Monday, September 22, 2014

A Response to Skylar and Melisa's Post- Happy Endings: The Myth and the Legend

Whenever I hear the term end phrase "and they lived happily ever" the cynical part of me always asks "But do they really?". Our definition of happiness and living a life that one can consider full and happy is both individualistic. Reading both Skylar and Melisa's posts, along with Happy Endings by Margaret Atwood, I see how ones definition of a good "happy" ending versus the "unhappy" endings can be very different. This leads me into an idea I have grappled with, being the idea that the ending of a life can be considered happy. 

This born to die motif that both Melisa and Skylar touch on is interesting and I find myself questioning my own ideas of death. Of course death is sad and I fear death but this does not take away the possibility of happiness in an ending. Yes John and Mary will eventually die. But this fact does not change the lives of the individuals. Each story centers around life. Call my naïve but this common thread between the stories, a commentary of life, as Skylar points out, has a message about the living, not the dead. I think these stories, while they all end with eventual death of the characters, speaks about the deepness or shallowness of a life. And while its sad and scary you can't stop living your life. 

These lives that the individual characters lead some may not be considered happy or fulfilling to some but that does not seem to matter. Each still ends with a "happily ever after". This brings the thought I mentioned in the beginning of the post, that happiness is individualistic. While one reader may see story A as sad, being the characters lives are boring, another may find happiness in simplicity of their lives. It is interesting to see others ideas of what "happiness" truly is and I think Melisa's idea of bringing this story into a classroom setting would create interesting discussion. 

"Happy Endings" response to Alex

No matter what way I read “Happy Endings” I found it satirical. I thought it was mocking how anyone can honestly believe they will have a simple “happy ending” to their life or lives. I think the style Atwood chose to use is in direct contrast to her satirical style. As I read “A” it was more of a list than anything. It is supposed to be the most “happy ending” however Atwood’s syntax and diction lead me to read it sarcastically. Like life is this, this, and this; then we die.
I think Atwood’s main idea was that no matter what we do in our lives from life to death, in the end we all die; “You'll have to face it, the endings are the same however you slice it. Don't be deluded by any other endings, they're all fake, either deliberately fake, with malicious intent to deceive, or just motivated by excessive optimism if not by downright sentimentality. The only authentic ending is the one provided here: John and Mary die. John and Mary die. John and Mary die.
I agree with Alex that it’s hard to get over the discomfort of not reading a traditional piece and that it is up to us to take the story wherever we want. I think we can compare this story with life itself, its up to us to pick the path we want to go down, but doing so, finding the how and why is not always going to be so simple like in “A”.
I also agree that the technical format is extremely important. Like Alex said, there is no cloud of detail to wade through making each character very concise. This is real and allows us to see the desires and hopes of each character. Without the use of poetic descriptions we can focus all our attentions strictly on the characters. Also there is no single setting or plot. This pushes me to zone in more on the characters as well. Atwood’s characters names are also very boring and typical; this allows me to be whomever I want in the story. It makes the stories more relatable you could say, but it also forces the reader to not get attached to any one character and just understand the idea behind the story.

The story ends with “F” where Atwood is challenging the reader to make up his or her own ending. She is being sarcastic saying “make John a revolutionary and Mary a counterespionage agent and see how far that gets you”. This backs up my idea of this piece being satirical.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Response to Alex (Happy Endings Analysis)

Alex, I agree with you. I think this story does serve as a life lesson to the reader. I first read this story in my form and theory class, and I considered it more of a tool for fiction writers than as literature. However, now that I am re reading it and analyzing it, I see it as both a commentary on the writing process, and a commentary on literature.

I found it interesting when you said, “There is no overarching traditionalist form like is seen in literature for centuries.”. “Happy Endings” is so wildly different than traditional stories because of it’s unique formula. There is no direct and visible climax in the story as whole, although one could argue that each individual section has a climax. The sections that make up the story also lack development. “Happy Endings” reads more as an outline for a short story than one itself, which I think is Atwood’s main point. Sarcasm is also something Atwood plays around with a lot. From the first paragraph “A” the readers know Atwood’s sarcastic tone. Section “A” is just way too good to be true. Because of the brevity and lack of development section “C” has a dramatic tone to me. The use of such generic names also add to the sarcasm. It’s like Atwood is poking fun at her characters and the various directions short stories usually go in.

I also like what you said about the story exposing parts of the human condition. I think Atwood does this for a reason. She shows her readers various emotions in each section to represent how humans are emotionally evolving. In “Happy Endings”, Atwood tells us that the beginnings of stories are much more important and exciting than endings. I don't know if I would have agreed with Atwood before reading, “Happy Endings”.  One of the things “Happy Endings” does is prove this. I also think it’s interesting to note the theme of happiness. The only section of the story that if completely happy is section “A”. Characters in the other sections are generally unhappy, however are happy at the end, thus the story’s title. Because of this, Atwell shows us how truly boring endings can be. She suggests that in a way, the readers already know the ending to a story- the characters die. “Happy Endings” show us that the ways in which we reach the ending are much more interesting than the endings themselves.

"Happy Endings" Analysis

“Happy Endings” struck me as a commentary both on writing and on how people act. We discussed the significance of form thoroughly in class, but I want to delve into the format a bit deeper. The idea that a story can be changed simply by skipping a part (in this case a numbered section) and substituting it with another, is rather interesting to me. It sounds so simple, but a few choice words can change meaning drastically.
This is made blatantly clear in section “E”, where Atwood suggests that if the reader is not satisfied with the story as it is, he can simply substitute four phrases and the story is completely different. The sad but hopeful tone is changed to gloomy and uncomfortable with the substitution of a few words.
Getting back to the first point, so much literature stands as a monolithic unified force that it is off-putting to see it as malleable as it is here. If the reader chooses, he can simple pick a random section and be done with it. There is no overarching traditionalist form like is seen in literature for centuries. After I got over this initial discomfort, I was able to embrace it and play with the story. It is interesting to read the passages out of order, to see where and how they meld together.
The technical format of the story is certainly important, but I think the content is even more significant. All of these stories, whether they are written well or not, express the hopes and desires of people that might as well be real. There is no cloud of details to wade through. Instead, they are very concise, focusing almost strictly on character.

“B” showcases the fall of a woman lacking ambition and too scared to change to know when she is being taken advantage of. “C” describes a love triangle born of boredom and ending in bloody jealously. They all give a snapshot of the human condition, whether it is good or bad. I would argue that they do in fact work as life lessons to the reader.

Response to Lacey: Children Inside and Outside the Story

Lacey, the way that your mind works is hilarious and fascinating. Thank you for the humor throughout your post :)

I responded to Jessica’s first post without reading yours, so it’s amazing to me how we came to similar conclusions but by completely different routes. You read the characters in the story as childlike while I argued that the absence of actual children in the story makes it a commentary on adulthood and keeping your humanity.

Middle school students are (in my opinion) the worst, because they are in this strange limbo between childhood and young adulthood. Comparing the adults in the story to this age group is a great analogy because these characters exhibit attributes of children and adults.

If you’ve ever hung out with elementary school kids, you probably noticed how naturally compassionate most of them are. They don’t really care about difference; younger children play games without consciously discriminating or being cruel. (Not to say that kids can’t be cruel, because they definitely can be, but as a whole there is a lot more compassion from what I’ve noticed). The little child in the story only becomes an important character towards the end, when he interacts with the old man. Once the parents get “used to the smell” of the old man and the chicken coop, the child enter the coop to play. Marquez connects the two characters when “they both came down with the chicken pox at the same time.” Through this interaction, the doctor enters and concludes that the old man is as human as can be, plus the existence of wings.

Why am I connecting all of this? It’s a little bit jumbled, but (connecting back to my response to Jessica) the physical humanness of the old man is revealed when he and the little boy both become sick. “A Tale for Children” can be read in many different ways, and trying to connect my initial thoughts with your blog post, I think we are both onto something. The adults in the story are immature but lacking the compassion that children have-they’ve lost is somewhere in the grotesque, cut-off world they live in. The subtitle of this story is satirical (and a bit sassy) and brings the reader’s attention to the absence of compassion these adults have; children being read or told this poem, because your point about how this story is fantastic as an oral one, would pick up on the clear mistreatment of the old man by the adults and understand that fair treatment is important.

Response to JayyyKayyy: A Tale for Children

"A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings: A Tale for Children" is one of the best titles I've heard in a while. And it perfectly ties into the two main points you focused on in your post, which is always convenient! This is the only piece I've read by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, but from his writing style it seems that "A Tale for Children" is both satirical and purposeful. You mentioned the golden rule of "treat others the way you want to be treated" and I agree that this story presents that rule in an unusual way. 

For starters, there aren't any children mentioned in the story but the baby boy that is hardly mentioned, which feels significant to me. When you boil it down, all of the adults are attempting to use the old man for their own personal gain: Elisenda and Pelayo exploit the old man's presence to make a profit, the Priest tries to interpret the old man as an angel to reinforce religious beliefs, and the sick of the town physical grab the feathers off of the old man and try to cure their strange ailments. Another point you mentioned is that everyone identifies the old man as an angel. One quote you highlighted is "he reminded them that the devil had the bad habit of making use of carnival tricks in order to confuse the unwary," and this fear of the unknown that Marquez is exploring explains why the townspeople understand the old man to be an angel. 

Everything about the old man is human except for his wings, for the doctor towards the end notices that the old man's wings "seemed so natural on that completely human organism that he couldn't understand why other men didn't have them too." If he is so human-like, why must everyone see him as an angel? The answer lies in the quote about the "carnival tricks" that "confuse the unwary." When presented with something unusual or just outside of our understanding, many of us react in unfavorable ways. Some of the actions that the townspeople and Elisenda take towards the old man are atrocious, but when viewing them through the lens this quote creates, they are not that shocking.

Drawing the two points together, I think Marquez is depicting how cruel humanity can be towards the unknown and how when we identify something as familiar in order to simply name it, we create expectations for it. And just like in the story, when these false expectations are not met, we have the tendency to act with cruelty rather than kindness. To answer your question, the old man is not an angel, but because we have a need to name things to understand them, he is an angel to those in the town. "A Tale for Children" is an appropriate name for the story, because it's less about teaching children a lesson and more about observing a part of humanity that these adults are exhibiting.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Response to JayyKayy's AVOMWEW: Tales and Fables for Children

I'm glad you asked why this is considered a tale for children, Jessica,  and though I can't provide you with an unequivocal answer, maybe by working through my process I can come up with a pretty good theory.

The first thing I'm drawn to with this text, as with any other, is the tone and diction of the writer. I love Marquez's imagery, and the way he uses in medias res in this story. I mean, what better first line is there than "[o]n the third day of rain they had killed so many crabs inside the house that Pelayo had to cross his drenched courtyard and throw them into the sea..."? That first paragraph is filled with imagery, but it's not exactly the pretty kind. Pelayo, Elisenda, and the other villagers live in an ugly gray squalor, a type of poverty which seems stuck in time. There is basically no mention of any sort of technology or industrialized product until Pelayo and Elisenda become rich, and even then it's the country provincial sort. As we touched on in class, this feels strangely like a fairy tale, and I tend to think of fairy tales as inhabited by children: Hansel and Gretel, arguably Cinderella, etc. You mentioned, Jessica, that you thought Marquez's tone was sarcastic, and I can't say I'd use that strong a term--maybe more of a satirical ridiculousness--but you're definitely right that he doesn't shrink from the weird, grotesque, and odd. More likely he delighted in it.

Getting back to the text, when I first read this, I found myself reading it aloud. As I said, it's definitely strange but it's a beautiful sort of strange that's fun to say aloud. And now that I think about it, I see this story as one which would be passed down through oral tradition, in front of the village children. I can't see kids understanding it any more than you can, but even if they didn't understand it, it doesn't mean they wouldn't enjoy hearing it, imagining it. I mean, how many things did we read or see as a kid, and now experience as an adult in a completely different way? For example, has anyone noticed all the double entendres and innuendos in Shrek? But I digress.

In a sense too, I think the townspeople are childlike. Their responses to the old man with wings are both classically human and childlike: they look on him first with fear and apprehension, then attempt to put him into a category that they are familiar with (hence the angel thing) with limited success, and when that fails, they resort to fear and abuse again. Take this quote for example: "They looked at him [the angel] so long and so closely that Pelayo and Elisenda very soon over came their surprise and in the end found him familiar"--but this is very soon changed after the man speaks unintelligibly to them, and the neighborhood lady "shows them their mistake." One need only spend a day in a middle school to see this phenomenon at work: children who are perceived as different are found threatening in some way to the others, and they respond with abuse to make themselves feel better. It's precisely what the townspeople do, so in some ways, perhaps their development, they're still children. Ostensibly, they've probably never left their village, where they live in waterlogged shacks, or had a good education--hell, it's clear from Elisenda's baby's fever that they can't afford a doctor.

So, in conclusion, maybe when Marquez says "a Tale for Children," he means those people who remain at a level of understanding the same as the townspeople, who need a fable/tale like this to bring forth some inner growth. But I don't think he's being derisive, either: this is a gently-teaching fable designed to encourage people to accept those who are perceived as different from themselves while reading something fun. Just as it doesn't actually matter whether or not the old man is an angel or a freakish old man with buzzard wings when it comes to him flying away in that perfect end scene, our categorization of others doesn't really matter--we just need to treat them compassionately and equally, and not allow ourselves to trip over our fears as the townspeople do.

Response to Skylar's post: Happy Ending of My Life

Before I start to read a certain story, fist I ALWAYS check the title. Thinking about a title before reading might be expected from most people, but not a lot of people do that. Especially, if those are assignments, most students might focus on “finishing” their homework. Happy Ending by Margaret Atwood drags my attention even from the title.  

Happy Ending?

Then, will that story be a happy ending?
I start to read this story focus on the word happy.

The story starts like this: if I want to read a happy story, should try A. However, A is not an ideal future that we might have dreamed. John and Mary have “stimulating and challenging” jobs, sex life and hobbies. But, it seems to be boring and simple. At the same time, we all know this future is hard to get.

Then, what is happy? How can I be happy?

Except A, John and Mary cannot be together happily: “Everything continues as in A, but under different names.” Atwood intentionally dehumanized characters’ lives. All stories somehow are concluded to A as if a fairy tale ends they lived happily ever after. While I was reading the story, I cannot but think about myself. I identified other dehumanized characters and myself to think about this happy ending. Our life is same. We are born and we will die at some point like John and Mary do. Also, Fred is going to die for heart disease, and Madge might die for cancer. Some people might pass away with other diseases. Yes, it sounds bitter.
If Atwood ends her story at this point, I might be depressed forever. However, Atwood asks "now try How and Why" at the end of F to readers and give a chance to think about how to get over this boring life. This interesting format also represents different and various worlds that people live.

I want to tell this story to Korean high school students who do not decide what they really want to do. Koreans' passion for their children's education is excessive. People, who believe their futures will be decided depending on which college you go, lock their children up into the prison (so-called school) to make them enter a certain college (those people are called this process as “study”). When I was in high school, I had to stay there from 7am until midnight. School systems in America and Korea are very different. Most students go to college even though they do not know what they want to do. Also, because it is very hard to change their majors in college, most students just keep doing what they currently do. But, most of them do not even think that they can change it because they grow up like that way. I do not want to say this system is just bad. Of course, it has a good side, too. However, this is the thing. Most students do not know what they want to do. And they will meet common spouses to marry and have two children to become another John and Mary. Moreover, they will pretend they are happy.
Or they really believe that is happy.

How did I read Happy Ending?
Why did I read it that way?
What does that say about me?

I would say this was a great chance to think about myself. I chose to become an English major student in the American college. I am not hundred percent sure what I will be in the future. But, I can tell you that I do not regret what I am doing right now (even though sometimes it is hard to understand some words in the class).

If I keep considering about how to be happy of my life, maybe 10 years later, I can be a protagonist of my happy ending story.

Friday, September 19, 2014

A Very Old Man With Enormous: A Tale For Children

To start this conversation I am going to question why this is considered "a tale for children". I feel like this was overlooked the first time that read/looked at this. I am twenty one years old and this story confused me, how is a child supposed to understand this story. Thinking back to when I was a child I would have read the first two lines and been confused and gave up. So this makes me think that saying it's a child's tale has a tiny bit of sarcasm behind it, but hey that's just me. Somehow I feel like you can relate this to the golden rule we were all taught in school when we were younger, "treat others the way you want to be treated". They mocked and laughed at the poor old man/angel and then wanted him to work miracles for them. So when the old man didn't work the wonders that they were expecting they got pissed off. It was almost as if he were teasing them back. For example " Besides, the few miracles attributed to the angel showed a certain mental disorder, like the blind man who didn't recover his sight but grew three new teeth or the paralytic who didn't get to walk but almost won the lottery, and the leper whose sores sprouted sunflowers." These were very sarcastic remedies, like they almost got a miracle "but nah". The elder man gave them a taste of what he could do, but he was treated so badly that he didn't care to actual help.

Also what attributes make him an angel? The fact that he has wings? There are other characters within the story whom also have strange extremities. It never says that he actually has the wings of an angel. They are actually described as buzzard wings that have seen better days. If he were to be an angel I feel that his wings would be majestic and beautiful and could with stand a little weather. Then at the end of the story when he is secretly growing his wings back they are described as "the feathers of a scarecrow" again, not very majestic. Yet they keep referring to him as an angel. In a way it shows the fear of the unknown. They weren't sure what he was so they wanted to assume he was something nice and helpful rather than assuming he was evil and sent by the devil. Which they are even warned of that could be an option. "He reminded them that the devil had a bad habit of making use of carnival tricks in order to confuse the unwary." Why wasn't this considered an option, instead of automatically assuming it was an angel. Were they just afraid? I just don't think they wanted to know what he was. Assuming good over evil is always easier.

In the end he makes the family very rich and gets them out of the rundown home that they had. Do you think that this was an act of god? And that the man really was an angel and just had a funny way of showing it? Or do you think it was just a very old man with wings? (Yes I know we touched on this in class but the topic caught my attention).

Happy Endings?

Happy Endings by Margaret Atwood really spoke to me. It's kind of morbid and existential when taken as an actual story rather than a story about plots, and as a super senior in college about to go out into the real world and create my own "happy ending" it reaches out to me on a reader response level. Not to mention, it's short and in a bullet format making it very easy to read.

As an English major, reader response is the technique I initially use in a first reading of a piece. Emotion and connections to oneself are one of the strongest aspects of literature to me. If a piece of literature can make you think about your life and the world with the words on the page it has done its job. You may miss the allusions, the literary devices, the references in a piece of literature, but if it makes you feel something those things don't matter. The first read of Happy Endings I did was sitting alone at the end of the bar in an empty pub. Maybe that's why reader response was the technique I applied first- it's the natural response and analysis.

It wasn't until the end of section F that I realized Atwood had been talking about plots all along. Even when Atwood said that, I still took the story as a commentary on life, not a commentary on stories. The only true ending is that John and Mary die. You live, and then you die. There is a beginning and an end. The plot, the things in between life and death are what matter. But those things happen. Birth. Event. Event. Event. Death. That is going to be the same for every person in this world. But Atwood is correct- the how and the way are important and they are what makes every individuals life different. B and C are great examples. Motivation, reasoning and how things are done is what makes you and I different. The plots of various lives may be the same, but the how and the why very rarely are. John and Mary are gonna die. But what they do in between, and how and why they do it- now that is what really matters.

How did you read the story?
Why did you read it that way?
What does that say about you?
You were born. Some day you're gonna die. Don't pick A. A is boring. You can still have your happy ending, but but ya gotta live in between. What is going to be the how and why to the plot of your life?

Thursday, September 18, 2014

A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings

What struck me most about this story was the multitude of people that came to visit the old man under the assumption that he was an angel. As soon as people heard that an angel had been discovered in a random sea-side town they began pilgrimages from nearly everywhere to see him. What intrigued me was that these people believed in the man’s supernatural origins with little to no reason why, but then quickly abandoned their fervor at just about the same pace. Once they heard that the man had wings, they assumed he was an angel.
 So, I guess the question I asked myself was what allows us to distinguish between the divine and the unusual? I think in the case of this story it is very difficult to tell. Once the old woman determines that the man is an angel it becomes common knowledge. However, the priest continues to look for tangible evidence. He needs the old man’s authenticity as an angel to be verified by the church. This is at odds with what the church teaches. Believing in God means believing in something intangible and unverifiable, however, the priest is the first person to doubt the old man’s credibility. The priest remains unable to identify the old man as an angel before the crowds of people abandon him in search of the next source of wonder.
Garcia-Marquez seems to be implying that people follow religion because of the sense of wonder that it can make them feel, but the clergyman in the story appears to lack this element. This again leaves me wondering what makes something worth believing in. I think the crowd of people in the story made it clear that the sense of wonder associated with religion is what makes something worth believing in. However, I think that this sensation can be accompanied by the tangible and real, as in the case of the old man and the spider woman, making it more impactful to an audience. People are constantly looking for something other than themselves to pin their hopes on and I think that is what is happening in this story.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Response to Kelsey's post

I couldn’t agree more that Chretien is being extremely sarcastic. The more I read, the more obvious it started to appear. In the beginning I was unsure about the story and thought it was a bit ridiculous, however as I continued I started to piece together his motives.

What I found to be Chretien’s most sarcastic moment was at the very end of the story when Erec becomes King and he receives the cloak. Like we said in class, receiving the cloak was a huge award as it stood for the knowledge of music, astronomy, geometry, and arithmetic. Bestowing this cloak to Erec seems in itself absurd, for the entire story elaborates on his lack of knowledge and wisdom, and his stubbornness. Though he completes this journey and defeats this evil part within himself, this internal struggle, I don't see his character making progress.

Chretien could potentially be using this story to make a mockery out of the entire time period and even the elements of the genre. Erec’s knightly quest, and his love for Enide I think are all so richly built behind sarcasm.

Response to Monica's posting: Why does Chretien introduce the new couple in the story?

Among many questions that Monica wants to discuss, I will focus on why Chretien adds Mabonagrain and “Nega” Enide couple in this specific scene. 
 Joy of the Court is the place to help that Erec can be a “true” Hero. Earlier Erec was not only a sarcastic character who does not prepare armor and sword to protect ladies, but also obsess with this stupid chivalry. Even though Erec refers himself as a “great” knight, he is hypocritical character who is yelled at his poor wife, Enide. This two-faced Erec go to the adventure with Enide to become a “true” hero of this story. BUT, Enide becomes his mentor and helps him excessively. Even though Erec requests her that “if she sees anything she should not be so bold as to speak to him about it,” but Enide still helps him secretly (48). Once, he almost dies, Enide throws herself to save her husband. 

Erec and Enide are both protagonists of this story. Two people will be prepared to become a good king and queen through this journey. As all public’s misunderstanding, Erec became a dead man. While he is “dead,” Enide passes her ordeals alone. Even if she thinks her husband is dead, she still shows her true love and wisdom to the Count. Because of this process, she becomes a new Enide and proves her love to Erec (and Erec FINALLY realizes her love……). But, what about Erec? He is not ready to be a king YET! Therefore, Chretien introduces another sequence to prove readers that Erec would be able to have enough qualifications.
 Erec grabs a triumph the fight with Mabonagrain by himself, and it brings “joy” to most people (except one lady). I want to interpret this part as Chretien’s romantic side. The lady “cannot help smiling” because of Enide (84). When I first read this part, I was so confused that why this lady suddenly showed up to become a cousin of Enide. And why does Chretein intentionally add this part in the middle of the story? Actually, this scene is very important to Enide, and it is the last gateway to become a true queen. Enide redeems Erec’s defect. She becomes a wise and beautiful woman who complements what Erec does not have. They can be perfect when they are together.
  As Monica mentioned earlier, this new Mabonagrain and “Nega” Enide couple shows Erec and Enide’s drastic and negative future. However, also this couple trains Erec and Enide to become a perfect king and queen as their mentors.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

The Dual Prospective- Erec and Enide + "The Joy of the Court" Knight and Enide's Cousin

In class we talk a little about the other couple in the "Joy of the Court" sequence. These two characters, while having a few moments within the story have an interesting role. Their presence within the story I believe is set to drive home Chretain's moral within the story, being both; the importance of balancing ones courtly life and the power of knowledge. I shall refer to the woman in this couple as Nega- Enide during this post.

We can all agreeed that Mabonagrain can be seen as a direct correlation to Eric, for their similarities in manners (his inability to listen, hot headed-ness, sense of loyalty to his lady, etc) and common origin of being part of the nobility.
Enide and Nega-Enide are also very similar in their beauty and passionate love for their men, primarily being showing in risking themselves and others in order to ensure their lovers affection.

So why did Cartien even have them come into the picture?

When looking at these couples we finds their differences speak more than their similarities. Up until there are multiple what if's going through the characters (primarily Enide's) and the readers minds. "What if Enide hadn't said anything that night?" "Would they have continued to stay in bed?" "How will others react to this?" "What if Enide had handled the situation different?"
But then we have "the Joy the Court" and all these questions are answered.

Chretien shows us what would have become of the lovers if they can continued on the path they where on. This path is shown as negative and one of the worst options. The position of the couple, being almost entombed inside the round building suggests a detachment from the world and the isolation that their love has created. Their own lack of distance from each other, Nega-Enide sitting on the couch while Mabonagrain is close by creates the feeling of bondaged that we see lacking in the beginning of Erec and Enides own journey. Thus begins the dual prospective of the two couples and how their paths have lead them to positive and negative outcomes.

One of my questions is how can we see the differences in the couples relate to the proverb in the beginning? How does this dual couple add to the story as a whole? How are we to view Nega- Enide’s action? What are other comparisons that can be drawn between the two couples that show one as negative and the other positive? And finally how does knowledge (or lack there of) come into play with the other couples story?

Friday, September 5, 2014

Women in Erec and Enide

In class we agreed that Enide is a wise, loyal, and loving person while Erec is more pompous than anything. Erec and Enide showcases Enide worthiness and utter goodness which are so great that her name is even included in the title. Enide is a complement to Erec, filling in what he's lacking, such as intelligence.  One of my favorite aspects in this story are the descriptions of Erec and Enide. With great sarcasm Chretien de Troyes writes "What shall I say of [Erec's] virtues?" which is followed by a description of what he was wearing, rather than any virtues. (3). Where as with Endie he writes "What shall I say of her beauty?" followed by a thoroughly detailed description of Endie's beauty (7).
Enide is first described by her brilliant looks, "the maid was charming, in sooth, for Nature had used all her skill in forming her. Nature herself had marveled more than five hundred times how upon this one occasion she had succeeded in creating such a perfect thing. Never again could she so strive successful to reproduce her pattern" (7). Though it was her beauty that made Erec take interest in her, Enid is so much more than just her amazing looks. Enide is not a shallow or fragile women, she's shown as being extremely capable.

For Erec, it's as if Enide is mostly a pretty maiden for him to look at, he doesn't even learn her name until they are getting married! It's as if she is given a full sense of identity once she is married. However, the story does not end with Erec and Enid's wedding, we roll right into the adventure of marriage. Enide is a wonderful wife to Erec, she is familiar with traditional feminine duties, has refined manners, is able to take on physical work, and voices her concern. She demands to keep watch at night while Erec sleeps and demonstrates her cunning when she tricks Gaolin and saves Erec from death. Even with all of Enide's strong characteristics, she never stops being a sweet, loving, refined wife.

In the later half of the story we see Mabonagrain and his mistress who function as parallels of Erec and Enide's relationship. Whereas Mabonagrain is enslaved by his mistress's love, Erec is empowered by Enide's. This mistress acts just for her own satisfaction, but Enide focuses on Erec's well being. The author is making a big statement in leaving Mabonagrain's lady unnamed. She is shown as being uncaring that her lover is miserable and an outcast from society, causing her emptiness and self-absorption to rob her of her own identity.

Do you think that Chretien de Troyes is being a pro-feminist through having such a strong female character. Did the author seem at all misogynistic for his portrayal of women, such as those who aren't given full identities such as Mabonagrain's mistress?

What IS in a name? Or better yet, where is it?

Shakespeare's Juliet once asked "what's in a name?" and I can say that for the majority of medieval (and Renaissance) poets, the answer would be: everything. Names often encapsulate a character's personality or defining quality, or possibly even his/her function in the story.

So what does this have to do with Erec and Enide, you ask? Quite a lot, I imagine. After all, how many times have you ever heard the name "Enide" in literature? I don't know about you, but I can't imagine that Chrétien just picked them out of a hat, so it occurred to me to find out what they mean.

According to several hopefully-reputable sites *cough* Erec's name comes from (you guessed it) a Scandinavian origin, and means "ever ruler." More interestingly, though, Enide's name comes from the Welsh, and means either "soul" or "life."

I don't know about you guys, but I find Enide a much more interesting and compelling character than Erec, and after we all pointed out the oddity of Enide's name not showing up until nearly the end of the story, I've been pondering it nonstop ever since. Why withhold her name? In a sense, there's no point in it--medieval manuscripts would have included the title of the work at the top, the same as we would do, so any reader with a smattering of brains could figure out which woman is Enide, at least by process of elimination.

One of the possibilities I thought of had to do with an independent study I did last semester. I studied a gigantic piece of Renaissance allegorical poetry known as the Faerie Queene by Edmund Spenser. Throughout the chunks of it I read, Spenser often did this interesting thing where he would only give the name of the character once he'd finished the "portrait" of the character, so often you wouldn't know a character's name until the end of their scene in the book, if not later. In the same way, I think it's possible Chrétien wanted to hold out on Enide's name until her portrait was done--meaning, once she'd matured and changed, and the reader had a chance to get a real feel for her character. Maybe, too, he didn't feel that she fully embodied her name until that point, whereas Erec always displays the pomposity/imperiousness that fully suits the meaning of his name.

So, in essence, my question is (drumroll please): why does Chrétien/the narrator choose to reveal Enide's name when he does? I know this question seems a little frivolous and perhaps slightly unimportant, but I think it's these small details that can really reveal a lot. Plus I'm just curious, so speculate (intelligently) away.

It's either very obvious or goes right over your head..

The first thing I want to discuss with you guys are the signs that Chretien is being extremely sarcastic. Initially, I read the entire piece not realizing his motives and so I missed a lot of really important points. However, skimming the piece a second time, there are specific points that made it pretty obvious.

One of these is displayed at the very beginning on page 38. In a fit of fury and indignation, Erec whisks his wife off on an adventure, refusing any soldiers or aid just to prove his manliness. However, it soon becomes clear that neither of these two know where they're going. "Erec starts, and leads his wife he knows not whither, as chance dictates." If we didn't understand that Erec was sort of simple-minded to begin with, we definitely do now. He conveys the image of an eight year old who stomps off the playground in anger after being teased without paying attention to where he's going.

Another example of Chretien's sarcasm and possibly his criticism of the chivalric code is shown in the scene when Erec and Enide encounter robbers and highwaymen. The funny thing about this is that the robbers seem to have their own code of chivalry, as ridiculous as that sounds. "They give him leave and he rides off, crouching well beneath his shield, while the other two remain aloof. In those days it was the custom and practice that in an attack two knights should not join against one; thus if they too had assailed him, it would seem that they had acted treacherously." In other words, it's alright to rob someone, but two against one just isn't fair so that's a no no. I mentioned in class that this story reminds me of Don Quixote and I think is a good example as to why: it's not just one or two people who seem insane, nearly every character is ridiculous in their own ways.

Can you think of any more obvious signs of Chretien's mockery and sarcasm throughout the story? What do you think he's trying to say through these specific scenes of ridiculous action?