Saturday, March 30, 2013


Community among slaves and the Igbo was similar yet quite different at the same time. In both cases, community was revered, however in American slave society, none of the slaves would turn against their own. In "Things Fall Apart" we observed some natives siding with the whites that had arrived because it seemed as if it was the easier route to survival. We however, did not see this in the case of the American slaves who stuck together through everything given that they had all faced an incredible amount of struggle.

Cultural Crossover

As I was preparing for the humanities test a few days ago, I realized there was a permeating cultural cross over between the characters in "Beloved" and Igbo tradition. The Igbo believed that there was no barrier between the past life and the current life as the soul never died and continued to live. This was evident with the obanje in "Things Fall Apart" that continued to haunt Ekwefi through seven children. This same continuation of life was seen with Beloved who killed, however continued to haunt 124 until she was finally reincarnated. I find this cultural cross over quite interesting considering the gap between African culture and African American slave culture. Thoughts?

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Alienation of Igbo Culture

Slavery alienated nearly all of the slave's native culture. The Igbo, Yoruba, and other tribes they once knew disappeared and they were put in an alien, unfamiliar situation. They had to deal with things they had never seen before, and they had to create their own now culture. Community soon became extremely important, as it is still today. Beloved portrays the importance of community in the book. The African American community Sethe lives in is very close knit and protective of each other. They protect each other from slavers and other things, and without each other they would surely be returned to slavery or oppressed even more. Slavery alienated their native culture, but it also created a new, strong culture based on the values of community and family that aided them in overcoming the overwhelming oppression in America.

Obanje/Magical Realism/Supernatural Forces

I'd like to draw a comparison between Beloved and Things Fall Apart in regard to an obanje that can be seen in both stories. The character Beloved can be seen as an obanje and the character Ezinma is thought to be an obanje by the medicine man and somewhat by her parents. In Things Fall Apart, the obanje is similar to the return of the character Beloved in Beloved as both are bad omens and foreshadow the bringing of bad luck and hardship to their respective families. Supernatural sources and the practice of magical realism can be seen in Beloved as the ghost of Sethe’s murdered child, Beloved, haunts 124. Also, the fact the Beloved comes back as an incarnation of the ghost and dead child is very supernatural and certainly a demonstration of magical realism. Supernatural forces and magical realism can be seen in Things Fall Apart as the clan believes in the obanje coming back to haunt a family whose child has died in birth or at a young age. Supernatural forces and magical realism can also be seen in the belief that twins are bad luck for the community and they must be thrown into the Evil Forest (another example of supernatural forces and magical realism). Both cultures believed in some aspect of supernatural forces and were constantly superstitious of either offending the gods (Things Fall Apart) or offending the spirit inhabiting 124 (Beloved).

Naming in Beloved

As we have all noticed through our readings of "Things Fall Apart" and "Beloved," the naming systems are drastically different. They went from names like Okonkwo and Ikemefuna to names like Denver and Stamp Paid. The traditional African naming system has people create names to symbolize something important about the person or an attribute that they should have. When they were taken to America, they were given Americanized names such as Joshua or Jenny that did not represent anything, perhaps a reference to a name in the bible. The interesting thing is how both Joshua and Jenny changed their names to Stamp Paid and Baby Suggs to represent important events that have occurred in their lives. Also, Denver was named so that Sethe could remember the birthing experience. So although the Africans were removed from their African traditions of naming, they eventually returned to have a similar nomenclature as traditional Igbo did. 

Names in "Beloved"

I feel like the names in the novel "Beloved" are very degrading. Not only do they disrespect and disregard the traditions that the Igbo and other African tribes had regarding naming of members, but they also general disrespect and disregard the humanity of the people themselves. For example Paul D, Paul A, and Paul F are named Paul and have the last name Garner. The fact that they are all named Paul shows that their owners did not care what the slaves were to be called. Also, slaves were not given last names, and if they were, they were the same last names as their owners, such as Garner in the case of all the Pauls, which shows the ownership the whites took over the blacks. It is quite dehumanizing that people are treated as property and are named after their owners to designate the "ownership" that one person has over another.

Beloved compared to Seethe

I was surprised after finishing reading Beloved about the change in the way I viewed the characters.  In the beginning I felt terrible for Beloved and in a way viewed Seethe as not the best mother for having the nerve to murder her own child.  However, now that I look at it she really was just doing her best to protect Beloved.  In many ways slavery seemed worse to the slaves then death.  By the end of the story I started to view Beloved in a negative light.  She takes advantage of Seethe at the end of the story and tries to make her feel guilty for killing her when really it was probably for Beloved's own good.  It is sad to think that something as horrible as slavery can cause chaos between families and fighting between a mother and her own daughter.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Oral Tradition in Things Fall Apart and Beloved

We all know that oral tradition was extremely important to many cultures, such as the Greek, Roman, Native American, and African cultures. Oral tradition was a means of passing down a message from generation to generation and keeping the history of the culture and the people alive. Both Things Fall Apart and Beloved portray the importance of oral tradition. In Things Fall Apart proverbs are very important to the culture. These proverbs, much like Aesop's Fables, carry a message throughout the community. Mothers tel their children the stories and then the children eventually tell their children the stories. In this way, the history is passed on. In Beloved the oral tradition is in the form of songs. Sethe sings songs to her children, and when looked at closely, these songs carry a lot of meaning. One of these songs is even the reason that Sethe realizes Beloved is the reincarnation of her dead daughter. In both novels, oral tradition is an important part of society, carrying messages and history down the familial line.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Slavery & Identity

The brutality of slavery has always been evident through the descriptions that we have been given  over the past years. However, between the video and Beloved, the struggle that slaves faced really hit home. Slavery for the men as Sweet Home was better off than most slaves had it as Paul D described how lenient Mr. Garner was with them. It's impossible to imagine that the animal parallel drawn between the slaves and the men of sweet home was mild compared to the rest. Paul D makes the reader realize that they identity/dignity had been stripped to the extent that on paper they had no true value. This concept is seen earlier as Baby Suggs is indifferent to the fact that her son had bought her freedom. After years of having her identity eroded, Baby Suggs believed she had nothing left to live for.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Water as a Metaphor for Transition

When Paul D is trapped in the "chain gang" with the other 45 men, his escape is the product of heavy rains. Morrison writes, "It rained" (Morrison 129). There cages had a mud floor and with the heavy downpour and ensuing erosion of the mud bottom, the slaves were able to escape to freedom. Paul D is able to start a new chapter in his life. When Sethe crosses the river with Stamp Paid, she begins a new part of her life. In both instances Morrison uses water as a metaphor for transition. Whether it is a river carrying someone across to the other side or water "carrying" someone under a jail cell, it allows for a type of transitioning to a new life and freedom. Paul D is able to go north with the help of the Cherokee Indians and Sethe is able to find 124 Bluestone Road.

Denver's Attachment to Beloved

We have talked in class on numerous different occasions about how Denver is so attached to Beloved. Before Beloved arrived, she was very close and attached the ghost of the house, and when Beloved arrived, as the reincarnation of the ghost jousted from the house by Paul D, Denver has found herself a new friend. Beloved is Denver's long lost sister, so I think it is only right that she is so attached to her. I also think it is quite normal for Beloved to say that she came to 124 Bluestone Road to see Sethe (her mother). It's almost like a family reunion. Well okay, maybe not because Beloved is trying to seduce Paul D and strangle Sethe. I believe the attempted strangling of Sethe is extremely reminiscent of Beloved having her throat cut. Both instances involve the neck and somehow restrict airflow (and will eventually lead to death). Now I don't know if Sethe was trying to protect Beloved or not when she killed her, but I do find her act in accordance with what Paul D says about not loving anybody to much. Maybe she found out how attached she was to Denver and realized that she couldn't go through that again with another child because it'd to difficult of an emotional journey?

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Seethe's killing of Beloved

In the chapters we read for tonight we learn about Seethe's attempted murder of her two sons and her successful murder of her oldest daughter, Beloved.  I find this to be an interesting turn in the story.  It makes clear Seethe's sons' reasoning for running away from 124.  However, I am curious as to why Beloved keeps returning to 124 to "haunt" the house.  Seethe explains to Paul D that she killed Beloved to protect her children from the horrors of slavery.  Perhaps Beloved comes back because she is dead and knows the truth about why Seethe had to do what she did?  Seethe did not want to hurt her children but felt it was a better choice then slavery.  Seethe's sons did not die and therefore did not see her rationale for trying to kill them.  Denver was too young to remember this and was saved from being killed.  It is very sad that slavery and Seethe's fear of it would drive her to do something like this.  It also ties in to Paul D's quote about how it is dangerous to love someone too much if you are black.

You're Welcome

I'm posting this largely to inform the MUN people about one of the things we went over today in humanities class while you were on your way to washington. In our six person class, we had various discussion threads, one of which centered around magical realism and the character, Beloved. We pointed out many examples, but some highlights include the birthing process (i. e. how she came from the water and such.) Her child-like depiction and hence her association and embodiment of Sethe's ghost child. In addition, we note that she displays some sort of supernatural hold over some characters like Paul D, whom she has sex with in order to displace his relationship with Sethe. There are other aspects of magical realism we mentioned as well, but I just pulled a few for all you MUN fanatics.

You're Welcome.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

candyland and sweet home

As ashamed as I am to make a pop culture reference on the Humanities blog, I cannot help but think of Quentin Tarantino's newest movie, Django Unchained, when I read Beloved. Nothing about the excessive gun fire or dramatic close-ups of Jamie Fox seem to relate, but the depiction of Candyland, the notorious plantation where much of the movie takes place, reminds me of Sweet Home. Both of the names are blatantly ironic, considering each is a place of such brutal abuse and tremendous horror. Upon reading the description of the trees at Sweet Home, I immediately thought about the trees in Candyland. Just like how Sethe cannot think of Sweet Home without remembering the beautiful trees, I remember being taken a back by how shockingly beautiful the images of the plantation were. Now I picture Sweet Home the same way I do Candlyland. Ironically and undeservingly beautiful. 

Here are a couple stills that do a poor job of depicting how beautiful the Candyland plantation is. Hopefully most of you have seen the movie and will understand what I'm talking about.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Trying to get these blog posts out of the way so I have the weekend free

The use of magical realism in Beloved really highlights the absurdity, and unreal affects of slavery. Ghosts are almost physical manifestations of the psychological conditions that most be eating away at those who were enslaved. The repressed memories of Sethe, and her sudden onsets of remembering Sweet Home are other psychological effects felt by the people at 124, which is really a microcosm for "the 60 million". Back to magical realism, Beloved embodies the haunting past that the people from Sweet Home feel. She is a casualty not from slavery directly, but from the terrifying struggle to survive the aftermath of slavery. If Morrison wrote a regular novel, about, and this sounds terrible, but an average slave runaway, the story would be chilling, moving, and impactful, but it wouldn't portray the larger affects of slavery on society, thought, and history.

Portrayal of White People by Morrison

Toni Morison's Beloved's main focus is of course the African American community; but she also gives a specific perspective on white people from slaves, and in a more universal way, from African Americans. Amy Denver is one of my favorite characters. She shows that African Americans, while their plight is gargantuan in comparison to many other people in America, they are not completely alone- a fact that is often forgotten. Thousands, if not millions came to America as indentured servants, and received similar, but less abusive treatment than slaves. Mrs. Garner gives her jewelry to Sethe as a sign of compassion, albeit she doesn't allow Sethe a wedding, which shows Sethe's lack of freedom. What I find so amazing about Morrison's portrayal is that she doesn't stereotype whites-not even close! Many people who are oppressed, such as the Jewish community, become extremely tolerant, and forgiving. While Morrison wasn't directly affected by slavery the memories of slaves still haunt her which is obvious - she wrote Beloved, so while Morrison is still haunted by what could be called the greatest crime of all humanity, she finds a way to show the goodness in white people-something I would be loathe to do in her position.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Movies, Plays, and Books

I happen to enjoy 20th century novels much more than Roman or Greek plays, or Shakespeare. That got me thinking. Novels express the inner workings of characters better than a play ever could. Okonkwo, for example, has an inner self and and outer self. The inner self is more emotional, but he appears to be an angry person from the outside. So why are movies and plays so much more popular than books? Movies and plays can't really tell me what people are truthfully thinking. Shakespeare tried, but I think he's a bore.

The average British person watches approximately 85 movies a year. That's pretty astounding. Estimating that every movie takes about two hours on average, your talking a good amount of hours. That's not counting plays, but of course theatre has been overtaken by TV, unfortunately. I do not read 85 books a year. Why? Maybe because books take longer to read than TV. That is a relatively good excuse, but I don't even read 42.5 books a year, around half the average amount of movies a British person watches a year. I guess what I'm getting at is books are much more involved and interesting than movies, in my opinion, yet much less popular. Things Fall Apart was especially awesome, yet it was much more popular as a movie than as a book! The same happened with Harry Potter and The Hunger Games. Why do we enjoy movies more than books? Humans are strange.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Does Things Fall Apart display magic realism?

As we read Things Fall Apart, I couldn't help but think about the novel we read over the summer, One Hundred Years of Solitude.  In this novel, we learn about true Latin American culture and struggles while also getting to experience the made up magical realism of the Buendia family and their family line and the experiences they go through.  We see a type of magical realism through the Ibo culture displayed in Things Fall Apart.  Much of the things they believe in such as the Earth Goddess, the Oracles, and Egwuwu are elements of magical realism.  Magical realism is where magic and made up elements are blended together with realistic facts from a time period.  Through Things Fall Apart we see the struggles that many African tribes went through during European Colonization of the area.  Achebe blends in the magic of the African's culture and religion with their interactions with the Europeans to really give the story a magical realism feel.  The European's lack care and respect for the African's culture which really led to the downfall of these tribes.

Gender: Bride Price vs. Dowries

I find it interesting that the Igbo culture uses bride prices as opposed to the dowries that we are so used to in Western culture. A bride price is the price paid by the groom to the bride or her family to marry the bride. In contrast, a dowry shows a reversal of the "transaction". In this instance the bride brings her dowry, or inheritance of goods, money, land, possessions, etc. to the marriage. I believe the fact that in the Igbo culture with the bride price, this allows the woman to be revered more and respected more. In this sense, the groom must pay a high price for the woman he loves because of how valuable she is. I like that the Igbo culture puts more emphasis on the woman, instead of like other cultures where the woman is just put aside and used in the house for cleaning, taking care of children, etc. Achebe allows the reader to see the value of the woman in the Igbo culture.

Okonkwo's Approach to Community

Okonkwo is not really a fan of the community gatherings that his Igbo tribe has from time to time, unless they are to discuss war or something else that he feels is "manly". For example, during the Week of Peace, he did not want to go see the festivals and wrestling because it involved the tasks of to many women and it was something, at least in his opinion, that a woman would do. He doesn’t like festival gatherings because they themselves are to female. He’s more like an individual in this sense and really only likes the manly wrestling that occurs. In regard to community, he desires to be a community leader, but he’s not really a good candidate for a “community leader”. Psychologically he is much more self-motivated and self-interested and relies on the belief that he is sole reason for his success. He does not give any credit to the supportive atmosphere that his clansmen and family have provided as some of the keys to his prosperity.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

The Narrative Style in Things Fall Apart

Every since reading my independent study book, "The Sound and the Fury," I've looked at literature a somewhat of a new light in terms of how the narrative style can work to further advocate a message or motif within a novel. As it so happened, I was searching for supplemental information on Achebe a couple of nights ago and I came across something interesting. "Things Fall Apart" definitely seems to be in 3rd Person, omniscient, allowing us to see into the minds and perspectives of multiple characters. Now this might be a bit of a stretch. We've established before hand that African culture is in no way one single thing, in fact African culture is technically incorrect in this sense. It's not homogenous. Likewise, neither is the narrative style of Achebe's work in that it gives multiple outlooks from different characters.

Here's one of the websites I remembered when I was doing my research:

The Irony Inherent in Okonkwo's Masculinity

I find it a little ironic that Okonkwo assumes the role of a man, someone who typically bears most of the responsibility in a family in terms of their welfare and such. According to Okonkwo, a man is  someone who needs to face reality with a sense of toughness, however their is implicitly toughness inherent in being mature and responsible. In fact on two separate levels of irony, Okonkwo not only fails to fulfill his responsibility and maturity as a man towards his family (Beats his wives and children, gets depressed in his motherland, subsequently makes his family depressed, not having compassion when doing so is arguably both mature and responsible) when he avidly advertises his "manliness" like a peacock, but Okonkwo defies this facet of a man by exercising what he believes he must do to assert that he is a man.

My Take on Okonkwo's Downfall.

My ideas don't necessarily differ from most in that we can all agree that Okonkwo's sense of masculinity fuels many of his bad attributes such as his stubbornness and excessive intensity. What we noted less was that he's putting all this pressure on himself to be a man, doing so to reject his father. I find it ironic however that he ponders upon how the free reign of the christian missionaries would have never happened in his fatherland, which he could associate with men, but would have to associate more with his father. This might be a rare instance in which we see Okonkwo thinking subconsciously, and illogically to the rationale of his ideals of being manly. He certainly does not reject his ideals, but this suggests to me that he's repressing a desire to live independently of anger towards his father. I'm not really sure how much sense this makes, and I'm not really positive I conveyed it the way I wanted to, but it's just a thought.

Mr. Brown's Tactics

I'm not sure if I mentioned this in class, but we noted that Mr. Brown had large success converting natives to christianity by appealing to the beliefs of the Igbo people. He points out similarities between Christianity and the Igbo religion. He's able to liken the wooden gods to crucifixes by confirming that the Igbo share the belief that there is one true god (Chukwu and Jehovah are the same guy.) It turns out that these tactics of establishing similarities between christian belief and foreign belief prove not only effective in Africa, but in China with the Jesuits. In addition to stating similarities, the Jesuits also appealed directly to the Chinese' fondness for knowledge, something which they could target and use as a focal point with the introduction of new concepts like Western sciences, mathematics, and astronomy to the imperial court.

On the Non Confrontational Nature of the Igbo

Today, we established that the Igbo people are non-confrontational when we discussed how the man killed a python, the most revered animal in Igbo culture, in his house and how when a man sins in such confinements, the affair is between him and god and that anyone who gets in between might sustain blows intended for the offender. Therefore we established this non confrontational aspect of judging sin as another attribute we allocate to the Igbo people. I find it kind of interesting, however, that it's more of the opposite in christianity, at least in practice. I can remember a few times in history such as the Spanish Inquisition and the Protestant and Counter Reformations, where individuals were persecuted, sought out, and defamed by the church. The spanish inquisition in particular strikes me as a good example, seeing that people seemed to go out of their way to root out the "nonbelievers", who by their status and otherwise-like customs, were considered sinners against god. The other factor to all of this might be that the church also a political agenda and held great influence across Europe. As the church, they also manage the ideals of christianity and interpret the will of god subjectively through the pope. The concept of a sin may have been subjective as well, and could have been adapted as a rational to rid the church of any who might stand to impede their political agenda.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

The Importance of Respect and Reputation in Things Fall Apart

One major theme in the novel is that of the importance of reputation. Ones title determines how important you are and who respected you are. Reputation is extremely important to the men in the novel. Personal reputation is publicly denoted by the ankle bracelets men wear, which signify the number of “titles” they have earned. Reputation is based on merit – men gain reputation through bravery in battle, skill at wrestling, and hard work as seen through the size of their yam harvest. Reputation earns men positions of power and influence in the community as well as numerous wives. Okonkwo is extremely concerned with reputation because he grew up with a father who was shameful and lazy. Okonkwo overcompensates by working tirelessly on his farm and taking every opportunity available to prove his bravery and strength. Okonkwo is a big believer in the system, and he even feels that people without titles are not real men, as he says numerous times.

Opportunism and the Igbo.

The part where the locusts came and the villagers collected them to cook and eat them made me think of how opportunistic and economic they are. In fact, they constantly worship the earth goddess for the things she gives them in their harvests. Similarly, in the chapter we read from "An Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, the author mentions many examples of how the Igbo people are in fact very economic as well. I remember in particular the palm wine and how they also harvested the same tree for nuts and oils.

Education in Ibo

While I have yet to finish Things Fall Apart, I have yet to hear mention of an ordered system of education within Ibo society.  Education in Ibo society seems to focus on learning through observation. Learning is done within the family- Okonkwo teaches Ikemefuna how to act as a patriarch. Ekwefi teaches Enzimna how to act like a typical Ibo women- how to carry food to her father, and Okonkwo in turn chastises Enzimna for unladylike behavior. There is no need for the children to be "literate" because as far as I can tell there is not much use for the written language in Ibo society. It fascinates me that imperialism completely restructured almost every facet of some cultures, including education in the Ibo culture. By the time Achebe went to school in Nigeria, a formal education system was brought about that allowed him to become the successful person in the Western world that he is today, however, his education does not seem to be the old fashioned typical Ibo education found in his book. This is a wonderful example of how Achebe bridges Western and African culture.

Women in Ibo Society

The topic of women's role in society is very pertinent to this week, as was International Women's Day was this week. Ibo women are portrayed as extremely hard working in Achebe's novel. They cook, clean, bring water to their Obis, farm, take care of children, and soothe Okonkwo's desires (not only sexual-for example his desire for food) all while tiptoeing around Okonkwo's wrath. While women do all of this work, they don't receive money, or titles. As a side note, a statistic was released by the UN on IW day-women provide roughly 2/3rds of the worlds labor in 2013, yet they claim only 10% of the world's income. Women's position in Ibo society seems to be beneath men on the surface, but it is much more complicated. The most influential person in Ibo society, in my eyes, is the oracle, who is a women. A women is the voice for gods. A women decides whether or not to go to war. A women is feared by men, and even the most aggressive man in Umoufia, Okonkwo, takes a machete with him when he follows Chielo.

Ikemefuna and Nwyoe

I'd like to compare the two characters Ikemefuna and Nwyoe in their "manliness". I find it highly ironic that Okonkwo is critical of Nwyoe for his "femininity" when Ikemefuna seems to have similar feelings. Nwyoe enjoys hearing his mother's stories and helping her out with different tasks. Achebe gives us insight into Ikemefuna's feelings and emotions when he narrates how Ikemefuna thinks about his mother and sister a lot, back in his village. So in a way, I feel that Ikemefuna are quite similar, except for the fact that Ikemefuna does make it openly known that he thinks about his mother and sister. Okonkwo criticizes Nwyoe, but not Ikemefuna and sees Ikemefuna as a better son, even though he is not his real son. So I think it's wrong that Okonkwo criticizes Nwoye when Nwyoe will probably grow up to be a more well-rounded man than Okonkwo, as he does have a soft, caring side and big heart (as he mourns Ikemefuna's death). He will not try to show his masculinity with beating women and will probably have a loving, tightly family when he is older.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Further thought on Okonkwo’s relationship with Ezinma and her role as a foil

After our discussion in class the other day about Ezinma, I began to wonder if Achebe put her in the novel for a greater purpose then just being another daughter of Okonkwo.  We have said that Ezinma does not act like the typical woman and for this Okonkwo favors her.  She acts very manly and does not waste time with what he would call “feminine” things.  She does not question Okonkwo and does what he tells her to do like bringing him food.  Okonkwo even wishes his other son would be like her.  He even wishes Ezinma could have been born a boy.  Anyway, Ezinma definitely does not seem to be the stereotypical woman in Things Fall Apart.  In my opinion, I think she almost acts as a foil to her mother, Ekwefi.  Ekwefi is often doing things that Okonkwo thinks are typical waste of time things that women do. However, Ezinma is the opposite and does as she is told while possessing a strong spirit.  It seems kind of ironic that a mother and daughter could be so different.

The Igbo Justice System

I really think the Igbo justice system is very well designed. The "justice department" is comprise of nine members. These members are the egwugwu. The egwugwu are each an ancestral spirit of the nine villages. They keep the peace among different families, groups, members, and other villages. They are almost like a justice panel, similar to judges on a court panel. They make group decisions on things and, like a jury, debate for a while by themselves on what decisions they are plan to enact. They seem to make very level headed, well thought out decisions that do not involve drastic measures to be taken to solve the problems that arise. For example, with the family who took back their daughter because her husband did not treat her well in Chapter 10, the egwugwus decided the solution of the problem would be to, "Go to your in-laws with a pot of wine and beg your wife to return to you. It is not bravery when a man fights with a woman."I think this was a very reasonable decision on their part. It is a very civilized system of governing the members of the villages and I think it works well.

Thursday, March 7, 2013


I don't know about you all, but I am struggling with the names in Things Fall Apart. When I see them in the novel I've realized I only identify them visually, considering I was clueless as to how to pronounce them. I also think this is the reason that I find it so difficult to remember the characters and to differentiate between them. This pronunciation guide helped me, I thought it could be of use to you all as well!

Okonkwo (Oh-kawn-kwoh) 
Unoka (Ooh-no-kah) 
Nwoye (Nuh-woh-yeh) 
Ikemefuna (Ee-keh-meh-foo-nah) 
Ekwefi (Eh-kweh-fee) 
Ezinma (Eh-zeen-mah) 
Ojiubo (Oh-jee-ooh-boh) 
Obierika (Oh-bee-air-ee-kah) 
Chielo (Chee-eh-loh) 
Agbala (Ahg-bah-lah) 

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

The White Man's Burden

While I don't hear the term used anymore, I think the debate over the White Man's Burden is far from over.  We frequently hear discussions in the news concerning our obligations to developping countries, e.g. does the West have an obligation to spread democracy to the rest of the world?  Should the United States have intervened earlier in Syria?  If we do have a moral responsibility to help the rebels, is it enough to merely give them supplies, or should we send in soldiers of our own?  What responsibility does France owe to Mali?  How much should we let a situation deteriorate before we help?  And while I think that overall western society has gotten better about only involving itself for the right reasons, such as democracy and human rights, there are still examples of us intervening for the same purposes that underlay imperialism a century ago.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Naming in Things Fall Apart

Am I the only one who enjoys the meaning behind the names in Things Fall Apart? My favorite name is Udo (the man whose wife was killed by another tribe and the village considered going to war). Udo's name means peace. So, the tribe killed peace's wife. While a battle or war did not happen between the two groups, it was certainly threatened. I just find it ironic that Udo's name means peace.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Tennis Metaphor?...maybe

When Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are playing the questions game, they score it as if they were playing tennis. Tennis is traditionally scored staring with 15, then 30, then 40, and finally game. In tennis there comes a point where both players can have deuce, thus one of the players must score twice consecutively in order to win the game, or the game could go on forever. I think that the method in which Rosencrantz and Guildenstern choose to score the game represents their conversations, and their overall interactions and each one of them makes useful "points" here and there, but overall their arguing as they "hit the ball back and forth" gets them nowhere, and they end up in deuce.

Aimlessness of Guil and Ros's Theorizing

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern act at times like very smart men, especially in the first act, but their ideas are pointless and have no real meaning in their lives. Their curiosity about life has no direction. They either ask random questions, like why fingernails might grow after death, or worry uselessly over metaphysical ideas. Rosencrantz doesn’t seem interested in important questions. Guildenstern attempts to answer those questions by applying bizarre, inappropriate strategies. He uses a syllogism to try to determine whether they are still in reality as they know it. This kind of reasoning becomes all the more absurd when the two begin their discussion about where they are going and why. They barely remember that they were sent for by royalty, and they certainly have no idea what they will be asked to do once they get where they’re going. All of their complicated theorizing means very little when one realizes that they are completely in the dark about the simplest things. They follow orders without any knowledge of the purpose of their mission. It seems that, while they (or at least Guildenstern) would like to have some understanding of life’s mysteries, they are somehow able to largely ignore an idea so central and personal as their own fates. They skirt around major issues, focusing on the minor ones instead. An example of this is the appearance of the band: Guildenstern is so caught up in wondering about the nature of illusion that, at first, he ignores the fact that the band is not an illusion at all and is, in fact, standing right in front of him. Their surroundings or lack thereof underscore their confused mental states