For many individuals, relatability is a criterion searched for in determining favor of a book, movie, or anything viewed for an audience. People expect to sit back, be entertained, and immediately identify with the characters or plot of the story, effectively reducing the brain power required in finding these connections. “The Scourge of ‘Relatability’” opened my eyes to an argument that I was unaware had such validity. In the theories of Freud he postulates that yes, identifying with characters in a certain book or movie is an acceptable and even enjoyable process of experiencing any story. However, this should not be where our critical thinking ends. Oftentimes, I enjoy a movie or book so much more by the fact that I cannot identify with the main character. This new lens opens my eyes to an unfamiliar view, yet one I can appreciate and learn from. Gaining this perspective enhances my experience with the book or movie and results in a stronger appreciation of the story.
One strong example of a new perspective is in Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl. The protagonist, a young black woman sold and owned as a slave, is an unfamiliar identity that lack connection with. Though I am able to form some connection of the story with my heritage of the Jewish people and our oppression similar to the black nation’s, this is only a surface level connection. Her personal experiences of being abused and defying her master to free herself is an incredible story of determination and bravery. This story teaches me a lot about what blacks endured during this time as well as the universal lessons of will power and self belief. Such lessons may not have been learned had I chosen a novel where I immediately identified with the protagonist, thus limiting my active involvement and critical thinking in the story.
The article goes on to explain how being “relatable” came to be such a highly valued quality. I can easily think of Buzzfeed articles with titles such as “25 Relatable Things We Did as Kids…” or something along those lines. People are constantly trying to create a universal experience with one another, to find and maintain connections. Ultimately, we don’t want to feel alone. It is in our nature to identify with others and create a community and sense of belonging. Merging these ideas into books or movies is simply part of our nature to “be connected to some other thing,” as the article relates. An awareness for this phenomenon is crucial in improving our experience with books or movies. This new understanding shows us that despite constantly hoping to find connections and identifications, not everything will lend itself to connecting with everyone partaking in the experience. Lithgow tweeting, “Shakespeare sucks” due to his inability to relate to the plot shows his lack of understanding that a work of literature or media doesn’t need to be relatable to everyone or anyone it to make it a valid piece of work. Like in Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, it is often the experiences we cannot relate to that force us to question, introspect, and reflect on the messages and takeaways of this particular piece of work. The next time we read a novel or watch a movie, we should actively try and not relate to the characters or plot; let’s see what we can learn.
The game “The Uncle Who Works for Nintendo” depicts a horror story in the choose-your-own-ending format. I have never read a story in this manner, mimicking an actual computer game, and the experience was unusual and slightly irritating as it forced and monitored suspense as the story progressed and hindered the free flow of the story. In reading novels, I enjoy reading at my own pace, flying through certain dry parts and intentionally taking my time during other suspenseful moments. This format of storytelling does the work for the you. It takes away the personal element of reading a story and guides the reader to experience the story in a particular way. Also, the constant pauses in between parts as the player must choose the next action interrupts the movement and progression of the story. This creates awkward and irrelevant pauses that distract from the main point of the story. If you make the “wrong” choice and choose the bathroom rather than the kitchen, for example, a sentence will appear stating how you went to this place “by mistake” and provide an option to go back where you came from. This entire format, though innovative in the ways of sharing a story, restricts the reader from experiencing the story fluidly.
All of this said, however, if one is simply looking for an entertaining way to kill some time and choose-your-own-ending, this format fits the criteria. I would even add that this format is more effective than the traditional paperback stories where one can choose the ending because of the pictures and sound effects involved here, creating more of a three dimensional feel. (Granted, this takes away the element of imagination from the reader as well.) In the creator’s eyes, this medium of storytelling provides significantly more possibilities. For one, the reader is forced to experience the story in the way in which the creator wants her to. This allows her to interpret the story and leave with certain messages that the creator intended, a feat not possible had we read the story on our own terms. The slide by slide format creates this undeniable suspense as the computer program controls when we continue on in the story.
Additionally, as players we are granted total freedom in choosing every detail of the next path in the story. From trivial details like picking the name of our friend to significant moments such as bringing up touchy subjects such as the bullies in school or the uncle’s job, everything is truly in our hands. Despite the controlled nature of this game which limits the reader from experiencing the story as a standard novel, this format is truly a unique experience that conveys the story through its three dimensional manner. Audio and images truly make any story come alive as it does with this horror story as well. In conclusion, though this format wasn’t one that I was particularly fond of, it opened my eyes to new ways of relaying and experiencing stories. If perfected, this innovative story telling technique could forever change the ways we read and experience stories.
The narrator of “The Yellow Wall-paper” portrays her views on women related to the men in their lives. Due to their overemotional states and inferior mental capacity, the narrator proves that women are dependent on men, specifically their husbands. Throughout the paper, the narrator portrays a tone of reliance onto her husband. She believes that John should control her actions and whereabouts. She acts solely according to John’s wishes because he simply knows better.
The narrator constantly complains in her writing about the room that she’s kept in but never does anything about it. She complains once to John about the room and he does nothing about it and she is content with this: “I don’t like our room a bit. I wanted one downstairs that opened on the piazza and had roses all over the window, and such pretty old-fashioned chintz hangings! but John would not hear of it.”
Additionally, John is the one solely responsible for her well-being. She doesn’t view herself as independent. She is aware of how dependent she is of him by stating, “I have a schedule prescription for each hour in the day; he takes all care from me, and so I feel basely ungrateful not to value it more.” She is completely reliant on him and is therefore disappointed with herself that she doesn’t appreciate him more.
The one area where the narrator exerts little independence is in her journal writing. This writing exists as a cathartic means to jumble through her thoughts and process everyday life. However, even this small act is not totally in her control as she must hide her journal when John enters the room because “he hates to have me write a word.” Another quote that stood out exemplifying the narrator’s view on women and on herself stated, “John says the very worst thing I can do is to think about my condition, and I confess it always makes me feel bad.” The narrator is willing to give up her ability to think freely to her husband. She doesn’t believe in her ability to act or even think independently.
Proving this point the narrator says, “he took me in his arms and called me a blessed little goose.” A woman belongs in the arms of a man. Women need validation and approval from their husbands and should be ever so grateful at the sacrifices their husbands make for them. They should be appreciative and do as little as possible to inconvenience them: “It is an airy and comfortable room as any one need wish, and, of course, I would not be so silly as to make him uncomfortable just for a whim.”
In conclusion, the narrator believes that women should not be stimulated too much because it is not good for them. An example, the narrator talks about wishing that her cousins would come down for a visit. Unfortunately John states that “he would as soon put fireworks in [her] pillow-case as to let [her] have those stimulating people about now.” Immediately after, the narrator wishes that she could heal faster in order to see her relatives. Rather than argue with John that she is well enough to be stimulated by others, she accepts that once again, John knows more than she does. The narrator’s attitude and speech through “The Yellow Wallpaper” effectively communicate her view on women as inferior, less educated, and extremely dependent on men. Solely dependent on John, the narrator is content.
A Hostage Letter (taken from the text of the “Yellow Wallpaper”)
John. my one, true love. or so I thought.
until he locked me in this atrocious nursery.
The color on the walls is repellent, almost revolting; a smouldering unclean yellow, strangely faded by the slow-turning sunlight.
John is extreme. He has no patience.
I used to feel that he was very careful and loving, but now there is nothing. no love.
John sometimes gets positively angry. I am afraid. I cry most of the time.
John hardly lets me stir without special direction. I remember to have proper self-control.
John says I am awfully lazy. There comes John, and I must put this away.
Then he takes me down to the cellar. only one window and not room for two beds.
This bedstead is fairly gnawed!
John knows I don’t sleep very well at night.
I lie here on this great immovable bed–it is nailed down. all day.
I exhaust myself in trying to distinguish the order of the life.
I don’t know why I should write this. I don’t want to. I don’t feel able.
These words written on dead paper. dead soul.
I am alone.
what can one do? commit suicide?
I get unreasonably angry. I take phosphates and phosphites. I really suffer. I lack strength.
John said I wasn’t able to go outside. I was absolutely forbidden.
The gates that lock don’t allow me to go out. that satisfies him.
He says I’m basely ungrateful to not value him more.
I am getting angry enough to do something desperate. To jump out of the window.
I should hate myself for ever trusting him.
I CANNOT ever be with him again. not like this. I must find a way to get out. escape. somehow.
But until then, what now?
One keyword that comes to mind when relating the themes we’ve discussed in class is ‘confined.’ This word conjures images of restrictions, claustrophobia, and rules. It possesses a negative connotation. The Oxford English Dictionary presents a similar definition as “bounded, limited, restricted, restrained, shut up, enclosed, imprisoned.” This word exists variously in the numerous pieces of literature we’ve explored in class as well as in contemporary culture. In “The Tell Tale Heart”, the killer relays his confinement in the form of paranoia. Though unaware to himself, his mental illness and gnawing guilt confine and restrict him from remaining calm and composed during the interactions with the police, leading him to confession.
Similarly, in “Madness After Virginia Tech,” those accused of mental instability are confined to living with this stigma. This confinement literally restricts and inhibits them from living their lives normally due to the false accusations placed upon them and the ramifications of this stigma. This keyword is quite applicable to our everyday lives, specifically in the case of stigmatizing. Once a word or behavior is attached to an individual, that person is severely limited in what he can accomplish. Even an individual with a physical handicap, such as using a wheelchair, will be significantly confined and limited in what he or she can physically accomplish. Writing this blog post, I personally feel confined to the 200-500 word limit imposed upon me. This word is multi-faceted in its ability to relate and be personalized to various aspects of the human experience. The unifying factor of the various definitions and uses of the word is the following necessity and desire to overcome boundaries and break through confinements. If we attempt and succeed in overcoming these internal and external confinements, our sense of freedom and accomplishment will truly be unparalleled.