Mary or Rosemary’s Baby?

November 15th, 2011

Call me crazy, but I absolutely adore the character of Mary in “The Children’s Hour”. She is absolutely diabolical, scary, demonic, manipulative, and cruel but hey, she gets sh*t done. Hellman creates a child character that is so much like the child in the film Orphan or The Omen. Mary’s character is so purely evil she almost seems possessed. However, Hellman makes Mary completely believable. Never once does the reader stop to question the believability of Mary because Hellman manages to keep her devilish ways somewhat innocent and childlike. Mary’s outbursts of physical destruction and harm are horrifying but still read as childish and immature. The reader sees Mary for what she is– a spoiled child acting out because she cannot get what she wants. This seems to be Mary’s one redeeming characteristic—her childishness. Even though Mary is literally and figuratively a murderer, one cannot hold her completely responsible for all the chaos in the play (even though she is). The circulation of the lesbian rumor and the public fallout Karen and Martha suffer because of it is, in the end, completely blamed on Mrs. Tilford. It is she that seems to be the scapegoat for the circulation of this (at the time) “terrible” accusation. However, can one really blame Mrs. Tilford for the downfall of Karen and Martha? Probably not. One cannot blame an adult for doing what he/she thinks is best for his/her child, no matter who it effects. If I knew an illicit love affair was happening a few feet from my childs bedroom, lesbian, gay, heterosexual, or otherwise, I am getting involved. One does not assume, especially in the time frame of this play, for a child of 8 or 9 to know about lesbianism and “lovemaking”. It is Mary’s delivery that makes it clear because even she is unsure of what kind of noises are made in the schoolmistress’s bedroom. It is also not uncommon for parents to explicitly take their child’s word over that of another adult or authority figure. Parents also do not want to think that their child is capable of lying so blatantly, ferociously, and heartlessly; it would mean that his/her child is not “perfect”. In order to prevent having to face this admission of fault in a child, the only option a parent has is to become an advocate for his/her child. That is precisely what Mrs. Tilford did. She took action not necessarily against Martha and Karen but advocated for Mary. One can even say that because Karen and Martha decided to take the slander suit in “public” by taking it to course, the outcome of events can be rightly blamed on them. There could have been another way to prove their innocence privately with Mrs. Mortar, Karen, Mrs. Tilford, and Martha. So, in the end, Mary’s name should be cleared from almost all blame from this unfortunate situation. Is Mary a disturbed child, most likely. Did she plant the seeds of destruction? Absolutely. Could she have possibly known just how far her lie would take her? No. Her lie was “watered” or nurtured by Mrs. Tilford and the other characters that believed Mary’s initial lie. It was really intriguing, interesting, and awesome to see the characteristics of Iago, Roger Chillingworth, and the abortionist from Summer embodied by this little girl.

The Blog About the Prospectus Before the Paper

November 9th, 2011

The title of this blog sums up how I felt sitting down to write my prospectus– confused.

I had been in a bit of a panic in the preceding weeks just thinking about committing to a topic so swiftly. There are so many varyied and intriguing aspects to the all encompassing theme of gossip and secrecy. Initially I thought that turning my blog on “distancing language” in The Journal of The Plague Year would be the most genius topic to choose and would  allow me to really focus on my own theories of secrecy and the need to spatially separate oneself from it. However, I decided to wait a bit longer before really “buckling down” on a topic. That was the best decision I could have made. Thanks to my extensive television viewing (and always having the thought of gossip and secrecy on my mind) I had a prophetic experience while watching an episode of Dexter and spent the rest of my night jotting down ideas, concepts, and questions I had about the relationship between America’s favorite serial killer and his secrets. This start was great but it was missing one key “ingredient”- the literature. I had yet to read a novel that really encompassed the darkness and the fear that secrecy instills in people and literary characters. This was very disconcerting but I was determined to stick with my topic. At the point of writing my prospectus, I had absolutely no idea of what texts, other than Macbeth, would suit my paper. Writing about and handing in a paper filled with very raw and abstract ideas and questions scared the crap out of me. At best I felt the prospectus was scattered and unclear. At worst it was complete garbage.

While waiting to meet with Prof. Walkden, I considered what literary texts I could use to tie into this paper. Thankfully, The Scarlet Letter and Summer had been assigned and literally answered my prayers. The “abstractness” that once induced fear dissipated. The texts that were decided upon helped illuminiate the inital thoughts on my topic and I realized that my paper was not as abstract and unclear as I had previously believed. The prospectus and the meeting with Prof. Walkden is the best preparation I have received before writing a paper. In hindsight this prospectus was probably the best “thing” that could have happened to me.

Hester Prynne: Lindsay Lohan before Lindsay Lohan was Lindsay Lohan

November 2nd, 2011

 

This is my third time reading The Scarlet Letter and, I must admit, that I fall in love with it a little bit more every time I read it. Hawthorne’s writing style and the psychological insight he offers the reader is perfection. In my eyes, it is he and not Freud that is the “father” of psychology.

It is due to the amount of times that I have analyzed this novel that, this time around, I was able to take a step back from that mindset and really just enjoy it. One thing that kept popping into my head while reading and accumulating all the instances of public shame was: why the hell do celebrities complain about their public image in today’s society when stuff like this was commonplace in a newly colonized America? If one was to read this novel as an exact example of public crime and punishment in Puritanical America and compare it to the celebrities of 2011 and the public scrutiny they are under, those suffering public humility in puritanical times definitely win the “who had it harder” game. In fact, I personally wish that the stocks still were a valid form of punishment this way I could see the Justin Biebers, Paris Hiltons, and the Lindsay Lohans suffer and actually pay for the crimes they commit against society merely by existing. If the biggest problem in their multi million dollar lives is a picture of them eating a double cheeseburger from McDonalds gracing the pages of the most recent gossip magazine, I think they should be thankful. It is rather sad to think about it in this context and see the actual decline America has made in its legal system. To clarify my previous statement, I do not think that Hester Prynne deserved the treatment, scrutiny, and isolation she received simply because she had a moment of human weakness. Furthermore, I do not think it should have been made public business especially because Hester was not a “public” figure. When celebrities become celebrities, he/she should expect to their private life to become public because he or she is asking to be a public figure!  Today, a celebrity can literally be found guilty for drug possession, DUI’s, theft, etc… and walk away from the American legal system with less than a “slap on the wrist” and be given another opportunity to commit more crimes. Somehow it is the same celebrity that commits a crime that complains about the crime being written about in the paper. Yet, when that same celebrity has a new movie coming out or is about to release a new CD, he/she expects to be on every television channel and on the front page of every printed piece of news in existence. If having an illicit love affair/love child was a crime worthy of punishment at one time, I would love to see today’s American celebrities suffer the same kind of treatment Hester had to endure. In short, Hester messed up and was publicly chastised for it. She was the Lindsay Lohan before Lindsay Lohan was Lindsay Lohan.

On another note I would also like to say that Roger Chillingworth is by far one of my most favorite villians in literature. He has every characteristic one would think a manipulator of secrey would have. He is a hybrid of the Hunchback of Notre Dame and Dr. Frankenstien. His psychological characteristics leaves one “chilled” to the core and is quite the appropriate character to be introduced to right after Halloween.