Lukas ShawMs. HoffmanAP Literature 20 August 2014 When I began reading The Stranger by Albert Camus I was confused about the whole point of the book. I had no deep knowledge of Camus’ philosophy of absurdism and only a small understanding of existentialism (which is closely related to absurdism). However, The Stranger changed all of this. It introduced the idea of absurdism to me, that idea being humans tend to seek meaning in life, whether it be religion, love, etc. What absurdism argues is that there is no meaning to life. People usually like to ‘sugar-coat’ things. They try to make things better by giving empty promises, and by telling people not what they should hear, but what they want to hear. Meursault on the other hand does not do that. He gives it as life gives it, and as an existentialist and absurdist would too. Life, without any moral code, religion, or law has no meaning. People give life meaning. Not the other way around. It is like Jean-Paul Sartre’s “Existence before essence”. We are not born with a destiny. We create a meaning and purpose for ourselves. You can see that in Meursault. He knows that there is no meaning or purpose given by life. He could give it purpose but he choses not to. That is how I feel too. I am not given a purpose or a destiny by life. I as a person with free will has the ability to do so. I give my life meaning and I give it purpose. Also along with the ideas of existentialism and absurdism, Camus communicates that no matter what idea, creed, politics we follow as humans that we all end up in the same place, the ground. It does not matter what we do or believe.The point Camus reveals to me is that we are all humans. We will all eventually end up the same way. It puts us all in the same place no matter what our lives are like.
In reading The Turn of the Screw by Henry James, it became clear to me that the greatest problem in the story to the governess was not that there were potentially ghosts lurking around the house she was tending to, but that she assumed things instead of asking to discover what was truly happening. The governess repeatedly told stories to Mrs. Grose, another caretaker, about the hauntings occurring in the house, the children plotting against her, and the horrible things they were capable of. The problem with assumptions are that they can easily lead to misunderstandings. The governess so badly wanted answers that she made up stories to stop her mind from wandering. The governess assumed the children were plotting against her with the ghosts and was too afraid to ask the children, so she made up scenarios in her head about their evil plans. She also assumed one of the children was removed from school because of a terrible reason, and spent most of her time perplexed and afraid, when really he was expelled for a reason she didn’t find menacing at all. I feel people in general dramatize many situations when they do not have knowledge of the truth, and this novella was an example of how humans twist things in their mind to find answers when a true answer is not given, or when they are too afraid to ask the true answer.
When reading If I Die in a Combat Zone, I really felt like I was apart of the Vietnam War. I felt everything the soldiers felt. As soldiers saw the real horrors of the war, the realized that war is not always a good thing. So many times during the book would innocent people get killed instead of the Viet Cong. Many innocent lives were lost that did not need to be lost. Innocent people were being mistreated too. One instant a old man is helping bath a soldier and gets a milk carton thrown at him. Things like this were happening all the time. One only thought about himself, not about the enemy. War is not always the answer. No one knows the horrors of war until they have to endure it. Violence never leads to anything good. The Vietnam War killed and messed up the lives of many people. We must think as a nation of the repercussions before entering a war. As we engage in war, we should never forget the value of human life. Innocent people should not be dying. We must not mistreat the enemy. Humans are made equal and that lesson should not be forgotten about during war.
If I Die in a Combat Zone by Tim O’Brien, provided me with more detail about the atrocious experiences U.S. Soldiers witnessed throughout the Vietnam War. The work follows O’Brien, a middle-class, carefree college student from his draft, through his tour, and lastly, to his reflection. O’Brien graphically describes Vietnam as a place where, “Bullets fly out of nowhere”, “The next step may blow off a leg”, and “Some men kill for joy, racism, duty or career, but most kill for fear of being killed”.Before reading this work, I had insight on how the Vietnam War isolated part of the population of the United States into the anti-war, “What are we fighting for?” group and, conversely, the pro-war, “destroy that Commie boar” group . However, this work provoked me to ponder, “Where did the soldiers stand?” O’Brien’s reflection supplied me with the answer that a majority of the soldiers could not answer what their goal was, and that the sole factor that they were in combat was because of the draft. O’Brien additionally specified how a soldier’s mind was forever twisted from the gruesome events one saw, and that when a soldier returned from duty, there were not any, “Welcome home!” celebrations. Unfortunately, the Vietnam War is mostly overshadowed by more worldwide conflicts, in particular, World War II. Vietnam War Veterans deserve to be more widely recognized for their service, and for the life-altering conditions they sustained.
George Orwell’s 1984 provides a frightening glimpse into what Orwell thought the future would be like. I think both the most fascinating and most terrifying aspect of the novel is that it could actually happen in real life. The story takes place in a society with a totalitarian government that attempts to control every aspect of each citizen’s life. The government is simply referred to as the party, because there is only one party. Orwell based this society on his knowledge of Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union. The story follows Winston Smith who lives in the city of London in the country of Oceania. Everywhere he goes, he is being watched through telescreens by the party, whose leader is known only by the name Big Brother. I think the major theme of this book is strength of the human spirit. Winston develops an affair with his coworker, Julia. Love is not allowed in this society, and they are both eventually caught. Winston is brutally tortured by the government for a long period of time. They eventually break him when he tells them to torture Julia, not him. That act of betrayal is what the government was looking for. Once he’s released he is not the same person he was before. I think that Orwell was trying to show that although the human spirit is incredibly strong, it can still be broken. The government had to put forth so much effort to break Winston’s spirit. Overall, this was a really powerful book that truly scares the reader away from totalitarian type governments. It had a huge impact when communist and fascist governments were popping up around Europe.