achieve it”, just as men would obsessively pursue an alluring female (10). Thus, Creighton, by personifying it as a temptress, compares man’s urge to explore the river to his natural urge to procreate. 10


Thus, The Empire of the St. Lawrence, by Donald Creighton, uses literary devices to portray man’s urge to exploit the St. Lawrence River as natural as the human biological system, and as seductive as a woman inviting men to explore her. Interestingly, Creighton’s seductive personification of the river is also present in Joseph Conrad’s novel Heart of Darkness (1899). Like Creighton, Conrad also personifies the Thames river, a waterway used to explore and conquer foreign continents, as a mysterious seductress, calling it “the mistress of [man’s] existence and as inscrutable as Destiny” (5). In this way, Conrad’s work, like Creighton’s, also uses biological necessity and sexuality to justify man’s drive for imperialist expansion and proliferation of “the seed of commonwealths”, which Conrad claims “floa[ts] on the ebb of that river” (5). Thus, two authors of entirely different genres use the same pro-imperialist metaphors and imagery, demonstrating that historical narratives, like creative fiction, can contain creative metaphors loaded with subliminal biases and suggestions.

Works Cited Creighton, Donald Grant. The Empire of the St. Lawrence. Toronto: Macmillan, 1956. Print. Conrad, Joseph. Heart of Darkness. Blackwood’s Magazine, 1899. Print.

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The Self Versus Society: The Conflicted Self in the Poetry of Sylvia Plath Laura Brooks

The conflict between individualism and the need for community is a recurring theme throughout American literature. This tension can ultimately lead to adverse effects on a person’s identity and their relationship with society. In the poetry of Sylvia Plath, particularly her poems “Lady Lazarus”, “Daddy”, and “The Applicant”, the speaker experiences a conflict between the development and assertion of their identity and a healthy relationship with society, ultimately adversely affecting the individual. In “Lady Lazarus”, the speaker is a completely unique individual with the ability to resurrect herself and views society as cruel spectators and abusers whom she violently opposes. Further, in “Daddy”, the speaker establishes her freedom from her father which leads to an ambivalent and unhealthy relationship with society. Finally, in “The Applicant”, the speaker entirely lacks individuality, being at the mercy of the commodification of society, illustrating that societal acceptance and individuality cannot coexist for the speaker. Through her poetry, Plath expresses that an individual cannot possess a healthy sense of both individual identity and community. In “Lady Lazarus”, the speaker clearly establishes herself as entirely unique because of her ability to resurrect herself, a process which is a metaphor for the commodification of the body. This commodification of her body significantly leads to Lazarus resisting this objectification and asserting her identity. Lazarus reveals that “there is a charge/ for the eyeing of my scars … For the hearing of my heart … And there is a charge, a very large charge / For a word or a touch / Or a bit of blood” (57-63). The speaker’s body is being treated like a spectacle that people pay to interact with. The more personal the contact is, such as a touch or a drop of blood, the more the spectator is charged, creating an even larger breach of human rights and suggesting that the most private elements of a person can be sold if someone is willing to pay the price. In her essay “Defining The Self through the Body in Four Poems by Katerina Anghelaki-Rooke and Sylvia Plath”, Susan Bohandy argues that in “Lady Lazarus” the speaker achieves power through the transcendence of her physical body. She uses this point to further suggest that the speaker has “more deeply internalized the patriarchy that [she] reject[s], especially in light of the Christian conception … of the body as something corrupt” (22). Bohandy suggests that because Lazarus views her body as something corrupt she transcends her physical body in order to obtain power. Further, she suggests that by feeling the need to transcend her body she is subscribing to the patriarchal Christian concept that the body, particularly the female body, is corrupt and by extension is subscribing to patriarchal values as a whole. However, this reading ignores Lazarus’s efforts to reclaim her body to fight back against the patriarchy. Lazarus swears that “out of the ash / [she] rise[s] with [her] red hair” (82-83). Lady Lazarus identifies her rise with a particular feature of her body, her red hair being suggestive of her passion for vengeance, suggesting that her body is an integral part of her power and her fight against the patriarchy. A more accurate description of Lazarus’s opposition to society comes from Lisa Narbeshuber’s essay “The Poetics of Torture: The Spectacle of Sylvia Plath’s Poetry” where she argues that “although Lady Lazarus bears witness to her own perverse commodification … her theatrics somehow resurrect a powerful self-possession” (193). As Narheshuber suggests, Lazarus takes back her own narrative, using theatrics to suggest that she is the one in control of her situation. Lazarus 12


presents herself to a crowd, announcing that “Gentlemen, ladies / These are my hands / My knees” (30-32). Lazarus makes it appear as if she is the one putting on a show for the spectators instead of them making her into a spectacle. By appropriating this spectacle for herself, Lazarus rejects objectification by asserting herself as the person telling her own story. This self-possession is what allows her to eventually rise against her enemies. Therefore, Lady Lazarus is ultimately able to assert herself as an individual and escape the objectifying forces of society. However, Lazarus’s escape of objectification ultimately manifests itself in a violent opposition to society. Lazarus views patriarchal society as an enemy she must vanquish and, although she gains power, this hatred of society ultimately isolates her. The theatrics Lazarus uses to take control of her narrative define a relationship of her as a performer and society as an audience which separates her through a category division. However, beyond this, she purposely tries to separate herself when society attempts to objectify her. Lazarus recalls the last time she resurrected herself saying that she “meant / To last it out and not come back at all. / I rocked shut / As a seashell” (37-40). Lazarus actively attempts to physically isolate herself from society. If her audience had not intervened, she would have opted out of society completely, choosing to remain dead instead of returning. Finally, her relationship with patriarchal society reveals itself to be violent when she declares that “I eat men like air” (85). Lazarus no longer is an isolated agent from society who allows herself to be acted on but declares that she will retaliate for her mistreatment. However, this retaliation manifests itself in a combative threat to men in particular, indicating that she wishes to fight the patriarchal elements that attempted to objectify her. Although Lady Lazarus’s only choice is to oppose society if she wishes to escape objectification, by asserting her individuality she chooses to isolate herself illustrating that individuality and a healthy relationship with society cannot coexist. In “Daddy”, while the speaker works to finally let go of her father, establishing her individuality, her relationship to the rest of society is not as defined. In Kathleen Margaret Lant’s essay “The Big Strip Tease: Female Bodies and Male Power in the Poetry of Sylvia Plath”, she discusses how the speaker in “Daddy” gains power by appropriating male sexual power, claiming that Plath “appropriates [male] power for herself or for the female voice in that poem, and she does so in sexual terms. She becomes the rapist who terrifies” (646). Although Lant acknowledges the power the speaker gains, this power should not be described as sexual but as violent. The speaker first declares that “Daddy, I have had to kill you” (6) and later extends this statement to “If I’ve killed one man, I’ve killed two” (71), referring to her father and a lover. These statements make no reference to sexual power or rape. Instead, the speaker gains a violent physical power she uses to kill her enemies. Therefore, the speaker uses power to fight back against her enemies, establishing her agency and individuality. However, this individuality comes at the cost of a healthy relationship with society as in “Lady Lazarus”. Lisa Narbeshuber, in “The Poetics of Torture: The Spectacle of Sylvia Plath’s Poetry”, continues her discussion by describing how “in ‘Daddy,’ private ‘family matters’ link up with large historical struggles, social organizations, and linguistic systems” (190). Narbeshuber argues that the speaker links her private hatred for her father to larger historical conflicts and language, illustrated in Plath’s use of Holocaust imagery and German. This suggests that this private hatred transfers into the public sphere. However, the speaker’s relation with society is more complex 13


than this. Plath’s persona can make a distinction between her father and other people illustrated when she reveals that “I thought every German was you” (29). Although in the past the speaker appears to have generalized her hate for her father to the entire German population, by speaking in the past tense she appears to have separated them in her mind. However, despite this distinction, the speaker still makes harmful generalizations. She claims that “every woman adores a Fascist” (48). By using ‘every’ to generalize this sentiment, Plath reduces women into a category while simultaneously suggesting that all women have an attraction to brutality. This statement is detrimentally reductive in that it negatively stereotypes women as those who feed a cycle of brutality by admiring Fascists. In contrast, after the speaker declares victory over her father, she claims that “the villagers never liked you. / They are dancing and stamping on you” (77-78). The speaker contradicts her previous generalization of women loving her father’s supposed fascist brutality by asserting that they were actually against this cruelty all along. The speaker’s ambivalent relationship with society appears to fluctuate between a desire to generalize its members negatively and isolate herself and a desire to generalize society as a supportive force to her desire. In both of these states, the speaker refuses to acknowledge any sort of diversity in society and subsumes people under her own images to fit her purposes. Thus, the speaker in “Daddy” is similarly unable to balance her own individuality and a healthy relationship with her community due to her reductive tendencies. In “The Applicant”, Plath describes people in terms that clearly depict their objectification at the hands of society as well as their surrender to this objectifying force. In A Disturbance in Mirrors: The Poetry of Sylvia Plath, Pamela J. Annas, in the chapter discussing the social context of Plath’s poetry, discusses the objectification and commoditization of the speaker and the wife he is being sold and how this process is part of the structure of society. Annas contends that in the poem there is “a close connection between the capitalist economic system, the patriarchal family structure, and the general depersonalization of human relations” (104). By arguing that the capitalist economic system and the patriarchal family structure are linked and bring about the depersonalization of human relations, Annas contends that society objectifies its members. The poem begins with the question; “are you our sort of person? / Do you wear / A glass eye, false teeth or a crutch, / A brace or a hook, / Rubber breasts or a rubber crotch, / Stitches to show something missing?” (1-6). The interviewer, a representative of the capitalist and patriarchal society, suggests that in order to fit into society one must be artificial and lacking something, illustrated by the presence of stitches and artificial body parts and accessories. In other words, one must sacrifice what is natural about themselves in order to assimilate into society. As the poem progresses, the speaker seems to surrender to society and by extension the process of objectification. The interviewer tells him to “Stop crying. / Open your hand. / Empty? Empty. Here is a hand” (8-10). The speaker begins to allow society to act on him and give him things, as the interviewer describes the action of giving a hand as if he is only giving him a human hand. The speaker completely surrenders by the poem’s end. The interviewer asks “A living doll, everywhere you look. / It can sew, it can cook, / It can talk, talk, talk … My boy, it’s your last resort. / Will you marry it, marry it, marry it” (33-40). Once assimilated into society, the speaker is asked to engage in its institutions, particularly marriage. However, this marriage essentially occurs between two objects stripped of their agency which is illustrated through Plath’s decision to not end the question with a question mark. The lack of this grammatical element suggests that the interviewer 14


is not really asking the applicant whether they actually want to get married but instructing him to in order to maintain his position in society. Therefore, what “The Applicant” ultimately demonstrates is that one must give up their individuality in order to assimilate into society. The idea that a person can be both an individual and peacefully coexist within society is a contradiction that has been explored throughout American literature. Underlying the poetry of Sylvia Plath is the idea that individualism and a sense of community cannot coexist within a person. Particularly in “Lady Lazarus”, “Daddy”, and “The Applicant”, the speaker is able to possess individualism or a place in society, but is never able to successfully maintain both. Plath’s poetry is then representative of the division in society that can occur because of the American contradiction of maintaining both individuality and community.

Works Cited Annas, Pamela J. A Disturbance in Mirrors: The Poetry of Sylvia Plath. Westport: Greenwood Press, 1988. Print. Bohandy, Susan. “Defining the Self through the Body in Four Poems by Katerina Anghelaki-Rooke and Sylvia Plath”. Journal of Modern Greek Studies 12.1 (1994): 1-36. MLA International Bibliography. Web. 14 July 2016. Lant, Kathleen Margaret. “The Big Strip Tease: Female Bodies and Male Power in the Poetry of Sylvia Plath”. Contemporary Literature 34.4 (1993): 620-669. JSTOR. Web. 14 July 2016. Narbeshuber, Lisa. “The Poetics of Torture: The Spectacle of Sylvia Plath’s Poetry”. Canadian Review of American Studies 34.2 (2004): 185-203. MLA International Bibliography. Web. 14 July 2016. Plath, Sylvia. “Daddy”. The Norton Anthology of American Literature. 8th Edition. Gen. ed. Nina Baym. Volume E. New York, N.Y.: W.W. Norton and Company Inc., 2012. 629-631. Print. Plath, Sylvia. “Lady Lazarus”. The Norton Anthology of American Literature. 8th Edition. Gen. ed. Nina Baym. Volume E. New York, N.Y.: W.W. Norton and Company Inc., 2012. 625-627. Print. Plath, Sylvia. “The Applicant”. The Norton Anthology of American Literature. 8th Edition. Gen. ed. Nina Baym. Volume E. New York, N.Y.: W.W. Norton and Company Inc., 2012. 634-635. Print.

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Doubling Up: Selfhood and the Double in Sylvia Plath’s “The Bell Jar” Lauren O’Donnell

“When will my reflection show who I am inside?” asks the titular character of the 1998 Disney classic Mulan. Similarly, in Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar, Esther Greenwood is disconnected from her sense of self and it is only with the death of her double, Joan Gilling, that she is made whole again. The double in Plath’s The Bell Jar is used to distance Esther from her sense of self and hide the aspects of her personality which she cannot accept. In this essay, I will show that because of this conflict between her inner and outer self, Esther projects herself onto women she wishes to be like, creates imaginary versions of herself to take refuge in, and is only freed from this conflict by the death of her doppelganger, Joan. This split between who she is and who she thinks she should be creates the bell jar and leads to her breakdown and attempted suicide. The inability of Esther Greenwood to reconcile her desire to pursue a career with the societal expectation to get married and have children creates a split in herself—a split between her inner and outer self. Her outer self is the societally constructed personality that she uses to be accepted by and to become like other women, like Betsy and Doreen. In “A Ritual for being Born Twice” Marjorie Perloff argues that Esther’s personality of the successful scholarship student is an “empty shell” (102). She says that this outer shell is contrived, that Esther creates it so that she will be accepted in society. I would further argue that this division of self is a self-defence mechanism, to protect her from disappointing others and from being disappointed. It’s a way of hiding her inner self from scrutiny. The inner self that Esther is so intent on keeping hidden is personified in the character of Joan Gilling, whose thoughts, Esther remarks, seem “a wry, black image of [her] own” (Plath 231). Joan is Esther’s double, the “beaming double of [Esther’s] old best self ” and mirrors her life and her actions through a distorted glass (216). Joan also represents a rejection of the societal expectations that Esther is pressured to follow. In “My Life, A Loaded Gun”, Paula Bennett points out that because Joan is a lesbian, she “can pursue a career and an independent love life without benefit of men or marriage” and must therefore be disposed of to allow Esther to accept her fate in a male-driven society (130). I would further argue that this rejection of Joan is because she represents aspects of Esther’s own personality that she cannot accept. This conflict between inner and outer self is the ultimate cause of Esther’s time under the bell jar. Esther’s conflict of self begins with her inability to be true to herself. She chooses girls that she thinks will be more socially acceptable and models herself after them. At first, she idolizes Doreen, saying that “everything she said was like a secret voice speaking straight out of [her] own bones” and imitates her behaviour (Plath 7). However, when Doreen becomes too much for Esther with her dancing and drinking and kissing, Esther drops her in favour of Betsy. She tells herself that it was Betsy she truly resembled at heart and manipulates her behaviour to mirror that of Betsy instead (24). Marjorie Perloff points out that for each person that Esther maps onto her own personality, she becomes someone that person would like, saying that “for Doreen, Esther wears the mask of tough cookie, willing to be picked up by strangers on downtown street corners. For Betsy from the Middle 16


West, she is the fun girl who likes fur shows” (103). She argues that this construction of the false self leads to Esther’s eventual breakdown. I would also argue that this construction of false identities is Esther’s attempt to construct a double of herself. Esther’s personality and sense of self is splintering and by adopting alternative personalities she is trying to become someone else, and escape herself. By adopting the personalities and mannerisms of other girls, Esther tries to push down her own self to mold it into something more socially acceptable. This inability to accept her inner self brings the bell jar crashing down around her head. Not only is Esther’s sense of self threatened by willingly imitating others, but also by the pressure from what she calls the “weird old women” who all want to adopt her in some way and have her resemble them (Plath 232). Philomena Guinea the author, Jay Cee the editor, even Esther’s mother with her shorthand lessons, all want Esther to mirror them in some way. This returns Esther to the stress and indecision represented by the fig tree. She faces futures, represented by each woman and each fig. In her work The Separative Self, Diane Bonds argues that Esther quantifying these contributors to her life as “weird old women who want to save her is a way of rejecting these women’s very real contributions and potential contributions to her own evolving identity” (56). Esther rejects each woman and what they have to teach her because of her inability to resolve the conflict between her inner and outer self, to choose between what she wants and what is socially acceptable. This inability to accept these women and Esther’s indecision about accepting the futures they represent leads her to her eventual collapse. By projecting herself on other women, and by refusing to accept or appreciate the help of the older women, Esther Greenwood widens the gap between her true self and her constructed personality. Not reconciling her two selves leaves Esther incomplete and leads to her breakdown. In addition to projecting herself on other women, Esther creates alternative versions of herself. She first creates the character of Elly Higgenbottom when she and Doreen go out with Lenny, so that no one will know who she really is. In the beginning, Elly is an outlet allowing Esther to behave improperly, like Doreen, without getting into trouble. Later though, when she is talking to the young sailor, she fantasizes about becoming Elly for good, being free of societal pressure, getting married to a mechanic and having a big family, if she “happened to feel like it” (Plath 140). Elly, the orphan from Chicago, is Esther’s fantasy of not having to choose between her inner and outer self, of simply being able to be herself. For Esther, Elly represents the union of her inner and outer self, allowing her to do what she wishes without feeling pressured. Rather than following this route, Esther goes back home and continues down her passive, self-destructive path. Her inner self and outer self remain separate. Later, Esther also creates the character of Elaine while trying to write her novel. Her heroine, Esther decides, would be herself in disguise (127). Whereas Elly represents a union of self, Elaine is an outlet for Esther to express herself. Unfortunately, because she abandons her novel, and remains at home, both remain unrealized, much like Esther’s sense of herself. While Esther continually idolizes the women that she chooses to represent her outer self, her inner self is something that she continually hates. Doreen is blonde, beautiful, and wonderfully 17


funny (5) and Betsy is all Midwestern charm with her “bouncing pony-tail and Sweetheart-ofSigma-Chi smile” (6). Both are described as being more beautiful than Esther. Joan Gilling, on the other hand, is described as horsey and ungainly, someone that no man would ever desire. Doreen’s eyes are like “transparent agate marbles” (5) whereas Joan’s are “pebble-coloured” (62). Emphasizing her tombstone teeth and size, Esther paints a picture of Joan as a bumbling, awkward, undesirable woman. Joan is only ever described in negative terms, even before it is revealed that she is a lesbian. This dismissal of Joan’s appearance is closely linked to Esther’s own inability to see herself. Whenever she sees herself reflected, Esther sees someone else’s face and cannot recognize herself. Just as Esther is unable to perceive herself, she is unable to perceive what Joan is truly like. This rejection of Joan is an extension of Esther’s rejection of herself. By rejecting Joan, Esther pushes herself further away from her own sense of self and closer to the bell jar. The inner self that Esther is so desperate to cover up is personified in the character of Joan. While Esther chooses her false doubles, Joan is chosen for her. Esther thinks: Sometimes I wondered if I had made Joan up. Other times I wondered if she would continue to pop in at every crisis of my life to remind me of what I had been, and what I had been through, and carry on her own separate but similar crisis of her own. (231) This passage focuses on the similarities between Joan and Esther, and there are many. Both she and Joan date Buddy Willard, attempt suicide and end up at Caplan asylum before progressing to Belsize. Joan is always just one step behind Esther, walking in Esther’s footprints. The only striking difference between the two is Joan’s sexuality. Esther has only ever known Joan at a “cool distance” (206) but Joan’s sexuality is what causes Esther to really dislike her. As Bonds argues, Esther is civil to Joan until discovering her with Dee Dee, when “Esther’s treatment of Joan begins to be marked by a blatant cruelty” (57). As soon as Joan does not adhere to the social expectations that are so deeply ingrained in Esther’s psyche, Esther rejects her. Joan’s sexuality drives Esther away because it goes against everything that she has been raised to accept. Why, then, is Esther so personally taken aback by the revelation that Joan is a lesbian? If she believes that what women want from other women is “tenderness” then why does she find Joan so abhorrent (231)? I would argue that Ether is so taken aback by Joan’s sexuality in particular, not only because it allows Joan to be free of men, but also because it forces Esther to confront an aspect of her inner self that she would rather hide: her own sexuality. This inability to access this part of herself forces Esther further under the bell jar. In her work “Compulsive Heterosexuality”, Adrienne Rich talks about the erasure of lesbian existence, the chastity belt, child marriage; “forces within which women have been convinced that marriage, and sexual orientation toward men, are inevitable” (640). This erasure of lesbianism from society mirrors the way Esther belittles Joan upon discovering her sexuality, effectively erasing Joan from her life. Throughout The Bell Jar, Esther’s experiences with men are characterized by violence and lack of control. Rich talks about cramping the creativity of women, and this is personified by 18


Buddy Willard ominously telling Esther that “after [she] had children [she] would feel differently”; that she would not want to write anymore (90). Rich also addresses men forcing male sexuality upon women through rape and the socialization of women “to feel that male sexual “drive” amounts to a right” (638). This is shown through Esther’s encounter with Marco where he attempts to rape her, regardless of whether he has her consent or not. And yet, as Bonds points out, when Esther should turn away from male sexuality, “the novel turns more decisively than ever away from women and toward men” (59). When confronted with violence from men and tenderness from women, Esther chooses to purchase a diaphragm. Esther chooses the “sharp, startlingly bad pain” and lifethreatening hemorrhaging that she experiences with Irwin rather than any tenderness she could gain from Joan or another woman (Plath 241). Esther’s body and soul rejects the idea of male sexuality. Her body hemorrhages, and her soul refuses to allow her to choose between having a family and having a career. This conflict between her inner self and socially controlled outer self is finally resolved with the death of her double, Joan. Paula Bennett argues that Joan, “the woman who loves other women and who, therefore, can pursue a career and an independent life without the benefit of men or marriage, must be disposed of if the demons that haunt Plath’s/Esther’s mind are to be exorcised as well” (130). I would also argue that Joan’s death puts to rest Esther’s fears that she, too, may be a lesbian. The death of Esther’s double means that not only is she able to resolve her conflict of self, she is able to ignore those parts of herself that she thinks are not acceptable. “I wondered what I thought I was burying” (Plath 255). Esther thinks at Joan’s funeral, some part of her knowing that Joan represents her inner self, and all of the unacceptable things that she keeps there. Bonds argues that there is an implied “causal link” between Esther’s hemorrhaging and Joan’s suicide and that Joan actually does know the cause of Esther’s injury and that this knowledge is a final sign of Esther’s rejection of Joan (58). Joan’s suicide, which can be linked to Esther’s loss of virginity and choice to follow societally acceptable sexuality, frees Esther from the ball and chain of her conflict of self. The unexpected death of her double finalizes Esther’s rebirth and allows her to resolve the conflict between her inner and outer self, sending her back out into the world as a whole person. In conclusion, the break between Esther’s true inner self and socially controlled outer self is what leads to her eventual breakdown under the bell jar. Esther rejects her inner self in the form of Joan Gilling because Joan and her sexuality represent an alternative to the societal pressure that Esther is under that she cannot allow herself to accept. Her rejection of her inner self-her double Joan-forces Esther into a destructive spiral of latching onto other women and modeling herself after them. This is only ended by the death of the double, freeing Esther from the self-doubt that Joan’s lesbianism brought about. While Joan represents a way for Esther to have romance and a career, Esther is unable to allow herself to go down that path. Joan’s suicide allows Esther to return to ordinary societal values, and allows her to reconcile her conflict of self.

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Works Cited Annas, Pamela J. A Disturbance in Mirrors: The Poetry of Sylvia Plath. Westport: Greenwood Press, 1988. Print. Bohandy, Susan. “Defining the Self through the Body in Four Poems by Katerina Anghelaki-Rooke and Sylvia Plath”. Journal of Modern Greek Studies 12.1 (1994): 1-36. MLA International Bibliography. Web. 14 July 2016. Lant, Kathleen Margaret. “The Big Strip Tease: Female Bodies and Male Power in the Poetry of Sylvia Plath”. Contemporary Literature 34.4 (1993): 620-669. JSTOR. Web. 14 July 2016. Narbeshuber, Lisa. “The Poetics of Torture: The Spectacle of Sylvia Plath’s Poetry”. Canadian Review of American Studies 34.2 (2004): 185-203. MLA International Bibliography. Web. 14 July 2016. Plath, Sylvia. “Daddy”. The Norton Anthology of American Literature. 8th Edition. Gen. ed. Nina Baym. Volume E. New York, N.Y.: W.W. Norton and Company Inc., 2012. 629-631. Print. Plath, Sylvia. “Lady Lazarus”. The Norton Anthology of American Literature. 8th Edition. Gen. ed. Nina Baym. Volume E. New York, N.Y.: W.W. Norton and Company Inc., 2012. 625-627. Print. Plath, Sylvia. “The Applicant”. The Norton Anthology of American Literature. 8th Edition. Gen. ed. Nina Baym. Volume E. New York, N.Y.: W.W. Norton and Company Inc., 2012. 634-635. Print.

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Man’s Labyrinth: Guillermo del Toro’s failed attempts at breaking a misogynistic narrative mould in the film Pan’s Labyrinth Sydney Brooman

Though the prospect of a female heroine in the fairy-tale narrative of Guillermo del Toro’s film Pan’s Labyrinth appears to be a leap in the direction of a progressive and empowering breakdown of gender binaries, upon closer inspection, female protagonist Ofelia’s unsuccessful attempts to break free from her normative female roles only reinforce them. As Ofelia and other female characters initially fight against—but ultimately succumb to— the traditional role of woman as mother figure, women as subservient to man, and woman as fairy-tale trope of inertia, del Toro strengthens and perpetuates the inescapable oppression of the patriarchy not just in the world of story-telling, but in modern society as well. From the film’s beginning, Ofelia’s attitude towards motherhood—specifically the process of pregnancy and childbirth—is explicitly negative. Being forced to stand idle as her own mother’s health is threatened by a pregnancy, strongly individualized ideals of survival are set in motion for Ofelia, and cause her to reject the traditional role of motherhood all together. After one of Carmen’s more violent and bloody ordeals with attempting to carry the baby to term, Mercedes assures Ofelia, “Don’t worry, your mother will get better soon…having a baby is complicated” to which Ofelia replies, “Then I’ll never have one” (Pan’s Labyrinth). By proxy, she views the baby as a selfish force that is draining the life from her mother. Ofelia’s anxieties regarding her mother’s impending childbirth related death are expressed through her encounter with the toad in the fig tree, who serves as a fantastical representation of her unborn brother within Carmen’s womb. The tree’s two outside halves are strongly echo fallopian tube imagery, and rather than outright fear of the toad, Ofelia’s only remarks toward it are, “Aren’t you ashamed living down here, eating all these bugs, and growing fat while the tree dies?” (Pan’s Labyrinth). This is essentially what she sees the baby as doing: growing larger as her mother grows weaker. The regurgitation of the toad’s stomach is one of the more particularly graphic of the entire film, associating Ofelia’s opinion of childbirth with an image of grotesque violence. One would think that such a strong rejection of motherhood, especially as Carmen does in fact end up dying in childbirth, would carry throughout the film’s entirety—and it almost does, until the film’s finale. After fighting so adamantly against the idea of her baby brother, as well as the idea of motherhood in general, Ofelia carries out the ultimate example of motherhood by sacrificing her life in order to save his. When the faun asks, “You would give up your sacred rights, for this brat you barely know?” without hesitation she replies, “yes, I would” (Pan’s Labyrinth). Sacrifice for the sake of a child is what motherhood means: Carmen sacrifices her home so that Ofelia can have a father figure and a better life, and she also sacrifices her body so that her son may be born into the world. Instead of a turning away from a culture of stories and media that depict a woman’s peak of importance being at the moment of her sacrifice for the life of another, del Toro makes this very concept the last of his protagonist’s actions, consequently adding fuel to the fire of a trope that bleakly, never seems to be going out of style. 21


When Doctor Ferreiro stands by the choices that ultimately lead to his death, telling Vidal, “But captain, to obey - just like that - for obedience’s sake... without questioning... That’s something only people like you do” (Pan’s Labyrinth), del Toro’s commentary on adherence to authority looks to be quite straightforward. Unfortunately, the film’s message on the subject of disobedience becomes much more diluted by the end of its one hundred and eighteen minute run time. Part of what initially makes Ofelia an organic and multi-dimensional character is her lack of compliance to the authority of the film’s male energies—her trifecta of these forces being Captain Vidal, The Faun, and The Pale Faced Man. The progression of Ofelia’s narrative is only made possible through her distinct choices to go against the rules of each: she is able to temporarily heal her mother by placing the mandrake under her bed, despite Vidal’s demands that Carmen be left alone; she eats grapes from The Pale Man’s banquet table, despite warnings from the faun and retaliation from the man himself; she refuses to hand over her brother to the faun, when complying could’ve ensured her immortality. This rising momentum of defiance would end positively if del Toro means to endorse Ofelia’s behaviour, but it doesn’t; she dies at the hands of the men she defies: The Faun dismantles her hedges of protection, allowing Vidal to shoot her. Each of the male energies is disobeyed, and each becomes a child-killer (The Faun was also very willing to sacrifice her baby brother). Pan’s Labyrinth is not a story in which a young girl’s disobedience leads to her triumph, but a warning that the male forces she apposes will always hit back harder. Even if her return to a utopian kingdom is real, and she has gained immortality from her insurgence, it would mean that the pay-off of every sacrifice she makes, is to live under the patriarchal force of her real father, who is the king of the world she returns to. A string of defiance against man, only to live an idyllic existence under rule of a man? Del Toro specifically chooses not to make Ofelia the long lost leader of the kingdom, but rather a princess—a place on the hierarchy not unlike the one she held while alive in the human world. Her main motivation throughout her storyline is to finish the tasks so she may return to the realm she has left, meaning that her end goal is to leave her role as a daughter, and come into the role of…a daughter, just in a different place. It reinforces the notion that since Ofelia’s disobedience is fruitless against her subjugation, so to is the fight of women in modern society against the patriarchy. The implications of Ofelia’s death can be taken at a literary level as well. Fairy tales are meant to reinforce patriarchal values, and in the process, they often involve the reduction of women to an object of male affection without agency. In contrast, Ofelia is a particularly active female heroine, and as such, Del Toro intertextually constructs her appearance out of recognizable details belonging to culture’s most well-known child, female, fairy tale heroines. Her red shoes pay homage to Dorothy of The Wizard of Oz, the style of her party dress matches that of Alice from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, and her dark–haired fair-skinned complexion undoubtedly mirrors Snow White. Ofelia’s narrative journey is an inverted version of theirs: in all three cases, an act of disobedience (running away from home, not wanting to study, succumbing to appetite) is the problem that sets the story in motion, but in Pan’s Labyrinth, the protagonist’s disobedience is seemingly the solution— that is, until her death. 22


This is where del Toro’s warning narrative finally emerges. By placing Ofelia’s story in direct contrast to tales in which a young female disobeys the societal rules set out for her, and lives to preach dangers of her disobedience (Dorothy vows never to run away again), the moral of Pan’s Labyrinth becomes an extension of their story morals: The tales of Alice, Dorothy, and Snow white imply that correcting your disobedience, by allowing a man to right the wrong you have created, will grant you the opportunity to be reintegrated into the society you strayed away from—so long as you’ve learned your lesson; Ofelia’s tale implies that when you cannot learn this lesson, you cannot be reintegrated, and are instead punished. Her agency does not reap reward, but instead seals her unfortunate fate. The message implicitly states that those who attempt to stray from their norms will not succeed, echoing a mantra of subjugation and oppression—especially for women. Even Mercedes, the film’s beacon of female strength, cannot help but eventually revert back to a role of subservience. Her scenes of rebellion are nothing short of provocative and thrilling as she mutilates the villain after being under estimated by him, but in her most suspenseful moment, as she attempts to defend herself against Vidal’s cavalry, The Rebels (lead by her brother) come to the rescue. Her most important moment of strength is undermined by the heroic appearance of a group of men, and she quickly digresses from a strong female heroine to a traditional damsel in distress. Despite all of Mercedes’ acts leading up to it, this act of using a trope as a safety net by del Toro reaffirms his adherence to the traditional fairy tale narrative, and its representation of women. Perhaps the strongest affirmation of stagnation in the narrative is an underlying anxiety from the film’s biggest symbol of renewal: Ofelia’s baby brother. Birth is a promise of change and revitalization in fantasy narratives, but Guillermo del Toro purposely attaches an ambiguity to this change. Though Mercedes promises Captain Vidal that his son “won’t even know his name” (Pan’s Labyrinth), just the mere existence of the baby adheres to Vidal’s need to live on through an heir. Though Mercedes’ refusal to pass on a verbal legacy ruins Vidal’s ultimate vision of immortality, he still gets a son to succeed him, and therefore achieves the legacy he needs. Pan’s Labyrinth ‘s beacon of hope for the future is not only a male baby, but a legacy of the film’s central male figure. Where there lies ambiguity in whether or not Ofelia receives the peace she works towards, her baby brother is undoubtedly real, and will out live her, regardless of her work as a heroine up to that point. The potential for a change of narrative is taken from the hands of a female, and put into the hands of a male. Such is the work of female subjugation under patriarchy, to overwrite the female narrative with one of a male-centric focus. Regardless of what kind of man her brother grows up to be, he has been given a story atop the one his heroine sister has already built.

Works Cited Pan’s Labyrinth. Dir. Guillermo del Toro. Perf. Ivana Baquero, Sergi Lopez, Maribel Verdu. 2006. Picture House, 2007. DVD.

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“I have fed mine eyes on thee; I have with exact view perused thee”: How William Shakespeare Utilizes a Metatheatrical Structure to Alter Audience Perceptions of Notorious Characters in Troilus and Cressida Sarah Gilpin In a section of Onstage and Offstage Worlds in Shakespeare’s Plays, Anthony Brennan analyzes “the functions of reporting in Shakespeare’s plays” (23). While discussing scenes of reporting in Much Ado About Nothing, Brennan explains, “There is a somewhat similar and even more complex scene of overhearing in Troilus and Cressida when Troilus and Ulysses, overseen by Thersites, observe from hiding the seduction of Cressida by Diomedes” (66). Although Brennan believes the “overhearing” scene as a “complex” example for his argument, he never attempts to explain the effect of the metatheatrical device. Even in Judd D. Hubert’s Metatheater: The Example of Shakespeare, there is no mention of Troilus and Cressida. A question then arises, why does Troilus and Cressida appear to be one of the few rarely studied Shakespearean plays? Troilus and Cressida falls under the Shakespearean classification of a “problem play” because critics have struggled to place the play in a specific group of either “Comedy,” “Tragedy,” “History,” or “Romance.” Similarly, Bridget Escolme explains another problem of the play is the characters’ motivation. Cressida in particular, “Make[s] no sense in the naturalistic theatre, whose objectives are character – rather than audience – directed” (39). Although both arguments explain why Troilus and Cressida receives little attention by critics, I will be arguing that the fragmentations of the play serve a greater purpose. In Troilus and Cressida, Shakespeare is working with characters that are notorious in Greek mythology. As a result, his audience is aware of the characters’ stories and can make assumptions as to how Shakespeare’s play will end based on the myths. However, instead of allowing his audience to view these characters through a familiar mythological lens, Shakespeare reframes them with the metatheatrical structure of what I will be calling “mediation” scenes. A mediation scene occurs when the audience’s understanding of a character is mediated through the bias of another character onstage. Shakespeare appears to use the mediation scenes in order to comment on the way in which history is recorded with aspects of bias. In particular, Cressida’s character is reframed in the mediation scenes from prior assumptions of her narrative. By juxtaposing Cressida’s character to that of Achilles in different mediation scenes, Cressida is displayed to audiences in a sympathetic manner that counters her mythological narrative, while Achilles remains the arrogant character known in mythology. The metatheatrical structure of mediation scenes allows the audience to reconsider through theatrical framing the bias history has created for Cressida. This creates an active audience that must engage with the levels of bias presented by the original myths of Cressida and the bias of characters onstage. In order to understand how Cressida’s mediation scene proposes a new view of her character’s historical reputation, I will begin with a close reading of Cressida prior to the mediation scene. Cressida is first seen onstage “to reassure the audience that the play has not abandoned the bathetic wit of the Prologue” (Escolme 42). Cressida’s dialogue with Alexander intrigues the audience to 24


favour her as a character of wit and humor. After asking Alexander multiple questions, Cressida displays her wit: Alexander: They say he is a very man per se, And stands alone. Cressida: So do all men unless they are drunk, sick, or have no legs. (Troilus and Cressida 1.2 16-19) Cressida alters the dialogue with Alexander from blank verse to prose. As servant to Cressida, Alexander should be the character to speak in the prose. However, by choosing Cressida to alter the dialogue, Shakespeare opens a new layer to Cressida that is not seen in mythology. Instead of a one-dimensional character known for promiscuous acts, Cressida is seen onstage joking with her servant. The audience’s bias towards Cressida begins to alter when she is able to change the direction of the conversation and comment on gender politics. Instead of displaying a desire for a sexual relationship at the beginning of the play, as the Cressida figure in mythology would, Shakespeare’s Cressida is able to critique the situation and use her critique to become closer to the audience through humour. Shakespeare positions the audience to favour Cressida in her first appearance onstage through her wit and humor. Nevertheless, the first mediation scene places Cressida as an object of the male gaze. Cressida is taken by Diomedes to the Greek camp to see her father, Calchas. Upon arrival at the camp, Agamemnon “salute[s] [Cressida] with a kiss” (4.5 19), and Ulysses interjects that “’[t]were better she were kissed in general” (4.5 21). Cressida becomes an object for male desire as each character welcomes her with a kiss, which is a familiar image of Cressida’s character for the audience. However, Cressida’s wit resurfaces when Ulysses “beg[s] a kiss” from her (4.5 48). Cressida states, “I am your debtor; claim it when ’tis due” (4.5 51). Instead of allowing an exchange to occur, Cressida utilizes a metaphor for Ulysses to claim debt when it is due. Thus she is placing herself in the position of power to establish a “due date” for the kiss that is not in favour of Ulysses’ current desires. After Cressida exits the stage with Diomedes, Ulysses comments that such women are, [S]o glib of tongue, That give accosting welcome ere it comes, And wide unclasp the tables of their thoughts To every tickling reader! (4.5 58-62). Through Ulysses’ commentary, Shakespeare begins to depict Cressida in the way she is known in mythology. Nonetheless, Cressida’s negative encounter with Ulysses is the source of motivation for his speech. Therefore, the “kissing in general” scene prepares the audience for the later metatheatrical device. The audience must be activity involved in the action to remember Ulysses’ bias against Cressida from this scene while the action of the mediation scene unfolds. I will now discuss in detail the metatheatrical frame used in Act 5 Scene 2. Before the 25


“performance” of Cressida and Diomedes occurs, Shakespeare establishes the multiple layers in the scene for the audience. Troilus and Ulysses are the observers of the “performance,” who enter “at a distance; then Thersites” (5.2 4). The next establishing stage direction constructs these characters similar to the role of an audience in a theatre. Troilus and Ulysses must “[s]tand where the torch may not discover [them]” (5.2 4). Only Cressida and Diomedes stand in the light, thus dividing the performance space from the observer space. To further exaggerate the bias that is displayed onstage, Thersites is positioned outside the observer space. Nicholas Marsh plots the movements of the mediation scene by positioning, “Troilus and Ulysses downstage, to one side in the natural eavesdroppers’ position [and] Thersites will be the other side of downstage” (208). Marsh believes that Shakespeare effectively “divides the stage into two areas: upstage is ‘performance,’ downstage is ‘reality’” (208). However, irony occurs in this scene as the performance of Cressida and Diomedes is presented in fragments to the theatre audience. The audience must understand the action of the play-within-a-play concept through the interpretation of the onstage audience. Therefore, the scene symbolically displays the levels of bias in history as Cressida is unable to voice her true motivations and instead Troilus and Ulysses report on Cressida’s actions, which creates a lasting impression on the theatre audience. Throughout the mediation scene, Cressida asks Diomedes to “[h]ark a word with [him]” (5.2 7). The cues for Cressida to whisper to Diomedes create a “visual tableau of Diomedes’ and Cressida’s heads together upstage,” thus prompting Troilus to state, “Yea, so familiar” (Marsh 209, 5.2 8). Ulysses then takes the opportunity to state, “She will sing any man at first sight” (5.2 9). Nevertheless, the audience has previously seen Cressida reject a man at first sight: Ulysses. Shakespeare constructs a bias in Ulysses’ character as he has had a previous negative experience with Cressida, in which she took the position of power. Through the commentary of Ulysses, Shakespeare reminds audiences that history is subjective. To directly address the subjectivity of history, Shakespeare mentions the act of “remembering” in the fragmented conversation between Cressida and Diomedes. After the whispering between the two characters reaches a conclusion, a short dialogue is given to the three-framed audience: Diomedes: Will you remember? Cressida: Remember? Yes. Diomedes: Nay, but do then; And let your mind be coupled with your words. Troilus: What should she remember? (5.2 12-16) The exchange and question from Troilus reinforce the fixed space of each group onstage. Cressida and Diomedes are aware of their discussion, yet similar to the reaction of Troilus; the audience is not told the information through a dramatic irony approach. As Escolme stated, the characters are either motivated by one another or internally motivated, which is not expressed to the audience. That being said, Shakespeare’s repetition of the word “remember” echoes through the dialogue to 26


encourage the audience to actively remember the bias both Troilus and Ulysses have brought into this scene. Although Troilus brings his own bias to the action of the mediation scene, he is able to address the multiple versions of Cressida’s character. Troilus states, “No; this is Diomed’s Cressida. / If beauty have a soul, this is not she…” (5.2 135-136). Troilus’ line suggests that there are different versions of a character and multiple layers to the motivation of action presented to the audience. Similar to how Cressida’s character has been shaped throughout history, there are “versions” of her true character within the play. In an attempt to alter the preconceived thoughts of Cressida, Shakespeare constructs another version of Cressida, one that is unfairly accused of being a “whore” by Thersites as a result of fragmented information (5.2 190). By the end of the scene, Thersites steps in as the character to offer “comic commentary on the stage action” (Escolme 40). All of the attempts to understand Cressida are undermined as Thersites claims the entire motivation for the mediation scene is “[l]echery, lechery! Still wars and lechery! Nothing else holds fashion. A burning devil take them!” (5.2 192-194). Thersites’ comment provides the last version of Cressida that is far from Cressida’s “clown-like performance objectives” at the beginning of the play (Escolme 42). Cressida’s strong voice of wit and humor is tainted by Thersites. The active audience is able to distinguish Thersites’ comments as how history recognizes Cressida’s character. However, it is up to the audience to “remember” the version of Cressida with wit and humor in order to understand that Thersites’ biased comments are not a true representation of Cressida’s motivation. In contrast to Shakespeare’s attempt to reframe Cressida, Achilles is displayed onstage as his notorious historical character. Unlike Cressida and Thersites, Achilles has “little obvious opportunity for direct contact with this audience; he has no soliloquies or jokes with which to seduce us into complicity” (Escolme 46). Shakespeare reinforces Achilles’s historical figure as “unquestionably the finest Greek warrior” by placing him in a position of power as observer to onstage action (Kershaw 322). However, Achilles positions himself as subject to the male gaze with Hector. Achilles constructs a mediation scene in order to establish his masculinity over Hector. Nonetheless, Hector is reluctant to participate in a forced male gaze. When Achilles instructs Hector to view his body, Hector dismisses the action because he has “done [so] already” (4.5 236). Achilles once again enforces the competition between them as he states he will view Hector a second time “limb by limb” (4.5 238). The consistent teasing from Achilles forces Hector into a burst of emotion to not “kill thee there, nor there, nor there” but to kill him “everywhere” (4.5 253, 255). Although Achilles participates in a mediation scene of the male gaze, his position of power is much greater than Cressida’s in the “kissing in general” scene. Achilles forces the male gaze upon himself, which reinforces his reputation for being a “mighty warrior” (Kershaw 306). On the other hand, Cressida is forced into a mediation scene, but is able to gain some power by dismissing Ulysses. As Escolme states, “Achilles does not struggle against his ‘notorious identity’ but rather basks in it” (46). By Act 5 Scene 3, Achilles becomes a powerful observer of Hector’s death. Once 27


his Myrmidons strike the man he seeks, Achilles instructs them to tell all “‘Achilles hath the mighty Hector slain’” (5.7 10, 14). Through the death of Hector, Shakespeare positions the flaws in Achilles’ reputation as a mighty warrior. Unlike the sympathy an active audience might feel towards Cressida, Achilles abuses his power to receive glory. Thus, Shakespeare is presenting to his audience the flaws of history. The presentation of a metatheatrical onstage frame visually represents the bias of history. This permits, even encourages, an interpretation of Achilles’ accomplishment in battle as dramatic irony since Achilles alone did not accomplish the true nature of Hector’s death. Troilus and Cressida presents a metatheatrical framework to reconstruct the reputation of Cressida’s character in history. As a result, Shakespeare visually provides a critique on the bias of history. When comparing another famous mythological character, Achilles, to Cressida, it is clear that Shakespeare strategically places the active audience to favour Cressida as she begins to loses her full voice, which prior to the mediation scene was witty and humorous. Stephen P. Kershaw states that the difference between versions of the same mythological tale “emphasizes the way in which meaning of myths can change depending on the outlook of their tellers” (318). As a contribution to Cressida’s story, Shakespeare uses the metatheatrical framework to suggest, as Troilus believes, there are multiple “versions” of characters in history. Similar to the active audience of Troilus and Cressida, an active reader of history must be aware of the biased recordings of historical figures.

Works Cited Brennan, Anthony. Onstage and Offstage Worlds in Shakespeare’s Plays. New York: Routledge, 1989. Print. Escolme, Bridget. Talking to the Audience: Shakespeare, performance, self. New York: Routledge, 2005. Print. Hubert, Judd D. Metatheater: The Example of Shakespeare. Lincoln: Nebraska UP, 1991. Print. Kershaw, Stephen P. The Greek Myths: Gods, Monsters, Heroes and the Origins of Storytelling. London: Robinson, 2007. Print. Marsh, Nicholas. Shakespeare: Three Problem Plays. New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2003. Print. Shakespeare, William. Troilus and Cressida. Ed. Kenneth Muir. New York: Oxford UP, 2008. Print.

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Audience in Endgame: The Witnessed as Witness Thomas Sayers

To truly examine a work of art, one must examine the presentation of the art as thoroughly as the content: form as a deliberate choice should not be ignored. In this paper, I will analyze moments of self-reflexivity that show the relationship between audience and narrative in Samuel Beckett’s Endgame. Viewing Endgame specifically as a theatrical text reveals one of the more meaningful acts of witnessing being performed – the audience bearing witness to the text. This relationship blurs the line between acting as a witness and being witnessed, thus exposing the unsettling feeling that comes with not knowing one’s role in a relationship. Before heavily examining the relationship between audience and narrative, it must first be established that the narrative is aware of itself. At multiple points throughout Endgame, the characters make reference to knowing that they are part of a predetermined script. Early on in the story, Hamm asks Clov for the time. Clov replies, “The same as usual” (p.4). Although time seems to not have much meaning for these characters, implying that the answer is always going to be the same lends itself to having their words bound to a script. In another instance of performance, when Hamm asks for the time the answer will also be the same. Later on, Hamm asks Clov for the state of the weather. He replies, “As usual” (p.27). Merely moments later and Hamm asks Clov to look at the sea. He responds, “The same” (p.30). Both times, Clov does not look out the window to make sure if what he is saying is true. Instead, he already knows that what he is saying is true because it is part of the script. The breakdown of the phrase in repetition shows that his answers are intended for the audience: Hamm already knows the answer and only asks because he is required to; the only ones out of the loop are the audience as witnesses. Repetition reveals the form of the play in other sections of dialogue as well. Hamm, after speaking of seeing inside his own heart, asks Clov what is happening. Clov responds, “Something is taking its course” (p.32). Once again, the all-powerful script is being mentioned. The something refers to their own actions and speech. At another moment, Hamm asks Clov,

“What’s the matter with you today? CLOV: ‘I’m taking my course” (p.42).

While this seems to give Clov a sense of agency, previous acknowledgement of the scripted dialogue causes his words to be interpreted in a different way. By taking his course, he refers to playing his role and acting how he is supposed to – as defined by the script. Repeating the reference to the scripted nature of their dialogue and relating it to himself tells the audience that he is aware of the play – and by extension aware of their existence. A play cannot exist without an audience, after all. Following Clov’s first remark on things being out of their control, a deeper questioning of their state takes place. After Clov notes that things are simply taking their course, Hamm wonders about his own purpose: 29


“HAMM: We’re not beginning to… to… mean something? CLOV: Mean something! You and I, mean something! (Brief laugh.) Ah that’s a good one! HAMM: I wonder. (Pause.) Imagine if a rational being came back to earth, wouldn’t he be liable to get ideas into his head if he observed us long enough. (Voice of rational being.) Ah, good, now I see what it is, yes, now I understand what they’re at! And without going so far as that, we ourselves… (With emotion.) …we ourselves…at certain moments… (Vehemently.) To think perhaps it won’t have been for nothing!” (pp.32-33).

While this dialogue shows that they might not have meaning in relation to each other, they mean something to an external viewer. The audience is portrayed as a rational being capable of understanding and observing the characters, something they would certainly be in the position to do. Hamm taking on the voice of the rational being (the audience) and repeating “we ourselves” shows the apparent power difference between himself and the audience. It is also a direct acknowledgement of the audience’s existence by making the comparison between the crowd and the rational being. Although the characters might not know what they represent, the audience is able to interpret their actions and dialogue. Hamm is upset with this dynamic, as he shows through his increasing emotion – he moves from speaking in a voice different from his own to speaking with intense emotion. However, he has no control over these emotions – they are simply part of his scripted character. Another moment of self-reflexivity occurs when Hamm tells Clov what keeps him there: “The dialogue. (Pause.) I’ve got on with my story. (Pause.) I’ve got on with it well. (Pause. Irritably.) Ask me where I’ve got to” (p.58). Hamm acknowledges that the only reason he is still on the stage is because the dialogue requires him to be there. He is confined by the script and follows it as precisely as he can. Hamm getting on with his story refers to both his ongoing narrative of the beggar story as well as his getting on with the script of Endgame. His irritable rendition of this statement could represent his uncomfortableness at being interpreted mainly by the audience. Demanding Clov to answer him gives him another witness: one that he can actually physically perceive and directly interact with. Unlike the audience, Hamm has power over Clov and is able to exert it. Now that self-reflexivity in Endgame has been proven, relationships between audience and narrative can be explored. In each of these examples, power is placed in the audience as having the power of interpretation – a power that Hamm and Clov lack. Unlike them, the audience does not have predetermined responses and are free to react how they will. In Ross Chambers’ essay An Approach to Endgame, a clear power distinction between the viewed and the viewer is defined: “In Endgame, meaning lies in its performance, since it organizes movement, gesture and speech in time and space so as to form a structure” (71). Although this would seem to place more power in the narrative, the real power comes from the ability to act and think freely. However, something interesting to note is that inside the larger narrative of Endgame, these characters also create their own individual narratives, and through them exert a kind of false freedom. After Hamm finishes telling his chronicle of the beggar story, he makes an acknowledgement about the power he possesses: “I’ll soon have finished with this story. (Pause.) Unless I bring in other characters. (Pause.) But where would I find them? (Pause.) Where would I look for them? (Pause. He whistles. Enter Clov.) Let us 30


pray to god” (54). Again, Hamm demonstrates that he is able to control at least something, whether it is as insignificant as Clov is unimportant. In the same way that the audience creates meaning for the larger narrative, Hamm creates meaning for Clov’s existence. His acknowledgement of a higher power by suggesting a prayer equivocates Hamm’s limited power over narrative to something divine and predetermined. This can be read as a reference to the script, Beckett as the writer and creator, and the audience as witnessing the events from another plane of existence: beyond the fourth wall that exists between stage and auditorium. Chambers also recognizes the necessity of the audience in creating meaning. On the topic of the relationship between audience and narrative, he writes: “It is difficult indeed to playact alone; one needs an audience, and one needs support. The reason all characters need one another so desperately is that there must be someone to donner la réplique, as the French text puts it” (p.79). Donner la réplique is translated in English as, “the dialogue.” Thus, there must be other characters to reply to the dialogue. Although the characters exist together and respond to one another, they also rely on the character of the audience to observe them. However, by being the witnesses to the dialogue, the audience is also witnessed and called out to by the script and narrative. Certain sections of the play exist to acknowledge the audience as a witnessed entity, making the distinction between who is witnessing who a complex question to answer. One such moment of audience recognition occurs early on in the play when Clov turns a telescope on the audience and begins to comment on what he sees: “Things are livening up. (He gets up on the ladder, raises the telescope, lets it fall.) I did it on purpose. (He gets down, picks up the telescope, turns it on the auditorium.) I see…a multitude…in transports…of joy. (Pause.) That’s what I call a magnifier. (He lowers the telescope, turns towards Hamm.) Well? Don’t we laugh?” (p.29). Dropping the telescope and then assuring the others that he meant to do it could be read as another reference to the all-powerful script, but also as a signal that the following sequence is an important and deliberate action. Turning the telescope on the auditorium and commenting on the audience as transports of joy is a moment of both self-reflexivity for the characters and an act of witnessing the audience and turning the tables on them. Instead of them watching the characters muck about onstage, they are being watched and judged by these very same characters. The repetition of ellipses in describing the audience represents the complex relationship between audience and narrative: one is confined to a script while the other is free to react. However, at this moment the audience is confined to the script as well: they become a part of the narrative and have meaning for the characters onstage. Clov’s comment about laughing could be directed to Hamm only, but it could also be directed at the audience in order to control the audience into abiding by the script and actively responding to the happenings of the characters. Another example of recognition occurs near the end of the play. After Clov hits Hamm over the head with the stuffed dog, Clov proposes an alternative to their current action and Hamm retaliates against it: “CLOV (imploringly): Let’s stop playing! HAMM: Never! (Pause.) Put me in my coffin. 31


CLOV: There are no more coffins. HAMM: Then let it end! (Clov goes towards the ladder.) With a bang! (Clov gets up on ladder, gets down again, looks for telescope, sees it, picks it up, gets up ladder, raises telescope.) Of darkness! And me? Did anyone ever have pity on me? CLOV (Lowering the telescope, turning towards Hamm): What? (Pause.) Is it me you’re referring to? HAMM (Angrily): An aside, ape! Did you never hear an aside before? (Pause.) I’m warming up for my last soliloquy” (pp.77-78). Hamm’s reference to the end coming with a bang in the darkness could be referencing the applause that occurs after the play finishes. As well, it is interesting to look at Clov’s actions during Hamm’s monologue. He ignores Clov and continues on following his ritual of climbing up and down the ladder, leaving the audience the only attentive witness to Hamm’s aside. The false aside – Clov can still hear Hamm speak – lets Hamm acknowledge and witness the audience as he becomes more segregated from the other characters onstage. While the audience is witnessing Hamm telling his aside, Hamm is also witnessing the audience by turning to them for interpretation instead of Clov. The mention of the soliloquy is a similar example: Hamm ends up giving his final lines to the audience, ignored by Hamm, Nagg, and Nell (pp.83-84). Matthew Davies also establishes this odd awareness of the audience in his essay “Someone is looking at me still”: The Audience-Creature Relationship in the Theater Plays of Samuel Beckett. He writes, “In a period dominated by naturalistic theater and an adherence to the suspension of disbelief, Beckett’s assaults on the fourth wall create metatheatrical fractures that undermine the egotistical nature of performance and spectating” (p.80). Theatre is not an entirely self-sufficient form of art. Like most, a viewer is required for meaning to arise. However, theatre is different from others in that the viewer is often included in the process of creation as the characters come to life on stage in front of them. This relationship is made even more complex when the audience is referenced by the characters and narrative, almost transforming the audience into one of the characters. Beckett acknowledges that the audience has a certain power over witnessing but at the same time realizes that they are also the witnessed. In conclusion, we have witnessed that the role of the audience in Endgame is one that is very complex and referenced many times throughout the play in its self-reflexivity. This brings the question of who is being witnessed and who is the witness in a theatrical performance to light – and the answer would seem to be that both parties fill both roles. This is what makes theatre such a special art form – the physical manifestation of words and movement being recreated before a crowd. There is great power in the art of theatre, and Samuel Beckett was able to show that incredibly clearly in Endgame.

Works Cited

Davies, Matthew. ““Someone Is Looking at Me Still”: The Audience-creature Relationship in the Theater Plays of Samuel Beckett”. Texas Studies in Literature and Language 51.1 (2009): 76–93. Web. .Beckett, Samuel. Endgame. New York City: Grove Press Inc, 1958. Print. Chambers, Ross. “An Approach to Endgame.” Twentieth Century Interpretations of Endgame. Ed. Bell Gale Chevigny. Edgewood Cliffs: Pretice-Hall Inc, 1969. 71-82. Print.

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Towns Built to Change Permanence in Arcade Fire’s “Sprawl I (Flatlands)” and “Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)” Victoria Wiebe

Arcade Fire’s 2010 album The Suburbs reflects upon the familiar process of transitioning from an adolescent suburbanite into a city-bound young adult in a way that is anything but typical. Juxtaposed as the third and second to last songs on the album, “Sprawl I (Flatlands)” and “Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)” summarize the overarching search for identity that The Suburbs explores. “Flatlands” and “Mountains” recount starkly different meditations on scenes from the suburbs, as moments saturated with the teenage ache for autonomy morph into a 20-somethings’ search for the places they formerly called home. While the songs share themes of nostalgia and identity, their approaches vary in musical delivery and presentation. The young adult apathy from “Flatlands” contrasted with the adolescent naiveté in “Mountains” offers perspective on nostalgia for places and memories that inevitably decay. The most apparent difference between “Flatlands” and “Mountains” is in their delivery. Frontman Win Butler voices “Flatlands”, while vocalist Regine Chassagne delivers “Mountains”, adding immediate contrast to the perspectives of each song. The low-fi production in “Flatlands” contributes to its eerie aesthetic, which is supported by the unsteady minor key, drawn-out lyrics, and dissonant harmony. Butler’s vocals are raw and reminiscent, seldom deviating from the monotony that reflects the adult narrator’s despondence. Significantly more upbeat in tempo, “Mountains” flaunts Chassagne’s soprano, her breathy delivery adding an element of youthfulness that supports the portrayal of the adolescent narrator. “Mountains” is vibrant in its production, chalk-filled with catchy, consonant harmonies, bright instrumentals, and a synthetic sound. Concisely, “Mountains” is theatric, excessive in a way that encapsulates the enormity of yearning for the freedom that adulthood promises, while “Flatlands” personifies the drawl of growing old without purpose. Both songs titles and lyrics reference their hometown as ‘the sprawl’, each narrator expressing discontent for the monotony of suburbia. In “Flatlands”, Butler sings, “Took a drive into the sprawl/Through these towns they built to change” (“Flatlands” 9-10), whereas in “Mountains”, Chassagne explains, “Living in the sprawl/Dead shopping malls rise like mountains beyond mountains” (“Mountains” 9-10). Mass urbanization diminishes the ability for the suburbs to be authentic, as no part of it remains long enough to develop character. As a result, the impermanence stirs a lack of belonging and identity in its inhabitants, maintaining as a point of apprehension for the adult “Flatlands” narrator. Butler refers to his childhood home as “the house […] we used to stay” (“Flatlands”, 2), exemplifying disconnectedness between his adolescent memories and the physical places the memories were created. In fact, the narrator’s childhood home is so secondary to his nostalgia that upon return to his hometown, he could not distinguish his house from those surrounding it, the narrator unable to “[…] read the number in the dark” (“Flatlands” 3). Thus, the narrator’s return to his hometown is not representative of wanting to revisit a concrete place, but rather, a desire to revisit a state of mind. The tempo markedly slows with the pronouncement of “[…] the emotions are dead/It’s no wonder that you feel so estranged” (“Flatlands” 1:28). The 33


narrator has continued to hold onto stale memories in hopes that they will bring purpose back to his life, but upon return, he realizes that he has become so detached from the suburbs that it no longer holds sentimental value as the setting of his memories. The narrative fades to a moment of summation, a policeman asking a teenage Butler where he lives while loitering at a park late at night in a flashback. This evokes a philosophical response, explaining, “[…] if you only knew what the answer is worth/Been searching every corner of the earth” (“Flatlands” 18-19). This poignant rhyming couplet emphasizes the narrator’s feelings of deindividuation, dawning upon the realization that his struggle for identity cannot be solved by searching for feeling in the familiar places his struggle was borne. The narrator’s inability to find purpose in his current life drives his continued inauthenticity, decaying the meaning of his childhood memories to be as barren as the flatlands that housed them. After exploring the mood and tone of maturely revisiting the suburbs through “Flatlands,” “Mountains” offers a beacon of hopefulness for what remains within. While there is an element of teenage naivety communicated in “Mountains”, it is not interchangeable with a blatant disregard for looming adulthood. Chassagne shares the Butler’s longing to form an authentic identity, but has the durability of youth to assume that she will self-actualize in time. The song begins, “They heard me singing and they told me to stop/Quit these pretentious things and just punch the clock” (“Mountains” 1-2), conceptualizing the pressure to abandon passion and conform to a safe, monotonous alternative. Abstractly, the song is dusted with mentions of light and darkness, which are utilized as a metaphor for the narrator’s two-fold apprehension and curiosity about the realities of adulthood. The chorus, which is repeated at three separate points throughout the song, comments on the suburbs, “There’s no end in sight/I need the darkness; someone, please cut the lights” (“Mountains” 11-12). The image of darkness conveys a solace, reflecting an escape from everyday life, including deflecting difficult questions about adulthood (“Can we ever get away from the sprawl?”), and blissful stolen moments (“Sat under the swings and kissed in the dark”). Conversely, the image of light is used to depict confrontation with reality, recalled as “You shield my eyes from the police lights/We run away, but we don’t know why” (“Mountains” 14-16), a parallel to “cops shone their lights on the reflectors of our bikes” (“Flatlands” 13). Even glimpses of the city, a clear escape from the narrator’s suburban roots, are viewed cautiously, explained, “Your city lights shine/They’re screaming at us, “We don’t need your kind”” (“Mountains” 17-18). Despite her desire to become independent, the narrator feels bound by the confines of the familiar. The endless construction of “dead shopping malls” (“Mountains” 10) constricts Chassagne from a clear view of what exists beyond suburbia, both metaphorically and physically, invoking a natural curiosity for what lies beyond it. What distinguishes “Mountains” from “Flatlands” is Chassagne’s resilience to the urban claustrophobia; instead of surrendering to monotony, she grounds herself in her methods of escape to harness emotion and retain individuality. Nevertheless, the former song creates depth to the latter, as the listener must decide which is more telling: teenage growth, or adult decay. Despite distinct differences in presentation, “Sprawl I (Flatlands)” and “Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)” deliver a sequential, coherent narrative. The relative positioning of “Flatlands” before “Mountains” in the track list is integral to the consistency of The Suburbs’ thematic search for 34


identity and individuality. The desolation of “Flatlands” aims to inform the “Mountains” listener that the questions plaguing the adolescent mind do not get any easier to respond to, but will eventually demand answers – even if it means returning to their bitter roots. The “Flatlands” narrator revisiting the suburbs views his life moving forward as uninspiring, whereas the “Mountains” narrator revels in the possibilities that adulthood has in store. “Flatlands” and “Mountains” offer no easy answers to the timeless questions they bear, but instead allow the listener to connect broadly to Butler and Chassagne’s contrasting remembrance of snapshots from the suburbs.

Works Cited Butler, Win. Sprawl I (Flatlands). Arcade Fire. Rec. 2 Aug. 2010. Markus Dravs, 2010. MP3. Chassagne, Regine. Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains). Arcade Fire. Rec. 2 Aug. 2010. Markus Dravs, 2010. MP3.

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Semicolon Fall 2016  

A collection of academic essays from students taking Arts and Humanities courses at Western University.