Thursday, May 13, 2010

Millionaire and Musketeers

“All for one, and one for all,” the motto of three inseparable friends in Alexandre Dumas’ novel The Three Musketeers, proclaims that the group as a whole triumphs and succeeds more than the sum of its parts. Based in France, the novel follows young d’Artagnan on a journey from his provincial life in an impoverished town to his ultimate success as a Musketeer. The rising up of the “under-dog” is, generally, a Westernized theme yet the same theme appears in the critically acclaimed film Slumdog Millionaire written by Simon Beaufoy and directed by Danny Boyle. The film takes place in India and depicts a young Indian boy, Jamal, from the slums who, through his life-experiences, is able to win India’s version of “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.” The film blurs Western culture, ideology, and capitalism contrasting it with the films representation of India as a corrupt and poverty stricken country. The motif of “the three musketeers,” then, comes to represent Western culture that the children in the slum attempt to emulate. Yet, as the film goes on, the motto “all for one, and one for all” and the camaraderie of the three musketeers melts away to the reality of the slums, and its “one for one, and one over all” mentality.

The motif first appears when the children are in school. Uniform-clad Indian children sit shoulder to shoulder in a small classroom with no chairs, while their teacher reads to them in Englishh from Dumas’ novel. When Jamal and his brother Salim are not paying attention because they do not speak English and therefore do not understand, the teacher hits them on the head with the novel. Literally, this is meant to show a kind of corruption in Indian schools. Westerners watching might find this appalling since child abuse is such a hot topic now a days. The action creates a diaologue between the movie and watcher, where the watcher immediately seperates their culture (the West) from the other (the East) saying “That would never happen here.” Furthermore, this scene becomes a metaphor. Figuratively, the novel, or western culture, represents the force at which education in India tries to emulate the education system of western society. Ironically, these western ideas, which the school teacher tries to “beat into them,” will never be realized due to the nature of the society: crowded classrooms, poverty, disinterest of students, etc.

“The three musketeers,” who up to this point in the movie were made up of only two, find their third musketeer after a religious battle between slums where many children lost their parents. Jamal and Salim, orphans now, are taking shelter from the pouring rain when Jamal sees Latika, another orphan, sitting outside unprotected from the elements. Jamal urges Salim to let her join them, so she can “become the third musketeer.” Salim, reluctantly, allows her to come and join the trio. But, again, as the film progresses, the harsh reality that is the slum shows how “the three musketeers” are merely an idea, not reality.

The reality is seen in betrayal. Salim, hungry for money and power, is shown early on as one who will sacrifice family and friends for his wants. He sells his brother’s prized picture of an Indian actor for both revenge and money. Salim, forces Jamal out of their apartment, so he can rape Latika then disappears with her after. Jamal, on the other hand, is meant to represent the “under-dog” with a good heart and strong moral compass. Despite the corruption he sees around him he continues to look for Latika, against all odds. It is through this determination that Jamal is able to be reunited with Latika and ultimately win “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.”

If the film is making a statement, separating the West from the East, than I argue that Salim, through is actions and character, is meant to represent the “East” and Jamal the “West.” Not only is this proven in the depiction of their characters but also in the final scenes of the movie when Jamal is asked, as the winning question, what is the third musketeer’s name. He uses a life-line and Latika answers Salim’s phone. Her answer tells Jamal that she is safe, so he then asks her the question. Her response is, “I don’t know. I never have known.” Proving, for one, that the idea of the “three musketeers” is more important than the actuality of it. And, secondly, proving that Jamal’s success on the show and in life is through his understanding and knowledge of Western Culture. He guesses the answer right; showing that, although he represents the West, he will never actually be “Western.”

I would argue that the rapid success of this film is due to its seemingly “global” perspective, bringing acclaim to a usually under-represented and misunderstood area of the world. Unfortunately, this claim is further supported by the idea of globalization, but in reality it is more an attempt to form a contrast to Western society through the creation of the “other,” that is India. In Fernando Coronil’s “Towards a Critique of Globalcentrism: Speculations on Capitalism’s Nature,” Coronil argues that “Since the conquest of the Americas, projects of Christianization, colonization, civilization, modernization, and development have shaped the relationship between Europe and its colonies in terms of a sharp opposition between a superior West and its inferior others” (369). The creation of the “other,” is not globalization, in fact it is exactly the opposite. Globalization “promotes diversity and represents a form of universality,” but when the “universality” is completely “Western” ideology there are alterior motives (369). Therefore, under the illusion of “globalization,” makers of films like this are able to capitalize on “the other.” Globalization is meant to offer “the promise of a unified humanity no longer divided by East and West, North and South, Europe and others, the rich and poor,” yet this exact separation is what makes money, and therefore dictates what films will be produced (371).

Until movies can act as a critique to globalization in that they “should seek to differentiate the globe and show its highly uneven distribution of power and immense cultural complexity” (371) movies will continue to use globalization as a mask for reality. Making money in the exoticism that is “the other.”

Works Cited
Coronil, Fernando. "Towards a Critique of Globalcentrism: Speculations on Capitalism's Nature." Public Culture 12.2 (2000): 351-74. Project Muse. Web. 7 May 2010. .

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

19th Century Literature and Media Education

This clip would be an interesting conversation starter when beginning a unit on Transcendentalism. After students had been introduced to the history and ideology that accompanies Transcendentalism I would show this clip and song from the Broadway show Spring Awakening. This play is about students in the 19th century who struggle with "coming of age" issues such as sex, education, and friendships. Due to the strict moral compass for which their parents are guided, they leave their children with no answers to questions regarding these difficult topics. The result of such betrayal causes the teens to search out the answers on their own. Their misinformed decisions lead two of the characters to their deaths, deaths that could have been prevented if they had guidance.

This particular clip takes place while a group of boys are in school. In chorus, the boys are practicing their Latin, when the main character Milkeur stands on his chair and begins singing. Already, the stage direction shows that through his questioning of life, during the song, he sets himself apart from the crowd of students who find it easier to follow what their parents say than to rebel. Milkeur says, "All that's know is history and science, overthrown at school at home by blind men, you doubt them and soon they bark and hound you." This statement shows how readily society falls into what is comfortable, never questioning conventions. This ideology connects with that of Transcendentalism. I would ask students to listen to the song twice. The first listening would be just to let the words soak in and the second listening would be purposeful, students would listen for words or phrases that sink with that of the Transcendentalists.

I feel that apply this form of media which connects the rebellion of the Transcendentalists to a rebellion of a teenager might allow students to connect more with the concepts and ideology.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The Trio's "Happy Ending"

Coyote, overhearing their wants tries to help. He searches high and low for a source of warmth for his friends, the People. Finally, at the highest peak of a mountain he finds himself peering into a never-ending source of life. Excited by his findings he rushes back to the town to share his news; proclaiming he has found a solution to their never ending winter.

After a long journey to the peak, and collecting bounty for his troubles, Coyote leads them to their ultimate destination. As the People lower their heads, the Coyote shoves the People to their doom into the heart of the valcanoe. Coyote takes his bounty, creates a coyote mansion, and the people never were cold again.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Vernal Equinox

Sunlight caresses hilltops
Diffused by dewy gossamer
Entangled among the scene leaving
Its sparkling remembrance
On them, on me,
On trees too. Attempting to
Raise those dumbbell eyes
To greet a day not for
Me with gloppy
Moist ejaculations muting the suns
Prongs. Yet I rise: crawl,
Sprawl, hobble, wobble,
Walk, hop.

And life in moving
Rotates-The Sun
Manipulating, crafting
A path toward penetration.

And I wake my eyes again,
Again yet it’s later and the Sun
Stands straight, austere,
Not allowing blockades this time.
Through the door I
Come; Sun surrounds me,
Envelops me in its golden transmission.
Warming, weakening, empowering
‘Til it envades my soul, my body.
Sleep no longer permeates in crevasse filled
With shafts of Sunbeams.
And I am grown, am woman,
Am just me
Because of this seemingly

And life in moving
Rotates-The Sun
Manipulating, crafting, succeeding
A path toward penetration and retreat.

Rising, Reaching,
The slow setting is in place.
Stroking those maiden hills,
Embracing those virgin roads,
Rustling those rolling meadows,
And one breath spreads
The dewy down telling
The world

And the days when the Sun
Came seem so far,
So far away and yet
My toes still tingle,
And my mouth still moistens,
And my knees, my
Knees they tremble
As if it-he-it never left remembering
The creation of the purist pallets
When he gleamed on them
The hills raised, the trees became
Erect, and the firmament gained a twinkle.

Now I look on those memories,
A mere mural of lights in the
Sky which once was my life.
One more star, a rose-flesh colored
Light from the beach on that night long
ago. Do you, can you

I can, in me
Still. And yet your comet
Still pervades
Other’s skies.

Yet there is one consolation,
That life in moving
Rotates-The Sun
Manipulating, crafting, succeeding
A path which creates and relates
And mostly connects the seemingly
Separate quality existing in
The day.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

"Flying Japan" by Kira Conley

Flying around down
through the city of lights,
a language unfamilar,
but i understand.

Where do i go from
Could it be for others, or
Where do i go from
Flying around in
the atmosphere.

Kimonos walk, down cobbled
streets, wet
with dew and litterings.
Questions in eyes of
pedestrians going by:
Why are you here?

Where do I go from
Do I belong, should I stay.
Where do I go from
Flying around in
the atmosphere.

Could I teach,
language so dear, do
they even want me here?
Can I make a difference

it is clear!

Only going will I know.

A Journey: Dickinson and "Death"

Emily Dickinson’s poem “Because I could not stop for Death” details an intimate carriage ride between the speaker of the poem and “Death,” personified. The reader travels on a journey with the speaker and “Death,” passing through a figuratively bountiful life, and ultimately ceasing at “eternity.” The poem is a commentary on how difficult it is to accept one’s own immortality.

The rhyme scheme of the poem becomes important in creating a feeling of motion throughout, mimicking the carriage ride. Dickinson uses the classical hymn stanza, an iambic quatrain with 8 and 6 syllables repeating. Furthermore, there is slant rhyme on the second and fourth line of every stanza. For example, the words in stanza two, like “away” and “civility” are not rhymed identical but are close enough for there to be anticipation of the rhyme when reading. The only stanza that fails to have a slant rhyme is stanza 3, where “ring” and “sun” are put in the rhyming positions. Dickinson creates this friction to enhance the feeling of separation between the living children, depicted in the stanza, and the speaker who is being carried off by “Death.”

Dickinson establishes a plot, in this case a carriage ride, “which creates in the reader a subtle sense of expectation, the anticipation of closure” (Anderson 218). The first line starts as if in the middle of a sentence using the word “Because,” further stressing the fact that the speaker does not want to “stop for Death,” or cease living her life (2). The speaker goes on to say that “The carriage held but just ourselves/And Immortality” (3-4). With the carriage only holding the speaker and “Death,” it is interesting that the speaker goes on to say that also “Immortality” is in the carriage. Does Dickinson mean that “Immortality” is also personified, being the only other word capitalized besides “Death,” and therefore represents a fellow traveler? I do not think that that is Dickinson’s purpose to personify “Immortality,” for it is not mentioned throughout the rest of the poem. Instead I feel she capitalized “Immortality” for the sake of drawing attention to the magnitude of “life” beyond death. The speaker realizes that this is not an ordinary carriage ride with a “kindly” gentleman, but one that will transcend time and space; and one whose destination is not finite.

In stanza 2, the speaker and “Death” continue on their journey towards an undisclosed destination. The speaker states that they “slowly drove, he knew no haste,” (5) which is not surprising since death is eternal there would be no rush in the after-life. The speaker goes on to say that due to the nature of their journey she puts away “[Her] labor, and [her] leisure too,/For his civility” (214). Dickinson creates this paradox between “labor” and “leisure” for the speaker will need neither where she is going.

The third stanza creates images that the speaker and “Death” are traveling through a lifetime of memories. The first image is that of children playing “at wrestling in a ring” (10). This image is symbolic of childhood. The ring that the children play acts as a barrier into the living world, for which the speaker no longer belongs. Lilia Melani states that “here the speaker is excluded from activities and involvement in life; the dead are outside ‘the ring’ of life” (par.6). Next, the carriage passes “fields of gazing grain” (11). The grain here is a symbol of fertility, thus this part of their journey represents middle life and parenthood. The alliteration of “gazing grain” not only sounds interesting but also alludes to the idea that the grain has eyes, like children would. The final image drawn here is that the carriage passes “the setting sun” (12). The “setting sun” is an archetypal image for an older person, one approaching death. Thus, the cycle is complete, going from children playing to the setting sun; childhood to one’s death bed. This cyclical movement is further enhanced in the repetition seen at the beginning of lines nine, eleven, and twelve.

Stanza 4 is where the speaker becomes unsure of her surroundings and thus the images are muddled. She states that they “paused before a house that seemed/A swelling of the ground” (13-14). The use of the word “seemed” shows the uncertainty at which the speaker is detailing the events. So what, if not a house, is the speaker seeing? The speaker, I believe, is looking upon her own grave. The “swelling of the ground” (14) refers to the actual grave sight, the “home” of the dead. Furthermore, the speaker describes this “house” by saying that the “roof was scarcely visible,/the cornice but a mound” (15-16). The “roof “ is hard to see because there are no roofs on gravestones. And the cornice, or what would be molding on a house, is only a “mound,” just like there would be a mound of earth encircling where the casket was lowered. The speaker’s confusion throughout this stanza is based on her realization that “Death” has finally stopped for her, and she will no longer be among the living.

The final stanza captures the insurmountable and unimaginable amount of time the speaker has passed since her ride with “Death.” She professes that;
Since then ‘it is centuries; but each
Feels shorter than the day
I first surmised the horses’ heads
Were toward eternity (17-20).
Again, Dickinson uses paradox, between “centuries” and a “day.” The speaker states that the day she realized the ultimate journey of the carriage, or death, seemed longer that each century she has been dead.

Dickinson takes her readers on a journey with “Death” in a carriage ride. From childhood games to aging, the reader sympathizes with the speaker in her realization that her journey with “Death” is final, and that she will never return from this journey. The poem is a commentary on the acceptance of death, that for the speaker and for everyone the acceptance of death is difficult. And often, one does not want to stop for death, and in those cases “he will kindly stop for” you.

Works Cited

Anderson, Douglas. Presence and Place in Emily Dickinson’s Poetry. New England Quarterly, Aug. 2010. 3 Feb. 2010.

Melani, Lilia. Death is Personified. Feb. 2009. 3 Feb. 2010.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Familiar Face: Whitman, Arnold, Yeats, and Frost

Poetry is comfortable, in that, despite other uncontrollable forces you can always revisit a poem and the same words are there. This is how I felt when I revisited the poems from this weeks readings. Frost, Whitman, Yeats and Arnold are some of my favorite poets, and coming back to their poems have given me pleasure once again.

Some of my favorites from the reading include "The Road Not Taken" by Robert Frost. Although this is a very canonized poem I find that with every reading its meaning of choice resonate with me. The iambic heart beat that pulses as you read makes the poem unassuming and natural, not forced. But, the idea that the speaker takes "the road not taken," always makes me think. I relate to the speaker in that we all look back on our lives and think about a choice we had to make. And with no way to go back and change those events we romanticize the choice, like the speaker, saying that he "took the one less traveled by/And that has made all the difference." We know the roads are the similar yet looking back this seemingly unimportant decision between roads that "equally lay/in leaves" has changed the speaker's life. I love the line that states "Oh, I kept the first for another day!" It is ironical in that the with the choice the speaker has made to take the other road, he will never be able to come back for the first. The bittersweet sensation of choice and remembrance is what makes this poem so memorable.

Matthew Arnold's poem "Dover Beach" is another poem that, through its beautiful imagery, remains a favorite for me. The first stanza brings up images of Dover Beach where the "cliffs of England stand,/glimmering and vast, out in the tranquil bay." Although it has been years since I have read this poem I still can recall the images it once created for me. Yet the message that despite the insecurity and inconstancy in the world the "Sea of Faith" offers stability. The speaker claims that the world which is "so various, so beautiful, so new" has "neither joy, nor love, nor light,/Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain." This can only be solved through the acceptance of the "ignorant armies" in faith; a very lovely idea.