shake your head—shake your mind
no smell of world or life
believe, think, dream no more
but yet feel of heart more and more
shake your head—shake your mind
no smell of world or life
believe, think, dream no more
but yet feel of heart more and more
Love means that you are willing to sustain another person.
Who do you sustain?
the bbb blogger
Last night when I lay down sickly,
Resting my tired head on the table,
My ear against that smooth surface,
I heard thu-thump, thu-thump,
And for a yielding second,
I truly believed that I was listening to
The wood’s heartbeat—
Its soul connecting with mine.
Of course, it was only my own quick heart,
Thumping loudly in my tiring ears.
But there was a connection, spiritual and soft
Between the ancient, stricken tree and me.
Text has been a part of human creation for hundreds of years. People have used art and literature to express themselves and the human condition. But the text is also a social force. Cultural criticism has changed the way readers view literature and art. Art is not merely used for entertainment or artistic expression.
Early critics include Hegel, Arnold, and Marx, while later social critics include Marx, Williams, Horkheimer, Adorno, Benjamin, and Foucault. From Hegel to Foucault, art and texts reflect, reify, or alter social structures.
Hegel focuses on how an idea finds meaning in relationship to others. Hegel believed “an individuals entity’s meaning rests not in itself but in the relationship of that thing to other things within an all-encompassing, ever changing whole” (Leitch 536). Hegel uses the idea of the dialectic, “which entails the confrontation of any thesis with its opposite (antithesis), and the resultant synthesis of the two through a process of ‘overcoming’” (Leitch 537).
There are two conflicts then a compromise; then there are two more conflicts and another compromise. This process continues onward. His theory stresses movement and change rather than equilibrium and motionlessness. Hegel provides the example of the Master and the Slave, a relationship full of constant tension.
Through the relationship of the lord and the bondsman, there exists two opposite modes of consciousness: “one is the independent consciousness whose essential nature is to be for itself, the other is the dependent consciousness whose essential nature is simply to live or to be for another” (Hegel 544).
Hegel shows that “the reciprocity of dependence” is seen in “characterizing human relationships: ‘They recognize themselves as mutually recognizing one another’” (Leitch 538). In “Lectures on Fine Art,” Hegel believes that “a work of art is a product of human activity,” a process of “conscious production” that can “be known and expounded, and learnt and pursued by others” (Hegel 547).
Yet “the work of art stands higher than any natural product which has not made this journey through the spirit” (Hegel 549). Being a historicist critic, Hegel considers art occurring in different stages: symbolic, classical, and romantic.
How literature changes consequently changes how we think about things, considering phenomenology or our experience with the world. Art becomes key to understanding wisdom, whether that be scientific, religious, or philosophical wisdom, not in a subservient way but in a way that art shapes culture, and culture shapes those structures.
This concept influences the text. Readers can look at a text and consider how the author resolves conflicts in his characters. It is key to understand that art bypasses how things appear, looking straight at the form of actual things. This process shapes how we perceive the form or do not adhere to actual form. Readers can see this process influence how we consider social structures.
What is government is a complex question; but readers can get various answers of the function or purpose of government through art and literature, which also shapes our interpretation of how our own government is functioning.
Because “[m]eaning and truth are never fixed because they are always in process” (Leitch 537), readers who search for answers in literature and the world around them will never find a fixed truth or specific meaning. Thus new interpretations or readings are considered permissible.
On one hand, Arnold emphasizes that we see the object as in itself as it really is; on the other hand, literature, for Arnold, is the highest aspiration of a culture and society. These conflicting points are Hegelian in nature. For Arnold, literature is used to create a moral society.
When he asks for a criticism of life, look for cultural criticism—not just disinterested examination but a cultural criticism that enters in to a critique and evaluates when it is necessary to condemn the inadequate values of a culture. Arnold ends up engaging in political intervention of a literary sort. In fact, literature does present ideals and moral principles for us to consider.
Arnold states in Culture and Anarchy, “[M]any amongst us rely upon our religious organisations to save us. I have called religion a yet more important manifestation of human nature than poetry, because it has worked on a broader scale for perfection, and with greater masses of men. But the idea of beauty and of a human nature perfect on all its sides, which is the dominant idea of poetry, is a true and invaluable idea” (Arnold 720).
Since religion fails, poetry becomes the new religion, shaping social structures. Because poetry becomes the new religion, more focus is placed on thought than on adherence or obedience to rules. In religion, preachers tell you what to think and how to act; in contrast, literature becomes much more interpretive. Yet, at the same time, Arnold really emphasizes the importance of a critic. The critical becomes ultimately higher than the creative.
For example, Arnold writes in The Function of Criticism at the Present Time, “But criticism, real criticism, is essentially the exercise of this very quality. It obeys an instinct prompting it to try to know the best that is known and thought in the world, irrespectively of practice, politics, and everything of the kind; and to value knowledge and thought as they approach this best, without intrusion of any other considerations whatever” (Arnold 702).
So the critic is still important, in Arnold’s perspective. Morality becomes based on this stew of ideas rather than a clear right or wrong. The critic turns to ideas, where the poet emerges from, thus going back to poetry as a new religion to turn to new ideas. Therefore, the poet needs an intellectual and spiritual atmosphere.
Marx is a social critic, providing ways to perceive the social sphere in which we all live. Marx’s theories are does not provide direct literary interpretation but is used by later critics. Marx introduces concepts such as base and superstructure. Marx becomes Hegel’s most famous disciple, since Marx “adopts both the vision of struggle and the dream of an end to strife” (Leitch 537).
For Hegel, thoughts lead to how you live; however, for Marx, how you live your life leads to your thoughts within society. In A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy, Marx continues the Hegelian dialectic, highlighting “the existing conflict between the social productive forces and the relations of production” (Marx 663).
But what distinguishes Marxism from Hegelian philosophy is “that it is not only a political, economic, and social theory but also a form of practice in all these domains” (Habib 36). For example, in “The German Ideology,” Marx writes in contrast to Hegelian philosophy “which descends from heaven to earth, here we ascend from earth to heaven” (Marx 656). Because, unlike Hegelian beliefs, “we do not set out from what men say, imagine, conceive, nor from men as narrated, though of, imagined, conceived, in order to arrive at men in the flesh,” Marx sets out “from real active men, and on the basis of their real life-process we demonstrate the development of the ideological reflexes and echoes of this life-process” (Marx 656).
Marx tried to find causes and solutions in the structure of society.
Marx set out the explanation of the base and the superstructure. The base (r the forces of productions such as the relations of property and the division of labor) and superstructure, (artistic, religious, and political thinking and culture) is very important.
These two concepts greatly influence later critics. But what importance does Marx have to do with literature? Leitch highlights how a literary reader would ask questions not answered specifically in the text:
What roles do writers, critics, and intellectuals play? Do they illuminate for workers the nature of capitalist exploitation, or do they act at the service of those who already and best understand their true circumstances? Should writers be free to state the social and political facts as they see them, or must the goal of working-class revolution always shape their work—an if so, who sets the limits? (Leitch 649)
To these questions, Marx could reply with the following: “the answers will come only when the contradictions within capitalism produce them” (Leitch 640). Marx truly has changed how we see the world as well as how we interpret art and literature as seen in Marxism.
Benjamin is considered a Marxist critic because of his analysis of the principle of mediation and consciousness. There is a distinction of Marxism versus Marx, the man. Marx is a dialectical materialist, meaning he focuses on history.
The dialectical method occurs when two sides come into confrontation and wrestle with each other, which leads to a new thesis. When a new thesis emerges, another antithesis emerges, too. But Marxists saw the antithesis as consumer culture, and Benjamin believed, “Modern works are reproduced for mass consumption” (Habib 34). In other words, the principle of mediation “establishes relationships between the two levels of Marxist dialectic, between the base and the superstructure, between the relations of production and the work of art” (Richter 1202).
This means the base, or means of production, conditions the superstructure, or art; consequently, art is changing in the current production mode. For Benjamin, there is the possibility of “art for the masses,” the aura, or “spiritual quality, a relic of human attachment to ritual and magic . . . is simultaneously beginning to disappear” (1202–3).
While tradition and aura are smashed under mechanical reproduction, reproducibility is valued instead through exhibition for mass experience. This current production mode changes consciousness or perception of the masses, which result in producing new concepts.
The first concept is the “brush[ing] aside of outmoded concepts, such as creativity and genius” (1233), which leads to processing data in the Fascist sense. Benjamin views the aestheticization of politics that serves the Fascists negatively.
His second concept focuses on the politicization of art that serves the communists, which marries the capacity of art for analysis and the capacity to meet the broad public in order for the masses to think and do critical analysis of conditions in which they live.
This idea does not fall under a Marxist mode—rather than people rallying together and raising their rakes, people would be expressing themselves. Yet for Benjamin, “Mechanical reproduction of art changes the reaction of the masses toward art” (1244). Additionally, Benjamin considers distraction versus concentration, which reflects on the consciousness of the masses.
Because “the masses seek distraction whereas art demands concentration from the spectator,” someone “who concentrates before a work is absorbed by it,” while “the distracted mass absorbs the work of art” (1247). Benjamin claims, “The public is an examiner, but an absent-minded one” (1248). Therefore, Benjamin believes consciousness changes because the medium or delivery mechanism changes. This is a Marxist claim: understanding the world is determined by consciousness, which changes through materialism or history.
For example, one consequence of the alienation of labor is the human separation from body; the human then becomes a slave to labor. This reduces man to animal functions, or as Marx explains, “the human becomes the animal” (403). What previously separated the human from the animal was consciousness.
Ultimately, Marx argues, “Life is not determined by consciousness, but consciousness by life” (409). Consequently, “the proletarianization of art progressively dehumanizes both participants and spectators” (1203).
Benjamin’s influential ideas shape our view of art—what it means for the masses and what it can mean for us today. We, the viewers of artwork or the readers of a particular text, can determine to be a conscious examiner, not an absent-minded viewer.
Considering Benjamin’s interpretation of art and the influence of the base and superstructure is helpful in considering Williams’s argument. Williams uses the Marxist theory to see a literary sphere.
Williams sees that culture, like civilization, has a dual sense of achieving and developing. Culture besom a process, or something in flux. Language becomes a tool of productive practices. For Marx, the methods of production focus on gears and factories. But what if language was as productive for as metal or iron or steel? What if language makes things happen?
Language would not work by itself any more than factories work by themselves. Language becomes as much of a tool as a machine is because language does not just mirror reality but becomes a tool for human agency. Williams consider the base, or the means of production and class relationships, as well as the superstructure, or the ideological, including politics, religion, education, and family.
Williams dos not believe that the base and superstructure are homogenous. He sees the mediation between the base and superstructure. The relationship of the base and superstructure is a dynamic one: “We have to revalue ‘superstructure’ towards a related range of cultural practices, and away from a reflected, reproduced or specifically dependent content” as well as “we have to revalue ‘the base’ away from the notion of a fixed economic or technological abstraction, and towards the specific activities of men in real social and economic relationships, contain fundamental contradictions and variations and therefore always in a state of dynamic process” (Williams 1426).
The relationship is more than simple reproduction. This is not just a depersonalized system because we want to include people in this—intension is crucial. How are human decisions influencing the totality. It is not a trapped, soulless system, but rather it is made up of humans.
For Williams, it is as much about the reader as it is about the writer. Conversations written about literature in addition to political interventions are both meant to change the world. The political institution means that you are doing your work to change the world. There is a flux in this influence.
Rules that are so accepted become natural and dominant, even if it is not necessarily how society actually is; this idea introduces hegemony. With hegemony, rules so complete seem inevitable but invisible. Thus, hegemony becomes total. But where is the opposition?
Hegemony is a bunch of ideas. When we think about ideas, we realize that ideas are never wholly dominant, since ideas, like languages, are processes of growth. Throughout various periods, from the Renaissance to the Romantic period, ideas are contested and contrasted.
Thus, we see residual and emergent conflicts emerge. People are included in this process of what is fading and what is emerging, thus intention is crucial to how our human decisions influence the totality that is not trapped to a soulless system.
For instance, Williams writes, “Intention, the notion of intention, restores the key question, or rather the key emphasis” because although “it is true than any society is a complex whole of such practices, it is also true that any society has a specific organization, a specific structure, and that the principles of this organization and structure can be seen as directly related to certain social intentions, intentions by which we define the society” (Williams 1427).
This system is made up of people and human choices. Literature includes the notations of people scribbling upon the margins of dominant cultural context. We continue to see this today not just about ideas but also about media and new forms of art.
For example, film is probably still emergent and now dominant while perhaps reading could be considered residual. People are not writing epic poems but create epic films.
Horkheimer and Adorno
Horkheimer and Adorno suggest that society produces literature often upon consumer demand. Critics, including Adorno, Horkheimer, and Benjamin considered Hegel and Marx “in attempting to revive the ‘negative dialectics’ or negative, revolutionary potential of Hegelian Marxist thought” by opposing “the bourgeois positivism which had risen to predominance in reaction against Hegel’s philosophy, and insisted, following Hegel, that consciousness in all of its cultural modes is active in creating the world” (Habib 34).
Literature becomes dictated by the publishing house and editors rather than literature becoming an instrument to express what the muses have inspired the author to transcribe down for others to read. Literature is a way to reveal realities of a society, through the base and superstructures of a society, as seen in the analysis by Williams.
While Hegel suggests conflict and the form of things helps us learn to understand better, Arnold desires literature to raise society. Horkheimer and Adorno would argue hat literature is a product of society, suggesting the proof of societal existence and influence. Humans become consumers rather than readers of literature.
Horkheimer and Adorno argue,
Pleasure hardens into boredom because, if it is to remain pleasure, it must not demand any effort and therefore moves rigorously in the worn grooves of association. No independent thinking must be expected from the audience: the product prescribes every reaction: not by its natural structure . . ., but by signals. Any logical connection calling for mental effort is painstakingly avoided (Horkheimer and Adorno 1116).
Literature—both high and low literature—is produced and used to pacify the masses. For example, Horkheimer and Adorno write, “[I]f a movement from a Beethoven symphony is crudely adapted for a film sound track in the same way as a Tolstoy is garbled in a film script: then the claim that this is done to satisfy the spontaneous wishes of the public is no more than hot air” (Horkheimer and Adorno 1112).
Instead of realizing the terribleness of their situation, they will be too busy reading or watching or being entertained with whatever consumer product is considered the next big thing.
Adorno addresses not multiple but manifest reason. He addresses Modern work that is calculating, spreading technological control toe very aspect of our lives. Similarly, Foucault does the same thing by considering the subtle power influence over everything. Reason does not just control but puts the productivity in power.
Foucault suggests the quest for truth is neither completely disinterested nor an isolated discovery. Truth becomes part of a network, suggesting the encouragement of questions to be asked. The Panopticon, or the all-seeing tower, becomes an important metaphor about discipline and punishment of the invisibility of power to its all-seeing power.
This example of the Panopticon “is the disciplinary form at its most extreme, the model in which are concentrated all the coercive technologies of behavior” (Foucault 1490). When speaking of the establishment of power relations, Foucault writes, “The modeling of the body procedures a knowledge of the individual, the apprenticeship of the techniques incudes modes of behavior and the acquisition of skills in extricable linked with the establishment of power relations” (Foucault 1491).
There is a shift in the basis of power from Marx to Foucault. For Marxists, economics is the foundation that is determinant of everything else in culture. For Foucault, economics has no priority; there is no single discourse exists among human. Therefore, we go from a base and superstructure model to discourse as a basis of everything.
Foucault thought about prisons, sexual activity, schools, religion (including the confessional), medicine, and politics, expanding what could be included in discourse. Literature could become another discourse. Literature does not necessarily become a separate aesthetic realm, for Foucault.
For example, in Nancy Armstrong’s lecture here at Brigham Young University about the bio-politics in Jane Eyre, she provided a Focaultian reading by examining ways the forces teach women to be women, such as through church sermons, but discourses (such as literature) assert certain subjectivity to train gender.
Another example could be seen in Wuthering Heights. In this novel, the reader learns about Heathcliff’s and Catherine’s untamed passions in a straight-laced, Victorian world. This strict society contrasts to a book about passions. Paradoxically, the book does not talk about the encouragement of such behavior but talks about of what we think about being repressed, sexually in this instance, in a particular society.
Therefore, with Foucault’s analysis of discourse, the subject of the novel can fit into the discussion of discourse. It is not just an intellectual field of power that shapes subjectivity. Readers see that literature shapes we are; therefore, we see literature not just as artistic expression or entertainment but also as a social or political work.
Cultural criticism is an exciting way to look at literature and art as a social force. Hegel’s concept of the dialectic has influenced criticism. Of course, Marx and Hegel differed: “Marx was a materialist in the sense that he believed, unlike Hegel, that what drives historical change are the material realities of the economic base of society. . . , rather than the ideological superstructure. . . of politics, law, philosophy, religion, and art that is built upon the economic base” (Richter 1199).
However, both Hegel and Marx believed in dialectical oppositions that occur in society. Marxism and Marx’s theory has been a dialectical relationship: “[Marxism] has always striven to modify, extend, and adapt [Marx’s canon] to changing circumstances rather than treating it as definitive and complete” (Habib 37). Therefore, Marxist critics continue this dialecticism.
Other critics, such as Arnold and Williams, could view evolutions that occur—the change of poetry as the new religion for Arnold and the interchanges that occur between the base and superstructure for Williams.
For Benjamin, Adorno, and Horkheimer, they “saw modern mass culture as regimented and reduced to a commercial dimension; and they saw art as embodying a unique, critical distance for this social and political world” (Habib 34). Foucault’s emphasis on the plurality of discourse could lead to the question: what new discourses could the future hold?
Richter argues, “Marxist theory and the application of Marxist theory out literature have taken a dizzying variety of forms, depending, among other things, on how the literary text is positioned relative to material reality and to ideology” (Richter 1199– 1200).
These cultural criticisms and theories have changed the way readers see the world and consider their lives within the societal structures they are born into. One can wonder what new insights and theories will continue to be influenced by these early theorists.
~ Works Cited:
Arnold, Matthew. Culture and Anarchy. The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism. 2nd ed. Ed. Vincent B. Leitch. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2010. Print.
Arnold, Matthew. The Function of Criticism at the Present Time.The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism. 2nd ed. Ed. Vincent B. Leitch. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2010. Print.
Benjamin, Walter. “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction.” The Critical Tradition: Classic Texts and Contemporary Trends. 3rd ed. Ed. David H. Richter. New York: St. Martin’s, 2007. Print.
Foucault, Michel. Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison. The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism. 2nd ed. Ed. Vincent B. Leitch. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2010. Print.
Habib, M. A. R. Modern Literary Criticism and Theory: A History. Victoria: Blackwell Publishing, 2008. Print.
Hegel, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich. “Lectures on Fine Art.” The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism. 2nd ed. Ed. Vincent B. Leitch. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2010. Print.
Hegel, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich. “Phenomenology of Spirit.” The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism. 2nd ed. Ed. Vincent B. Leitch. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2010. Print.
Horkheimer, Max and Theodor W. Adorno. “Dialectic of Enlightenment.” The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism. 2nd ed. Ed. Vincent B. Leitch. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2010. Print.
Leitch, Vincent B. The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism. 2nd ed. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2010. Print.
Marx, Karl. A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy. The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism. 2nd ed. Ed. Vincent B. Leitch. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2010. Print.
Marx, Karl. “The German Ideology.” The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism. 2nd ed. Ed. Vincent B. Leitch. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2010. Print.
Richter, David H. The Critical Tradition: Classic Texts and Contemporary Trends. 3rd ed. New York: St. Martin’s, 2007. Print.
Williams, Raymond. “Base and Superstructure in Marxist Cultural Theory.” The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism. 2nd ed. Ed. Vincent B. Leitch. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2010. Print.
He knew that he had fallen. He felt like someone or something was watching him.
Why art thou wroth? and why is thy countenance fallen?
As SMSN waited, chained against the cold stone, he knew that living and pretending as he did among the E.O. had brought about this end. He had been called to save his people, the PRLTRT, from the BRGS. He had fallen in love with a woman, a woman whom he had never met before and would never see again. She was a stranger, but he was a stranger to her country. He was called to search for the books, for the words of Truth. His people would not die in ignorance. The priests would rejoice. SMSN would finally be a hero. But SMSN had failed. He told his secret identity to the woman he loved. She told the E.O. who he was. Now he was to be tortured.
Before he had ever come to this foreign land, he had been warned of what would happen if he would fail. The priests told them that any traitor to the cause of the E.O. would endure intense suffering and extreme torture. He was warned about the process of losing the senses. SMSN now knew what would happen to him in this pit of hell.
And, behold, here cometh a chariot of men, with a couple of horsemen. And he answered and said, Babylon is fallen, is fallen.
He had fallen in the land of GZ, the very land he was suppose to destroy. SMSN had failed.
And there followed another angel, saying, Babylon is fallen, is fallen, that great city, because she made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication.
The fault was all his own. He knew what he had done. It was delicious pain. He could dare to admit his wrongs even here, in the darkest of caves, on the darkest of nights, below the deepest level of hell. He felt like someone or something was watching him.
And there ye shall serve gods, the work of men’s hands, wood and stone, which neither see, nor hear, nor eat, nor smell.
This was to be his punishment. His senses that connected him to this world would be taken from him. A creature designed to torture entered the far side of the room. Its neck twitched with excitement. XXX found particular pleasure in the five-senses-removal process. This meticulous process required palpable skills and perceptive style.
Which are after the doctrines and commandments of men, who teach you to touch not, … handle not; all those things which are to perish with the using?
These words seemed to flow through his body seamlessly.
“The priests of YHWH had taught me from childhood,” thought SMSN, “as well as MNH, the male, and MRY, the female, from the time of my birth.”
In an earlier era, MNH and MRY, a heterosexual couple partnered about thirty years before the language revolution, would have been called the father and the mother of SMSN. But in the surge of egalitarianism, all parents, whether heterosexual or homosexual or transsexual, were stripped of any label of father or mother. The names designating roles and responsibilities were ordered to be erased from all records under Appeal 274 of Equality.
Step one was completed. As pain swelled in rushing waves through his body, he dared to look down at his fingertips. The tips of his fingers—all ten—were gone. SMSN clenched his eyes shut, focusing on the words. He felt like someone or something was watching him.
In the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.
SMSN had eaten the forbidden fruit. The snake had been too beautiful, too tempting. The face of SMSN was injected with a numbing solution. He was fully awake and could still feel some pain. However, the cutting of the tongue was significantly less painful than the severing of the fingers below the nail. The numbing solution also disabled his ability to scream. He was silenced completely. He would never again be able to say the name of his lover, DS.
If any man have ears to hear, let him hear.
He would never hear the world above. He would never hear the world below. He would never hear the voice of DS again. Alone, he would hear silence. XXX computerized to inject the syringe above and to the side of the cheekbones so no numbing solution would impact the side of the face of SMSN. The ears of SMSN were in full-feeling effect. If SMSN had been able to scream, he would not have been able to hear his own cries.
SMSN focused on the verses that he thought almost mindlessly through the synapsis in his brain. SMSN was to be the chosen one. He was selected to not go to the regular school. MRY had had a vision. She had heard the voice of YHWH. While still a baby, he was smuggled, unbeknown to the E.O. or the system and raised by the priests. Instead of going to L.S., the priests taught him what other students were not taught. Children in L.S. were shown pictures on a moving screen with images that flashed by. One student was rumored to have asked, “If I don’t remember it happening, then it never happened?” This was the deadliest question. The purpose of the pictures on the screen were to remember what had happened. Most of the images were of footage of before the Crisis, before WWIV. These children were not taught what had happened or why; they were just shown that it had happened. This was real.
After those news programs, students were shown pictures of YHWH and miracles on the ever-glowing, ever-teaching magical screen. They had been saved. They would not be cursed again, like their forefathers had been. They would not be wiped from the face of the earth. The earth had been cleansed by water. The earth had been cleansed by bomb. Now the earth would be cleansed by products. The E.O. were, of course, over the production and selling and selling of the items of pleasure. Large pictures and posters would be spread around the small gathering areas where the people of SMSN would gawk and stare and drool over the newest item of pleasure. The people of SMSN were quite poor but several items of pleasures were especially marketed for them. The richest and the poorest both could enjoy the items of pleasures. Beautiful, smiling women help luscious clothing. Tall, dark men wore bracelets that shined like the sun. Certainly, some of these items of pleasure were not quite at the same quality as these images depicted, but what did it matter. The people of SMSN had been saved on purpose and had every right to enjoy pleasures. No need to think critically. No need to analyze. The E.O. would tell you everything you need to know. They were now the chosen ones.
Of course, SMSN was chosen. But he was also selected. SMSN was taught by the priests the ways of deceit and cunning. He was taught how to fight and how to break, to lie, to cheat, to steal. He grew in strength. Most importantly, the priests of YHWH read SMSN from the S.B. He heard the verses, the words of the YHWH. He was taught by hearing. The priests would force him to memorize, to reiterate, to recite until the words fell from his mouth like mana fell from heaven for the people of MSS. SMSN would not worship the idol; he would rend the earth in half with his might. He would save their people from ignorance.
Yet SMSN was not entirely trusted by the priests because SMSN was not taught how to read. Reading was considered too powerful; reading caused men to think and to reason. Reading, or words specifically, were dangerous. Reading is what had caused the Crisis. It had ended millions of lives. Had not the priests taught SMSN that even MSS could not read the ten commandments as they were written, but rather YHWH had told Moses what to say to the people?
But SMSN yearned to know the real spelling of his name. The one thing children were taught was how to spell their names. Documents, of course, still had to be signed. A few other words could be picked out, but mainly children who grew up to become adults only knew their own name and maybe the name of their partner. He believed learning his real name, his real spelling would be the source of his real identity. Those words that spelt his name would be his Ideal, his Form, his Self. In other words, those words would spell out his true identity. Not the false name he created for himself. Not the name he still called himself, SMSN. But his real, true identity would finally become a reality.
If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling?
SMSN knew he was no longer whole. He felt like someone or something was watching him.
He had given himself to DS, worshiped her, kissed her feet, and fallen on his knees for her. He had sacrificed, given everything for her. But why? She had lied to him, telling him that she knew what it was like to be an outsider, to be an outcast, to want something more out of life. Together, they would escape this world. Together, they would run away from it all. Together, they would transcend this world by running away to the North Kingdom, an empty land where vagabonds and cannibals were rumored to roam and hunt for human flesh. After their plans they made, SMSN knew he had passed the turning point. There was no going back. He had known that he would tell her everything in the fragrant swallows of the evening’s dimming dawn of darkness. He could never go back now. But he did not know it would end with this.
XXX knew its purpose. Its job was to complete the task. Losing one’s sense of smell was a process. It was the longest step. It was the fourth most painful sort of torture known to humans. It was a simple process: simply wave a precise mixture of the bottles labeled L2, O, L2. XXX was efficient. It did its job. It was calculated to give Subject 24718-JKB a shot of adrenaline at precisely 10.4 seconds after the solution was completely smelled. Subjects were never supposed to go unconscious. Subjects must be awake for the entire process. Each step was a process. Each step was a process. Each step was a process. Each step was a process.
XXX began, slowly, to shut down. XXX was created to shut down after step four.
SMSN jerked back into consciousness. He was awake but barely. His eyes streamed with tears that he could not brush away. His eyes were the only thing he had left. He could see that XXX was no longer moving. Somehow XXX had shut down, apparently automatically. There was no binary switch for on or off from what SMSN could see with his two eyes.
SMSN sat there for a few moments in the dark. He felt like someone or something was watching him. He was confused. His precious eyes were left for last, but who—or what—would complete the deed? SMSN began to shake harder than ever before. Not knowing what would happen next terrified him the most. He muttered under his breath these words to try to calm his shaking hands and shrinking spirits:
Providing for honest things, not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of men.
Almost two hundred years after the bomb, the era of schwas and diphthongs was over. The masses were reduced down to mere signs. A child was assigned one or more consonants to be known by. This revealed the worth of the child. A one-consonant child was worth less than a two-consonant child, etc. Not even YHWH used vowels–only an elect few knew that the BRGS could buy vowels. SMSN, a child worth four consonants, was one of the elect. The rulers of the E.O., could afford vowels.
A man in black descended the stairs. He blended into his surroundings so at first SMSN did not see him. Then another and another and another descended, like demons returning to the thick darkness of a cave. They preferred the blackness where they sought their Truth.
One man with particularly long, black gloves drew a curtain. SMSN had not noticed it before. His eyes strained, but he could not tell if the shadows were talking. They moved and moved slowly, but he could not tell whether their lips moved as well. Hearing nothing and seeing these silhouettes before him were chilling. The dark curtain was drawn and behind it was a simple stage.
Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.
SMSN had sinned. He knew it. He wanted to confess to these black shadows all he had done, but he could no longer speak. He then realized that these shadows that were humans had come to finish his last act of torture. It would be not merely a physical ending but a psychological ending, he could tell.
The play began. It was a puppet show. Invisible beings moved the strings. A lonely puppet stood in the center of the stage.
Someone had disappeared. The lonely puppet was warned but defied the warning. The villain, an elongated masked puppet, was searching for something, gained information from a letter, and attempted to trick his victim via another letter. However, the lonely puppet intercepted the letter. This letter was worn and torn, scrolling down and around the lonely puppet’s body like a serpent entangling its victim and preparing to attack. Rather than forwarding the letter, the lonely puppet destroyed the letter. He tore the letter, piece by piece. Next, he tossed the fragments of the letter into a burning fire pit that sending shadows to darken the face of SMSN.
After the destruction was complete, the lonely puppet departed into a wilderness on a mission to escape from bondage of society and ensure his freedom. In this wilderness of endless sand, the lonely puppet grew weary, losing strength every haggard step he took. But the lonely puppet stumbled upon a pouch that was full of effervescent water in the middle of this desert. Suddenly, the masked puppet arrived on the scene, having found the lonely puppet. The two puppets dueled. It was impossible to tell from one moment to the next who would win. The lonely puppet stabbed the masked puppet with his paper sword, and when the masked puppet died, the desert vanished.
It had all been an illusion. The masked puppet, a sorcerer and magician, shimmered into a thousand pieces, scattering among the wind. The lonely puppet wandered off, searching for his home, a place he had not returned to for a very long time. He left the wilderness and was back in the city. Chased by little puppet dogs, the lonely puppet arrived at his home safely. But he sat on a chair, alone in his room. No other puppet entered the scene. No solution was offered, no exposure was made, no transfiguration occurred. Neither a wedding nor punishment happened. The lonely puppet just sat alone in the room, unremembered, unwanted, unrecognized in his isolation.
When SMSN had been escorted down the steps into the room of torture, he had seen lines scribbled on the wall. The E.O. were educated men and women. Sometimes lines were seen covered on walls, although these held no meaning for him. The guard recited the first line, and these words now echoed in the mind of SMSN:
In recognizing Oedipus or Medea in ourselves, we recognize that what can happen to that sort of person can happen to us as well, because we have just come to recognize that we ourselves that sort of person—that we are, to that extent, Oedipus or Medea ourselves.
Who was this Oedipus? This Medea? He yearned to scream it out loud. Yet no one could answer his question now. Right before the guard and SMSN entered the room of torture, the guard had recited another quote:
Incidents of drama itself . . . . teaches the audience something important about life and fate, even if, as I believe, it is not clear whether we can say in general terms what this lesson is or, indeed, whether there is a single lesson that tragedy teaches beyond expanding our sense of factors that can affect the shape of our life. Tragedy, then, is an imitation of an action that is serious, complete, and of a certain magnitude.
The thoughts of SMSN trailed now as he watched the lonely puppet on the stage. SMSN had not and did not understand these words. He wondered if the play was supposed to mean something to him. He did not know whether the drama was meant to influence his emotions in some way or if it was some strange set of motions to create confusion for himself. Or, he wondered, if the play was in some way an original creation set out for its own purpose of merely existing just as he was created for the mere usage of being in existence. Could the plot merely be attempting to internalize resolution of its tragic nature rather than considering his response as the sole audience member? Did the invisible puppet master not care that he was present—he still existed?
After that tribulation, the sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light.
The play was coming near the close; SMSN could sense it. He would lose his sight as soon as the curtain was lowered on the stage. The madness would finally finish.
The lonely puppet climbed a fabricated staircase, winding up and up and up. He reached a tall building with many windows that glowed of deceitful warmness, ricocheting more shadows in all directions. After the lonely puppet climbed the stars, he reached the top of the building. He stood, arms stretched out to the heavens. The stars–tiny, flickering lights surrounded in the darkness–blinked on and off, on and off.
And the stars of heaven shall fall, and the powers that are in heaven shall be shaken.
With his arms still outstretched, the lonely puppet took a step off the building and fell. The curtain closed. SMSN shook with a terrible force.
The E.O. had an approved list of teaching material, otherwise coded as DAGON, mainly of old television programs or news reports, or so the rumor had been spread when SMSN was still in L.S. The S.B. was one on the approved list. It was used to calm the people. He had been on an errand of truth, a quest for the ideal, but it soon became a search for the true name of SMSN. He yearned to know his true identity. How was his name suppose to be? What would it look like? What would it feel, look like written out? SMSN’s original quest was to search for the books that were not on that list made by the E.O. To find out the names, the real names, of titles that had been considered improper. The purpose of him entering GZ was to save his people. The source of truth, the source of reality was to be found in the list of books that were forbidden.
The center of the city in GZ was a giant orb on top of a high building, stretching into the sky. This orb sent silent vibrations through the city. At high-speed velocities, these vibrations could detect the code in the hair and sometimes even the clothing of the PRLTRT versus BRGS. SMSN did not completely comprehend how this machine worked, but its power rested purely on the exterior, detecting any unwarranted visitors to the city of the elect.
The priests had developed a way to rewire the code encrypted into the hair of SMSN. It was done through high-tech software that the priests had stolen and had been working on for years before SMSN was born. The orb would be unable to detect the false code signaling the identity of SMSN. SMSN was to become part of the BRGS. The only thing that would give away his identity would be a reversal of the code in his hair. The priests had given SMSN fresh clothes, which were also stolen from BRGS.
But SMSN became sidetracked from his quest. While hiding among the E.O. in GZ, SMSN had taken upon him the name of ISH, but when SMSN met DS, she made him feel emotions he had not dreamt were possible of in the land of his people, where women were nothing compared to the greatness of DS. She had told him that she would tell him his true name if he would but reveal his consonants. But their love had been a false one. When he had told her all, she had betrayed him while he still slept in her arms. She was to reveal his secrecy, and in the dead of night, men, spying in their secret eyes hidden about the room, hanging from ceilings and tucked under tiles, had come while he was still asleep, injecting him with a solution so he would remain asleep and innocuous. His false DS, his idol, had betrayed him. He had sold his mess of pottage; she had cut his hair.
She took his hair to the E.O., who would soon discover the secret of the priests’ endeavors to hide the identity of SMSN. Probably not very long after the punishment of SMSN would be completed, the priests would be punished, as well. They had been warned. They had been found wanting. They would receive their just rewards. The wicked would not prevail. E.O. would rule without conflict. They would continue to sell their gizmos and gadgets, their toys and their entertainments for the pleasure of the PRLTRT. One day, no one else would resist. The minds of the PRLTRT would be too absorbed by the toys of the E.O. No long would the people of SMSN question the control of the E.O. The PRLTRT would become slaves to their passions rather than defenders of their rights.
SMSN shuddered, violently and forcefully, in the fiercest, sharpest of pain. He never learnt if he had dreamt in the depths of his unconsciousness after losing his sense of smell or had actually seen the haunting vision in reality. He was left in darkness, never to see his Form written in letters and consonants.
All that remained were mere mirrored memories upon the glassy smear of his mind.
 Genesis 4:6
 Pronounced Samson, according to the section of pronunciation guide in E.O.’s New Order: An Abbreviated Dictionary of Shortened Language. After the bomb destroyed approximately 79.4% of the earth’s population, the E.O. (Elite Order), or previous rulers that survived and about .2% of the remaining population, gathered together to establish a united language and simply terms to communicate completely, concisely, compliantly, and clearly. Only 1.93% could read this new, condensed dictionary.
Acronym, using only vowels, Elite Order
 Acronym, using only vowels, Proletariat
 Acronym, using only vowels, Bourgeoisie
 Isaiah 21:9
 Pronounced Gaza, a land currently covering the Midwest of the United States of America.
 Revelation 14:8
 SMSN could possibly be referring to Giuseppe Verdi’s La traviata. A man, who falls in love with a prostitute, rejects the reality of her occupation present before him to focus on the qualities that he loves. This eventually brings about their separation, which enhances the tragedy that will undeniably happen at the end of the opera with the prostitute’s death.
 Possibly in reference to Dante’s Inferno
 Pronounced, Extermination Version 30. This is in reference to its model number.
 Colossians 2:21–22.
 “The tetragrammaton (from Greek τετραγράμματον, meaning “four letters”) is the Hebrew theonym יהוה, commonly transliterated into Latin letters as YHWH. It is one of the names of the God of Israel used in the Hebrew Bible.”
 Pronounced Manoah
 Pronounced Mary. Records show that there was a high spike in partners selecting this name for their child around this time. Mary was approximately 15 when she gave birth to her first son, Samson.
 After the Bomb: A new order of time was established.
 The Appeals of Equality came into effect shortly approximately seventy-eight years before the bomb occurred.
 Genesis 2:17
 Pronounced Dios. Believed by some to be the word for gods in the forgotten romantic language, Spanish. This became a popular first name among the selection of daughters by the E.O., who were not commanded to multiple and replenish the earth.
 Mark 4:23
 Acronym using consonants, Learning Suite. Education did not have the status of using vowels in its abbreviation. L.S. years would be the years generally associated with elementary school in the late twentieth to early twenty-first century. Therefore, this would be about kindergarten through fifth- or sixth-grade. However, in the years following the bomb, the E.O. declared that children would go to school from age 4–5 until puberty, for “the multiplying and replenishing of the earth” as taught in the S.B. (see footnote 21). Children were then assigned partners, based on preferred sexual orientation; therefore, children had the option of selecting a homosexual or heterosexual relationship under Appeal 274 of Equality, but homosexual partners were given children from other parents who had died or were considered unfit. Suite is in reference to the fact that children were sent away from school, such as with boarding schools in the United Kingdom and other European countries.
 Acronym using consonants, Select Bible. Even high literature did not have the status of using vowels in abbreviation. Around 9 A.B., the E.O. created a committee called the R.S. This committee did not have the status of using vowels.
 Pronounced Moses
 1 Corinthians 12:17
 Pronounced Bourgeoisie, an antiquated French term that persisted approximately 112 years after the bomb. Some believe that this is equated with the prevalent survival rate of the French, who had retreated into Switzerland before the explosion. Some critics would argue the French contributed heavily to the E.O.’s New Order: An Abbreviated Dictionary of Shortened Language, while others would say that their prevalence is quite less obvious.
 Romans 5:12
 Believed to have been written by Alexander Nehamas.
 Mark 13:23
 Mark 13:24
 Judges 16:23 “Then the lords of the Philistines gathered them together for to offer a great sacrifice unto Dagon their god, and to rejoice”
 Pronounced Isaiah. Believed by some to be a prophet in ancient times.
 Perhaps this is in reference to hidden cameras or a sort of unknown code conveying images from area 1 to area 2 in order for information to be revealed about something occurring in area 1.
 Upon further research in recent years, Dios is believed to have been an agent for the E.O. Some critics, however, argue about her role. Some wonder whether she could have been a double agent. Others argue about what role could she have played.
~ Some Explanation:
Ekpipto, as used here in the title, in Greek means the following: “to fall, to perish, to fall powerless, to fall … of the divine promise of salvation.” This short story is about the fall of a man, ultimately in the quest for Truth. This dystopian/philosophical/1982/The Tree of Life/the gloss of “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner”/biblical/YA novel-esque (Unwind specifically) short story is weird and … well, just straight-up weird.
But it incorporates ideas of Saussure (the idea of signs, the use of language/names, and the importance that has in this society), Baudrillard (the use of television for education and the hyperreality; whether SMSN dreamed or if it was reality), Plato (the cave/shadows/forms, searching for the truth/ideal, and the idea of preferring spoken above written language), and even Aristotle (the idea of the form of drama in addition to criticism by Nehamas).
There is also irony in the sense of the futurist critic, writing biasedly throughout in the margins, looking back at a earlier point in the future (from our perspective as the reader), as if it is a piece of art to critique; perhaps this is in reference to Wilde and the idea of a critic being more important than the art itself and the emphasis on creating, in fact constantly creating to find the new, rather than the actually reaching the certain point of the said-end creation.
Additionally, Nietzsche could perhaps be seen in this short story; the quote “God is dead” could have popped up in the dialogue at any point, and the idea of society constructing truths, which are actually lies, in order to create structure is prevalent throughout the story.
Of course, the Platonic forms is invariably important for consideration, but this piece becomes even more interesting when Foucaultian concepts of power play and a new type of Panopticon comes into the picture. The proletariat and bourgeoisie of Marx are presented in the different levels of this future society.
Additionally, this story presents the fact that consumerism that is still prevalent and the culture industry is still going strong—even in the future (poor Adorno and Horkheimer would be rolling in their graves). Perhaps the desire to obtain poetry becomes a type of religious quest for SMSN—hence, harkening to the theory of Arnold.
Time travel—it is impossible, no?
Studying, studying, studying; researching, researching, researching. No use, you would think, after years of, well, working, searching, finding what I could in what was left of the university libraries, in my spare time, of course.
No one goes to college anymore. How could this be? How had this happened? The locks are not that hard to break. So that is why, why in fact, the reason why I broke the law, I broke into the libraries, whenever I could and whenever I was guaranteed not to get caught, although, really, it’s not too difficult to be caught, since, well, remember the laws that were made years—oh how many years has it been?—but that really doesn’t matter, the year I was turning fifteen.
That’s what it was. Yes, the year I changed was the year the war happened and when the peace treaty was made between the Germanic States of Europe, the Portuguese States of Europe, and the British States of Europe, that was when the universities were locked up. Education was exterminated because no one, God knows only why, needed to know how to read. Immediate, mindless work was much more effective for the masses. Was it not? But I broke the law—the cause is justifiable, no?
My name is. . . I don’t remember now. I found my name, written out, in the records, hidden deep within the labyrinth of the library. My parents. My sister. My brother. Their names, there they were, written on the white page like seals pressed into the edges of time. I wanted, you know, to check, of course, to see if I was real. Real, we were all real, in the pages of books.
Why, books, have you been cast aside? Burned by so many after the war? Broken apart by those who searched for ways to keep their broken, shriveling bodies warm.
The cause—the cause to go to the past. To return to the golden era. The turn of the twentieth century, the age when almost anything was possible, where rights were expanded, and people began to fight for what they really believed in.
Not like this current cesspool of flashing, broken images streaked across the burning, midnight skies and dawning evening dusks.
I would write. I would write the greatest of things. I would save my people through thoughts and ideas and words, and they would learn, yes they would, they would learn the importance of words and literature. They could be saved.
The masses, the groaning masses, could find salvation.
It was during these midnight break-ins that I’d make my greatest break-throughs. Languages, I know four (German, English, French, Russian). Sciences, from Einstein to Newton to Bohr. For fun, I’d study Plato, Aristotle, Kant . . . But the one section I always returned to for hours and hours was the area that had books about time travel.
My favorite author, an Englishman, was inspired. The Muses spoke to him. Science spoke to him. Angels spoke to him. Something or whatever spoke to him, or maybe it was just his own genius altogether, but his writings lifted my mind to higher realms of inspiration and glory. Oh, how I miss those silent nights with the books that were left and the haunted memories of past students roaming through the aisles.
It was on one of these nights, so long ago, that I made a decision. The pages of a particular book, bended and faded, torn and worn, felt so crisp and thin in my hand. I turned the pages so many times, reading each line with a furious hunger. Why not, I asked myself, do what this very character did? He went to the future; I can return to the past.
For ages, I longed to write my own book. My book would be spread underground and read by thousands. Eventually, my visions, my theories would change the world and infiltrate to the top. People would be forced to hear what I believed. People would be forced to see the world in a new light. People would be forced to read.
Works of great literature should be whole. Like scientist’s theories were complete and exact, so would my greatest contribution to the written word be. My ideas would flow like great rivers I had never seen or the fresh ocean water I had heard about only in these dusty books I stole, or barrowed, of course, barrowed, you know, for reading purposes. My writing would be an organic unity of wholeness. How could it not?
But I lacked any original ideas, or so I thought. Even my idea to create a time machine was based on an idea that had been going on forever. This time, rather than going to the future, I would return to the past.
By going to the past, I would ask the writer of this book, my favorite author, for inspiration. How did he create his ideas? How did the Muses speak to him? How did his mind work? We would have an actual conversation, face-to-face. He would like me. I would like him. We would become friends. I would no longer be alone in the labyrinth of books. Then I would write my book, return to my time in the future, and change the world.
I took a risk—I took my precious book from the library to my home. It wasn’t really stealing, no; it was not to be missed among the other rows of books that were left.
I read the book over and over again. Some pages tore just from their delicate states. Additional trips, during riskier times of day, mid-morning and late afternoon (midnight was the best time to go), were made. No one ever broke into the library—no one but me. But, of course, I wasn’t breaking in. I was just exploring the world of knowledge the world did not see.
During these extra hours, I read even more than I had before, trying to create a way, through the piles of theories I read, to fulfill my desire to return to my idealized precursor. Years passed by. One day, while sketching on some torn sheets of paper, I found my eureka. For months I built my time machine, using old desks and old electricity wires and metal from around the library. It took diligence. Once it was created, I knew, I knew it would work.
But it needed to be tested, you know, like scientists test hypothesizes with little mice or birds with grey feathers, so I set the dial back to one day, at university library. I saw blurred visions zoom past my eyes, and when it stopped, I was, as the clock indicated, exactly one day previous to the day I finished the time machine. In my excitement, my fixation, I choose to go back in time to meet my favorite author where he lived and wrote. I set the dial for 1895, pulled the lever three notches down, and zoomed faster and faster into the past.
The dial began to spin, turning, turning, turning backwards. Over what felt like a few seconds to me, I began to see the dial spin close to the 1900s. The blurry images surrounding my machine began to slow, and the dial eventually came to a stop. Right as the dial was about to click, I noticed an image, which seemed to be glaring at me from the end of a long corridor. The machine stopped, and soon I realized we were not in some hallway.
Rather, it was dark, and it was night. It must have been a forgotten alleyway. I checked the time and place to make sure and then unlocked my door. Stepping out of the time machine, I noticed that it was exceedingly dark. There were no flashing lights, no glaring screens, no block long advertisements. Vibrant darkness in all its glory screamed to my soul at what I had done.
As I stood by my time machine, I did not realize at first what was happening. I was quite dizzy and felt a bit sick. My ears were ringing like haunted bells churning in a dark nightmare. Resting my hand and left side upon the nearest wall, I swallowed gasps of cold air. My eyes clamped shut, I tried to adjust myself. Slowly, the dizziness went away, and I realized how cold it was out. I had no jacket, no money, nothing on my person.
Then I heard a few gasps, a moaning, a blood-curling sigh come from my machine. Great goodness, where was it coming from? It was actually from underneath my machine, I thought. I feared going close, but then, quickly, I came to a realization that there was some teenager somehow under my machine.
But no—he was not merely under the machine. He was crushed. I found, on the other side of the machine, the kid’s face, his eyes glassy, his tongue flopping out to one side. I stepped back in full horror at the realization of what I had done.
In going back in time, I had killed this poor boy. I had assumed that going back in time was fine, but I had not considered time and space. This person was exactly at the wrong place at the wrong time. I had not killed him on purpose. It was an accident, an accident, I swear. But he was surely dead.
His hand was outstretched to one side, and the finger seemed to point out towards the right of the machine. I walked around the machine more and found a bundle of documents tied up with string. This poor kid, his last attempts were to hold these papers one last time, but, alas, they were too far out of reach.
I picked up the bundle of papers. My hands shook, and as I tried to steady them, I noticed something on the top corner. A name so familiar, a name that had haunted me in my waking thoughts: H. G. Wells. The title read in curvy letters The Time Machine.
No, I screamed in my mind. This cannot be. In going back in time, I had inadvertently killed the very author I had so desperately want to see. But I gave another glance at the blank face under the machine. Wells was supposed be twenty-nine years of age when he had written the book, the same age that I was. Yet this boy looked like he was not even in his twenties. He was younger. Had Wells actually written this story when he was still in his youth, only to publish it years later? My mind swirled in confusion.
A sudden thought came to my mind. What if I could go further back in time, just a few minutes more, and warn this poor boy not to go down this alley, to avoid any sounds, to never venture down this path. I ran immediately with the papers in hand to my machine. I closed the door and twisted the dial a bit and then twisted the nob down. But the machine did nothing. It did not move or spin or zoom or anything.
Panic thumped loud in my ears, and my hands shook even harder than before. My machine! Broken! But how? It must have been my horrific landing when I hit the boy, my author, my inspiration.
I was officially stuck in the past. I had no resources. I had no friends. I had no home. I had no life. I opened the door to my machine. My bag held some of my prized possessions from the old university library: some philosophy and all the writings of Wells and some paper. Although I had planned to talk about Wells’s books in full, vibrant detail, I had indeed killed my precursor. I took this manuscript, blood-splattered and torn, in my hands.I found some smelling old rags in the gutter. I had no clue how long it had been there. Because I was quite literate and could write, I was able to find some work quickly. There was only one thing I could do.
Though my name had been Harold Gross, I became Herbert George Wells, shortening it to H. G. Wells.
Shortly thereafter, because I was low on cash, I sold Wells’s story to a publisher. Every night I scrub, and I scrub, and I scrub. The blood—it won’t come off my hands, I tell you! It’s always there. My hands are died permanent red, and when the water rushes down the drain, it’s stained pink, of course, but the blood never leaves my hands. I had killed my precursor—I had become my precursor.
~ Some Explanation:
Bloom’s theory centers on the anxiety of influence from precursors. So that got me thinking—what if a person became so obsessed over creating an original work of art that that person would do something crazy? I love how Bloom argues about “a greater awareness of the artist’s fight against art, and of the relation of this struggle to the artist’s antithetical battle against nature” (1653). Bloom’s believed, “To search for where you already are is the most benighted of quests, and the most fated” (Leitch 1656); time travel—the first thing that popped into my head.
My character, a man from the unknown, inexact place in the future, obsesses over original creation. Art in this futuristic setting has become broken images that do not reflect the natural world or truth or anything real. Art becomes flashing images for commercial purposes only. Very few people read, because, really, what’s the point? Commercialization is much more effective in conveying to the viewer what is desirable and necessary to purchase.
The man obsesses over a return to the processes of the mind (Kant-esque) and organic works of unity (Coleridge-esque) that will uplift society (Shelley-esque), instead of blitz of false advertising and its sole purpose of people to purchase the latest gadget. This creative piece is written in the first person point of view to emphasize the focus on mind (Kant-esque . . . again).
My character is undoubtedly bright as well as creative, to a certain extent, but he fails in his journey to go back to his favorite author to gain inspiration. I hoped to bring about the feeling of the romantic but hazy genius through the narrative. He becomes stuck in the past (literally and, perhaps, figuratively by breaking with reality in a mental collapse), as if his sole identity revolves around a man who never really existed yet at the same time exists because of himself.
However, this character is ultimately unable to help the future or society, in all actuality. He never returns, stuck in the past, stuck in his mind, stuck by past influences. The cruel twists of fate, the realities of broken pride are, indeed, bitter when he falls so far as to take the identity of his favorite author instead of his own. It really does not matter whether or not he went insane or really ever went into the past.
Personally, I believe that the man was actually caught in the future by security guards protecting the university, which is why he always is on the defense. Did he go back in time? Was he just tortured? Did he kill a man? Or could he really not kill or overcome his precursor?
Despite all these questions that cannot be answered exactly, he ultimately experiences the pangs of fallen idealism. I would argue that the man could not overcome his precursor in the fight that Bloom suggests.
Last summer of the Year of the Revolution
The First Unit split into three: the sapphire hearts, the ruby stars, the emerald diamonds; the Second Unit argued about whether sapphires and rubies would join
The Third Unit didn’t care
I was part of the Third Unit,
Yet at the time, I knew nothing
Politics meant nothing to me, and talking heads sounded like voodoo magic gone wrong
It’s not that I didn’t care—I just didn’t know, I just wasn’t aware of my surroundings
All I cared about was my surgery, a little preoccupied, I guess you could say
That summer everything would change
I was born different, and, finally, I would fit in with other kids my age
I couldn’t go away from class because, well, my parents didn’t think that I would fit in
I’d be made fun of, pushed, teased, tricked out of a normal adolescent’s experience
If the surgery went well, they said, I could go with the other students to class
Homeschool would no longer be an option
Okay, I said to them. I can do this, I said.
The surgery experimental and expensive—I was a lucky one, my parents told me
The requirements included connections and being over the age of fifteen—I was that plus an additional four months due to paperwork and payments and under-the-table negotiations
I wasn’t really aware about that either until later
Never before had I been allowed to play with kids my age
Nor had I been allowed really go outside alone without either parent by my side
I could walk fine and learned how to read through hard work, but it had happened through blood, sweat, tears
And learned about all sorts of history
Like pop star music hits and movie quotes and listened to everything I could get my hands on
I wanted to be prepared to fit in as much as the other kids once the surgery happened
One day I heard there would be a live performance of a play I had partly read a few years ago, downtown the night before my surgery
A famous name blurred by, I think it came from the TV, yet I just couldn’t figure out his name
Was it foreign? I hadn’t heard of it before, but I knew that I needed to go see this play, even if I hadn’t completely finished reading it. . . At least I kinda knew what it was about
What if the other students would go to this performance?
I needed to go, to fit in, to be cultured
To hear the words from Mr. K— D——
I wasn’t to go, especially never alone, I was told
It was too dangerous, they claimed
Being alone at that time of night at this time of year was especially unsafe
I would enjoy it more after the surgery, and the family could all go; my parents lovingly informed me that the Glasmere’s party was that evening, couldn’t I remember that, silly me
Because I wasn’t allowed to go outside, I asked if they could pick up some books for me, from the library since we weren’t able to purchase books that weren’t used–too expensive
Especially maps, like of old places and such, at the library nowadays
I had asked the maid to pick up a book about bus maps and descriptions of the city
The maid, in her little distant voice, placed her tiny hands in mine and promised to do so
“Ah vill geet vou deese boooks. Vut vill Ah dhell vour pahrents, vough?”
They would worry, of course, about “reading” so much before surgery and thinking too much and worrying too much about the world instead of focusing on preparing for surgery
I thought she had caught onto my plan
But no worries–I told her that reading helped to distract me and not to bother my parents with the silly things I wanted to read from the special library collection
Feeling those pages were liberation in my hands, freedom for my heart
Hours were spent in my room, hiding these treasure troves under my pillows
Pouring my soul into my liberty, my social salvation
The last performance of the show was the night before my surgery
My parents, fortunately, were to be guests elsewhere and asked,
“Are you sure you can be alone for a night without us both by your side”–they feared my fate without knowing my schemes
My dreams of running away were a silent whisper in my mind
The car was ready, the dinner prepared beforehand, and all was set according to plan
Kisses were shared, good-byes were said
Off they dashed into the world as I was left to remain alone in my room
But I had planned every moment as to not to be missed
As soon as I could no longer hear the car’s vroooooooom, I began my journey, which started in the opposite direction
I would turn three lefts at the corner, then one right at the last
The bus would arrived every ten minutes
Right on time
People chattered around me, their voices blending and blurring together as we collectively scrambled onto the steps
My careful steps were guided and safe
As I took my seat on my first bus ride alone
The bus stopped right in front of the theatre so I waited patiently, listening for The Charleston’s Theatre to ring through the air
Stepped off, found the line, bought my ticket, through the doors, showed my seat
All happened without a problem to bog mind, to distract my clarity
My stomach fluttered and quivering thoughts trembled in my mind of being caught in my act of escape
But no one mumbled in my ear to leave, and no one grabbed my arm in accusation
I merely sat in my seat when the curtains rustled
Voices of a chorus of men and women rung in my ears
Sweet, odd music–melodiously sad and melancholy–echoed through the theatre
Describing the fate of the hero at stake
He would do despicable things, but why would he do those acts?
Someone muttered behind me on my right how this was suppose to be Director Kaffkav’s best work yet
Another person on my left perhaps two rows back sighed and muttered about the beauty of the costumes, while the person beside me turned to me, her voice creaking like a frog’s old croak, saying how shocked she was that the staging was so bare
I said nothing, focusing on the lyrical words the performers spoke
These actors could play their voices as if they were instruments
Gentle yet strong; sometimes passionate but controlled
My favorite voice to listen to was the main actor, Gulioni Voce
His voice rung like sturdy, silver bells through the hall
Surprised—no ringing tinge of Italian when he spoke English translation of this Greek tragedy
My blood curled when I heard the prophet’s prophecy
My hair stood on end when Voce’s chilling cry sounded when he found the body of his role’s wife
My stomach churned when the despair of his voice sounded as he gouged out his eyes
The woman next to me muttered how startling the gold the pins looked in contrast to the black set that enshrined the actor
No man, no woman, no one is fortunate
Until they are dead
The echoes of those words chilled me to my very core
Even after the play ended
And the audience clapped
Those words resonated, as if bouncing back and forth inside my empty mind
All the way home
As I sat silently on the bus ride home, unable to look out the window and see the actors exiting the theatre to sign autographs or the audience’s plastered smiles or to see the red carpet rolled out, like blood spilling into the flowing waters of the Nile
I wanted to be Moses of the Old Testament—let my people go, let my Oedipus go
To the pharaoh of Egypt, to the writer of the Greek tragedy
Oedipus would never have done that, would never have gouged out his eyes, no matter how terrible the crime—sight was a gift from god, and no one should take that away
Sighing, I leaned my head to the left, resting my head against the hard rail, but I just couldn’t believe that the writer would or could ever write something as terrible as that
I guess I should have finished reading the play before I went to go see it live
That way I wouldn’t have been so surprised by the ending
I didn’t know—I didn’t know that would end that way
My head suddenly jerked forward, mid-thought
A screech of the breaks sounded, and I couldn’t feel the bus moving anymore
Why had we stopped?
The bus was silent, so I guess I was the last one, although the ride had not been very long, and a voice sprung to life, I guess it sounded like it was coming out of little, square box near my right ear
“All passengers off, please. Now, please. Ma’am, that would be you.”
But it was early
This wasn’t my stop. I was waiting for number 520, not 430
None of my protests helped
The bus driver escorted me down the steps.
Apparently, this bus stopped at number 430 after 10:00 p.m.
No, it wouldn’t go any further
Yes, yes, yes. Cut through the park, honey. You can use your cane to follow the fence rails. On the other side of the park, yes, yes, bus 520, that’s right, will be the bus stop you need.
His words still echo in my ears: yes, yes, yes . . .
His job was done. He wanted me off. He wanted to go home
But so did I.
So I did the only thing I could do—I started my journey across the park
Although my life is in constant darkness, I learned to be able to feel darkness, or heavy darkness, I guess you could call it
Of course, it was dark outside, but the shrouded trees felt like a blasphemous shrine, like the ones Catholics use, or maybe not, I read about it once in a book
Like dark magic or Satan worship or something I can’t quite remember the name of, you know, how certain words like that can just leave your brain in a moment
The park, I was completely unfamiliar with
The path, it was unknown
The fence, it rambled tap, tap, tap as my cane hit each bar as I walked
Alone, utterly alone, and lost—the fence ended, and I was left at a fork in the park’s pathway
As far as I could tell, at this point in time, no one was around me
Alone, utterly alone, and lost
“Hey, tootsie. You a red or a blue? You sure as hell better not be one of ’em greens’.”
A voice erupted behind me—I dropped my cane
“Who said that?” I mumbled under my breath. No one answered. Then I said it again, louder. Then again, even louder. The fourth time I said it, my voice came out in a shuddering scream.
But nobody answered my query
Yet I could hear, like bats flapping their wings in a cave, several bodies begin swish, swish with their clothing, you know how it rubs against your legs, and they came, circling me, and I didn’t know which way to turn, you know when you feel disoriented and don’t know right form left or up or down
I think I tripped, maybe over my cane I had dropped and tried desperately to feel out with my feet, but maybe it was one of the boys he started jeering near my ear and my heart jumped and a stumbled over a root or something or maybe it was a foot, I really don’t know
“I don’t see no red or no greenie or no even blue mark on ’er. What’d’e do?” The voice whined, like a sick dog in the heat.
“No mark means no side, right’e’o?” Another voice jumped out across the other side.
“No. What are you saying. No mark means ain’t mean no side. No mark means she one- ’em, don’t cha ’member, you’d be shitin’, fools. She one ’em. She a thirdy. She bets she’s one ’em purdy, thirdy, uppedys.”
The voice lurked like seeping black spit bursting from a tar pit
Then I felt a kick, and I was already on the ground, but my face landed in the gritty sand, and the sand rubbed my face raw, and he kicked again and then I felt more feet kicking me and a rumbling chant emerged in the back throttle of their voices “dirty thirdy, dirty thirdy” because I was part of the Third Unit
They did not hear my cries, and the more I said, the more they hurt me, and finally, someone kicked me in the mouth, and I felt warm blood spurt out on my face as two or three guys grabbed my legs and dragged me, like a dead, worthless deer you move out of the road, to a nearby tree, I guess more hidden from the path, even though I scratched and clawed and tried to scream but someone gagged me and someone grabbed my head and someone tied a hard cloth across my mouth
Hot, weathered rope burned across my hands and as they tied me to the tree like a wounded puppy being punished, and they tore my pretty white tights as they ripped and tore with their fingers and whatever they could grab and they hurt me, deeper, deeper, inside, they tore and I tried to fight I did, but I grew tired and melted and hurt as they climbed, as if conquered, on top of me, one, two, three, four, five. . .
They climbed on top of me and tried to climb me like a tree, each digging, tearing into my aching, bleeding body
The stabbing thrusts and jabs began to slow, tears and blood stained my face, and the mutterings “dirty thirdy,” after they threw something at my face and spat on my mangled flesh, began to fade in the cooling evening of the darkness
I had never felt darkness as I did that night
Salty, painful tears sprawled down from my silent eyes as I wished in the fragrantless stillness that I had never disobeyed my parent’s advice, that I had stayed home, that I had never gone outside alone
Because I never, ever in my life had felt alone as I did in this moment
I was left on the ground, like a tied up calf about to be sacrificed on an alter
When a voice emerged across my left side, I jolted and convulsed, but a hushing sound. . .
A girl’s hand touched my face as she loosened my gag, and I could feel another boy’s hands as he cut the ties from my hands
“Why’re ya oot ’night? Don’t cha know. . . ’night were da raids? Ya don’t have yar star or emerald on?”
“Oh, oh, oh, oh, Emelily. . . she one a ’em. Can’t cha see? She’d be a thirdy!”
I breathed in and out and tried to calm myself. My aching back made it difficult to sit up, but my mouth and hands were free.
“Yes, I’m from the third district,” I whispered. “But I’m blind. Do you see my cane? Please, please hand that to me. Yes, that’s it, yes. Please, can you help me get home?”
The young boy and girl were silent for a moment.
“Please,” I begged in my quietest tone. “I don’t care what side you’re on. And you shouldn’t care what side I’m on. We’re the same, can’t you see that? I know I can’t see, but you two are good, aren’t you?”
The two sat in silence for a few more moments. The girl then decided that her brother and she would help me home. But we would have to be fast. I realize now that they could have been killed if they were seen helping me. I pray to God that they weren’t.
When I told the little boy and girl my address, the little girl pinned a star to my chest. I was now one of them.
The little boy with soft, gentle hands delicately held my hand, and the girl, several inches taller than the other child, carefully wrapped her arms around me to give me support
We walked as quickly as I was able to, given that, although nothing felt broken, my back hurt to move or to be touched, and my ankle was twisted
The three of us, creatures lurking through the night, hide in the shadows and behind trees, avoiding other groups storming through the park, attacking passerbys, and those muffled screams sent shivers through my body
No police sirens were heard—no justice would be served this night
The attackers were the judges, their parents the jury, these two children, my saviors
The girl whispered in my ear when we had exited the park. My home was just a block or two away from the park. The streets were hushed, the houses silent.
No cars zoomed by in a rush to make curfew, and I knew my parents would not be home for hours still.
The Third District went to sleep at 8 p.m. during the workdays, unless it was a Monday or Tuesday or Wednesday or Thursday or Friday or Saturday or Sunday, because the Third District never worked—of course, unless you counted shuffling cards and enjoying hors d’oeuvres
The little boy and girl helped me enter the back gate of the house, holding my broken body somehow with their unexplainable strength
My bedroom was on the first floor of the flat, the window on the side, and I had left the screen down on purpose so I could sneak in after the play had finished
I whispered good-bye to the children, but I couldn’t tell if they had already scrambled away, back to the park to save other strangers like they had saved me
I closed the window and locked it
After I felt my way to the door and opened the bathroom door, I turned the water on and stepped in while pulling my filthy clothes off; while the water ran, I scrubbed the mix of blood and dirt off.
I was glad I couldn’t look in the mirror. Never before had I felt such shame, such guilt.
I let the water run. I just sat, empty and hollow and naked, in the bare tub.
“Oh, Julia! You are up! Did you hear the news? Last night, the Ruby stars, that’s what they’re calling them now, they attacked several people in the park last night. Your father and I will need to move soon. That nonsense! So close to our flat! It’s unheard of. Those people. . . well, indeed, they’ve never ventured so close to the Third Unit before in all my life. Can you hear that, Julia! Never before have I ever seen this trag—”
“Nor have I, mother. I have never seen before, you know that,” I interrupted.
My mother paused. I could hear her shuffling papers, and something was sizzling on the stove. She knew I wasn’t suppose to eat breakfast. But there she was, making eggs or bacons or toast for me, and I wasn’t suppose to eat.
“Oh, Julia! Don’t be so sensitive. You know today you will be able to see! Your surgery is
just in a few hours! I know I should have stayed home last night. Oh, you know. To be with you. I should have known you’d be more nervous than you’ve been letting on. But that party, oh the dresses and the food, it was all just so divine.”
“No, what? What’s wrong now?” My mother’s tone pinched and twisted like knives stabbing me in my throbbing lower back.
“I’m not going. I can’t go today. I’ve decided I don’t wan the surgery.”
My mother’s voice shook, “And when was this decided? It’s already been paid for. The arrangements are made, Julia. Don’t be silly, Julia. You’re being selfish, Julia. You’re just sacred, that’s normal, it’s perfectly normal, in fact, but think how long you’ve been waiting for this, Julia. You’ve always wanted this.”
She had no clue. She had no clue what had happened to me. She was blissfully unaware. She was just as blind as I was. She couldn’t see her own daughter.
I didn’t answer her. I just walked into my room. Shame burned in my face, but I locked the door because I couldn’t bear to hear her any more. I couldn’t listen to the words she would ask if she saw the tears streaming down my face. I couldn’t bear the shame any longer. I turned the lock on the door and that was that.
I would not go to the surgery—it didn’t matter how long my mother begged, encouraged, threatened, yelled, cried.
I didn’t open my door, I didn’t eat, I didn’t sleep, I couldn’t move, I couldn’t think, but all I knew was that I would never ever see the world that had done this to me. Nor could I ever see the faces of my parents if they ever learned what had happen to me, that I had disobeyed them, that I had
I have just hid in my room, writing my experience in poetry (I do have a computer and taught myself how to type), right now as I do, I know that it’s not very good, and sometimes I forget commas and periods and misspel words and maybe the grammar are sometimes wrong, and that there’s no rhyme scheme, no great story, no great tragic hero, yet it feels like a Greek tragedy to me, and my lines ramble on and on just as my thoughts do
This is my story, my experience. I will read and reread it from beginning to end. No man, no woman, no one—not even this young, naïve blind girl—are fortunate until they are dead
I am Oedipus. I am blind.
~ Some Explanation:
Entrepó, as used here in the title, in Greek means to turn to confusion, to put to shame, or to recoil in shame. Recently, I read in the news about a horrific event that happened; a man raped a blind woman. I wanted to analyze the idea of reader’s response in this story/poem (is it arrogant to make up the term “storem”?) set in the unspecified future (perhaps something like this could happen even tomorrow) set in a revolutionary and restless time with a young, blind girl, who is a reader of the special library’s books written in brail. Sometime, not mentioned here in the story, this blind girl read Oedipus.
How would a blind reader respond to the text and then a performance of that the Greek tragedy, Oedipus? Oedipus is a complicated play, and I am not sure if this play would fit into the requirements of Johnson’s intense morality, even though Oedipus is punished severely at the end. Perhaps the Greek tragedy, following the Horacian principles, does entertain, by shocking readers, and instructs, by showing readers what not to do.
Yet this young girl does not know how to respond to the play. The audience members are supposed to represent various interpretive communities, such as what Fish proposes, shown here through their (undeniably rude) running commentary throughout the play; the audience each has his or her own bias, yet this does assist the blind girl in shaping her perspective, since she selects which comments she values, which is revealed in this story through what comments she remembers and writes down.
Even though the girl can hear the audience’s responses, the blind girl still does not know how to respond to her experience. Yes, she read the play. Yes, she watched the play. But her underlying question is why anyone would ever make themselves blind—removing one’s sight, when receiving sight is the very thing she has longed for her entire life.
It is not until the unexpected happens that the blind girl’s perspective changes: the bus stops, she becomes lost, she is attacked and maliciously raped by a gang. The naïve girl is not completely aware of what has happened, but she knows it is something so serious and terrible that she cannot tell her parents. She feels like she has ignored her parents’ counsel (she was not to leave home), just as Oedipus ignored the prophecy of Tiresias. As a result, the blind girl feels inexorable shame, just as Oedipus felt shame.
Rather than plunging long, golden pins into her eyes as Oedipus does, the blind girl refuses to have the surgery performed to restore her eyesight, choosing a life of darkness to never see the light of the world where people did these terrible things to her. She opts to read from the safety of her home and in the darkness of never seeing the shame in her parents eyes as reflect in the shame of her own heart.
One claim Iser makes is that every time the reader reads a text, there is the possibility of discovering new perspectives from each reader. Yet, because of this traumatic experience, the blind girl continues to read and reread the play. Now, she is caught in a trap, like a mouse caught in a spinning wheel. I would like to believe that my character will one day, hopefully soon, reach out for help.
Although her relationship with her parents is strained, perhaps she will confess what has happened to the maid or to some other trusted adult. Just as sharing stories with other readers brings out different perspectives, I believe that through telling her rape story to others, she will gain new perspectives as people tell their stories, or their perspectives, to her.
Before she is able to share her story with others, she feels like she must write down her story, in poetic form, because that’s what the great Greek tragedians did. By writing her story, she shares it, even if it is only with herself. Her writing is full of errors, but it is supposed to be flawed.
Please leave any comments or questions below!!! 🙂