The Impact of A Fresh Start

In this blog post, I would like to get into a technical aspect of reading literature and talk about how form can make a lasting impact on how you understand and interpret what you read. Form can be defined as “the manner or style of arranging and coordinating parts for a pleasing or effective result, as in literary or musical composition” according to dictionary.com, therefore, the way a piece of literature is physically structured can make an impact on how we perceive it. Specifically, I want to talk about the effectiveness and importance of a line break. Although this is more prominently used within poetry, it can be just as effective in many other types of literature. By using a line break, it creates a emphasis on the following line, leading the reader to pay a little more attention to it. In this post, I would like to talk about an instance where this happens within Fortune’s Bones that really stood out to me.
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Dwarf the Soul and Preserve the Body

In PhD Alonda Nelson’s The Long Duree of Black Lives Matter, she explains that immediately after the Emancipation Proclamation freed African slaves throughout America, there was a tremendous spike in lynchings and also police violence against Africans, a problem which persists today. While I would never denigrate all police officers with a broad brush, especially considering the proliferation of illegal guns in poor, often predominately black communities in America, there is undoubtedly an epidemic of police brutality against Africans in the form of excessive force, racial profiling and even shooting unarmed civilians because of a perceived threat based on racial biases. In response to abolition, whites who lost their free labor spurred a counter movement aimed at suppressing the liberties and literal existence of Africans in America. This manifested itself through occupational and educational discrimination, redlining and extrajudicial murders but even more sadistically and methodically through mass sterilization by doctors who blacks had no choice but to trust.

In the article, Nelson describes what Fanne Lou Hemer experienced, calling it the “Mississippi appendectomy.” This referred to a method of sterilizing poor African women in her home state, an injustice she herself experienced at the hands of a white doctor in 1961. In chapter 12 of Toni Morrison’s Home, which takes place years after the Korean War during the same time period Nelson was actually victimized, Frank discovers Cee unconscious at Dr. Scott’s office with blood around her genital area. Earlier in the novel, Cee admired Dr. Scott for helping poor, underprivileged blacks out of what she presumed was the kindness of his heart. What she did not notice was his books on eugenics. In chapter 12 when Frank arrives at the doctors office, Dr. Scott is so scared that Frank has come to exact revenge on him that he tries to shoot Frank, but fails because he is out of bullets. To him, Cee was dispensable and he therefore didn’t feel guilty about experimenting on he r or sterilizing her, but was instead only fearful for his own life. Dr. Scott was a fraud like so many doctors must have been at the time. For people to summarily dismiss Black Lives Matter as either fringe or unnecessary in modern times, they must ask themselves if medical professionals in their parents’ generations had drugged someone they knew unconscious and sterilized them and people like you or them on a systematic level if you would feel like people cared about your life.

When BLM protests in the streets on behalf of current, prevalent police brutality and murdering of black people, people say they are themselves the problem and should organize and protest respectfully and totally nonviolently. Yet when Colin Kaepernick of the NFL took a knee during the national anthem (he was the first to do so), he was ultimately fired and essentially blacklisted by all teams. He vocalized that he was protesting racial inequality in America and received minimal support. It was only when President Donald Trump actually called the NFL players who protested “sons of bitches” while saying they should “be fired” that NFL owners supported the protest during the national anthem. Before Trump had called out the NFL brand, only the players, many of whom are black, supported the protest and it wasn’t until after his comments that the billionaire owners supported the movement. This support is not because they wish to fight racial inequality, but rather to preserve a profitable brand which takes young men and swallows them to feed the beast in exchange for temporary fame and fortune, almost always causing the individual permanent physical injury in the process. The article writes about Fred Hampton, a Black Panther’s Party leader who was killed in his sleep by law enforcement ultimately for spouting ideas like “policing the police” and endorsing wider social justice. Kaepernick is a more mild, modern equivalent martyr in the sense that he compromised his promising, lucrative career as an NFL quarterback in order to stand up for his inconvenient beliefs (ironically by kneeling).

Dark Usage of the English Language

The more one looks into racism, the more prevalent it appears. From investigating racism further in this class, I was astonished at the profound effect it has on many disciplines. Its integration into literature and the English language in particular is astonishing. Max’s description in class of the field of gynecology being “dark” sparked my further investigation into terms in English that have racist backgrounds. When I looked up the word “dark”, I found various definitions: “gloomily pessimistic”, “a situation characterized by tragedy, unhappiness, or unpleasantness”, and “not fair in complexion” (Merriam-Webster). Continue reading “Dark Usage of the English Language”

Ignorance vs. Knowledge

In brainstorming potential collective course statements, I saw repetition of a common idea: increasing knowledge is essential. Grace, Jennifer, Sabrina, Emma, myself, and other classmates all emphasized that a vital takeaway from this course is that we should increase learning to create societal change.  This necessary increase in knowledge is overwhelming. Faced with the impossible task of attempting to learn everything conflicts with the common saying–“ignorance is bliss”. Is ignorance bliss? Or is knowledge power? Continue reading “Ignorance vs. Knowledge”

Compulsion and Consent

I want to write this blog post in response to the question Dr. McCoy asked us to think about last class, as I’ve been thinking a lot about the ways in which the Clay’s Ark enclave might be better or worse than the outside world and the real world around us. I was unable to attend class today, so I’m not sure if this topic was discussed/what was said about it; my apologies if I repeat anything that has already been discussed, but I wanted to explore this topic and perhaps I will bring up something new along the way.

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Grappling with Clay’s Ark

Leading into reading this novel, I was internally struggling with how I was going to get through this class. I am not a fan of science fiction, and the syllabus felt overwhelming, especially when considering the entire class was centered around science fiction novels. However, since the first chapters (Past 1, etc.) I have been extremely interested in the narratives that Butler has created.

I have found myself becoming immersed in the reading, and not wanting to put it down after I had finished the sections assigned for each class. I often found myself conflicted with the ideas of how I felt I should have been feeling based off of the things we discussed in class, such as the concepts of consent and humanity. In a way, I often found myself being disturbed because I was more comfortable with the super-natural beings in the enclave who often defied the laws of consent and “ruined” so many peoples’ lives and I found myself annoyed and uncomfortable with other characters such as Blake. Why am I finding myself being more accepting of these characters that are so destructive in their ways and wishing those who are victims of these people to disappear? I am interested in the ways that Butler’s future novels that we read will lead me to conflicting feelings once again.

My first impressions of this class were clearly wrong, and I’m happy to have found another English class that leads me to think about class discussions and the themes in the books we read long after I have left the class. It also doesn’t hurt that I look forward to reading in between classes.

Colonialism in Clay’s Ark

On Friday, Dr. McCoy pushed us to remember that it isn’t Eli waking up and scratching the original inhabitants of the enclave that set the world up for an epidemic, it’s that people went to Proxi Two and were exposed to the disease in the first place. This seemed to suggest that colonialism, not an individual, is responsible for what ultimately happens to Earth. Once this idea took root in my head, it was hard not to read Clay’s Ark through that lens.

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A Better Way?

Jonathan Kalman

In the world of Octavia Butler’s “Clay’s Ark”, those infected by the Proxi Two symbiont have strong sexual urges that cannot be easily restrained. According to Stephen Kaneshiro, a resident of the Clay’s Ark enclave, the symbiont makes you, “like having kids. Makes you need to have them” (Butler, Page 532). As far as the readers are lead to believe, these urges are hardwired, rather than environmentally driven. Converting others is not exactly a want, but it becomes almost a need. Eli, patient zero states, Continue reading “A Better Way?”

The Infection of a State of War

Eli and Ingraham’s choices to engage in Locke’s society of autonomy and capitalism in relation to the rule of law forces them to enter into a state of nature. Both Eli and Ingraham took more than they needed the day they kidnapped Blake, Keira and Rane from the roadside. During this period, in accordance with Locke, they entered into a state of war. Locke states that, “In transgressing the law of nature, the offender declares himself to live by another rule than that of reason and common equality” (Sect. 8, Chapter 2). Here, that occurs in this scene between kidnappers and the kidnapped. When Blake informs them Eli and Ingraham that Keira is sick, Ingraham states, “Shit . . . What are we supposed to do with a kid who’s already-” (Butler 464), to which Eli responds, “If we’ve made a mistake, it’s too late to cry about it . . . Sorry Doc. Her bad luck and ours . . . Well, you take the good with the bad” (464). This passage indicates that they are taking more than what is necessary, and that they are aware that this is the case. Their taking of “the bad”, Keira, with “the good” Rane and Blake” indicate their grievances with after they enter a state of nature.  The indication alone that she was sick with leukemia and not in the best health indicated their reluctance and lack of need for her. Need is the basis for Locke’s treatise – to take what a person can work with, without crossing the line into greed.

Locke also takes it a step further and states that “Every man has the right to punish the offender and be executioner of the law of nature” (Sect. 8, Chapter 2). In this case, although Locke states that a person can take what they need, it does not necessarily account for the subjugation of freedom from fellow human beings. As a result, this results in the state of war that Locke references throughout his treatise. Both Blake and Rane never come to terms with their denial of freedom, and Keira’s end choice to remain with the infected people in the enclave is not necessarily a choice made from the freedom to consent. Her consent is ultimately derived from duress of familial death, and the stress of being infected, and therefore, perhaps, not truly consent by definition.