Monday, May 17, 2010

The Woman Warrior

I did not particularly enjoy reading this text. I was rather confused with the episodes in the book and had to keep going back and forth to determine which scene came before which, and this was very time consuming. However, I did enjoy the story because being from an Indian family, I can relate to a Chinese American as some of our cultural values are similar. However, in Indian society, women are not supposed to be warriors, an option apparently possible in Chinese culture. I had trouble with the fact that the Fa Mu Lan was not recognized as having an identity until she went away from home, protected her people, fought with men and won, and came back and became submissive to her husband again. She tells her in-laws that she is now a wife and mother and a daughter-in-law and will assume her role as one. How can she forget the woman warrior part of herself? I would imagine that it was extremely difficult for a woman to accomplish what she did, and then go back home to become submissive to the demands of a domestic wife. Therefore, was she really a “woman warrior”? She did not fight off the constraints society put on her.


In he “Introduction” to Feminist Paradigms, Rivkin and Ryan list the various movements of feminism. There exist new and old notions of feminism. One of the goals of feminism was to redefine the Madonna/Whore complex, in which women are seen as virgins and therefore angelic, or they are seen as whores; there is no in-between. This aspect however, is still seen today. While reading this, it reminded me of one of the episodes of Sex and the City. Charlotte’s husband, Trey is unable to perform in the bedroom and Charlotte cannot figure out why. At first she does not tell her friends out of embarrassment. She even becomes insecure and thinks that the reason Trey “cannot get it up” is because she is unattractive. However, when she presents this at the breakfast table with her friends, Samantha suggests that this is because she is a wife and her husband sees her as an Madonna, and is not sexually aroused. Charlotte’s attempts to be sexy for her husband fail even when she buys sexy lingerie to arouse him.

Group Presentation

In my group for The Jungle, I worked with mandy, Jason, Jeff, and Kathy. We all worked well together and conversed mainly via email as the week before our presentation was Spring Break and some of us were not close to campus. We met one time before spring break to discuss what kinds of things we could incorporate during the class discussion; we met for more than two hours! We all agreed that having just a normal discussion would be boring and wanted to do something different. Mandy suggested to play a game, at which point I suggested Jeopardy. This idea was soon deemed ineffective because playing Jeopardy would be too confusing and time consuming. Mandy suggested a courtoom scene and we all agreed on it because one of the novel’s major themes is injustice of the people within a capitalist economy.

My Contribution: I made signs (placards) for all the six categories: church, factory owners, politicians, child laborers, factory workers, and prostitutes. I also suggested that we have some food, at which point the group decided snacks with wine would be better.

Afterthoughts: Once it was almost time to present, I started getting nervous as to how effectier our courtroom scenario would be. I was glad that it went well. Everyone contributed to the discussion and it lasted for almost the entire class period. I especially appreciated my classmates following our requirement of responding to questions with quotations from the text (as evidence) rather than just from memory.

Upton Sinclair

Though I enjoyed reading the novel The Jungle by Upton Sinclair, I wish it would not have been so long and depressing. Page after page revealed the pain and suffereing of the innocent immigrants at the hand of the system of American Capitalism. The novel could have not revealed all these details over and over again. However, there is something to be said about these details—they are probably not exaggerated. I liked the fact that most of the novel was based on true events of migrant workers in America. There are many themes in the novel that are worth discussing, especially promotion of Marxist ideals throughout. The workers have no rights; they work extensively and are not compensated well for their work. However, they continue to live in America because they would have a tough life in their native country as well. The ending of the novel is particularly Marxist since Jurgis eventually joins the commnunist party because that is the only way to get out of his struggle for life; this party has various rallies symbolizing the rising of the working class. Jurgis had tried to work as an honest man, but the system dehumanized and demoralized him. He finally went to become a part of organized crime. The varius stages of his life—his honest work, loss of Ona, loss of his child, and loss of family and finances are examples of critiques of capitalism.

The aspect I found most interesting is the fact atht people in the novel are just seen as machines—and sometimes even lower than machines. For example, repeatedly throughout the book, the language suggests that the people work for the machines, not even people. This symbolizes working classes working for the state apparatus in a capitalist economy and being completely destroyed—mind and body. The only time Jurgis was truly happy was when he lived as a nomad, not working for a machine. During this time, he also found happiness because he was cheating the system. As long as he obeyed the capitalist system, he was living in misery. Jurgis was not always the best husband/primary caregiver of the family as he abandoned Ona and the others, but it could be argued that his continual work in a capitalist society made him this way.

Communist Manifesto

Communist Manifesto, Karl Marx
In the Communist Manifesto, Marx first outlines the problems within the society at the time. He acknowledges that the idea of communism is already prevalent in Europe, and moreover, is recognized as a power. Further, he advises all the communists to take action: “It is high time that communists should openly, in the face of the whole world, publish their views, their aims, their tendencies” (769). Because all the history of the world has always consisted of some type of class struggle, he proposes the solution to be a communist community. He categorizes society into the Bourgeoisie and the Proletariat; the bourgeoisie being the ruling class and one with all the power and resources and the proletariat being the working class. The recent advent of capitalism and industrial revolutions around the world had destroyed society according to Marx. People merely became like machines—they input and output work. This makes them emotionally and physically detached from the product. For their work, they are paid very low wages by which they are barely able to support themselves. While the working class is not able to enjoy any of the benefits of its own work, the ruling class, never knowing what goes into a product, enjoys it. This is morally and ethically wrong for Marx. It dehumanizes the workers. Therefore, he proposes that the only way for a change would be for the working class to rise and fight for its rights. Thus, a revolution becomes necessary because the workers are otherwise not able to overpower the system or have any rights whatsoever.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Midterm Paper

Jada Augustine
English 638
Dr. Steven Wexler
Dysart's Life: A Search for Worship
The play Equus by Peter Shaffer consists of various motifs and theories that have been and remain to be analyzed. It is a short yet deep play. Upon first reading the play, I wanted to analyze the reasons for Alan’s sexual desires. However, during a second reading, I became interested in a deeper aspect of the play—Alan and Dysart’s longing for a life of worship. Equus contains extensive language of worship, which actually demonstrates the weakness of religion in the play. Alan has discovered that his object of worship is the horse, while Dysart yearns for worship.
Dysart narrows Alan’s issue (not problem) to be worship: “I only know it’s the core of his life. What else has he got? Think about him. He can hardly read” (Shaffer 79). After knowing Alan, Dysart does not think there is anything wrong with him. Rather, after determining that worship is what Alan has, he recognizes the emptiness and lack of worship in his own life: “What worship has he every known? Real worship! Without worship you shrink, it’s as brutal as that… I shrank my own life” (Shaffer 81). The “he” Dysart refers to is himself as he complains to Hesther. He sees Alan as content and seeks the life Alan has; Alan has gotten what he wants most in life—worship. Dysart wants to be like Alan. Therefore, he makes it his mission to get into Alan’s mind and tries to understand him while realizing his profession is a waste. A psychoanalytic analysis of the play demonstrates Dysart’s need for worship and his goal to get into Alan’s mind to be eventually like him.
Alan is a product of his parents: his overly religious Christian mother and his self-proclaimed atheist father. Alan’s mother, Dora, reads him the bible from his childhood (Shaffer 24). His father, Frank, on the other hand, is an aetheist (Shaffer 27); he believes religion is the root of all the evil in the world and that the troubles in the world are a result of religion. As a result, he does not find religion necessary or satisfactory. Consequently, he blames Alan’s problems on religion. On the surface it seems as though he has no element of worship in his life. But Alan sees Frank’s pornographic movies as his (Frank’s) gods. Alan can only think in terms of worship, so when he catches his father at a pornographic film, he realizes that his father also needs some sort of an element of worship in his life: “All the men—staring up like they were in church. Like they were a sort of congregation” (Shaffer 92). While forbidding Alan to watch even regular television, he watches pornographic movies in secrecy. For Alan, both his parents have their gods and he struggles to find his own since none of them provide meaning or fulfillment. In his article, “Equus: Human Conflicts and the Trinity”, Mitchell Hay says, “Alan is clearly suffering from a deep-seated neurosis which manifests itself in typical symptoms: divided self-hood, alienated selfhood and emasculated selfhood” (Hay 3). Alan feels completely detached from himself and therefore must find something outside of his self for meaning of life.
Not only does Dora instill religion in Alan from a very early age, but she also reads him a book called Prince, which apparently is a book about horses: “And when he was seven or eight, I used to have to read him the same book over and over, all about a horse… it was called Prince, and no one could ride him” (Shaffer 23). Because Prince (the horse) was so mighty and majestic, no one was worthy to ride him. Alan became obsessed with horses to the point that they become the center of his attention; they are all he thinks about as his mother read the book repeatedly to him because he wanted her to. Being a mother, she could have been in control of the situation and brought variety of books in Alan’s life, but she did not. She let him be in control of his own life and control what he read.
Dora also gave Alan a picture of Christ which in her own words was also quite extreme; she says, the picture “was a reproduction of Our Lord on his way to Calvary. Alan found it in Reeds Art Shop, and fell absolutely in love with it… In all fairness I must admit it was a little extreme. The Christ was loaded down with chains” (Shaffer 39). Again, though she thinks the picture is extreme, she does not forbid him from buying it. The act of Frank tearing Christ’s picture out in anger had a profound effect on Alan not only because it was a picture of Christ, but because of what replaced it—a picture of a horse. In his article “Journey into a mind”, Kerith Burke says, “Alan switches from being fascinated with a picture of Jesus to a picture of a horse. The end of Act I is the climax of the intertwinement of religion with sexuality, which Alan manifests in Equus. Equus is now the god that rules Alan” (Burke 1). Alan is confused as to what he should believe in because neither his mother’s or his father’s gods appeal to him. He looks for something outside of normalcy. He is confused but must find someone or something to worship and he finds it in the horse. The replacement of Christ’s image by a horse gives Alan more of a reason to worship the horse.
Worship becomes an important aspect of Alan’s life. He needs something to hold on to in a world of uncertainty; his world mostly so far has mostly consisted of him and his parents. Since childhood, he did not have clear direction in life because his parents disagreed about belief systems which left him to discover his own religion. Though Dora does not want to blame herself and Frank for what Alan did, Alan grew up as a repressed child. He had a complete disconnect from any normal human interactions. He did not have any friendly connections and was only stuck in a world of extremes. Therefore, he finds solace in worship—not of god, because that would be too conventional, but rather of a horse; nevertheless, he discovers worship. According to the OED, worship is to honor or revere as a supernatural being or power, or as a holy thing; to regard or approach with veneration; to adore with appropriate acts, rites, or ceremonies. Alan’s description of the encounter with the horse to Dysart always has the language of worship, especially because of the horse references in the books of Job and Revelation from the bible. He reveres the horse and sees it as his god who is a spirit and exists in all horses (Shaffer 63).
According to Dysart, Alan only lives his life at the time he feels one with the horse: “He’s a modern citizen for whom society doesn’t exist. He lives one hour every three weeks—howling in a mist” (Shaffer 79). Dysart is jealous of Alan, though he is Alan’s therapist and is supposed to cure his mental condition: “that boy has known a passion more ferocious than I have felt in any second of my life. And let me tell you something: I envy it… I’m jealous, Hesther. Jealous of Alan Strang” (Shaffer 80-81). Though Alan did not have a normal upbringing, he has found his religion: “To work weekends as a groom is for Alan more than an opportunity of escaping the conflicts of home. On the surface, it serves to satisfy his love of horses. In depth, it assuages his religious cravings” (Hay 4). Therefore, Dysart makes it his mission to get into Alan’s mind and be like him—experience what he only imagines he could experience.
In Civilization and its Discontents, Sigmund Freud says, “A psychical attitude… comes naturally enough to all of us; one of the forms in which love manifests itself—sexual love—has given us our most intense experience of an overwhelming sensation of pleasure and has thus furnished us with a pattern for our search for happiness (Freud 33). For Alan, the sexual desire does not come because of Jill but because of the horse. He is not able to perform the sexual act with Jill because his search of happiness has led to an overwhelming sensation of pleasure with the horse. Freud continues to say, “Religion restricts this play of choice and adaptation, since it imposes equally on everyone its own path to the acquisition of happiness and protection from suffering. It’s technique consists in depressing the value of life and distorting the picture of the real world in a delusional manner—which presupposes an intimidation of the intelligence” (Freud 36). Freud’s statement is appropriate for Alan. Religion presupposes that everyone is equal and has had equal upbringing and therefore provides one form of belief system. However, Alan did not grow up in a “normal” household. He has eccentric parents who do not know what they themselves believe in. Both of them are hypocrites in one way or another. But Dysart recognizes Alan’s intelligence and does not see anything wrong with him. Alan combines his elements of desire and elements of worship and finds his object of worship and desire in the horse.
Dysart lacks worship in his life. He feels empty and only fulfills his life with his work. His relationship with his wife is non existent as they have not even kissed each other in six years (Shaffer 81); according to him, they live separate lives living in the same house. He is so fascinated by Alan’s life that he would rather spend a night getting into his mind than going home and being with his wife. By this point in the play, Dysart has realized that he cannot cure Alan because there is nothing abnormal about him; in fact, normalcy is a matter of relativity. He is more fascinated by more is Alan’s ability to get in tune with worshiping his object of desire—the horse.
Dysart wants to worship as well—he dreams about gods of ancient Greece and wishes to visit their various shrines in Greece someday: “I’d like to spend the next ten years wandering very slowly around the real Greece” (Shaffer 18). He lives his live vicariously through books. He reads about these places wishing he was there and despises his wife for being utterly worshipless: “If I had a son, I bet you he’d come out exactly like his mother. Utterly worshipless” (Shaffer 59). He fails to recognize that he himself is utterly worshipless too, yet he blames his wife; but subconsciously he knows the product of both of them will definitely be worshipless since they both do not know worship. He admires Alan who being only seventeen, has discovered worship.
Dysart’s problem is that he is invested in doing his job, but does not believe in it anymore. Dysart envies Alan and wishes he would live that life. He sees himself as abnormal; for him, there is a reason Alan does the things he does; his actions are completely logical. Dysart tells Hesther that Alan is a where he is because he himself did it; he got there: “Because it’s his… His pain. His own. He made it” (Shaffer 80). There is a sense of accomplishment that he sees in Alan, which he does not see in himself. Dysart is simply not doing what he wants to. He creates his own image via Alan’s. Jaques Lacan’s mirror stage not only discusses the child’s relationship with its own image, but also symbolically people’s discovery of themselves by a process of identification in an other. In an article titled “Lacan: The Mirror Stage” on the University of Hawaii website, it says, “For Lacan, the mirror stage establishes the ego as fundamentally dependent upon external objects, on an other” ( Therefore, it is evident that Dysart is trying to form his own identity by dwelling on Alan’s; he is fixated and amazed by Alan’s lifestyle as Alan’s character becomes a mirror for him to look within.
Though the end of the play is symbolic in many ways, I wanted to focus on the worship. Dysart says, “There is now in my mouth, this sharp chain. And it never comes out… Essentially I cannot know what I do—yet I do essential things. Irreversible, terminal things. I stand in the dark with a pick in my hand, striking at heads” (Shaffer 110). At this point he has discovered himself, his ego, through Alan’s life. He realizes that he is not much different from Alan as being a psychiatrist; he digs into people’s brains even though they might be normal, just as Alan dug the pick into the horses’ eyes. The difference is that Alan did it for a reason, but Dysart believes he makes perfectly normal human beings and changes them when changes do not need to be made to their mental state.
In his quest to cure Alan’s mental discomfort, Dysart discovers that he himself is the one who is actually ill. He needs a higher power in his life.

Works Cited
Burke, Kerith. “Journey Into a Mind”. Wahsington State University website,
March 18, 2010.
Freud, Sigmund. Civilization and Its Discontents. New York: W.W. Norton, 1961.
Hay, Mitchell. “Equus: Human Conflicts and the Trinity”. Religion-Online website, March 15, 2010.
Shaffer, Peter. Equus. New York: Scribner, 1973.
Vasseleu, Cathryn. “The Face Before the Mirror-Stage”. Hypatia Journal, Jstor. March 15, 2010.