While reading “The Stranger”, I didn’t quite understand Meursault’s character. I thought of him as a detached, unemotional man, who had no care for himself or the people around him. I couldn’t understand why anyone would treat their mother the way he did, or why he didn’t love the woman that loved him dearly. He had no feelings towards anyone or anything. He just went on, living life without a cause. It was until we had the Interactive Oral Discussion that I got to understand Meursault’s character more clearly.
I think Albert Camus linked the character of Meursault directly to the time period in which the story took place. The novel began in the 1940s after World War 1, which was a time when people’s attitudes changed drastically. World War 1 caused isolation, pain, and darkness to many people around this time. It explains the way Meursault’s character was; pessimistic and isolated. During the Interactive Oral Discussion we discussed the way his way of being was what people were really judging him by during his murder trial. During the time that this novel took place, “character” was an important part of the law system, and the French were considered superior to the Arabs. Which is why Meursault’s murder trial was so interesting to some people. They were interested in the lack of grief over his mother’s death, rather than the death of the Arab. They judged him for every action he made. For example, when he was drinking coffee during his mother’s funeral, the jury questioned him about it. Later during the IOD I found out that in his culture, it is disrespectful to drink or eat anything during a funeral. The jury found his Character, not crime, punishable by death, and was sent to the guillotine.
The 1940s was also a time of men dominating society, which I think is why Meursault was the way he was with Marie. In his culture the men overpowered women.
Overall, the Interactive Oral Discussion changed the way I viewed the novel and its characters. It helped me view the cultural connections that Camus implied throughout the novel.
The Inhabited Woman Reflective Statement
When reading “The Inhabited Woman”, I thought of Lavinia as a strong independent woman. She lived on her own, without her having to depend on anyone for anything. At first I didn’t quite understand why the author made Lavinia’s character the way she did. Then, during the Interactive oral Discussion, I realized that Lavinia’s character was based upon the author’s culture and background. The author, Gioconda Belli, was a member of a liberation movement in Nicaragua in the 70s, just like Lavinia was in the novel. Belli made Lavinia’s character a strong independent woman, because she herself was very independent. Just like Lavinia, Belli felt the need to have a man in her life.
Women’s fight for equality was an important theme in the novel. During the time in which the novel took place, women were not seen equally to men. Women at the time didn’t have many rights, and so Lavinia being an architect was a big deal. It wasn’t easy for her to get the job. Lavinia often felt obligated to use her feminine weapons, such as her legs, to get what she wanted. I believe it is mainly a cultural thing. Even today, women aren’t seen the same as men. Men believe that they are superior to women, therefore women have to work harder, and often times have to use they’re body to accomplish things. Felipe is a great example of machismo that took place in the novel. He didn’t believe women were capable of doing “man jobs”, and again I think that is also a cultural thing. Even now there are men who think the way Felipe does. As we discussed in the IOD, machismo goes back many centuries. Women are expected to live “head in the clouds”.
After the interactive oral discussion, I got a better understanding of why the novel was written the way it was. I also understood the way the characters had a cultural connection to the author and her culture.
Paradise of the Blind Reflective Statement
Throughout the novel, “Paradise of The Blind”, I was able to see the connection of Vietnamese culture that Duong Thu Huong incorporated. The importance of food as a status symbol was one thing that really stood out to me. She used the food to remind her of her memories. As we discussed in class, it goes for every culture. We all have smells or foods that remind us of times we’ve had. Another cultural connection that I found was the heavy roles gender played. Vietnamese women were to obey men just like children had to obey they’re parents. In a typical Vietnamese family the father or the eldest son are the head of the family. Women don’t have much say in the way things are done. They are only responsible for the cooking, children, and cleaning.
We also discussed the way Aunt Tam blamed Chinh for all the problems she encountered through the novel. We always find someone to blame for our problems, even if the other person wasn’t the cause of them. We just don’t like to accept that we were wrong, and that we made a mistake. Another thing that I found was very important was that the Vietnamese culture view education as a paramount. Hang was very hard on herself to do well on her studies, and she put her education before anything. During the interactive oral discussion we also talked about pride. Chinh wanted her to work at the factory to make him look better. The appearance of their family was important, which I believe is important to most families. Another example of this was when the Uncle didn’t want Hangs mom to be seen with Ton, because of what people would say about their family.
After the interactive oral discussion I was able to get a better understanding of the novel. I was also able to understand the Vietnamese culture a bit more.