Monday, March 31, 2008

Capital Punishment

The movie we viewed last week in class involved a lot of themes such irony, karma, just cause, etc. However the main point of the story involved the question of whether or not capital punishment is a just punishment or not. Viewing the movie it is evident that the police officials didn't consider this, however the lawyer did. The themes, irony and karma, stand out in the movie. I will begin with the irony; in the movie the man that is arrested and sentenced to death, a death that will occur by being hung by rope. This is ironic because this man killed the taxi driver by choking him to death with a rope. This also implies karma; if the taxi driver had not been so cruel to possible passengers he could have had another citizen in his car that did have intent of killing him. There is also karma with the man that was hung, because his cause of death was by the object of which he caused death.

A Short Film About Killing

The movie that we watched in class on Friday seemed to get everyone into a quiet yet sad state of mind not usual for a Friday afternoon. It was a very deep movie that followed the murder of a taxi cab driver by a young man that has had a hard life. The movie was artistically portrayed that you felt more sympathy for the murderer than you do for the one killed, which the director probably wanted since it seemed that his argument is against capital punishment.

The movie portrays the taxi cab driver in many instances, to put it bluntly, a bastard. He doesn't do his job well and goes out of his way to make people miserable. This is what makes people not feel much sympathy towards him when he was killed. He was a mean person that didn't contribute much to society, even though he does mention he has a wife. The question is, did he deserve to die? Of course he didn't.

On the other hand the murderer throughout the entire movie looks like an innocent young man that would never hurt a fly. He cares about his family, is somewhat talkative with strangers, and even plays around with two little girls who are watching him eat in a cafe. Although the viewers somewhat know in the back of their minds what will eventually commence, they don't view him as a murderer until he actually is in the vicious act of killing the taxi cab driver. He eventually is sentenced to death, and the movie ends with him being executed. Once again, the question is, does he deserve to die?

This question is harder to answer and will have many different opinions. We often tend not to think of murderers as human beings, and honestly it is hard to do so once we hear of the heinous crimes they commit. However, the director, gets us to feel bad for the murderer, because we see him cry, we see his love for his sister, we see all the struggles that he has faced. The director used a powerful tool in arguing against the death penalty tugging at our hearts and gaining our sympathy for the man we should be despising. However we must not forget that he did what he did, and no matter how sympathetic something seems, murder is still murder. The director makes a good argument against the death penalty, one of the best that I have seen. However, the man is still a killer.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Lu Xun

When Lu Xun mentions people's reluctance to "take that one little step", he is referring to their inability to return to a normal state of mind because they are afraid of being 'eaten' by others. This is significant because it shows how easily paranoid and influenced people can become. It is clear that Lu Xun wants people to disregard "that way of thinking" and come to realize that not everyone is out to get you. He emphasizes this point in Section 9 but also notes that people prevent this change from happening by collectively holding each other back through actions and words.
In Section 10 of Diary of a Madman, Elder Brother upsets the madman because he is unable to prevent the cannibals from wanting to eat him. Here, Elder Brother claims that creating change among the cannibals is virtually impossible because they fail (and refuse) to look back and analyze the problems they face. By explaining cannibalism in this way, Lu Xun shows that cannibalism is a peculiar practice that is unable to change and evolve despite being influenced by outside factors. In section 8, the madman inquires if "this business of eating people [is] right". This question is quite significant because of the response it provoked from the cannibal it was directed towards. The cannibal reacts by trying to change the subject of conversation and directly avoid answering the madman's question. It became clear from his response that the cannibal knew he was in the wrong for his actions, but was unable to accept responsibility for them and act accordingly.

A Short Film about Killing

In this film by Kieslowski, capital punishment and right vs. wrong are two major themes. capitol punishment is questioned if its justified or not. The taxi driver could have picked up any of those customers he rejected, and he would have never picked up his murderer instead. its ironic that the guy was killed with rope and then the murderer was also killed by a rope (a hanging). It questions the justification of capital punishment. Is killing a person because they killed some one else...justice? is it humane in any way? I believe you are still committing murder yourself when you are killing a murderer under the supposed umbrella of capital punishment and "justice." As for right & wrong, the film questions whether a crime is justified or deserved, like when a murderer deserves death because of his deed...or the taxi driver deserves death because he is a 'bad' person.

Capitol Punishment

The first thing that rang ironic to me was the way both individuals dies, which was by strangulation with a rope. One discussion point that pops in my head about the manner in which they perform it is that, are both way unjustly? I know that he commited a murder that was ruthless and seemed as if he had no remorse for what he did. Does that make the fact that he received the death sentence and got hung, right?
I believe that the death sentence served it's purpose in the "playout" of the movie, and also serves it's purpose in today's lifetime.
I was a little confused in the movie when they kept going from scene to scene during the entirety of the movie. One scene would be a meeting with gentlemen sitting at a round table and then it would switch back to the scenes with the 20 year old man, who eventually commited a horrible crime. The movie also makes me think about karma. Throughout the entire movie the taxi cab driver who eventually gets killed was avoiding and being rude to potential customers. I believe that if he picked up just one of those customers, the customers would have led him possibly to the other side of town, way out of the path of the murderer. Due to his bad actions, I believe that karma caught back up with him, which enforces my belief as, "treat others as you would like to be treated."

Capital Punishment: Just or Unjust?

The film, "A Short film about Killing" by Krzysztof Kieslowski challenges the issue of capital punishment everywhere. Throughout the film we become personally connected with the killer Jacek and the taxi driver who is later murdered. The entire film we are lead to believe none of this. We could have suspected that the taxi driver was going to kill someone and that Jacek was going to be the one getting murdered. By the end of the film it really does not matter because both are dead. The point I'm getting at is not one of capital punishment, but of what is right and wrong. I think Kieslowski gets this point across diligently. The scene exemplifying this comes to us in the jail cell moments before Jacek's execution. Jacek who obviously loved his sister very much hints to the lawyer that he was at fault for her death. This is very troubling for us as an audience. We become attached in a way to Jacek and almost forget about what terrible crime he has committed. This allows us to forgive him for we realize he too has feelings and a life. Life is very precious and at that moment our emotions collide with what is right and wrong. We then realize at that moment how absurd the death penalty really is.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Animals in the Madman

The animal imagery is used in the section 1, “how do you explain those dirty looks the Zhao family’s dog gave me?” I think this usage reflect paranoia because normally people do not take the looks given by the animal personally. Section 1 refers to only dog. Later, Xun alludes to animals like lion, fox, rabbit, chicken, duck, and fish.

Wolf Cub village was suffering from famine. Most of the villagers are farmers and some are clerks. Some of them are cannibals. There seems to be a connection between the name of the village and people residing in the village. Xun mentions that throughout the ancient times in Wolf Cub, people have often been eaten. There is a reference to the humans in the village, “all of it began to stare at me with hideous eyes, began to snarl and growl at me from behind bared teeth!” The description given to the people resemble a wolf.

Further in section 4, they refer to the wide open mouth of fish as the mouth of the cannibals that are hungry for human flesh. In the rest of section 4 and section 5, there is no direct reference to an animal, but people are referred to as blood hungry animals in a cannibalistic manner with words such as flesh.

Section 5 ends with “his mind was filled with plans for further cannibalism.” In section 6, Xun refers to the Zhao family’s dog as “savage as a lion, timid as a rabbit, crafty as a fox…” I think the combination of three properties of the animal resembles a Wolf. This makes sense because the name of the village is Wolf Cub, but still they refer to the animal as dog. I believe that the author is trying to compare a regular man acting as a cannibal with a dog acting as a wolf.

Lu Xun: Study Question 2

I'd like to point out an interesting aspect of the diary. There are many places in the diary where references to animals are made. For example, in Section 3 the name of the village suffering from a famine is Wolf Club Village. Coincidentally, the villagers ganged up on the "bad" man suspicously like a pack of wolves. The Wolf Club Village in mentioned again in Section 5 when the tenant farmer came into the town from the village, talking about eating a man's heart and liver. Again, in Section 6: Savage as a lion, timid as a rabbit, crafty as a fox, speaking of the Zhao's family dog. In fact, as the story goes on, their are more and more references to animals.

The reference to the dog in Section 6 in a way serves as an epigram to the meaning of the whole story; savage as a lion, timid as a rabbit, crafty as fox. This is the way that the madman perceives his brother along with all of the other people in the town. I think that this was Lu Xun's way of expressing his opinion about pre-revolutionary China. All of these animal references were made from him considering his people like flesh-hungry wolves, in my opinion. He used these animal references along with the cannibalistic aspects to show the effect on the minds of Chinese people at a certain time in their history. Look how crazy it drove the madman to be.


I thought it was interesting in Krzysztof Kieslowski's short film called "Thou shall not murder" that the two kill scenes were nearly identical. Both were acts of strangulation via rope; however, one murder was the crime, and the other murder was the punishment. Jacek (the criminal) committed a premeditated murder on the taxi driver. He was convicted of the crime and sentenced to death by hanging. His crime was very violent, but his execution was equally as violent. After the men struggled to drag him into the room where he would be hung, they violently shouted and tightened the noose around his neck. A man with a crazed look in his eye was furiously cranking the wheel to raise the rope. It was like they were hunting, and it was just as premeditated as the crime committed. They spent a lot of time to make sure that the room was perfect for his execution so that it could be as violent as possible. Both acts of violence were significant, because in the beginning of the film the young lawyer said that people would rather punish the criminal than prevent the crime. He clearly felt that capital punishment did not work. Nonetheless, the film was shocking on how capital punishment worked back then.

Lu Xun Study Question #11

The people are reluctant to take that one little step, because they fear being eaten by the others. The symbolic meaning of that little step is a return to humanity. If they would abandon there paranoid thoughts, they may return to normal. Lu Xun wishes that the people would return to their normal behaviors. For example, he said in section 9, "But all they'd have to do is give up that way of thinking, and then they could travel about, work, eat, and sleep in perfect security." Essentially, they prevent each other from being normal.
In section 10, the madman gets upset at the Elder Brother, because he failed to prevent the cannibals from wanting to eat the madman. The Elder Brother also joined the cannibals. The Elder Brother claimed that the cannibals cannot evolve, much like the lizards that the madman mentions. Also, he said that a tenants rent could not be reduced. He explains cannibalism as an early human that failed to evolve into "real humans." In section 8, the madman asks one of the cannibals if eating people was right. I thought this was significant, because the cannibal was unable to answer the question. His efforts to dodge the question made me believe that he knew it was not right. Also, his inability to answer the question suggests that these cannibals are still human, because he seemed upset by the madman. He was very defensive and seemed to be in denial. It was as if he was trying to escape how he had been acting.

The sane "madman"

In Lu Xun’s story Diary of a Madman, the “madman” plays a very controversial role. The issue I was addressed with is whether or not the madman truly is insane. Personally, I do not think he is. I came to this conclusion by comparing some of the background information on the writer with some of the details he places in his stories. Looking at his background I found at that, even at a young age, he was very against the demands of his culture. He also says how ironic his life seemed to be and that he enjoys incorporating irony into his stories. Sanity is defined as a legal term denotes that an individual is of sound mind and therefore can bear legal responsibility for his or her actions. So in the case of the madman, I would say that he is sane. In the story it is apparent that he seems to isolate himself from others. In the very beginning of the story the madman says how he has not seen the moon in over thirty years. Then after all this time of separation, he places himself in an uncomfortable environment. In this encounter, he feels very paranoid and has a feeling that everyone is watching his every move. He then talks how the people are ready to strike against him. In the defense of the madman, I would say he is very sane. I think if anyone would isolate themselves for that long, that they would be in the same position as the so called “madman.”

A Short Film About Killing

There were two parts of this movie that really struck me. The first thing that I found interesting occurred when the young man who killed the taxi driver was talking with the public defendant right before the young man's execution. The young man mentioned about how everything in his life changed after his sister was killed by a drunk (tractor) driver. While he does not give many details, he mentions that this was the reason why he moved, and that if she had never died, things would be much different. In fact, he adds that he may not have killed the taxi driver. This part in the movie really reminded me of the saying that life is not so much what happens to you, but how you react to it. Although I'm sure that his sister's death was devastating, his decision to lash out at others ultimately leads to his own demise. The other thing that I thought was interesting was the way that the young lawyer says that punishment doesn't really deter criminals. The young murderer was a great case study for this. It seemed as though he thought nothing of the consequences of his actions until it was too late, at which point it no longer mattered. What he really could have benefited from would have been someone sitting down with him and talking about his unresolved grief.

Cannibalism in Families

In Lu Xun’s Diary of a Madman, Younger Sister dies when Elder Brother was in charge of the house. Not only does this raise suspicion in the madman’s paranoid state, it also raises concerns that the cannibals have no boundaries. Families are now consuming their own flesh and blood. For this reason, Younger Sister symbolizes how barbaric society can be. We have no concern over family ties.

How many times have you watched the news and seen someone has killed his own brother, or a mother killing her child? This is just the sort of thing the madman is thinking about when he suggests that Younger Sister was eaten. As he says, “If it’s alright to exchange children and eat them, then anyone can be exchanged, anyone can be eaten” (1925). Cannibalism knows no bounds. Families are free to devour one another, and strangers on the streets are allowed to consume other strangers on the streets. Lu Xun’s work highlights the chaos and bleakness in this world. If you just look around, you can observe that we do not live in a utopic society. There is crime and chaos all around, and there is nothing to save us from “cannibalism”.

Save the Children (Question 13)

The last entry into the Diary of a Madman is the shortest of all entries saying "Maybe there are some children around who still haven't eaten human flesh. Save the children.... This is a very pessimistic ending, the narrator is scared that the world is being corrupted by this group of cannibals and he worries about the next generation....for he fears that it is doomed. There are only two possible outcomes for these children. Either they become cannibals themselves or be eaten by them. The children themselves have no way out.

He is writing this diary for those who are still not cannibals, and those are the only ones who would be able to save the children. What he is calling for is for them to unite, and take a stand against these flesh eaters, figuratively speaking. He is calling for the children to be saved from the oppressive enemy that is killing off their existence in one of the worst possible ways imaginable.

In the Mind of a Madman

From the introduction we are lead to believe the author is not all there upstairs. By telling us he has changed all the names of his characters “despite the fact that their publication would be of no great consequence since they are all humble villagers unknown to the world at large” gives us the notion that maybe this man is paranoid (1921). Throughout the text the Madman views others with a sadistic tone. At one point he was walking down the street and “the meanest looking one of all spread his lips out wide and actually smiled at me!” (1921). His uncomfortable feeling around others is somewhat very concerning for the reading. I get the feeling that he brings this upon himself. At point he does not understand why the children have a grudge against him, and the “Zhao family dog gave [him] a funny look” (1925). His paranoia has led him to believe that not only the children are after him, but to go as far as to say that a dog is after you might be too much.
At one point he describes the physical appearance of “cannibals” in general. He states that “their faces seemed covered with cloth” and that they had “smiling green faces with protruding fangs” (1928). He seems to be over-exaggerating the human “cannibal”. It is interesting how metamorphosis’s these people. By giving them grotesque animalistic features he starts presenting a real feeling of paranoia; a feeling quite different from the beginning when all he did was feel uncomfortable. Something you can be strikingly more powerful than something you feel. Having actually saw the fangs and green smiles of these people really struck fear in the madman which in my opinion transcended his journey towards the state of being insane.
Towards the end of this work he thinks he has the “cannibals” figured out. He expresses over and over how they can change and it would make everything fine again. There is an underlying theme in that of the corruption of society, and in particular the children of society. It is interesting how he makes a comparison between the “real” humans and the “cannibals”. At one point he says the “cannibals” have courage, and that is interesting because he does too. But by saying he has a lot more courage than those who eat people he sort of undermines the fact. He tries not to think about the whole situation for I think he understands he is going crazy. He ends the work with a heroic line saying “maybe there are some children around who still haven’t eaten human flesh. Save the Children…” (1929).

Capitalism and Communism: Diary of a Madman

During our class discussion, we brought up the idea that this idea of cannibalism could be alluding to a sense of "cannibalism" associated with a capitalist society. THis

Diary of a Madman

In the first diary entry in Lu Xun’s “Diary of a Madman,” the madman references the moon. He writes, “Moonlight ‘s really nice tonight. Haven’t seen it in over thirty years. Seeing it today, I feel like a new man (Lu Xun).” In this passage the moon illuminates many things to the madman. He notices that the Zhao family’s dog is giving him “dirty looks (Lu Xun).” The moon seems to represent his madness, and seems to be present during his most paranoid thoughts. These references to the moon occur throughout the madman’s diary. In the second entry, he writes, “No moon at all tonight- something’s not quite right (Lu Xun).”
Under the moonlight, the madman is able to see the “dirty looks (Lu Xun)” that people (and dogs) give him. The moon (and often times the lack of the moon) seems to intensify the madman’s paranoia, and seems to exacerbate his thoughts of cannibalism. However, he enjoys the night, and is depressed by the day because he studies the night. He writes, “I can never sleep at night. You really have to study something before you can understand it (Lu Xun).” Indeed, in “Diary of a Madman,” the moon plays an important role in bringing out the madman’s paranoia and fear.

Dekalog Response

The short film provides an interesting view of the two opposite spectrums of the law with one character taking an examination to become an attorney and enforce the law, while the other character commits a murder. The film seems to point to the difference, or lack of difference, between murder and the death penalty. A quote at the beginning of movie says, "Law should not imitate nature, but rather improve it." As an advocate of the death penalty, this quote made me think, especially after watching the movie. Jacek brutally murdered a taxi driver by strangling, beating, and eventually bashing his head in with a stone. Though I absolutely do not advocate murder, an apparent question on my mind asked how executing a prisoner helped to improve nature? The fact is executing somebody does not improve nature it only extinguishes one bad person or one person's mistakes. From the eyes of the attorney, he must have been asking himself a similar question. He had gone to school and taken a strenuous exam to practice law, and the law that he supports kills people. While short, the film was quite provocative and stirs some emotions that could lead to an interesting debate about the death penalty. Perhaps this film is made to make us think what connotations are linked to murder, and what connotations are connected to law-based execution, because in the end do they not function the same way?

What Happened to the narrator? (Question #14)

When the narrator's brother claims that the narrator "went on to wait for an official appointment," it is a metaphor for the idea that the narrator has gone on to be convinced by officials (a.k.a. leaders who believe in the traditional ways) that the old ways of their society are the right way to live. While some may believe that the brother is telling a lye, which would still perpetuate the idea of "cannibalism," I believe the brother is telling, in a metaphorical sense, the truth. The narrator has been taken in to be healed of his "delirium" by those who impose the ways of tradition on society ("officials").

While it may not be obvious, there is a difference between being cured and being "eaten". If the narrator was eaten, this would mean that he was one living in the traditional ways of society (the "cannibalistic" society he dwells on and would be "devoured" by others in the society, for the idea is that the traditions of this culture cause people to metaphorically eat away at each other. Being cured means that the narrator does not believe in these traditions and is being taught to believe it is the right way to do things. To become apart of these traditions is to be "eaten", so either way the narrator would be "eaten."

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Medicine and Madness

The madman thinks the doctor, like everybody else in the country, is a cannibal who is merely checking how fattened the madman has became, rather than checking his pulse.

When we find out that Lu Xun originally went to school to be a doctor, and that he deeply distrusted traditional medicine practiced in China because of his father's death, we can see that the madman's distrust of the doctor is more significant than first realized. We can read the passages one of two ways: either the madman represents Xun and his refusal to believe in the traditional methods of the doctor, or the madman represents the Chinese population, refusing to believe that the doctor is acting in their best interest. All we really see of the doctor in the story is the pulse-check and advice (to paraphrase) for the madman to take it easy for a little while, which is something that would probably have been suggested in any time period. So, it is up to reader to decide which way to read the passages and, by extension, the story.

As to the question of whether or not a doctor can be and cannibal (and how), the answer is quite simple. Doctors are still humans, so it is entirely possible (if improbable) for a doctor to be a cannibal. All he or she would have to do is consume some flesh, just like everybody else.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Darwinism in "Diary of a Madman"

Lu Xun was influenced by the ideas of Charles Darwin and his theories on evolution. He applies these ideas of evolution in Diary of a Madman by incorporating themes centered around cannibalism and a its overall effect in returning society to primitive structures. Xun's novella focuses itself in the mind of a handicapped man and his struggle to discern reality from dream. Although Darwinism can definately be applied to the cannibalistic side of the story in the imagination of the main character, I don't believe "survival of the fittest" is relative outside of the author's imagination.
There is no doubt that the narrator of the story is mentally handicapped, and so when we analyze the story from his point of view, signs of Darwinism are definately present in the society that he has dreamed up. Cannibalism is a perfect example of a society that has gone awry, and as you could imagine "only the strong will survive." In his mind the narrator believes that his community has regressed into a primitive society that practices cannibalism, and unfortunately for him, he is deemed the next weakest person community - ultimately a death sentence.
However, when we look at this story from a literal sense and not strictly from the point of view the narrator presents, we realize that cannibalism is just an illusion. The narrator only convinces himself of this crazy idea because he is going mad himself. It is illogical to believe from a conscious state of mind, that any society would revert itself back into these primitive ways. Many of the examples the author gives for coming to a conclusion that everyone in his society have become cannibals are completely ridiculous when analyzed from a literal sense of mind; " do you explain those dirty looks the Zhao family's dog gave me? I've got good reason for my fears." Another sign of his madness is displayed by his reaction to the doctor that comes into the room to help him. The narrator completely convinces himself that this man too has become a cannibal, and is only there to make sure he is ripe to eat.
In conclusion, I believe theories of Darwinism are only relevant to this story depending on how you look at the text. If you simply follow what the narrator is saying without question, then there are definate signs of "survival of the fittest." However, if you look at it from a more literal sense of view, you will realize that this man has simply gone insane and is conflicted with a extreme case of paranoia.

What does the madman learn by reading history books? What does he find there? How does he interpret the words "benevolence, righteousness . . .?

In the story, Diary of a Madman, the narrator has this feeling that everyone around him is a cannibal. From this feeling the narrator is intrigued to find our more about the cannibalistic ways of the people. He begins leafing through history books; within the contents of the books he finds the history of the cannibals. The narrator says that there are no dates on the history, but scrawled across every pages were the words BENEVOLENCE, RIGHTEOUSNESS, and MORALITY.

At this point the narrator could not sleep and reading the history did not help him in falling asleep, so he continued to read the history. He read the text very carefully to make sure he understood everything clearly; as he continued to read he began to make out what was “written” in between the lines, it was the phrase: EAT PEOPLE! This reference does not really address the problems of Confucianism. The problems of Confucianism deal the their reluctance to employ laws. The only way this reference would relate is if China were forcing their citizens to believe everything they saw fit to believe otherwise there is no correlation between the two.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Question 5: What is the madman criticizing? Is this story about actual Cannibalism? etc…

I would have to agree with Chad and say that the madman is criticizing the way that Chinese people have run their country based on closed-minded tradition and that they are not open to change and new ideas. I think that strong evidence for this metaphoric reading of the text can be seen in all Xun’s allusions to classical Chinese texts. The reader is able to observe that the main character is being driven crazy, and he is able to support his craziness by constantly referencing texts that supposedly prove that cannibalism exists and is rampant in China. The classical texts serve as symbols of the oppressive tradition that exists in China. However, I believe that this story is much more than just a metaphor. When I read the text, it reminded me quite a bit of the Edgar Allen Poe stories that I have read. Xun does an excellent job of creating an eerie tale in which the delusional, paranoid protagonist is portrayed with vivid detail. Not only did Xun make an extended metaphor, but he also crafted an extremely entertaining, and probably profitable, short story.

People do many things that make them cannibalistic. While I realize that Xun metaphorically defined the oppressive Chinese traditions to be cannibalistic, I would describe cannibalism today in much more concrete terms. I would describe any profession that feeds off of or takes advantage of those in need as cannibalistic. For example, people who are lone sharks, pimps, and even those who run corporations that utilize slave labor could all be considered cannibalistic. Any human being who uses another human being for personal or material gain, rather than treating that human as a living person, should rightly be called a cannibal.

Monday, March 24, 2008

What is the madman criticizing? Is this story about actual cannibalism? What does cannibalism stand for?

The madman is criticizing tradition. He criticizes why the Chinese have always accepted this same isolationist tradition for thousands of years, and they never modernize and/or reach out to other countries. Xun is not really discussing 'cannibalism,' but criticizing the overpowering, burdensome isolationist tradition of China. It is cannibalistic in the sense that you are "eating" someone else by holding them back from thinking independently and avoiding any modern and/or foreign ideas.

Another way to think about it is if we are all cannibals in a way. Are we all open-minded to everyone else's ideas? The madman is obviously criticizing the obsolete tradition of China for suffocating him and the Chinese people by not allowing them to share ideas openly with other cultures. But in the same train of thought, the madman is being "cannibalistic" because he is all for openness and being closed-minded about China being an isolationistic society. Is there a true compromise of sharing all beliefs and being open to new ideas without being critical, condescending, and condemning of another opposing belief? I believe it is not possible, since many views oppose each other very stringently. There is no way to accept two opposing views without ever being bias toward one side. If someone says they are open, then really they probably are just indecisive and really have no stand on the subject any way.

Lu Xun Question: Is the madman really insane? Is he perhaps saner than those around him? What is sanity? What is madness? Who decides?

The title of this piece, Diary of a Madman, would have us believe that the narrator was indeed a madman. On the surface of the excerpt, one would certainly take the title to heart. The narrator talks of cannibalism, his elder brother eating his younger sister, and people eating other people for the sake of tradition. However, when taking a deeper look into the diary the question of insanity becomes much more difficult to answer. For instance, we must remember that the writer, Lu Xun, was a political activist who was pushing for change in Chinese culture. I think that Xun used such an extravagantly grotesque example of conformity to old Chinese cultures to send a message that change is needed. Cultural traditions are not necessarily bad, but they can turn into a tool for brainwashing, which is what Xun appears to be trying to point out. In section twelve, Xun talks of how he believes that his brother ate his younger sister, and that his mother knew about it, but accepted it because cannibalism was a part of Chinese culture. He then proceeds to say this,
“Who’s to say I didn’t eat a few pieces of my younger sister’s flesh without knowing it? And now it’s my turn…Although I wasn’t aware of it in the beginning, now that I know I’m someone with four thousand years’ experience of cannibalism behind me, how hard it is to look real human beings in the eye”
This quote is Xun’s entire argument. He is saying that if nobody changes the current traditions or cultural lifestyles, then everybody will continue to be engulfed in them, no matter if you realize or not. Xun recognizes that he is a product of his environment, and even though he does not conform to the traditions he is still associated with them. Therefore, in answering the question as to whether the narrator is really a madman, I would say, “No.” In fact, he is much saner than those around him because he has not been brainwashed into thinking that you should carry on a tradition “just because it’s always been that way.” Perhaps he is the only sane one, which leads to the second half of the question.

In this diary excerpt, sanity and madness are defined by the people of the village who are conforming to old tradition just because those traditions have been going on forever. Your country’s history is important, however, living in the past and rejecting change is ridiculous. The people described in this piece are cannibals because Chinese people were supposedly cannibals for thousands of years before them. The question of insanity and madness lies in the fact that these people cannot differentiate between positive traditions and inhumane, primitive, cult-like actions that deteriorate society. The inability to make one’s own decisions and allow oneself to be brainwashed by tradition is insane.
Finally, we must consider who decides what is to be labeled insane or mad. This is a difficult question. In the Diary of a Madman, we saw the cannibals label the narrator a madman for exposing them as cannibals. In that situation, we would consider the cannibals the ultimate deciders, which is not far from the truth. Groups of people have the power to develop and perpetuate their own beliefs. Though the belief in cannibalism is the popular belief in our reading, a belief does not have to be a bad thing. For example, a group could be spreading the belief in equality or world peace. If the equality believers and peace spreaders were the majority then they would also be the decision makers. We would consider their decision to be rational and for the betterment of people in general, so having them as the ultimate deciders would be beneficial. However, if the people spreading the belief are furthering hate, violence, or in this case cannibalism, then there is a big problem because they could become the deciders. Once a group like that is the majority society worsens with people becoming brainwashed for false and inhumane causes. Therefore, those who are the majority are labeled the “deciders” and have a significant influence on society, whether good or bad.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Tonight I Can Write...

Renowned for his love poems, “Tonight I Can Write…,” is a translation of one of Neruda’s more famous ones. The poem reflects helplessness that the poet feels after losing a loved one. The poem definitely carries a sad tone. The poem starts with the line, “Tonight I can write the saddest lines.” The poet repeats the line twice, in the first one-third portion of the poem. He knows that the relationship is over, but vents his emotions into a poem. The poet combines his strong themes such as nature and love. He creates silent background with use of word, “nights” repeatedly. Further, he builds an attachment to nature by use of words such as “the blue stars,” “night wind,” and “endless sky.”

It is indicative of his personality of having multiple wives that his love is superficial. He wrote, “How could one not have loved her great still eyes.” Further, he wrote “Her voice. Her bright body. Her infinite eyes.” In above lines, he refers to his lover’s physical features as a source of attraction. In “I loved her, and sometimes she loved me too.” And in, “She loved me, sometimes I loved her too.” It sound like the love was not concurrent or true.

'Tonight I Can Write...'

Neruda is obviously in limbo about his lost love. The repititiveness of the opening line struck me hindsight. In the first half of the poem it seems as if he is trying to tell himself that he is over her. As the poem progresses he states, "the night is shattered and she is not with me" (line: 16). He is feeling lost without his lover, insinuating she has been with him every waking moment of his life up to this point, and now he has no clue what to do. The imagery in this poem puts a lot into perspective. Line 24 where he says, "my voice tried to find the wind to touch her hearing" creates a very pure and seductive image of the voice. Although he tells us he is over her he does not do a good job in convincing us of that. In the second to last stanza he is still longing for her, and by the last stanza it seems as if he is still trying to convince himself he is over his lover. Again, I think the imagery of the sky and stars evokes meaning throughout the poem. It tells me that his love for her is forever, much like the 'blue stars shiv[vering] in the distance' and her 'infinite eyes', both hinting at an eternity love poem.

Last Verse for Her...

I can see where Neruda was coming from while he was writing this poem. It is very hard to get over someone you have been in love with. Some people do not know what to do to make the time pass during this process. For Neruda, it seems he expresses this pain through his writing. He talks about the pain he feels after losing a loved one. He states in the first line that "Tonight I can only express the saddest lines" showing that he has only one thing on his mind and that is his lost loved one. He talks about some of the memories they had together and what joy it brought to him at the time and the pain that it causes him now. He talks about the passion he once had for this women and the loneliness he feels now. Although he is experiencing all this pain now, he lets it be known through his last line of the poem that this is the last time he will suffer. "Though this be the last pain that she makes me suffer and these the last verses I write for her.

ode to the tomato

I find this poem to be very insightful. It seems that Neruda is carefully addressing the issue of colonialism in this piece. He introduces the tomato or European colonist as being everywhere, "invading" and "taking over" certain aspects of Chilean society. Neruda also mentions that colonialism will permeate into society when he describes the make-up of all the salad fixings (effects of colonization) present. Here, Neruda notes all the different flavors and ingredients colonialism brought to Chile and discusses their effects. It becomes clear that the motives for colonization were materialistic in his last description of this process as bringing an "all-embracing freshness" to the new land.

Ode to the Tomato

His lost love

Back in his day, Pablo Neruda was quite the romantic one, who had a plethora of x-wives. It's as if he went through his life with multiple spouses, and with multiple spouses comes multiple fights and long nights of trying to forget that special someone.
In his poem, "Tonight I can write . . ." it's as if Neruda is finally ready to close the chapter on one of his long lost loves, for he has no more interest in her. As the poem begins you get a sort of image as if he still longs for her love and is very much into keeping the relationship. As the poem progresses you finally start to see him turning away. On lines 27-28 he plainly states that he no longer loves her, and in the finaly stanze it is clear the she will no longer cause him any pain nor shall he waste paper writing about her.

Classic Love Loss Story...In Detail

We've all heard the classic regretful break up story, about how we let the love of our live's slip away. The heartbreak/regret that Neruda writes about in "Tonight I Can Write..." is this cliched topic. Did I spell cliche right? However, it is a real talent of Neruda in describing his feelings through these love poems of his. He describes in intricate detail the feelings that most of us can relate to in our own lives. The thought of that person becoming another's...heartwrenching, until one can get over it. I've personally experienced this one. When you lose her, you start thinking about her and her good qualities that you'll miss, "Her bright body", "Her voice", or "Her infinite eyes." The nights do really seem more immense when alone. Neruda's feelings about love are deeply expressed throughout this poem and many of his other's I'm sure.

Neruda's "Tonight I Can Write..."

During his life Neruda was known as quite the womanizer at times, having multiple marriages. This poem is probably written about one of his wives or lovers that he once loved that he is trying to get over. At one point he says "my soul is not satisfied that it has lost her," however he states he no longer loves her. His soul is tormented, caught between two different feelings, one of missing his former love and one feeling of the need to move on.

The book also talks about how well he incorporates nature into his love poems. Tonight I Can Write... is no exception, comparing his situations to stars, nights, the sky and the trees. He lets the reader immerse them self into their own natural world feeling what he is feeling through natural forces.

Neruda's "Walking Around"

Nerdua"s poem, "Walking Around", is a in depth look of what Neruda's life is like and what his feelings are toward his life and his community. The tone of the poem is angry, sad, fed up and bored. The first line of the poem shows what type of feeling the poem was written in, "It happens that I am tired of being a man"; this outright shows the type of feelings he has about himself and what he is. Throughout the poem, Neruda uses vivid descriptions to describe his town such as, " . . . to hospitals where the bones come out of the windows . . . there are mirrors which should have wept with shame and horror . . ." Statements like these give the idea that not only does he not want to be there but that no one else should come there either. The poem in its wholeness tells the story of how fed up and how sad Neruda is in his town. He ends the poem describing how the clothes lines are filled with underpants, towels and shirts that are even crying.

Neruda's "Ode to the Tomato"

In his rather humorous poem, “Ode to the Tomato,” Pablo Neruda seems to use the tomato as a metaphor for colonialism. He writes, “The tomato cuts loose, invades kitchens, takes over lunches, settles at rest on sideboards….” As I read this section, I imagined that the poet was using the tomato to represent the wide-spread Spanish and Portuguese colonial expansion in South America, and that the kitchens, lunches, and sideboards represented the South American lands conquered, oppressed, and exploited by colonialism. Neruda describes the far-reaching nature of European colonial expansion by writing, “The street drowns in tomatoes: noon, summer, light breaks in two tomato halves, and the streets run with juice.” Illuminating the motives behind colonial expansion (similar to Kipling’s “The White Man’s Burden”), Neruda writes, “… tomatoes… grant us the festival of ardent colour and all-embracing freshness.”

Neruda's "Tonight I Can Write..."

Neruda's poem, "Tonight I Can Write...," is one of common theme for the author. Neruda was known as writer of love poems, apart from being a political activist. Nonetheless, I think the poem does much more than speak of a love that Neruda claims to be losing or have lost. In the poem he's quoted saying, "I loved her, and sometimes she loved me too," while also saying, "She loved me, and sometimes I loved her too." Lines such as these force me to think back to Neruda's number of marriages. Perhaps Neruda found love several times, but could never settle on one woman, and was always moving on to the next best thing. Even in the instance that Neruda did find the woman that he thought he loved, from the quotes mentioned above, that woman did not love him as he did her. While Neruda was an accomplished and eloquent writer of love poems, he was never able to turn his love life into anything more than a couple of unfinished stanzas.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Neruda's "Tonight I Can Write..."

Pablo Neruda's "Tonight I Can Write..." is a poem filled with conflicting emotions. In the beginning of the poem, Neruda uses specific words to depict his feelings of isolation and sadness. He repeats the phrase "Tonight I can write the saddest lines" to let the reader know the deep sadness that his break-up has caused him. he uses words such as shattered, blue, shiver and distance to convey his feelings of sadness and isolation. In fact, "shattered" and "distance" are used twice to really emphasize Neruda's feelings of brokenness and isolation. Then, in line 14, he uses a simile to describe how easily his breakup allows him to write sad lines, stating, "the verse falls to the soul like dew to the pasture," implying that these verses come upon him naturally. However, equal to the feelings of sadness are ones of uncertainty and regret. He uses the line, "I loved her, and sometimes she loved me too," and then flips it around, stating that "She loved me, and sometimes I loved her too." He makes numerous references to missing her, such as when he states the immense night is "still more immense without her," or when he mentions his sadness over losing her. He then states that he no longer loves her, then admits that he may still love her. With the line, "Love is so short, forgetting is so long," Neruda seems to have captured the complex emotions associated with the regret and uncertainty associated with many break-ups. While he concludes the poem by stating that these verses will be "the last that I write for her," unless this poem is his form of closure, one cannot help but doubt that this will truly be the last time that Neruda writes about his former lover.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Pablo Neruda "Walking Around"

Neruda often wrote about common things. In his poem "Walking Around" he speaks of walking around his town, to common places in any neighborhood like the barber shop, the shoe store, and passing by all the houses. The tone of this poem is very bleak, and it suggests that Neruda is fed up with the world he lives in. In the poem, he repeats the line "It happens that I am tired of being a man." As he is walking around to all these places, it makes him realize how much he despises what humanity has become. Around line 37, he writes "there are mirrors which should have wept with shame and horror." When you look into the mirror, all you see is your reflection. If the mirror should have wept with shame and horror, then all of humanity must be corrupt in Neruda's mind. I think everyone has been fed up with society at one point. Although this is a bleak outlook of the world, there are days when we feel disconnected from humanity; like we don't want to be a part of it anymore. I think this is the feeling that Neruda is trying to capture in his poem "Walking Around."

Neruda's "Tonight I Can Write"

Pablo Neruda writes in the perspective of a hurt, rejected lover. He fuses the concepts of closeness/intimacy/romance and distance/alienation in the poem. In the same line, he quotes "I loved here, and sometimes she loved me too" (line 6) and "She loved me, sometimes I loved here too" (line 9). I believe he is writing down his feelings about how love can be saddening, decisive, and confusing. He could never decide if love was constant or love is "sometimes." Love is a constant struggle like how "love is so short, forgetting is so long" (line 28). Do you love someone...or someone else? Does she love me or have I lost her to another man?


Saturday, March 1, 2008

exile as a fatman

Throughout my sixth and seventh grade years I was bit overweight. Often the brunt of many snide comments from my peers, I began to feel upset and took this issue to heart. I did not let my weight issue control any aspect of my life, but I felt somewhat ashamed that I was "fat". I began to experience a feeling of exile as I would watch my classmates get boyfriends and girlfriends, while I sat by myself. Looking back, I can say that this was not a fun time in my life. But, as I've grown, lost the weight and gotten the girl, I now feel that I have sufficiently assimilated into our skinny-minded society.