The Key Tool: Perspective Exposure

            The concept of perspective makes itself a known theme, central idea, and notable literary choice on Morrison’s part within A Mercy. As each chapter presents us with a new viewpoint, we as readers are given the privilege to see a story unfold in a way we don’t normally watch events occur in “real life;” through the viewpoints of all those that are affected. It seems with a broader perspective of the world, and of a story that you are reading and or partaking in allows you to develop a greater sense of empathy. It then also seems when you limit your perspective or ability to understand others roles within an event, you ultimately limit yourself. To put this in terms of the 2008 housing crisis (the year in which A Mercy was written, and a key event to tie our course concepts back to) we can look at the relationship between bankers and everyday people. The banker’s decisions obviously expelled many people from their houses due to their selfish decisions. Those being affected by these decisions may have read or interpreted what would happen in this situation but did not have the tools to go about stopping it from happening. The ultimate root of this is the big bankers having the ability and tools to see how painful the negative effects of their actions would be on so many people, but ultimately neglecting to see things from a “big picture standpoint.” It seems that Morrison decided to make perspective and the theme of “noticing things” so prominent in this novel to drive home that exact point, and all the negativity that comes from it.

            A side note to relate this back to present day, and the current unprecedented circumstances we are all experiencing right now, I wanted to include a link to this article. It focuses on social distancing, and how so many people still aren’t taking it seriously. We need to realize it is a privilege, and by neglecting to take it seriously, we, like the big bankers, are viewing this situation with a “well if it doesn’t negatively affect me, then why should I care how it affects others” kind of outlook. Morrison displays acts of this kind of attitude within the novel, but also shows acts of great contrast as well. However, these selfless acts we sometimes don’t see unfold until one perspective is connected to another.

            An example of such is one that we as readers can only see unfold once we have read the novel from beginning to end. This example is when Florens is given up by her mother. In the very beginning of the novel, when Jacob Vaark visits D’Ortega and makes that reluctant purchase of Florens we are led to believe that her mother is so readily willing to give her up. “Please Senhor, not me, take my daughter” (Morrison, 30). Yet, to contrast this, we see that this seemingly “unmotherly” act of giving up her daughter to be taken away with a strange man was actually an act done out of love. “I knew Senhor would not allow it. I said you. Take you, my daughter. Because I saw the tall man see you as a human child, not pieces of eight. I knelt before him. Hoping for a miracle” (Morrison, 195). This is an act of expulsion Florens faces as she’s forced from her home and her family. It’s an event that we as readers didn’t have the tools (yet) to see the true explanation behind the expulsion. These lack of “tools” come from a lack of exposure to various perspectives, which ultimately intertwine to form a complete story.

            If we are to look at characters lacking tools to act on things they notice, it again deals with the concept of perspective. It seemed that throughout the book, Complete was in a whirlwind of confusion about so many things going on in her life; whether it be her lack of knowledge about what a period was, or her inability to figure out why Lina treated her the way that she did. However, the scene in which Complete gives birth proves to be a very powerful one; she decides her own identity and her own personal perspective develops itself. She lets go of this need for approval form Lina, or this feeling that Florens is the glue that keeps this odd structural dynamic between them all, together. “Each woman embargoed herself; spun her own web of thoughts unavailable to anyone else. It was as though, with or without Florens, they were falling away from one another” (Morrison, 158). She allows herself to be alone in that very moment and allows the trust she has within herself to blossom. In this case, we watch Complete take all the things that she noticed around her, that dragged her down as a person and made her feel like she was something “lesser-than.” Her “tool” in this case is expulsion; the expulsion of an outdated view she has of herself, and a rebirth of a new and personal perspective she has of herself and the world around her.  

            It seems that Morrison purposefully made expulsion, observation, and perspective key elements within this novel. She uses perspective changes to display how it is one of the true tools to accessing a full story; a full understanding of each and every person’s role in a story that so many may have taken a part in. But what’s interesting is that she displays to us that through perspective building expulsion is almost guaranteed; yet it’s a positively connotated form of expulsion as it acts as an elimination of ignorance and self-doubt. Through a lack of perspective exposure, comes expulsion as well; yet it’s more negatively connotated. It leads to the expulsion of people from your life, form their homes, and even of their own positive image of self; it is an act developed from holding on to ignorance rather than letting go.

Unpacking and Relating Moral Hazard and Swapping in The Big Short and The Turner House

Reading The Big Short and The Turner House back to back, allowed for us to be able to compare perspectives of people partaking in two opposite ends of a spectrum regarding their role in the housing crisis. Both books shed light on “the other side of the story” and the cause and effect nature of big bankers’ decisions that affected so many people including the Turner family. To people like Eisman and Burry, those in the financial situation that the Turner’s faced were but mere concepts to them; too distant from their own lives to be considered human. The decisions they made in their offices were risk factors, but not necessarily as risky for them. They saw their own personal gain and ran with it. They may have also seen the idea of fraud surrounding what they were doing, but since it was still only a concept, something not yet materialized, and was not directly affecting them, the negative impact of it did not seem so bad. However, relating all of this back to the idea of moral hazard, it seems that the bankers in The Big Short, relished in their protection from risk by their wealth. So, would those who weren’t protected by those means (The Turner Family) act differently if they were? Reading these two books back to back seems to highlight the concept of human nature being something that sits on a selfish foundation, but yet even at the end of the day, setting the scale of that selfishness aside, we all take part in it; alongside the pain and beauty of human existence.

The Big Short is obviously a story that recalls real events and the storylines of real people. The basis of the book is obviously the events that occured and decisions that people made that all led up to the 2008 recession, that negatively impacted so many people. However, something that Micheal Lewis does to give the book and the people who took part in those actions more depth and human-like characteristics, was to dive into elements of their lives outside of Wall Street. What was their family life like? What was their childhood like? How did they even become a banker or stock broker in the first place? Lewis made it a point to provide readers with information along these lines. Even if many of these men had committed actions like fraud, diminishing any trust people had within them; Lewis attempted to show they are still human at the end of the day, with their own set of emotions and traumas. Diving into Eisman’s life, we see he faced a terrible circumstance in regard to his son dying soon after he was born. He stated that prior to this he had always thought he had an “angel on his shoulder,” but this tragedy made him start to believe otherwise. Another example would be when Burry found out that he  had Aspergers, which changed his entire outlook on his life and his career. “After a few pages, Micheal Burry realized that he was no longer reading about his son but himself… ‘My wife and I were a typical Asperger’s couple, and we had an A perger’s son’” (Page 182). Both of these incidents were life altering for these men, the death of a child is a pain no one should experience and finding out about something that alters your self perception and identity can definitely have a huge impact on many areas of your life. 

However, they weren’t known by society, or their co-workers on the basis of these facts. They were known for selling subprime mortgages, and making millions of dollars without losing anything, and ultimately were viewed as selfish terrible people. At their cores, as the insight we get from learning their backstories, they may not be that terrible, but rather blinded. Blinded to a world outside their own, which is something they could’ve tweaked to be a more empathetic person. Eisman, we see, does this to an extent by the end of the book. “And he started being nice. And he liked being nice! It was a new experience for him” (Page 250).  However, at the end of the day they took advantage of the fact that they had an advantage, and tended to pay very little attention to anyone outside of that realm. Even if Eisman learned to “become nice” by the end of the book, that in many cases can’t replace the damage his actions had on people like the Turner family.

 The Turner family, as Flournoy displayed through many generations, struggled a lot with their finances. We are shown this as early on as Francis and Viola’s first  years as a married couple; when they had to live apart and Francis had to send money to Viola. However, we also see these struggles through their children, such as Lelah and Cha-cha, and how they were affected by their financial situations as they got older. They were a part of a generation who’s socioeconomic status was in many cases directly hindered by those in the realm and generation of the men we read about in The Big Short. Looking at Cha-Cha and even Troy as examples, they both, in a way, eventually had to take care of their mother, or at least made intentions to. 

Over the previous few days his original idea about the Yarrow Street house had crystallized into a plan. He and his girlfriend Jillian might not have the $40,000 needed to absolve Viola of her debt, but they had enough to buy the house for the price an interested stranger would be expected to pay. (Page 64) 

Viola had undoubtedly taken care of her children, especially in their early years, when Francis was out “working” and she was left to raise the children mostly on her own. “Viola had to work for white folks after all. She needed the money, and in the end she couldn’t bear to be in those fields” (Page 113). She worked the best she could, with the best she had. 

We see this financial struggle presented very vividly in Lelah and Francis’s early life as well. However, compared to Viola’s early struggle for example, it could be said that their financial problems were brought on by themselves. “What folks said about idle hands and the devil was true for Lelah; busyness was her best defense against the urge to fondle those chips” (Page 96). We as readers unpack a bit of Lelah’s life outside of her association with “The Turner Family” and are able to see a dark addictive side to her. “She did not think of Troy or Jillian, or Brianne or Viola. Only herself” (Page 134). These are tendencies that on a larger scale could be more detrimental to people other than oneself or those close to you. So in a way, Lelah’s actions are reflective of those of the big bankers. A sort of addictive need to always have more. However, she cannot perform anything on a drastically large scale, being that she has no protection from a greater force, the force of big business that those in the The Big Short were protected by for much too long. This protection allowed the big bankers to let their addiction flourish, an addiction that we can see through Lelah, that many if  not all people may suffer from in different forms. 

Both texts use a sort of “flipping through time” method to encompass different emotions pertaining to various time periods in the characters’ lives; this shows the effects of the past on their present-day selves. The Big Short does this in a more subtle way, whereas it’s much more obvious in The Turner House. It’s through these personal narratives that we’re able to see a more complex version of those written about than we would have had we not known their backgrounds. It is through this glimpse into their backgrounds that we are able to see the different struggles with identity, with addiction and greed, but also with heartache and sorrow all of the characters in each book experience to an extent. These universal experiences,  played out on different scales and settings, call into question the definition behind moral hazard. Had the bankers’ lives been swapped with those they were affecting, would each party see things differently and do things differently with such a drastic change in socioeconomic status? It isn’t a question with a trusted and factual answer, since this is not possible. However, what it does seem to bring awareness to is the neverending and ever-unfolding layers of human nature. We become so wrapped in our own realities and feed into our own addictions to bring about temporary pleasure, but they will ultimately negatively impact not only our lives, but those around us as well.

Never-ending Desire in Shakespeare’s King Lear

    Looking at King Lear on a surface level, ideas of expulsion, liquidity, and swapping are very present.  Referencing the Merriam Webster definitions of these words, gives further insight into how they can be connected to the play. However, as one reads closer and uncovers the hidden themes within the play, these terms are even more prevalent. Acts of physical expulsion such as Lear’s expulsion from the kingdom and emotional expulsion are present throughout the entire play. When pondering a question regarding the words interaction with each other, it seems it can be answered by looking at the relationship between Lear and his daughters, and the ripple effect of events that occur after that initial conflict. Tied to that, various other characters aside from Lear and his daughters, have unstable and ever-changing relationships throughout the play, which adds to the fire of the ever-increasing conflict. The idea of swapping regarding it’s meaning of taking part of an exchange of liability between two borrowers, is a term related to many themes within King Lear as it seems nothing in the play can be given without something being desired in return. Liquid is defined as consisting of ready conversion to cash, or flowing freely like water. Much of the familial turmoil we see is in fact like flowing water; a dangerous river that leads into a 20 foot waterfall. Liquid is also noted as being an investment easily turned into cash, which in the case of King Lear, this definition of liquid and swapping overlap greatly. King Lear is a play filled with ideas and relationships related to the concept of expulsion as we are presented with characters and circumstances that do anything but promote a strong familial foundation built on trust and an equal share of respect and power.

    The first act of expulsion that is presented to readers and viewers is Lear’s expulsion of Cordelia from the original plan of land division, when she does not proclaim a love for him that he was expecting. “Here I disclaim all my paternal care, propinquity, and property of blood, and as a stranger to my heart and me hold thee from this forever” (1.1, 15). Expulsion, in all its meanings, seems to be presented here. In terms of expulsion meaning “the action of depriving someone from an organization” it is related to Cordelia being deprived of being a part of the “organization” that is the royal family after this scene unfolds. In terms of expulsion meaning “the process of expelling someone from a place, especially a country” this is also evident in this scene, as Lear is quick to make arrangements with France and Burgundy in relation to where Cordelia will be sent, since her presence with him is such a disgrace. She marries the king of France and begins to create an army with him that she wants to use to defeat the wrath her sisters are creating. 

With expulsion’s final meaning “the process of forcing something out of the body” it can be seen as relating to this scene as well. Lear is demonstrating expulsion as he releases feelings of anger and disrespect as a response to Cordelia’s lack of words of affirmation toward him to the degree, he had originally thought she would express her feelings. Edgar and his role in the play is also related to the term expulsion on varying degrees, as he is forced to leave due to Edmund’s evil and manipulative nature. This is more of an intentional act of expulsion than Lear’s expulsion of Cordelia as it wasn’t part of his original plan to strip her of any land he had originally planned on giving her. This then may evoke feelings of injustice within readers even more so than the previous expulsion presented. It also brings awareness to another term that Edmund is partaking in; fraud. Edmund’s ability to deceive those around him as a means of benefiting himself through the creation of a false perception would back this claim. This isn’t to say that Edmund didn’t have a valid reason for doing so, to him what he was doing was validated. When looking at many of these terms through the lens of literature, seeing things from all perspectives is a necessity as it is in most cases to understand each character’s plight. Edmund was illegitimate, and thus did not get the same treatment that his legitimate brother Edgar was receiving. This unfair power dynamic struck within him anger and rage that was the foundation for his desire to take this route to acquire success and the treatment he felt he deserved. Regan and Goneril, although portrayed as mostly evil, can also be seen as having legitimate reasons behind their actions. Although what they do to their father is, on the surface, quite terrible, the line “He hath but slenderly known himself” (1.1, Page 13) may give readers insight into the reasons behind the expulsion of their father. To slenderly know oneself means to also slenderly know the reason behind your actions and desires. Was Cordelia’s lack of loving words deserving of her father’s rage? Obviously not, but that just goes to show that Lear’s “slender” knowledge of himself affected various parts of his life, as well as others, thinking he was swapping his land for what he thought he felt it was equivalent to.

Liquidity and swapping are correlated with many of the ways that expulsion is presented in King Lear. In the case of this play, liquidity is not cash but rather things the characters deem of great value that they hope to trade something for, such as land, a title or even love.It was within Lear’s original plan to swap words of affection for land. However, as seen in the play quite early on, that original plan is foiled and the conflicts in the play begin to unfold. The swapping of identities also makes itself a very present theme within the play, with Edgar dressed as poor Tom for a good portion of the play as an example. “I will preserve myself and am bethought to take the basest and most poorest shape that ever penury in contempt of man brought near beast. My face I’ll grime with filth” (2.3, Page 95). Edmund wished to swap out his life in which he carried the heavy title of “illegitimate,” for one where he overcomes that, yet he can’t achieve it in the way he desires. That seems to be a common theme for the characters in Lear; they want to swap something they already have for something they deem better. However, that “better option” never turns out the way they want it to. This then leaves readers with the question: why not? Is it because their intentions for wanting to change that original circumstance weren’t in good nature? It seems to be one of those questions without a straight answer, as are many questions surrounding expulsion and the terms attached to it. Many of the terms related to expulsion like liquid and swap seem to have a very selfish nature tied to them, with some even deeming them to be a corrupt nature. Usually related to exchange or finances of some sort, it seems that none of these terms have a fully positive connotation, as something is always expected in return whenever they are used. 

Edgar and Albany are the ones that are left to rule at the end of the play, which may be very telling of the message that Shakespeare was trying to get across. They seemed to be the only characters in the play that didn’t maliciously expel anyone or anything. Edgar and Albany also didn’t take part in exchanges or swapping to try and receive something better than what they already had. They didn’t invest in something expecting it to convert into something else of greater wealth down the line, and this may play into why their own personal stories don’t end in tragedy as the others did. Expulsion, liquidity, and swapping all seemed to be interlaced throughout the storyline of King Lear, highlighting the selfish nature of characters who always desire more than what they already possess.