Literary Analysis: Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man: The Search for Identity and Individuality

Sticky

MARCH 27, 2007


A novel represents a work of fiction – a story that is creatively written from an author’s mind and point of views. That does not exclude fiction from the realm of reality, however.  Fiction and real life interrelate in every sense; in fact, fiction always has elements of reality.  Real-world experiences, people, history, and life in general are influential to a novelist and serve as a catalyst, assisting him or her to formulate ideas and craft a novel.  Therefore, real life and works of fiction aren’t too far apart; they are connected – directly, indirectly, or metaphorically.  Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man (1952) proves that to be true, for the historical insinuations are evident.

Scholars have taken notice of Invisible Man ever since its release in 1952, and continue to scrutinize the novel for good reasons: it is fascinating; it brings forth many interpretations and debates (negative and positive); it questions one’s role in society; it addresses racism, etc.  Overall, the text is profoundly powerful in all aspects.  As Per Winther writes in “Imagery of Imprisonment in Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man,” “Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man is an immensely rich novel, which explains why, since its publication in 1952, so many readers have been, and still are, moved by Ellison’s complex narrative of twenty turbulent years in the life of his young, nameless, black protagonist” (115).  The release of Invisible Man has rendered a plethora of scholarly analyses from the likes of Marc Singer, William Walling, Per Winther, James B. Lane, Eric Sundquist, and many more – touching on various issues.  However, few scholars (probably none) have found the time to address the invisibility of Ellison’s invisible protagonist and the silent generation in the 50s collectively.  Thus, I will attempt to tackle many issues of the narrator’s invisibility and struggles in conjunction with the Beats’ invisibility/“the Silent Generation” in the 1950s, and the artists of that time.  This is where fiction and real-life (historical allusions) share similarities.  The nameless protagonist in Invisible Man and artists in the 50s are in search for two things: true identity and individuality.

From beginning to end, the racism motif presents itself throughout Invisible Man, and the prologue swiftly demonstrates that:

“I AM AN invisible man. No, I am not a spook like those who haunted Edgar Allan Poe; nor am I one of your Hollywood-movie ectoplasms. I am a man of substance, of flesh and bone, fiber and liquids – and I might even be said to possess a mind. I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me” (3).

These opening words by the narrator do not provide his race, but the latter part of his statement provides a clear indication of who he is – a black man – from the way he states his invisibility and the historical context of his account.  At the time this novel was released, segregation was prominent and blacks protested for their equality, stating similar words like the narrator’s.  Because society selectively chooses to ignore his presence because of his phenotypical makeup as a black man, he is literally (and physically) rendered invisible.

The racism motif reaches its peak, physically, when the narrator gives an account of an incident in which he unintentionally bumps into a large blond man in the dark, causing the blond man to share his disgust with a racial epithet.  Feeling disrespected, the narrator goes on the attack and batters him onto the ground, pulling out a knife and preparing to take the man’s life.  But he thinks otherwise and comes to his senses: the blond man insulted him because he could not really see him due to his invisibility.  The narrator’s confrontation with this blond man is important, because he learns the following day that a newspaper labels the incident as a mugging.  This labeling by the newspaper (white society) demonstrates the narrator’s metaphorical slavery, invisibility, and subjugation – for he is being dominated by the views of others.  First, the narrator is dehumanized by the man’s racial epithet, which prompts him to attack and make the verbal abuser recognize his individuality; and second, the narrator is dehumanized by the newspaper that labels him a mugger.  The roles are reversed: the white man is not the assailant but the victim, while the narrator is viewed by the public as a criminal. Moreover, the actual incident with the blond man is ignored altogether, along with the narrator’s motives, which become invisible to the public.  Therefore, other people in society classify Ellison’s invisible man’s identity according to their own prejudices.

Conversely, Ellison’s nameless protagonist mirrors the feeling many critics had about the 50s (and those who lived it) in New York, labeling the decade “the Silent Generation,” which can be termed metaphorically as the “unnoticed generation” – similar to being invisible.  Critics have had a field day criticizing the fifties for what it produced, like the major Beat writers – Gregory Corso, Jack Kerouac, William S. Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg – known as the Beat Generation.  Some critics have named the bohemians of that decade as the strangest souls who wasted and abused their bodies with heavy doses of drugs and alcohol; some critics even said that they had dangerous intentions to change America.  In fact, Stephen Prothero’s article, “On The Holy Road: The Beat Movement As Spiritual Protest,” quotes Norman Podhoretz’s brutally harsh critiques in 1958 Partisan Review: “The Bohemianism of the 1950s is hostile to civilization; it worships primitivism, instinct, energy, ‘blood’; Podhoretz (the most outspoken critic of the Beats) continued: “This is a revolt of the spiritually underprivileged and the crippled of souls.” Podhoretz went so far as to characterize them as Nazis and Hell’s Angels.  The Beats ignored his rhetoric because in their minds, it was nonsense.  The Beats’ intentions – and those who lived in New York in the fifties – were to separate themselves and to be different from America’s norm, argued the Beats and others.  Therefore, when outsiders do not understand what people do or how people choose to live their lives, they are looked upon negatively, and that’s how many critics felt about those in the fifties, especially the Beats.

Were Podhoretz’s critiques and reviews from other columnists necessary?  Didn’t Podhoretz understand that people who lived in New York or journeyed there wanted to find something different and be free, especially the bohemians?  Did he not take notice that bohemians were people who lived an unconventional lifestyle – somebody, often a writer or an artist, who did not live according to the conventions of society?  They wanted to be different, rather than being conformists. Therefore, a couple of questions must be asked: Were the criticisms of these artists really warranted because they lived differently from how others lived?  More important, were the fifties really that dull and silent?

Although Podhoretz has bashed “the Silent Generation” as a whole, those who lived in New York at the time strongly believe that their decade has been given a bad name – and novelist Dan Wakefield is one of those who shares similar views. Because the fifties has been mislabeled and tagged as being dull, Wakefield felt obligated to address the stigma. Fittingly, Wakefield’s book New York In The 50s (1992) gives a vivid light of the New York that he knew and experienced, tackling the so-called silent:

“If my generation was ‘silent,’ it was not in failure to speak out with our work, but in the sense of adopting a style that was not given to splash and spotlights” (6).

This statement by Wakefield renders truth, because the body of written works produced in the 50s (including future works that were released by the artists of that era) were abundant, from The Catcher in the Rye to On The Road, from Howl to Notes of a Native Son, and many more. So “silent” was not an accurate term at all; people just made the choice to ignore the generation altogether, because the wild and free lifestyle they desired to live were bizarre to them. As a result, their works were invisible to the public and not taken seriously. Moreover, the strangeness of the Beats caused the banning of Burroughs’s Naked Lunch, which was later reinstated; and also brought a court hearing to ban Ginsberg’s Howl. Naked Lunch was described by a reviewer as “a prolonged scream of hatred and disgust, an effort to keep the reader’s nose down in the mud for 250 pages” (quoted by Prothero, 206). Similarly, Howl was called a disgrace and protested hatred for society.

In regard to Podhoretz’s ruthless critiques, it appeared that his attitude took not a constructive criticism approach but a personal hatred stance against the Beats and their disparity with society. His 1958 article “The Know-Nothing Bohemians” verified that as he tried to debunk the Beats by scrutinizing the real-world consequences of their point of views about life, and so forth. One of the Beats could have reversed his article’s title into “He knows Nothing Bohemian,” for he does not live it. Hence, Podhoretz’s rhetoric about the Beats stems from his ignorance in not knowing what the Beats were, and his unwillingness to accept a different style of living he was not accustomed to. Therefore, he dehumanizes their character by talking down to them and labeling them whatever he sees fit: pessimists, naysayers, nihilists, troublemakers, and dangerous. Like Ellison’s nameless character, Podhoretz removes the people-friendly features of the Beats’ character, taking away their good qualities (or features) which make it difficult for others to see them as normal and acceptable humans. In all, he dehumanizes their stature and importance, making them invisible by choice.

This dehumanization theme appears in the opening development of Invisible Man, which lingers throughout. Ellison shows that with his nameless protagonist and other blacks in a high school graduation ceremony, where he is to deliver the class speech. But before he gives the speech, the narrator (and other black boys) is ordered to partake in a boxing match, orchestrated by the white men. With firm orders by the white men, the narrator and his classmates put on boxing gloves and enter the ring – where a stark naked blonde parade the ring. It becomes stranger to the boys as they are blindfolded by the white men with threatening orders to batter and kill each other: “ ‘See that boy over there?’ ” one of the men said. “ ‘I want you to run across at the bell and give it to him right in the belly. If you don’t get him, I’m going to get you. I don’t like his looks’ ” (17). The bell sounds and melee ensues – blacks wildly punching blindly, hitting anyone in proximity – to the enjoyment of the white men.

Thereafter, the white men continue their ridicule of the narrator and the boys by trickery, with shudders via electricity.  Exhausted from the battle, the boys’ blindfolds are removed, while the white men place them on a wall, awaiting their bogus monetary prize on a rug.  Blind with ignorance, the boys (on their knees as commanded) rush to get the money and to their shock, they are literally shocked from an electric current that runs under the rug, as the narrator shares his pain: “A hot, violent force tore through my body, shaking me like a wet rat” (22).  While the boys’ laughter stems from being shocked, the white men’s laughter stems from the amusement of watching electrified blacks make a fool of themselves: “… he (one of the boys) ran from the floor amid booming laughter” (22).

Finally, after the embarrassment of the boys, the nameless character prepares to give his speech. The master of ceremony gives him a patronizing introduction, which prompts applause and laughter: “ ‘I’m told that he is the smartest boy we’ve got out there in Greenwood. I’m told that he knows more big words than a pocket-sized dictionary’ ” (23). The narrator takes the podium; he begins delivering his speech and realizes that the audience is ignoring him, while the laughing persists. He becomes nervous, mouth filled with blood, and it shows as he makes a mistake, saying “social equality” rather than “social responsibility.” After rendering his speech (and after fulfilling their comedic bone), one of the white men awards him with a briefcase and tells him to cherish it, claiming it will determine his peoples’ fate.

These episodes in Chapter One (i.e., battle royal, electric rug, and speech) do not only represent the evening’s entertainment for the white men, but it also demonstrates humiliation, animalization, passivity, and dehumanization.  The grandfather’s narrator did warn his son (narrator’s father) before he died that life is a war, and to keep up the fight.  War against whom?  A white society that aggressively fosters hatred and bigotry via systematic tactics and exclusion to keep Black society subjugated.  The grandfather orders and gives his family concrete wisdom: “I want you to overcome ’em with yeses, undermine ’em with grins, agree ’em to death and destruction …” (13).  In other words, the grandfather advises his family to uphold a dual identity: externally, they should embody the stereotypical good slaves’ motifs, which will satisfy the master; however, internally, they should carry the bitter hatred and resentment of such false identity against the master.  Following this model allows the grandfather’s descendants to play a false role, only to make it appear as if they are satisfying the whites’ ego.

However, the young narrator does not know how to play the dual identity, for he does not know his true identity and individuality, causing the white men to take advantage of his passivity during the entire day’s events.  Metaphorically, the boys’ blindfolding in the ring supports their real-life blindness; they are unable to see through the true intentions of the white men as they force the boys to conform to the racial stereotype of the black man as a violent and savage creature.  As the men watch the boys in the boxing battle royal, they look at them not as equals or humans, but as inferior beings – as wild animals.  Although the grandfather provides knowledge to his family, it is fruitless to the narrator, because it doesn’t fully register in his head. Believing that full compliance will gain him admiration and accolade, he obliges the white men’s commands.  To some extent, his beliefs prove true, for he is awarded the briefcase for his submission, but he is also tricked at the same time.  The nameless character has not yet learned to see behind the masks, behind the tricks, and underneath the various covers constructed by white society. He only learns after the fact that he has been made a fool of when he realizes the phony coins, subsequent to suffering the electric shock from the mysterious rug – at the expense of his humiliation and dehumanization. This lack of awareness – blindness – stems from lack of not knowing his identity and individuality.

Ellison’s invisible man experiences being tricked again, but this time it takes on a different meaning.  He is not deceived by the white men; rather, he is fooled by a black man, Dr. Bledsoe – the college president.  While transporting a white trustee, Norton, around campus and showing him the old slave quarters and taking him to Golden Day, Bledsoe becomes furious when he learns of the narrator’s journeys: “The quarters! Boy, are you a fool? Didn’t you know better than to take a trustee out there?” (79).  The narrator claims that he was told to go there by Norton, but Bledsoe does not care: “Damn what he wants. We take these white folks where we want them to go, we show them what we want them to see” (79).  Feeling the college is at risk, along with his power, Bledsoe takes swift action and expels the narrator from the school, to his surprise. Ironically, to seem as a nice and reasonable man, Bledsoe gives him various letters and tells him they will help him find a job in New York, but it’s only a ploy, which the narrator fails to recognize.

Similar to the sentiment that the narrator’s grandfather tries to pass down to his descendants, Bledsoe too utilizes dual identities, but his represents narcissism and immorality.  He cares for no one – including blacks – except for self. Bledsoe, being the president, uses the school to abuse his clout and gain more power, rather than achieving wide-ranging social advancement for his people and he makes that clear: “I’s big and black and I say ‘Yes, suh’ as loudly as any burrhead when it’s convenient, but I’m still king down here” (109).  Bledsoe continues: “… I’ve made my place in it and I’ll have every Negro in the country hanging on tree limbs by morning if it means staying where I am” (110).  Bledsoe pokes fun at his own race by talking in slang, using “I’s” rather than “I am” to seem uneducated like other blacks.  Bledsoe then states that when he tells the white men what they want to hear, he is able to control them.  Thereafter, his rant becomes disturbing as he claims that he would have all blacks lynched to keep his power.  Yes, such declaration by any human being is absolutely outrageous and sinister, but coming from a black man makes it even worse.  However, after the narrator has heard such unbecoming language, his trust in Bledsoe remains palpable, clearly indicating his lack of awareness because he still has not learned to look behind the masks through discernment.

Moreover, while on a bus ride to New York, the narrator meets the veteran who ridiculed Mr. Norton at Golden Day, precipitating Bledsoe to expel him like he did the narrator.  Strangely, the narrator doesn’t believe Bledsoe would do such a thing.  The veteran tells him to open his eyes and don’t take the face value of everything: “… look beneath the surface… Come out of the fog, young man. And remember you don’t have to be a complete fool in order to succeed” (118).  The veteran speaks these words because he knows that the narrator is ignorant (and still shows signs of blindness) for not believing that Bledsoe is the cause for his relocation.  For some reason, the narrator still has faith in Bledsoe although he has been punished by him. It is only when he learns Bledsoe’s true motives, then he realizes that he was tricked, for the letters that were to help him served as a way to hinder his progress, with punishing statements: “… this letter is a former student of ours … who has been expelled for a most serious defection from our strictest rules of deportment. The letter continues: “… it is to the best interests of the great work which we are dedicated to perform, that he continue undisturbed in these vain hopes … from our midst” (145).  Bledsoe’s betrayal of the narrator shows that it is not only whites who betray and suppress blacks, but blacks can do the same to their own race.

Additionally, the narrator’s pain and bad luck persist.  Like the electric shock in chapter one, the narrator suffers similar results; this time, however, it’s from shock treatment when he’s unconscious at the hospital following the fight with Brockway.  The white doctors mirror the same attitude the white men shared in the opening chapter via dehumanization.  Because the narrator is unable to respond to the doctors’ question, they began to practice shock treatment on him (while another doctor wanted to castrate him) as a way for entertainment.  The shock treatment causes the narrator to shake, and one doctor asserts that he is dancing: “Look, he’s dancing… They really do have rhythm…” (180-1).  While the narrator hears the screams of a woman in his head, the doctors play with his head and ask him questions like: Who was buckeye the rabbit? Who was brer rabbit?  The narrator attacks their amusement with his own: “He was your mother’s back door man… ‘Buckeye’ when you were very young and hid yourself behind wide innocent eyes; ‘Brer,’ when you were older” (184).  Following his humiliation at the hands of the doctors, they tell him he is cured and can leave.

This episode in chapter eleven represents significance, because he has somewhat changed metaphorically.  When he signs his release paper, he questions himself, “is he (the doctor) in on it too” (187)?  In on what?  The white suppression that haunts him.  The narrator begins to think and comes to the conclusion that he is no longer afraid of men like Norton or Bledsoe, for they are nothing to him so he expects nothing from them. Moreover, the transition is quite clear, something like a symbolic rebirth – he awakes without any memory; he does not understand language; and he does not know his identity.  The music and the machines’ noise collectively make him hear the sound of a screaming woman in pain, akin to a woman in labor. More important, the narrator’s metaphorical rebirth occurs with no parents; he takes on the doctors on his lonesome.  The veteran’s advice that he becomes his own father is crucial, for he starts doing that by opening his eyes and looking at things differently, questioning himself and others’ true intentions.

The narrator is slightly removing the blindfold as he questions why he shouldn’t do hard labor as the doctor warns him he is not suited yet.  “Take another job… Something easier, quieter. Something for which you’re better prepared,” the doctor said.  These words are condescending and a racial stereotype that blacks are lazy, unfit, and do not work hard.  This advice comes from the same doctor who took part in the amusement of the narrator’s humiliation, claiming he dances well as he is being shocked (which falls under a racial stereotype of blacks, something like a dancing Sambo doll), and trying to take his manhood by castration.  The castration reference by one of the racist doctors serves as a way to deny the narrator of his humanity.  Clearly, a castration of one implies the stripping of his power, his ability to function, his ability to foster children, his ability to progress, and his ability to be whole – the purest form of emasculation.  Nonetheless, from this episode, the narrator’s eyes begin to open to some extent; his invisibility and blindness are still intact, but he is freer and starts to find his identity in New York.

The narrator’s union with the Brotherhood shows that he still lacks individualism and has not removed that blindfold away from his eyes.  After seeing an injustice being done (white men evicting a black woman), the narrator speaks out prompting the crowd to react and take the furniture back into the house.  Cops arrive and he runs off, but hears a voice that calls him brother, a white man named Brother Jack.  Jack argues that he should become the spokesman for the Brotherhood; however, the narrator doesn’t agree and wants to think about the proposition.  Thereafter, the narrator thinks about Mary (a woman who gives him a place to freely live and generously feeds him) and makes the decision to join the Brotherhood.  Jack provides him with a house owned by the Brotherhood and strange enough, a new identity – claiming he should leave the past behind and focus on his new identity.

Joining the Brotherhood shows that the narrator is looking for a new identity (but not in the right place), and shows his lack of self-identity as he is labeled as what Jack wants him to be.  It becomes apparent from the start that the Brotherhood has sinister intentions and needs him to further its cause when Emma tells Jack he isn’t black enough.  Such comment proves that the narrator is unimportant to them as a human, but only as a figure and tool the group wants to exploit. In a sense, the narrator submits to white society for agreeing to serve as the black spokesman of the Brotherhood.  In more concrete language, he threatens and compromises his own identity by submitting to white men with clout.

The blindness of the narrator continues in a rally where he is to deliver a speech (in a former boxing ring), similar to chapter one.  He blindly gives his speech but is criticized for how he does it by the Brotherhood:  “In my opinion the speech was wild, hysterical, politically irresponsible and dangerous.  And worse than that it was incorrect” (264). This lambasting ridicule shows that his stay with the Brotherhood would not be a long stint. Moreover, the physical battle the Brotherhood had with Ras the Exhorter/Destroyer (somewhat resembles the real-life Malcolm X) and his followers show that clearly, because he is unable to recognize his group from Ras’s.  This confrontation shows signs of unfruitfulness on both sides, because both groups are fighting for the same thing, black equality – or at least one group.

The inevitable happens when Jack tells the narrator that he must attend a meeting the following day, but it never happens.  Jack toys with him and sends him away because he is done using him, so the narrator is of no use anymore.  Once again, the narrator shows his inability to see through the masks of others when he realizes that the Brotherhood’s intentions were to exclude him from the meeting initially.  The Brotherhood wants no part with the narrator, along with some blacks – feeling that his union with the Brotherhood is a betrayal to the black community.  The narrator is also betrayed again as he witnesses a former member of the Brotherhood, Clifton (who is later shot dead by a cop), selling Sambo dolls – a bad caricature of the Black culture.  The dolls are crucial and carry symbolic meanings, because although the dolls move by themselves, they need the help of strings to facilitate their movement.  This implies that Blacks continue to live under the umbrella and control of whites; blacks are puppets and whites are the puppeteers.  Metaphorically, blacks are in the driver’s seat, but whites are steering the wheel.

That is evidence how the Brotherhood has used the narrator for the main purpose to destroy Harlem all along by galvanizing a riot with the help of Ras.  He learns this at the end, but it comes too late.  To a certain extent, he becomes a traitor twice: first, for working with a racist group; and second, for playing an active part in the destruction of the black community.  However, as the narrator tries to subdue the riot and explain the cause for it, Ras orders his followers to kill him by way of lynching, but he runs away and falls into a gutter.  As he lies underground, it is completely dark with no light.  He has nothing with him but the briefcase – holding almost everything in his journey for identity: diploma, Clifton’s doll, letters, etc. – that was given to him in chapter one by one of the racist men.  In order to make light, he burns each in every one of the items in the briefcase.  By burning the items in the briefcase, the narrator has now found his identity (or close to finding his identity) and breaks away from his past.

The narrator being in New York prompts his sudden awareness of what is real as he remains underground, rejecting the idea that a single philosophy can constitute a complete way of being, for each soul embodies a multitude of various components. Interestingly, this philosophy is what Norman Podhoretz lacks because he refuses to see others – the Beat writers in the 50s – for their multiplicities, rendering him blind to others’ diversities.  Similar to how the nameless protagonist searches for his identity in New York, people in the 50s did the same, and New York was the place for it as Wakefield argues: “Our fifties were far more exciting than the typical American experience because we were in New York, where people came to flee the average and find a group of like-minded souls” (7).

Ellison’s Invisible Man represents a buffet that feeds one’s knowledge in every aspect, every turn, every page and chapter – for it is filled with profound metaphors and real-life (historical) issues.  More important, its prolific literature is influential and continues to bring forth discussion in college classrooms and from scholars as they continue to write about it.  Ellison also influenced (indirectly or directly) books from his counterparts like Richard Wright, James Baldwin, and others.  Whether one is black or white does not matter, because Invisible Man serves substance to everyone and influenced many in the 50s and beyond, including future works and American culture as a whole.  It will always be a topic of conversation for generations and generations to come.  Likewise, the Beat Generation may never be scrutinized entirely (or taken seriously by scholars) but it is catching on, because courses are being taught on various college campuses today.

Overall, Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man can be described for its fame in two words: extraordinarily superb. It signifies a richly crafted – in-your-face – novel that stands firm as a classical gem and continues to engage readers since its 1952 release.

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Book Review: Their Eyes Were Watching God (1937), by Nora Neale Hurston

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July 1, 2008


First published in 1937, Their Eyes Were Watching God by Nora Neale Hurston typifies a bildungsroman novel (a coming-of-age novel of one’s early years which explores the development of the character). Appropriately, this literature is often called Black literature because the text deals with Black culture. The story concentrates on the protagonist Janie Crawford (a beautiful, middle-aged, self-assured Black woman) and her three husbands: Logan Killicks, Jody Sparks, and Tea Cake. The setting of the story takes place in rural Florida, roughly in the 1930s.

The story begins with a fairly young and stunning Black woman returning to Eatonville, Florida after being gone for a long length of time. Janie Crawford, somewhere in her 30s or early 40s, walks into town with filthy overalls (something the women take satisfaction in); the local residents know her and they all take notice as she strides her way home. The men gawk and admire her beauty, gaping at her gorgeous physique, while the women gaze with contempt. Obviously jealous and bitter, the women on the porch begin to bad-mouth and gossip about her after she enters her residence, speculating that her younger man left her after using all of her money.

Because Janie does not stop and talk to them when she returns, they take offense and depict her mannerism as rude and standoffish. What makes the women more resentful (and envious) is her physical beauty – especially her long, straight hair. As the women continue to take joy in berating her, Pheoby Watson – Janie’s best friend – sticks up for Janie and criticizes the women for their mean-spirited comments. She excuses her presence and heads to Janie’s home, bringing with her a platter of food for Janie.

Pheoby reveals the gossiping speculations of the women, which Janie finds humorous. As they converse, Janie tells her that she has returned without Tea Cake because he is gone – but not gone in the way that the women on the porch speculate. Pheoby does not grasp what she means, so Janie agrees to explain it to her. This is where Janie’s story begins as she recounts it to Pheoby; however, Janie is not the primary narrator but does serve as a narrator. Tea Cake, in fact, appears at midpoint to the latter. Moreover, the novel begins at the end of the story.

Janie’s first husband comes by way of her grandmother, a grandmother (Nanny) that plays mother and father since birth, because her parents were absent. When Janie turns sixteen, she takes pleasure in the fruitful springtime by sitting under a blossoming pear tree. At such young age, Janie begins to show her sexuality and kisses a local boy named Johnny Taylor, which gets her in trouble with her grandmother. Nanny witnesses her behavior and decides to marry her off to a much older man named Logan Killicks who she does not know. Janie obviously disagrees with her grandmother and says she does not want to marry. However, Nanny assures her that marrying Logan, an affluent middle-aged farmer, will bring security before she dies.

Janie gripes and begs, “Please don’t make me marry Mr. Killicks,” but her grandmother tells her it’s for her own good. Still dissatisfied, Nanny tries to convince her by recounting her difficulties in the past. Born into slavery, Nanny had a painful upbringing and was raped by her master; this rape produced a child named Leafy (Janie’s mother who she never meets). When the master’s wife realized that Leafy had gray eyes and straight hair, she knew her husband fathered Leafy. Angered with what she knew, she planned to sell off Leafy and have Nanny violently whipped, but Nanny escaped into the swamps with her child before such malicious act was carried out.

Thereafter, Nanny found work with the Washburns, her employers after she became a free woman. Nanny envisioned a better life for her daughter Leafy, but all hopes were shattered when Leafy, at the age of 17, was raped by her schoolteacher – a rape that brought Janie into the world. After her rape, Leafy’s behavior soured: She stayed out all night and intoxicated herself with liquor. In due course, Leafy ran away, leaving her daughter Janie with her mother.

With Nanny’s convincingness and retelling her past experiences, Janie makes comfort with her grandmother’s viewpoint of marriage, even though she says she could never see herself loving Logan. Nanny argues that love will come after marriage. Since old folks know the best, Janie takes the advice to heart. Subsequently, she marries Logan in Nanny’s parlor. The marriage is huge and jovial, but the marriage is not. Two months later, Janie visits her grandmother and says she does not love Logan and finds him ugly. Nanny scolds her and claims she is unappreciative of his wealth and status. Moreover, she tells Janie to hang in there and love will eventually come. Sadly, Nanny dies a month later.

Within a year of the marriage, Janie still has no love for Logan. The marriage is practically nonexistent and Janie’s happiness is absent. Logan wants Janie to partake in manual labor, so he leaves to purchase a mule for her to work in the farm. While he is gone, Janie sees a stranger, well-dressed and attractive, strolling down the road. His name is Joe Sparks, and he catches Janie’s attention immediately. She flirts with him and finds out that he comes from Georgia, and has grand plans to build and run a new town in Florida. She learns about his great ambitions and finds him interesting (especially his eloquence and objectives), unlike her husband.

Besides having no attraction to Logan whatsoever, Janie’s feeling for another man should raise no question, because her husband represents an uncaring and nasty man. He is simply rude and represents an authoritarian: formulating rules in which she has to comply with. Whenever he needs her aid, she has to be there to assist him quickly. When he talks, she has to listen and do what he utters accordingly. Logan’s disrespect is evident when he wants Janie, a woman, to carry chopped wood into the house.

His words are as follows: “If I can haul the wood here and chop it for you, look like you ought to be able to tow it inside.” He continues with his outlandish comment: “My first wife never bothered me about chopping no wood no how; she’d grab that ax and sling like a man. You done been spoiled rotten.”

Shortly after that altercation, the disrespect of Janie continues when he calls her from outside to help move a pile of manure. This call for help takes place when Janie is in the kitchen, cooking and preparing him a meal. But to Logan, it does not matter and he makes that very clear: “You don’t take a bit of interest in dis place. ’Tain’t no use in foolin’ round in dat kitchen all day long.” This clearly shows the sign of an inconsiderate soul. After his cries for help, she replies: “You don’t need mah help out dere, Logan. Youse in yo’ place and I’m in mine.” She could not have said that any better, but he has a comeback and thinks otherwise: “You ain’t got no particular place. It’s wherever Ah need yuh” (31).

Janie and Logan fight constantly and every day, so she finds comfort and happiness with Joe Starks. As Joe gets familiar to his new surroundings, he and Janie converge secretly each and every day; they become so close that he informs her to call him Jody. He takes her breath away and impresses her with his grandiose dreams. With Jody, her dream for real love blossoms. After two weeks of secret romance, Jody asks Janie to leave her husband and become his wife.

That same night, Janie and Logan carry out their normal relationship through argument. He belittles and slurs her for not helping him with the farm work, and Janie fires back. Obviously tired of the constant arguments, Janie threatens him by saying she will run away. Morning arrives and the argument continues about working in the farm. As expected, Janie’s threat of leaving him becomes a reality, going to her new man Jody, meeting in a prearranged time and place. Janie and Jody quickly get married before sundown and embark on their journey to the new town.

When they arrive to the new town, Eatonville, Florida, they realize its small nature which occupies a few shacks. Jody asks two men, Lee Cooker and Amos Hicks, to see the mayor, but there is no mayor. Jody begins to talk to the townspeople and realizes how undersize the town is, so he buys two acres to add to the existing fifty acres. The ambitious Jody then announces that he will build two structures: a store and a post office. He calls a town meeting and shares his plans on how he will beautify the town. Even though Tony Taylor is the chairman of the assembly, Jody does all the talking. His plans to have a store and a post office become a reality with the help of Coker and Taylor, two men he employs to build the structures.

With Jody’s money and power, he immediately becomes mayor of Eatonville. At the ceremony, held at his store, Taylor asks Janie to make a speech on behalf of her husband, but Jody precludes her from speaking. He rudely claims that speech-making is not for his wife to make. In Jody’s own words, he states: “Thank yuh fuh yo’ compliments, but mah wife don’t know nothin’ ’bout no speech-makin’. Ah never married her for nothin’ lak dat. She’s uh woman and her place is in de home” (43). This comment angers Janie, but she says nothing.

With mayoral power, Jody continues to makes advances to Eatonville, but the townspeople are bothered by his condescending and bossy treatment. Not only do they look at Jody differently, but they start to look at Janie differently (by way of jealously) because she had it all; that is, a powerful man, an intricate new two-story house, and elaborate things. The townspeople begin to feel like Jody is taking pride in their lower class status by showing off his wealth, especially when he buys a spittoon for Janie and himself. Moreover, Jody forces a man, Henry Pitts, out of town for stealing a load of his ribbon cane, which bothered the townspeople. Jody’s mannerisms quickly make the people throughout the town dislike him, precipitating their relationship to grow apart. The gossiping by the townspeople about Jody and his wife begins, wondering how Janie could stay with such an overbearing and condescending man.

The townspeople’s criticism is right on point, because Jody represents a tyrant; he is a domineering man and Janie takes the full brunt of it – verbally, mentally, and physically. In fact, he treats his wife like trash, similar to a slave. In their store, Jody forces Janie to tie her long/beautiful hair and keep it in a rag, afraid that men will be attracted to her if she keeps it out. Janie hates managing the store but finds enjoyment from the stories the men partake in outside of the store. When Janie tries to join in the fun, Jody tells her to not interact with “trashy people.”

Janie’s marriage is clearly problematic at this juncture of the text. In truth, Jody is ten times worse than Janie’s first husband Logan. When he first arrives in the novel, he seems like a decent man with his enticing goals, his smooth-tongue, and his overall presence. He literally charms Janie. However, that charming man is nonexistent after marriage. Embarrassing her in the public eye, battering her flesh into submission, speaking to her like a child, and all the negatives are prevalent; she endures a lot of pain. He constantly belittles, disrespects, and treats her like the surface he walks on.

One day, Jody gets into an argument with Janie in the store about a misplaced bill and belittles Janie about its whereabouts: “Somebody got to think for women and chillun and chickens and cows.” Such statement shows that he does not see her as an equal, but as an animal that needs order. His following comment is equally disrespectful by implying that she lacks intelligence: “When I see one thing, I understand ten. You see ten things and don’t understand one.”

Jody takes his mistreatment of Janie a bit further one day during dinner by hitting her. This beating, happening seven years after their marriage, occurs because Jody feels the dinner is badly done and distasteful. As Hurston inscribes, “He slapped Janie until she had ringing sound in her ears and told her about her brains before he stalked on back to the store” (72). During their marriage, Janie’s love for him declines tremendously, but this incident shatters every piece of love she has for him.

Later in the day, she shows her anger while at the store when overhearing the men on the porch taking pleasure in berating and talking badly about women. No longer can she hold in her anger nor her tongue; she speaks out and rebukes the men, telling them that they know nothing about women, etc. Jody quickly jumps in and tells her to quiet her mouth (“You getting’ too moufy, Janie”) and “fetch” him a checkerboard.

With passing years, Janie’s deplorable marriage affects her mental state, making her view herself as unattractive. She also realizes Jody’s unattractiveness because he looks old, something Jody realizes himself. His body droops and lumps; more apparent, he has problem moving around. To make Janie ignore his appearance, he tries to play with her mind by attacking her age and appearance. But she is not stupid and understands that this is a ploy to make her believe that she too is in a similar position of ugliness and old age, but that is not the case. As Jody’s health continues to worsen, he verbally attacks her more viciously and frequently. One of his verbal attacks, happening at the store in the presence of many, causes Janie to lash out by attacking his sagging body, stating it resembles “de change uh life.”

Her comment surprises the men on the porch, but it surprises Jody the most. Feeling disrespected, he violently hits Janie and drives her away from the store. But the damage is already done (thanks to Janie’s comment), and his reputation in the town decreases. Subsequent to that quarrel, they separate themselves in the house by moving to different rooms.

Jody’s health becomes dire. The townspeople gossip that Janie is causing his illness with poison, a rumor that her best friend Pheoby tells her about. However, the rumor is proven wrong when Janie calls for a doctor to check his condition; the doctor ascertains that Jody’s kidneys have failed, which will soon cause his demise. Janie tells him about his ominous fate and he becomes sad. In a way, she feels sorry for him but takes the time to scold him, telling him how badly he treated her with his domineering and violent ways. He tells her to stop but she refuses. Shortly thereafter, Jody dies. She looks in the mirror, frees her hair from its rag-bondage, and realizes that she is still beautiful. She then yells out the window that Jody has died with a guise of grief.

Janie sends Jody off with an elaborate funeral. She carries a mourning face for the outside world but feels happy internally. The townspeople see only one major change: Janie publically begins to showcase her long hair. With her beauty and wealth, several men approach her, but she pays them no mind and rebuffs their advances. Not one suitor comes close in a timespan of six months. Janie is happy with her freedom and does not want to be tied down to another man. However, her mind changes when she meets a man named Vergible Woods.

She meets this stranger when he enters her store to buy a cigarette – and he begins to flirt and jokes with her. This flirtation precipitates laughter from Janie. He continues to flirt with her during a game of checkers. After playing checkers, they converse and she finds out that this stranger’s name is Vergible Woods, but he says that everyone calls him Tea Cake. They enjoy each other’s company and he helps her close up the store at night. Most important, he makes her laugh, something her prior husbands could not execute.

One week passes and Janie does not see Tea Cake, so she begins to think that he cares only for her wealth. When he finally comes back after a week, he jokes around which puts a smile on her face. They again play checkers; afterward, he walks her home where they sit on the porch, eating, drinking lemonade, and conversing. They meet regularly and frolic in romance, which does not sit well with the townspeople for two main reasons: 1. she stops mourning for her late husband too soon, and 2. such a high-profiled woman should not be dating a poor man like Tea Cake.

Her best friend Pheoby tells her to watch out for Tea Cake’s true intentions; she replies by saying that he is a good man. She then shocks Pheoby by disclosing her plans to sell the store, leave town, and wed Tea Cake. She keeps her word, leaving Eatonville for Jacksonville where she marries Tea Cake. Later, they settle in the Everglades where Tea Cake plans to work in the muck.

Tea Cake, Janie’s third husband, is clearly better than her prior husbands. He really loves Janie and gives her space to grow mentally. He has fun with her by showing her how to shoot a gun, a skill that she ultimately overshadows him in. They even go hunting together. Most important, Tea Cake truly makes her happy and charms her with jokes. However, in no way does he represent a perfect husband; at times, he even treats Janie like her prior husbands via abuse and his domineering behavior. Moreover, he is manipulative and sneaky.

One day, without Janie’s knowledge he takes $200 from her dress and spends it away on a big wild party he sponsors. When he gets back home, he promises Janie he will pay her back by gambling. He keeps his promise and reimburses her. Believing in his trust, she reveals the money she has in the bank. When he starts his work in the muck, he sneaks away and visits Janie at home because he “deeply” misses her. This causes Janie to go work in the muck with him to be together all day. But someday in the muck, Tea Cake has other plans when he goes missing, and Janie finds him play-wrestling with a stocky girl named Nunkie, causing jealously and anger.

This is not his only questionable behavior. His most awful behavior happens when he beats Janie, similar to Jody. Hurston makes it clear that his beating is not brutal, but he physically abuses her nonetheless: “Being able to whip her reassured him in possession…He slapped her around a bit to show he was boss” (147). Her physical abuse is noticed by many in the muck, for her flesh is marked by his hands.

Nonetheless, bad luck quickly comes their way via a hurricane while living in the Everglades. With the chance to leave before the storm hits, they decide to stay. When the storm hits, it causes a flood and they realize that it is best to leave. They swim in the flood, passing dead bodies, to reach higher grounds, but the rough water blows Janie away. Tea Cake goes after her and a dog, which starts to attack Janie, bites him in the cheek; he stabs it to death.

Four weeks later, Tea Cake’s head pounds with a headache. Janie calls a doctor and after his assessment, he tells her a devastating news: The dog that bit Tea Cake had rabies and saving him is perhaps too late. While Tea Cake health worsens, he becomes delusional and thinks that she is sneaking away to meet another man. Actually, she leaves the house to find medicine that may save his life. She tries to calm his speculation, but she also becomes afraid when he hides a pistol under his pillow.

In the morning, Tea Cake becomes irate and goes outside when Janie plans to leave the house again to see a doctor. While outside, Janie manipulates his pistol (making sure it goes through three empty chambers before reaching a bullet) just in case he plans to use it on her. Tea Cake comes inside, angrier than before and retrieves his pistol. He pulls the trigger and nothing happens. A scared Janie retrieves a rifle to possibly make him stop, but it does not work. Tea Cake pulls the trigger two more times, rendering nothing. Janie is left with no choice but to protect herself by shooting him as he attempts to fire again. A trial follows quickly, but she is found innocent. Thereafter, she sends him off accordingly with a grand funeral. (It is important to know that even though Tea Cake’s behavior was questionable, he serves as the catalyst that helps Janie find her true self.)

As a whole, during the writing of this piece, Hurston executed the novel amazingly and did a great job showing how men disrespect and mistreatment women. The cruelty stems from the belief that men are superior to women; therefore, women should cater to the needs of men because, according to some men, that is their role. Although the novel was written in 1937, the most prominent theme of abuse resonates today, because some men batter their wives (or girlfriends), view women as property, and believe that women are inferior beings. The novel falls under fiction, but it captures realism that can not be denied, for thousands of women are abused and murdered yearly. In fact, there are a great number of Logan Killicks, Joe ‘Jody’ Sparks, and Tea Cakes out there.

Even though Nora Neale Hurston is no longer living, Their Eyes Were Watching God has kept her name alive and will continue to do so, because it represents a classic, getting many accolades and precipitating a film starring actress Halle Berry as Janie. Both men and women should read this novel and form their own conclusion on what the text means to them; it’s a deserving piece of literature that is filled with reality – not to mention the poetic elegance rendered by Hurston.

In the beginning, this novel may be difficult for some, due to the characters’ dialect (i.e., Black vernacular) and how it is written, but it won’t be too long before the reader understands it. Their Eyes Were Watching God represents a notable novel, despite its controversial text regarding men’s abusive behaviors.

Literary Analysis: The Taming of the Shrew: The Importance of Christopher Sly’s Induction

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October 17, 2006


Numerous of William Shakespeare’s dramas employ the concept of “plays within plays,” where characters in the play execute the performance of a different play. This dramatic device by Shakespeare is incorporated in plays like A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Love’s Labours Lost, Hamlet, and so forth. Some well-known examples consist of the “Murder of Gonzago” scene and the “Mousetrap” scene in Hamlet, and the “Pyramus and Thisbe” scene at the conclusion of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. This motif by Shakespeare also presents itself in The Taming of the Shrew – not in the same manner as the plays mentioned above but as an introduction to the main play.

Shakespeare begins The Taming of the Shrew with a mysterious Induction of the character Christopher Sly, but the story never concludes nor does it carry on to the actual play. Therefore, a couple of questions must be asked: What does Sly’s story contribute to the main play? More important, does his role in the Induction play a significant part to the main play? Absolutely. In fact, the Induction incorporates many of the major motifs of the main play, such as disguise/deception, clothing, the role of marriage, etc. The identity of Sly changes when his clothes are changed, similar to Lucentio’s and Tranio’s attire. Sly finds himself in a strange position and must act accordingly to the role he has been assigned, similar to Kate. Lastly, Sly’s interest is to have a wife whom he can control, just as do Petruchio and other male characters in the main play.

The role of disguise plays a major part of The Taming of the Shrew. In the first act, Shakespeare wastes no time in addressing this theme which parallels the Induction. In the Induction, Sly assumes a disguise in a strange way, in which he has no control over. The story materializes like this: Sly’s drunkenness and disruptive behavior gets him tossed out of a facility and finds himself asleep in front of a lord’s house. The lord arrives home and sees Sly; he then devises a plan to convince Sly that he is a lord, with the help of his household. When Sly is bestowed this honor, he is skeptical at first: “I am Christopher Sly. Call not me ‘honor’ nor ‘lordship’ (Ind. 2. 5). Such response by Sly shows that his identity remains intact, but it would be short-lived. With more convincing that he is a lord (precipitated by the tale of his beautiful wife and trickery), he assumes the role and calls his so-called wife to bed: “Tis much. Servants leave me and her alone. / Madam, undress you and come now to bed” (108-109). This statement by Sly does not only show the disguise that he assumes, but also shows the role of marriage, which will be touched upon shortly.

Interestingly, Sly’s transformation from a beggar to a lord does not only take place with fabricated stories but also with the change of his attire – which introduces the theme of clothing. When Sly’s clothing changes, so does his identity. Because Sly has fine clothing, it enables him to appropriately fit his position as a lord, likewise Lucentio and Tranio. Lucentio (a young student from Pisa who arrives to study in Padua) takes on a disguise to try to acquire Bianca’s love and attention, after he has seen her and falls madly in love. To get closer to Bianca, Lucentio disguises himself as an instructor named Cambio, a clever idea to get into Bianca’s life and the Minola household. To put his plan into action, he convinces Gremio (one of Bianca’s suitors) to recommend him to Baptista – Bianca’s father – as a tutor for Bianca. Thereafter, Tranio (Lucentio’s servant) indirectly warns Lucentio that he has an appointment in Padua and if he fails to arrive, trouble will occur. To remedy any impending problem, Lucentio devises yet another plan: He orders his servant Tranio to impersonate him as he tries to win over Bianca’s love, disguised as a tutor. Not only do Lucentio and Tranio take on a different identity, but they also switch their clothes. When Biondello (Lucentio’s second servant) sees Tranio’s wearing Lucentio’s clothes, he asks his master several questions: “Where have I been? Nay, how now, where are you? / Master, has my fellow Tranio stol’n your clothes? / Or you stol’n his? Or both? Pray, what’s the news?” (1.1. 214-216). The changing of clothes by the characters represents importance and goes hand in hand with the theme of disguise.

Without changing their clothing it would be impossible to pull off a disguise and pose as another person. Clothing was an indication of one’s status in the Elizabethan era. The upper class dressed in valuable and highly structured garments, flaunting their wealth with rich fabrics and extreme decorations; the lower class dressed in plain clothes, which could clearly determine their social status. Similarly, in The Taming of the Shrew, the characters who change their clothing take on a different appearance. Clothing facilitates this outcome because external appearance overshadows the true self and controls the perceptions of others. It allows one to change his or her social positions by donning a disguise. When Sly changes his clothing into that of a lord, he gets treated differently. Once Lucentio transforms himself from a young gentleman into a professor, people treat him as the role he plays. Moreover, when Tranio alters his appearance to Lucentio’s, his image as a servant diminishes and his noble image takes priority. The Induction presents two people assuming a disguise – via clothes: Sly and Bartholomew. Similarly, in Act 1 Scene 1, we see Lucentio and Tranio undertake a disguise. It makes it obvious: The way one dresses facilitates one’s perception.

In continuation with the issue of attire, the theme of clothing stands alone and does not only serve as a disguise mechanism, for it also works as a way of humiliation (publicly and privately), social identity (as noted above), and one of the processes in which Petruchio uses to tame Katherine. One of the most notable scenes occurs the day that the wedding of Kate and Petruchio takes place. Everyone is in attendance, excluding Petruchio. While the spectators become apprehensive, Kate becomes frustrated and leaves. Petruchio, obviously, will not miss his wedding because that would also rule out his riches, so he will be there. As expected, Petruchio arrives at his wedding late, wearing horrendous clothing – shabby mismatched attire, riding on an old horse. Petruchio’s wedding costume represents an act of public humiliation meant for Kate. His inappropriate appearance surprises Baptista and the audience. Baptista orders him to change to no avail. Petruchio responds: “To me she’s married, not unto my clothes. / Could I repair what she will wear in me / As I can change these poor accoutrements, / ‘Twere well for Kate and better for myself” (3.2. 107-110).

This statement by Petruchio typifies an important psychological viewpoint, because it entails that Katherine is not marrying his clothes; instead, she is marrying him, signifying the man beneath the apparel is not equal to the apparel he wears. In other words, Petruchio states that no matter what one wears, his inner self will stand out – which poses the question: Does the clothing make the man? Absolutely not. Lucentio, for example, may be disguised as Cambio the tutor, but reverts to himself once the courtship with Bianca begins to unfold. Likewise, the other disguised characters (Tranio, Hortensio, and the Pedant), can not escape the reality that they have to return to their true identities, including Sly. Although we never get a full disclosure of Sly’s story in the Induction, we know that he will not remain as a lord by what happens to the characters in the main story; they all return to their prior and natural state of being.

Another scene concerning clothes that is of importance occurs in Act 4 with the tailor and haberdasher. Petruchio assures Kate that he will return to her father’s house in the finest clothes and accessories: “Will we return unto thy father’s house / And reveal it as bravely as the best, / With silken coats and caps and golden rings, / With ruffs, and cuffs, and farthingales, and things / With scarves, and fans, and double change of bravery, / With amber bracelets … and all this knavery” (4.3. 53-58). Such declaration parallels his prior speech before the wedding when he assured Baptista and Kate that “[they] will have rings, and things, and fine array” (2.1. 316), only to appear at the wedding with an inappropriate attire, making a mockery of the Paduan culture.

Nonetheless, the tailor and haberdasher appear in the scene with a gown and a hat (for Kate) to Petruchio’s dismay. Petruchio looks at the hat and finds several errors. He criticizes the haberdasher’s work and the hat: “A velvet dish. Fie, fie ‘tis lewd and filthy. / Why ‘tis a cockle or a walnut shell, / A knack, a toy, a trick, a baby’s cap” (4.3. 65-67). Kate comes to the Haberdasher’s defense, arguing that the hat looks good and she likes it: “Love me or love me not, I like the cap, / And it I will have, or I will have none” (4.3. 84-85). Petruchio ignores her and turns his focus to the tailor’s work, where he again finds countless faults with the gown. Similar to the hat, Kate loves the gown and tells Petruchio that “[she’s] never saw a better fashioned gown” (4.3. 101), but he remains unimpressed and firm with his judgment. After his criticism, he sends the tailor away with the gown, privately humiliating his wife. In truth, nothing major is wrong with the gown to make it unwearable; it is Petruchio who purposely finds it unpleasant, allowing him to showcase his disruptive manner as a technique to tame Kate and mock her Paduan society.

With Kate distressed, the humiliation of her continues when Petruchio tells her that they will travel to her father’s house with the old clothes they have: “We will unto your father’s / Even in these honest, mean habiliments. / Our purses shall be proud, our garments poor, / For ‘tis the mind that makes the body rich” (4.3. 161-164). Petruchio speaks these words because it is not the clothes that make the person but rather the mind. This represents a classic manipulation by Petruchio to discipline her mind and body via the clothes she wears and the clothes he sees fit for her to wear. In more concrete language, he basically tries to reshape her body before working on remodeling her mind (a technique that actually goes hand in hand).

Marriage represents another theme that Shakespeare alludes to in the Induction. In the Induction, Sly’s mannerisms (after he has been tricked) show a small glimpse of the marriage role. After he has been convinced that he is a lord, his instinct of controlling and commanding his wife takes priority: “Madam, undress you and come now to bed” (Ind.2. 105). Sly in this scene plays the role of a husband and demands his wife, similar to how Petruchio treats his wife Kate. In this era, a husband had absolute right to treat his wife however he wanted to, even with violence. However, Petruchio never uses violence against Kate although he was allowed to do so.

In fact, when Petruchio first meets Kate behind closed doors, his rhetoric causes Kate to strike him, showing her wild behavior which he plans to tame. He does not reciprocate the hit but warns to do so, if necessary. He remains undisturbed by her rejections and vows to marry her without consent: “Thus in plain terms: your father hath consented / That you shall be my wife; your dowry greed on; / And will you, nill you, I will marry you” (2.1. 262-264). Despite Kate’s objections, Petruchio later announces to Baptista and his men that Kate has agreed to marry him (an obvious lie) and a wedding date has been set. Because Katherine fails to protest his bogus claim(s) that she has agreed to marry him, she indirectly approves what he says. Although they are not married yet, Petruchio’s authoritative role as a soon-to-be husband has already been solidified.

He continues his authoritative behavior when he shows up late to his own wedding. Petruchio’s lateness shows a sign of his control and power over Kate. To make it worse, he publicly acts out in a bizarre manner at the wedding ceremony to embarrass her, one of his plans to tame her and demonstrate to her the unruly behavior she embodies. After the nuptials, Petruchio takes his actions to the extreme and exercises his right as a husband at the wedding reception with a firm command, declaring that he and his wife are leaving. Kate wants to stay and makes it clear to her husband, but he thinks otherwise and disregards her request: “For my bonny Kate, she must with me. / Nay, look not big, nor stamp, nor stare, nor fret; / I will be master of what is mine own. / She is my goods, my chattels; she is my house” (3.2. 216-219). These disrespectful lines Petruchio speaks show that his command shall be obeyed – and not be challenged – because Kate belongs to him. Moreover, he diminishes her presence as a human by labeling her as his objects. Following his firm demand to leave, they leave. His antics throughout the wedding ceremony solidify the beginning of his control as a master/husband.

The action with the newlyweds heats up at Petruchio’s house. He orders his servants to cook him and his wife a feast but, strangely, rejects the entire dinner when the servants present it to them. Petruchio then goes on a rage and throws all the food on the floor: “Tis burnt, and so is all the meat. What dogs are these? Where is the rascal cook?” (4.1. 131-132). Kate argues that the meat is well cooked. We all know that the dinner is faultless and Petruchio’s antics serve as a calculated plan to tame her, confirmed by his words: “Thus have I politicly begun my reign, / And tis my hope to end successfully” (4.1. 157-158). Some would think that his tactics make him a bad husband; however, in that era, a husband’s behavior was warranted by law. Although his actions may seem a bit extreme, they are nowhere near as horrible as some of the sermons imply. According to A Homily of the State of Matrimony, a wife who was beaten should be thankful and accept the fact that she was not beaten any worse.

In Act 4, Kate starts to slightly change and her desire to eat precipitates her to ask for food. The hungry Kate convinces Grumio (Petruchio’s servant) to bring her some food, only to be taunted by him. Her request for food is later rendered by her husband, but she fails to thank him properly and he threatens to take it away: “The poorest service is repaid with thanks, / And so shall mine before you touch the meat” (4.3. 45-46). The hungry Kate has no choice but to thank him properly and offers a subtle thank you. The taming process of Kate is nearly complete. This scene closes with another lesson of obeying what he says. Petruchio claims that it is seven o’clock and they will arrive at her father’s house at noon. Kate knows that he is wrong and argues that it is almost two. Although Kate’s statement is true, Petruchio argues: “It shall be seven ere I go to horse. / Look what I speak, or do, or think to do, / You are still crossing it … / I will not go today, and ere I do, / It shall be what o’clock I say it is” (4.3. 183-187). This declaration by Petruchio states that even though his judgment renders a falsehood, she should never question him and must obey what he says.

When they are heading to Baptista’s house, the mental taming (through games) by Petruchio continues – moon versus sun. Petruchio claims that the moon shines brightly. Kate disagrees and says the sun shines brightly. Petruchio utters: “It shall be moon, or star, or what I list / Or ere I journey to your father’s house” (4.5. 7-8). Petruchio’s threats to return back home precipitate Kate to agree: “Since, we have come so far, / And be it the moon, or sun, or what you please; / An if you please to call it a rush candle, / Henceforth I vow it shall be so for me” (4.5. 12-14). She begins to realize the game and will agree to whatever Petruchio says. In other words, if she wants to get what she wants, she must fully comply with what her husband says, whether it be wrong, misleading, or completely outrageous. In Act 5, Petruchio again threatens to go home after his request for a kiss is denied; she then kisses him.

Kate has fully transformed and Petruchio’s job as a successful tamer shows clearly in the final act. Once all of the characters assemble to rejoice Bianca’s and Lucentio’s wedding, the men decide to bet on who has the most submissive wife. Lucentio and Hortensio order their wives to come, but they both refuse. However, when Petruchio calls for his wife Kate, she comes to everyone’s surprise. Baptista praises Petruchio and talks as if his daughter had never embodied a shrew: “For she is changed, as she had never been” (5.2. 119). Moreover, he unnecessarily orders Kate to destroy the cap she wears and she complies. Thereafter, Kate delivers a long speech to the women on how wives should treat their husbands: “I am ashamed that women are so simple / To offer war where they should kneel for peace, / Or seek for rule, supremacy, and sway, / When they are bound to serve, love, and obey” (5.2. 165-168). These four lines from the epic speech by Kate, without a doubt, show that she has fully been tamed – and psychologically changed – by her husband Petruchio and no longer exhibits her unruly behavior.

Shakespeare provides an unfinished Induction with the character Sly, which continues to the main play. Shakespeare mildly presents several themes – disguise, marriage, clothes, etc. – that clearly materialize in the play. The Induction works as a catalyst for the forthcoming actions. As a result, the Induction renders a significant device, for every theme that presents itself in the Induction shows up in the main play. First, Sly’s identity alters in the Induction once he changes his clothes, similar to the identity of Lucentio and Tranio, two themes of disguise and clothes. Furthermore, Sly’s gullibility enables the Lord and his men to trick him, similar to Baptista and others, a theme of deception. Second, Sly finds himself in a strange position which he has no control over and must act accordingly, which parallels Kate’s role as a wife. Finally, Sly’s interest to control his wife is evident as he orders his so-called wife Bartholomew to bed, which compares to Petruchio and other males in the play, a theme of marriage. Therefore, it is safe to render a judgment that the Induction and the main play of The Taming of the Shrew are inseparable and greatly parallel one another via motifs.

 

Bio: Gwendolyn Brooks (June 7, 1917-December 3, 2000)

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January 9, 2009 | Revised: January 16, 2018


Gwendolyn Elizabeth Brooks was born on June 7, 1917 to David Anderson Brooks and Keziah Wims in Topeka, Kansas. Shortly thereafter, when she was an infant, the family relocated to Chicago, Illinois, where she grew up and resided all her life. Her father was a janitor, for his ambition to attend medical school to become a doctor was unfulfilled due to monetary issues; her mother was a teacher and a classical trained pianist.

Brooks had a passion for reading and writing and found great support from her parents. In fact, in 1930, she published her first poem, “Eventide,” in American Childhood at the age of thirteen. Although her parents were supportive and loving, they were also strict and did not allow her to play with the neighborhood kids; instead, they encouraged her to remain in her literature and provided her with the educational tools to do so. Her home was stable, but the same cannot be said for her schools, where she encountered racial prejudice. She first attended an all-white school, Hyde Park High School (now called Hype Park Career Academy); she later transfer to an all-black high school, Wendell Phillips, before settling at an integrated school, Englewood High School. While attending Englewood, her mother, in 1933, introduced her to Harlem Renaissance prominent poets Langston Hughes and James Weldon Johnson. Meeting these Black writers was not only advantageous but inspirational. After taking Johnson’s advice to read and study modern poets, Brooks began reading the work of Ezra Pound, E.E. Cummings, T.S. Eliot, and others alike. After meeting Hughes at the Metropolitan Community Church, he told her to seriously think of writing professionally after reading a few poems she had with her.

In 1934, she graduated from Englewood High School and found employment with the Chicago Defender, an African American newspaper, where she had an adjunct position. During this time, she attended Wilson Junior College (now Kennedy-King College), for two years, graduating in 1936; she never attended a four-year university because she thought it was unnecessary for her writing career. As a staff of the Chicago Defender, she published more than seventy-five poems in its poetry section called “Lights and Shadows”; however, she was not given a full-time position. She later worked briefly as a maid and secretary in a slum apartment building known as The Mecca, managed by a spiritual charlatan/slumlord. She was not too fond of any of these humiliating job experiences as described in her poetry.

In 1938, she joined the Youth Council of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). In a Youth Council meeting she met Henry Lowington Blakely II and married him on September 17, 1939; their son, Henry Blakely, Jr., was born a year later.

To improve her poetic techniques, Brooks enrolled in poetry workshops taught by a rich Chicagoan named Inez Cunningham Stark at the South Side Community Art Center, from 1941 to 1942. Under the guidance of Stark, Brooks admitted she became a better poet. Indeed, the workshops were advantageous, for in 1943 she won the poetry award from Midwestern Writers’ Conference in Chicago.

In 1945, she gained fame and praise with the release of her first book of poetry, A Street in Brownsville, published by Harper. She was selected by now-defunct Mademoiselle magazine as one of the “Ten Young Women of the Year,” and received other respected honors. In 1946, she was awarded the National Institute of Arts and Letters grant, an American Academy of Arts and Letters Award, and the Guggenheim Fellowship; she won the latter award for a second time in 1947.

The years of 1949 and 1950 were special and momentous for Brooks. She published her second book of poetry called Annie Allen (1949) and won the Eunice Tietjens Memorial Prize from Poetry magazine. Most important, in 1950, it earned her the most prestigious award that one could receive, the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. Not only did she win such noted and noble prize, but she made history by becoming the first African American to be crowned this award. Annie Allen brought her countrywide fame and firmly established her as a key voice in modern American literature. Brooks, in 1951, received her most precious prize by giving birth to her second child, a daughter named Nora Blakely.

At this point in her life, she was at the highest pinnacle of her career and continued publishing her work of literature through Harper and Row. In 1953, she published her only work of fiction called Maud Marta; in 1956, she published Bronzeville Boys and Girls, a book of verses intended for a young audience. At the height of the Civil Rights movement and her growing awareness of social and racial disparities, Brooks published her third collection of poetry titled The Bean Eaters in 1960, which occupies a much-anthologized and famous poem, “We Real Cool.” This poem represents the perils of young Black boys and their refusal to attend school, but find joy at a poolroom facility, which may serve as a death sentence if such behaviors continue.

In 1962, Brooks read at the Library of Congress poetry festival via an invitation from then-President John F. Kennedy. She began her first teaching job at Chicago’s Columbia College in 1963 (and received an honorary degree from the college in 1964). In fact, she taught creative writing at other institutions including Northeastern Illinois University, Elmhurst College, Columbia University, Clay College of New York, and the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Impressively, she was awarded more than seventy-five honorary degrees from various colleges and universities.

A defining moment in Brooks’ career occurred in 1967 when she attended the Fisk University Second Black Writers’ Conference in Nashville, Tennessee (where she rediscovered her blackness). Subsequent to her attendance, she became more involved in the Black Arts movement and her poetic voice was tailored accordingly to fit the change. The change is evident in her 1968 book of poetry, In the Mecca, and her following work. Her poetic voice was not heavily altered, but some critics claimed her work presented an angrier tone. According to The Norton Anthology of American Literature (Vol. E), “her subjects tend to be more explicitly political and to deal with questions of revolutionary violence and issues of African American identity.” In truth, many Black writers at the time wrote stimulating and angry poetry, precipitated by the Civil Rights/Black Power movement and the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther king, Jr. in 1968. Being in touch with the Black Arts movement and wanting to support Black businesses, Brooks left her New York publisher, Harper & Row, and decided to publish her work with African American publishers. In 1968, Brooks received a National Book Award nomination for In the Mecca and became the Poet Laureate of Illinois.

During her life, Brooks published more than twenty-five books that garnered her many accolades, imprinting her place in history as one of the best contemporary writers. On top of winning her most recognized award (the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry), Brooks served as a poetry consultant to The Library of Congress in 1985 and was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame in 1988. Another honor worth mentioning came in 1994 when she was selected as the Jefferson Lecturer by National Endowment for the Humanities, the highest federal government award given for distinguished scholarly achievement in the humanities.

On Sunday, December 3, 2000, Brooks died of cancer in her Chicago home at the age of 83; she was buried at Lincoln Cemetery in Blue Island, Illinois. Brooks inspired many during her lifetime and continues to inspire many today. She left behind a rich legacy that will be long-lasting for generations to come. Her poetry will be a constant study in college classrooms and elsewhere. Her name will be mentioned when great poets are named and when anthologies are rendered. Alice Walker once said in an interview, “If there was ever a born poet, I think it is Brooks.” Not only was she a born poet, but she was truly an amazing poet who employed her poetic language with profound richness and influence.

Her legacy remains robust: In 2001, the Chicago Public Schools system renamed a high school in her honor to Gwendolyn Brooks College Preparatory Academy, a four-year magnet high school. In 2002, Brooks made the list of the 100 Greatest African Americans via an encyclopedia by professor Molefi Kete Asante; in 2010, she was inducted into the Chicago Literary Hall of Fame; in 2012, the United States Postal Service honored Brooks with a specialized postage stamp. The honors after her death are countless; these are only a few.

Appropriately, Gwendolyn Elizabeth Brooks will always be remembered as one of the best and respected African American poets, not to mention one of the most distinguished American literary figures.


Sources
The Norton Anthology of American Literature (Vol. E) Sixth Edition (2003)
https: //www.poetryfoundation.org/poets/gwendolyn-brooks (Retrieval date Jan. 10, 2009)
http: //www.english.illinois.edu/maps/poets/a_f/brooks/brooks.htm (Retrieval date Jan. 10, 2009)

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Originally published Jan. 10, 2009 via now-defunct writing Web site Helium.com

The Uses of an Anemometer

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November 1, 2008 | Updated: January 14, 2018


An anemometer, first invented in 1450 by Italian architect Leon Battista Alberti, is an instrument that measures wind force, calculating the speed and direction of the wind. There are two types of anemometers: velocity anemometers which determine the velocity of the wind; and pressure anemometers which determine the pressure of the wind.

Velocity anemometers include cup anemometers, windmill anemometers, hot-wire anemometers, laser Doppler anemometers, and sonic anemometers. Pressure anemometers include plate anemometers and tube anemometers.

Cup Anemometers
Cup anemometers are the simplest type of anemometers. The first of its kind was created in 1846 by Dr. John Thomas Romney Robinson. Robinson’s version of the cup anemometer featured four cups, each symmetrically mounted at the end of a horizontal arm. Robinson believed that his anemometer was perfectly designed and that the collected data would always be correct, regardless of the size of the cups or the length of the arms. However, his thesis was incorrect and his design was problematic; thus, the wind speeds recorded in the 19th century were also incorrect.

It was later determined that the size of the cups in conjunction with their positions were vital, and a better version would calculate the wind speeds more accurately.

In 1926, Canadian John Patterson developed a more efficient three-cup anemometer. In 1935, the three-cup anemometer was advanced with a cupwheel design by Brevoort & Joiner of the United States; this version was advantageous and had an error of less than three percent. In 1991, the three-cup anemometer was again improved to measure both wind direction and wind speed by Australian Derek Weston (he added a tag to one cup).

Windmill Anemometers
Windmill anemometers, also called propeller anemometers, are quite different from the three-cup anemometer. Unlike the three-cup anemometer which is rotated vertically, the windmill anemometer must be parallel to the direction of the wind and rotate horizontally. Moreover, to get an appropriate result, a wind vane must be used since the wind changes its direction constantly. An example of the windmill anemometer is the aerovane, which looks like a toy airplane. This device has both a tail and a propeller on the same axis, allowing precise wind speed and direction calculations from the same device.

Hot-wire Anemometers
Hot-wire anemometers are delicate and occupy a very fine wire, either a tungsten or platinum, which is heated up to a fitting temperature above the surrounding area. When air passes through the exposed wire, it cools down the wire and accordingly determines the flow velocity by noting the convection that was taken away. In other words, the heat loss to flow convection determines the flow velocity. The heat loss can be obtained by measuring the change in wire temperature.

Laser Doppler Anemometers
Laser Doppler anemometers employ a laser that is divided into two beams, with one transmitting light out of the anemometer toward the directed target to collect the reflected radiation, which determines the relative velocity of the object that was targeted in accordance with the original laser beam.

Sonic Anemometers
Sonic anemometers, classified as velocity anemometers similar to the ones mentioned above, determine the wind speed and wind direction by ultrasonic sound waves in one, two, or three axes. Occupied with transducers (device that converts energy), the sonic anemometer measures wind speed by transmitting and receiving sonic signals; thereafter, the device calculates the wind speed in three axes. This device is rather accurate and responds quickly to wind speed fluctuations since there are no moving parts that need to balance in accordance with the air flow; its steady stature makes it fitting for turbulence measurements.

Plate Anemometers
Plate anemometers are pressure anemometers that are either circular or square with a flat plate; it is balanced by a spring which rests behind it. To measure the pressure of the wind, a wind vane keeps the plate directed against the wind and the force of the plate against the spring. Due to their fundamental design, plate anemometers are not able to record sudden fluctuations in wind pressure. In fact, they are inaccurate for high winds, respond slowly to variable winds, and fail to respond to light winds. Consequently, they are usually used to record average wind pressures.

Tube Anemometers
Tube anemometers, also classified as pressure anemometers, employ a vessel at the top with an opening to record wind pressure. The pressure that occurs through the mouth of the opening causes changes to the internal pressure of the compartment, allowing a wind pressure to be calculated. The tube anemometers are very sturdy and can be mounted on a pole without any maintenance for many years.

In general, anemometers, which originated from the Greek word “anemos” (i.e., wind), are beneficial instruments for collecting wind data. They are widely used and greatly important for many fields. Not only are these instruments used by weather stations, but they are used by NASA, airports, various branches of the military, beaches, boat owners, civil engineers, normal citizens, and the like.

Most important, they can be lifesavers by preventing a person and/or group from doing an action that may place him/her in danger due to high winds. For example, when airports record extreme high winds, authorities sometimes ground the flights until wind speed reduces to an acceptable level. Likewise, when beaches experience high winds, causing high tides, authorities may decide to close the beaches or place a high-wind advisory sign to warn beachgoers of possible dangers.  These examples show the importance of anemometers, for they are not only crucial for measuring wind speed but also crucial for saving lives.

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Originally published Nov. 1, 2008 via now-defunct writing Web site Helium.com

Movie Review: Molly’s Game (2017)

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January 13, 2018


Molly’s Game, written and directed by Aaron Sorkin, stems from the real-life story of Molly Bloom, a former competitive skier turned entrepreneur through an exclusive underground high-stakes poker games she formulates and manages after moving to Los Angeles.  Her games are driven by the rich and famous such as Hollywood actors, business titans, professional athletes, politicians and, unbeknownst to her, Russian mobsters.  The film presents a pictorial crime-drama narrative of Bloom’s 2014 memoir titled Molly’s Game: From Hollywood’s Elite to Wall Street’s Billionaire Boys Club, My High-Stakes Adventure in the World of Underground Poker.

The two main characters that drive the film are A-listers Jessica Chastain and Idris Elba – but stars Kevin Costner, Jeremy Strong, Michael Cera, Brian d’Arcy James, Chris O’Dowd, Bill Camp, Graham Greene, Claire Rankin, and Joe Keery.

Fittingly, Molly (Jessica Chastain) narrates her own story throughout, while Sorkin employs a flashback and flash-forward device to provide more depth to her story.  The opening scene begins with Molly, employed as a cocktail waitress, trying to save enough money to move out of her friend’s home where she sleeps on the couch.  She takes on a second job as an assistant to Dean Keith (Jeremy Strong), a self-centered real-estate agent who pretends to have more money than he actually has.  Dean represents a loudly rude, vulgar, and a condescending character; his mannerisms are unbecoming.  His anger stems from naturally breathing, for everything that comes out of his mouth vociferates vulgarity.  Sorkin effectively depicts his rudeness via a food errand regarding bagels.  Disgusted by the name on the bag that holds the bagels, he berates Molly with a profanity-laced tirade for buying the wrong type of bagels – and violently throws the bag near her face which falls onto the floor.

He then orders Molly to manage his poker night games held at the Cobra Lounge with an entry fee of $10,000 – and firmly orders her to not tell anybody.  Knowing nothing about poker, she diligently researches everything about the game, including the type of music poker players enjoy and creates a playlist.  Wanting to impress and look her best, she brings a cheese platter and wears her best dress.  She appropriately greets each player as he hands over the buy-in fee, totaling $90,000 from nine players.  As they play, she focuses intently on the table, listens carefully to every word spoken, and simultaneously Googles those terminologies for clarification.  She marvels at the room, occupied by men with deep pockets, and knows she stands in a position to capitalize one way or another.  Player X (Michael Cera) becomes her focal point due to his wide-reaching celebrity.  After the game, Molly generates $3,000 from tips.  This night marks her introduction to the underground world of high-stakes poker with the rich and powerful.  In due time, she banks enough money to own an apartment, a new car, and $17,000 worth of shoes.

At this juncture of the movie, it’s hard not to be drawn in, because it is captivatingly entertaining.  The film has not clocked the fifteen-minute mark, but it has an “I want to see more of this” sensation.  The opening renders an attention-grabbing desire that keeps viewers intrigued to witness the forthcoming scenes.

The following scene cuts to the present day.  It shows Molly, in desperate need of representation, at the law office of Charlie Jaffey (Idris Elba), after being denied by various lawyers.  He makes it clear that his services are not cheap and will cost $250,000 to defend her.  More important, Charlie questions her veracity for not providing more celebrity names in her book and her failures to address the mobsters that played her games.  Molly argues that she knows nothing about the mobsters, but Charlie thinks otherwise because the names are countless.  He continues questioning her regarding the Russian mob, believing she knows more but unwilling to divulge any information out of fear of retaliation or possible collusion.  Charlie asserts his time will not be spent defending violent criminals.  In the verge of tears, Molly begs for his assistance.  After careful assessment of the case, Charlie initially refuses to represent her; however, he makes the choice to appear on her behalf at the arraignment.  Once in the courtroom, he changes his mind and decides to become her full-time lawyer.

Throughout Molly’s Game, her parents and family members are basically absent and only shown through the flashbacks, until the latter part of the movie where she faces her federal charges.

One early flashback shows the childhood of Molly (Piper Howell), where she practices downhill skiing while being encouraged by her intellectual father Larry Bloom (Kevin Costner), a therapist and a psychology professor at Colorado State University.  During this flashback, it shows a strict father who wants the best for his daughter, not only athletically but educationally as he questions her to provide an equivalent to the word “tired” after she becomes exhausted of practicing.

Another flashback shows Molly (Samantha Isler) in her teenage years, sitting at a table, eating dinner with her family.  This scene proves to be crucial because it shows her rebellious energy, talkative attitude, and her willingness to provoke and challenge her father with glee into a verbal argument.  Her desire to offend works when her father asks a question regarding school; she responds with contempt: “Sigmund Freud was both a misogynist and an idiot and that anyone who relies on his theories of human psychology is a quack.”  Unpleased, her father continues to question her and they begin to argue, precipitating unpleasant language Larry disapproves of.  In response, he angrily tells Molly to never disrespect him and the kitchen table again.

The father-daughter relationship in this flashback does not present a sense of warmth.  It shows a relationship that is cold and disconnected.  In fact, most of the men that she encounters in the film shows signs of coldness.

After managing Dean’s game for a period of time and dealing with his brutal coldness, Molly moves on.  She uses her entrepreneurial skills to create and manage her own game with Player X (Michael Cera) being the focal point to bring in new players, due to his Hollywood fame.  She pays for a hotel suit at the Four Seasons to host her games, lavishly decorates it with pricey drinks and foods, employs attractive bartenders to accommodate the players, and cunningly guides all of the players from the Cobra Lounge to her hotel room.

When game night arrives, Molly walks into the room, wearing an above-the-knee black dress, beautified by her personal stylist, and the men take notice.  They pause – they eye her – and listen to what she has to say.  The beauty that Molly exudes is obvious and some of the men want her, including Player X who has a smile on his face.  Nonetheless, Molly’s poker game has now become a brand, an incorporated business registered under event planning, and she pays taxes.  To assure legality of her business, she visits a lawyer who claims no laws are being broken.

However, he says a phrase that is quite funny and memorable – not to mention convoluted: “Don’t break the law when you’re breaking the law.”

Molly believes she holds power, because she owns her business.  In truth, her power represents an artificial and fleeting notion – and Player X will prove that with his immorality.  Player X represents a character that embodies the combination of Leonardo DiCaprio, Tobey Maguire, Ben Affleck, and others.  His performance is morally scary but captivating.

Nonetheless, during these hotel games, Brad (Brian d’Arcy James) and Harlan Eustice (Bill Camp) are introduced: The former represents a horrible player that constantly loses, and thus given the name Bad Brad; the latter represents a skilled player and one of the best at the table.  Unfortunately, great players do not always win and Harlan learns that the hard way.  The following scenes show a man who is mentality broken and physically exhausted.  Player X sits back and watches Harlan’s demise with pure elation.  Player X, the best player, claims he does not like playing poker; in truth, his gameplay stems from seeing people suffer and their lives destroyed in defeat.  Seeing people in pain brings him happiness, and he abuses his powers to ruin their lives even more with some immorally criminal acts.

From the onset, Molly made a promise to herself to not mix business with sexual pleasures, and she upholds that promise.  Still, it does not stop the famous men from approaching her with sexual intimations in person and with love letters via text messages and e-mails. Remaining firm on her decision, she turns down each man that makes any sexual advancements.  Strangely, Player X becomes angry at Molly through jealously, claiming she shows the other men more attention than he, which prompts an argument.

At this point, Molly’s so-called power as an owner is rendered fruitless, because her power comes from the rich men that play – and Player X exercises his true powers ruthlessly by punishing her.  It’s no different than an organizational founder who believes he holds ultimate power because he created a corporation, until he learns that the board of directors of the company no longer needs his service, and thus his status and powers are revoked.  The anger and defeat she displays are palpable as she visits a therapist to pacify her sorrows.

However, Molly’s persistence precludes her from folding because, in her mind, she will win.  She moves to New York to rebuild her poker brand.  Unbeknownst to her, it will be her permanent downfall.  She employs a few Playboy models to recruit rich players from Wall Street and across the world – even a famous New York Yankees player.  One characteristic about Molly that shines is her will to succeed.  She rebuilds her game and goes big with a buy-in of $250,000, and employs a woman dealer named B (Angela Gots); yes, the letter B.  She personalizes her poker chips and cards to present a flair of elegance and uniqueness.  After a year, she records an income of over $4.5 million.  Her games attract players worldwide – including the Russian mob.

With so much money being generated, Molly illegally decides to take a piece of money to keep the business afloat and supplement her outstanding money.  Knowing her rake is illegal, she continues because the money is too great to pass.

Money usually drives people to do crazy things and serves as a catalyst for criminality – and in Molly’s Game, it’s obvious.  Despite having far-reaching wealth in the millions and billions, some of the rich players partake in some form of criminality such as betting on sports games, extortion, Bad Brad’s Ponzi scheme, drug abuse, the natural criminalities of the Russian mob, and more.  When millions of dollars are changing hands during illegal poker games, it causes desperation, anger, and an underlying feeling of revenge (from those that lose money).  Moreover, it puts a target on everyone’s backs, not only from the federal government but from unsavory characters.  Molly, without any protection, learns that painfully when she becomes a victim of a robbery inside of her home; she is violently beaten, and has a gun jammed into her mouth with threats of retaliation on her family if she reports the incident.

Eventually, Molly faces federal prosecution with multiple charges after being arrested by a gang of 17 federal agents with high-powered machine guns pointed at her.  Unsurprisingly, her bank account is frozen by the government.

Her lawyer Charlie, throughout, serves as her champion and urges her to cooperate with the prosecution to avoid a lengthy federal imprisonment.  Elba does an amazing job portraying Charlie and shows appropriate aggression when required.  In the latter scene, his frustration boils over as he listens to federal prosecutors badger Molly with questions.  He stands ups, vocally displays his displeasure with the government’s case by firmly stating that Molly is not a criminal; he continues by stating she knows nothing about mobsters, and the criminal activities players engaged in away from the poker games she managed.  Charlie’s passion deeply shows and he really wants to help Molly.

Charlie’s passion continues during his final plea to Molly, stating why it would be advantageous for her to cooperate through a deal provided by the government: release the hard drives and gain full immunity, along with the restoration of a bank account of $5 million, plus interest.  Molly listens to the deal with coldness and states that the lives of these millionaires and billionaires would be ruined, including their families as whole – because the information in the hard drives are damning.  Facially incensed, Charlie responds by passionately making it clear that she needs to think about self-preservation, because those rich guys are neither her priority nor her friends.  Molly finally says she needs to protect her name (and reputation), for that is the only thing she owns.

Unlike Player X, and most of the rich players, Molly has a caring soul and her morality remains intact and uncompromised.  The government provides her full exoneration on a platter, but she refuses to take a bite; she does not even taste what’s on the platter.  That represents integrity.  If she must go down, she will go down on her lonesome without bringing others down with her.  That decision says a mouthful about her character.

This film occupies a collection of richly powerful men.  They are egotistical and only care for themselves.  Money drives their actions.  They do not play by the rules, because in their world, rules are irrelevant.  Right is wrong and wrong is right; bad is good and good is bad.  The concept of morality does not register in their minds.  Their main goal is to get money and make more money.  If hurting others will garner more money, they will proceed without care.  If they must retaliate, they will act accordingly without care.  However, Molly does not represent a victim and should not be treated as such; she is a victim of her own actions and decisions, which caused her arrest and indictments.  During her ten-year reign of running an illegal game, which she masterfully created, she built a relationship with powerful men and became rich herself and ultimately failed.  That exemplifies the perils of life when money becomes priority and blinds one’s vision.

Molly’s Game represents an interestingly entertaining depiction of a real-life crime drama.  The characters should be applauded for their roles, from the main characters to the players that surround the poker tables.  Jessica Chastain and Idris Elba’s back-and-forth dialogue on the screen shows a passionate connection from their first meeting in the opening to the last meeting in the courtroom and subsequent dinner.  Their adaptations of the real-life characters are striking.  Moreover, Michael Cera as Player X represents a weirdly scary but effective character as he depicts the moral emptiness of the Hollywood celebrities.  Jeremey Strong as Dean Keith, Kevin Costner as Larry Bloom, Bill Camp as Harlan Eustice execute their roles effectively.

For a directorial debut, Aaron Sorkin shows that he has the talent and script-writing skills to keep viewers engaged; his final product of Molly’s Game represents an impressive film.

Lightning Conductors and Thunderclouds

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November 6, 2008


A lightning conductor, best known as a lightning rod in the United States, is a device that serves as a protection mechanism to shield buildings from lightning strikes. This device is a metal rod (normally copper or aluminum), attached to the highest point of a building or any other structure, used mainly to direct the lightning strike by facilitating it carefully to the ground.

The lightning rod, however, is not actually a single component for the lightning protection system. Other components of the lightning defense system include a network of conductors located at the rooftop, various cables producing energy pathways from the roof to the ground, a connecting bondage of metallic objects within the structure, along with a ground network.

The history of lightning rods dates back to the 1700s, due to the dangers and consequences of thunderclouds, a large dark cloud that produces thunder and lightning. The damaging effects of lightning have not only been problematic for humans but also building structures. Throughout history, people have been killed and maimed by lightning strikes and buildings have been destroyed by fires when lightning strikes.

Lightning has been a prevalent force since the existence of mankind and even when prehistoric beasts roamed the earth. When early structures were fabricated, they were less susceptible to lightning strikes because they were short. However, when superior and taller buildings were erected, some became a target and thus were damaged and/or destroyed by lightning.

Around 1746, botanist Peter Collinson, a Fellow of the Royal Society of London, aided Benjamin Franklin (one of the Founding Fathers of the USA) and his associates with their experimental research about static electricity in conjunction with lightning conductors by providing a crucial device, embedded with instructions on how to use it. The experiment was conducted in Philadelphia. Franklin kept Collinson abreast of the experiment with five letters that was sent from 1747 to 1750. When the experiment concluded, it was deemed a success and Franklin was given the title of the inventor of the first lightning rod, which is sometimes called Franklin rod.

Some historians, however, have argued that Franklin was not the first to invent the lightning rod, because some metallic lightning conductors were used on the rooftop of Russia’s Nevyansk Tower during its construction, speculated to have been built between 1725 and 1732. If true, the inventors of the first lightning rod were Russian craftsmen. However, because there is no information about the architect and his true purpose for the metal rooftop, nor the actual time of construction (and the Tower’s purpose at the time), Franklin has been credited as the lightning rod inventor.

Franklin paved the way for many other inventions of lightning conductors. Between 1750 and 1754, natural scientist Vaclav Prokop Divis invented the first grounded lightning rod in Europe. From then on, many other conductors have surfaced with various names (e.g., lightning attractors, finials, air terminals, lightning protectors, strike termination devices, etc.). In the U.S., there are more than 40 patents for lightning conductors; the United States Patent Office classifies the devices as Lightning Protectors.

A few notable structures that are embedded with some form of lightning protectors include the White House, the Washington Monument, the Statue of Liberty, the Statue of Freedom located atop the United States Capitol Building, The Plaza Hotel, the American Express Tower, Merrill Lynch Headquarters, and JFK International Airport, and any important building. In fact, most buildings in the United States have lightning conductors, especially skyscrapers and churches. Not only are these conductors use for buildings, but they are also used for aircrafts, watercrafts, electric power transmissions, and any other structure that deems them necessary.

Lightning, the ever-present weather occurrence, is dangerous and deadly due to thunderclouds, so the lightning protection system is crucial. However, lightning conductors are neither foolproof, nor do they prevent lightning strikes; their main job is to intercept a lightning strike and provide a pathway to the ground safely, protecting the building from any damages.

Nonetheless, it is safe to say that the invention of the first manufactured lightning rod by Benjamin Franklin was advantageous, not only for the United States but for other countries, because better-quality conductors are being produced and used worldwide.


Source
Benjamin Franklin and the First Lightning Conductors by E. Philip Krider (Retrieval Date: Nov. 6, 2008)
http: //www.meteohistory.org/2004proceedings1.1/pdfs/01krider.pdf

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Originally published Nov. 6, 2008 via now-defunct writing Web site Helium.com

How to Replace Your Car Registration in New York

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January 5, 2018


In the state of New York, like all states in the U.S., having a car registration is a requirement for all car owners. If one drives on the road, then he or she must have possession of a car registration, because it shows a unique ownership connected to a specific car and its driver.  If lost or stolen, a car registration replacement must be made quickly.  Fortunately, the process is not difficult but rather easy.

The Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) in New York provides car owners three ways of replacing a car registration: online, by mail, or at the DMV office.  The current fee is $3. The information herein will provide comprehensive steps of how each process should be completed.

Online
When filing for a car registration replacement online, a driver must provide the following information to the DMV: the vehicle plate number/registration number, registration class, last name, Zip-code provided on the registration document, and debit or credit card for payment.

Firstly, the car’s license plate number should be entered with numbers and letters only; do not use any special characters or space.

Secondly, when entering the registration class code, it should only be three letters, PAS, which represent the standard-issued license plate.  The acronym for PAS is Power-assisted Steering.  If one owns a personalized New York license plate, his or her registration class code will be SRF.

Thirdly, the driver must enter his or her last name that is on the car registration document.  The last name must match the name on the initial car registration.

Fourthly, the driver must provide his or her Zip-code that matches the Zip-code on the car registration.

Lastly, the driver will need to provide an active e-mail address.  Once entered, the driver will be instructed to re-enter his or her e-mail address for verification.  Thereafter, the transaction will be processed and finalized once the $3 payment via a debit or credit card is accepted.

The DMV, through e-mail, will send the applicant a copy and confirmation of the transaction.  The driver will receive his or her new car registration within ten days by mail.  A temporary car registration file via PDF will be available for download and print – and valid for only ten days.

The DMV site features over 100 languages, so any applicant that does not understand the English language, completing the process online with his or her language is possible.

By Mail
When filing for a New York car registration replacement by mail, a driver must complete a one-page document, provide proper identification, and send a $3 check or money order.

Firstly, the driver must complete an online document titled “Application for Duplicate/Renewal Registration.”  The applicant has the option of filling out the document online and later printing it, or the applicant can download and print the document and complete it with a black or blue pen.  Importantly, he or she must write clearly and present a handwriting that is readable.  (Avoid using any pen that bleads or smears.)

This one-page document is straightforward and requires the driver’s full name, date of birth, gender, New York State’s driver license number, license plate number, telephone number, and full address.  The document must be validated by the driver’s full name (both in printed form and in signature form).

Secondly, the driver must present a proper photocopy form of identification to verify name and date of birth, such as a New York State driver license, learner permit, or a non-driver ID.  If one can not provide the aforementioned, the DMV accepts more than 20 forms of identification, but only a few notables will be mentioned: U.S. Passport or U.S. Passport Card, U.S. Military Photo ID Card, Certificate of Citizenship, Certificate of Naturalization, Valid Employment Authorization Card, Permanent Resident Card, Reentry Permit, Refugee Travel Document, New York State Pistol Permit, Photo Driver License issued by another U.S. State or jurisdiction, Photo Driver License issued by a Canadian Province or territory, and more.

Thirdly, the applicant must write a check or obtain a money order for the amount of $3 and make it payable to the “Commissioner of Motor Vehicles.”

Lastly, the driver seeking a New York car registration or a duplicate car registration should place all documents inside of an envelope and mail it to the following address:

New York State Department of Motor Vehicles
Utica Processing Center
P.O. Box 359
Utica, NY 13503

At the DMV Office
Replacing a New York car registration at the DMV is similar to how the process takes place by mail.  The applicant must complete a one-page document (at home or at the DMV office), provide proper identification, and pay the mandatory $3 fee by check, money order, or debit/credit card.  Before one travels to the DMV office, it is important to have all documents on hand.  Moreover, one should call in advance to find out if an appointment can be scheduled.  If not, the possibility of waiting due to overcrowding may be time-consuming.

The overall process of applying for a car registration replacement is simple.  New York State Department of Motor Vehicles offers three feasible options.  Whatever option one decides, he or she will receive a replacement car registration within ten days.

It is important to note that any information that is incorrect will delay the process; thus, it is crucial that every provided information is checked thoroughly before submission (especially through e-mail and by mail).