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Friday, April 29, 2011

Horror Movies

Watching horror movies is never my cup of tea. My reason is simple: I watch movies to get entertainment and not to get frightened. Besides, my kind of favorite movies is those based on true story; such as Freedom Writers, North Country, Beautiful Mind, Changeling, etc. Well, in fact, not only to get entertainment do I (sometimes) watch movies, but also to learn some historical background of some events (e.g. Iron Jawed Angels), and get some moral values. I believe that there is a mutual relationship between 'life' in movies and 'life' in our real lives.

The first horror movie that I was willing to watch was THE HAUNTING IN CONNECTICUT because my students said that this movie was based on a true story. I watched it together with my students at school since we had topic 'Alive with Horror' in our English class. Well, the movie's plot was quite logical to me: a family moved to a house which was formerly a mortuary. The family soon becomes haunted by violent and traumatic events from supernatural forces occupying the house.

Well, since this was supposedly based on a true story, one can conclude that perhaps this 'event' was transferred into a movie to make people realize that it was always possible to happen where people were haunted by 'spirits' of people who did not die 'properly' or whose bodies did not get proper treatment. The spirits of these people wanted to 'take revenge' to the ones who made their souls 'rejected' to enter 'the sky' (or heaven?).

Emily Jenkins

This morning, in my English class -- with the same topic, 'Alive with Horror', I watched another horror movie: Case 39. The name chosen as the main character who had 'evil character' in her really attracted me: LILITH. It must have been taken from Jewish mythology about the first woman God created after creating Adam. Since Lilith was also created from 'soil' like Adam, she felt equal' to him. She did not easily submit herself to Adam. Even when having sex for the first time, Adam asked Lilith to be under him, she complained.

Getting a 'helpmate' who was rebellious like Lilith, Adam complained to God. God then banished Lilith and created another female creature who was exactly like what Adam wanted: submissive, weak, feminine. There came Eve. On the contrary of Lilith that had demonic and evil character, Eve was angelic.

The story of Case 39 was somewhat a twist. At the beginning, Lilith's parents were narrated to be insane people because they wanted to kill Lilith. Emily Jenkins -- a social worker whose job dealt with 'troubled children' -- saved Lilith from the murder trial done by her parents. Emily even officially asked to have the custody to take care of Lilith because she saw that Lilith felt secure with her.

Some cases of murder that happened next in fact involved Lilith. Lilith that at the beginning seemed so sweet and weak little girl changed to be someone evil when she did not get what she wanted: love from someone she needed.

Lilith

My very own question since the beginning watching this movie was simple: what made the producer make such a demonic character in a little girl? Had there been any real cases of a new born baby having evil spirit in him/her? A baby who then (indirectly) killed other members of the family after growing up? A baby who had the sixth sense -- just like indigo -- but was 'occupied' by evil spirit.

Realizing that Lilith herself had evil spirit in her, Emily visited Lilith's parents in the mental hospital to investigate. Lilith's father suggested Emily to kill Lilith.

Until the end, I didn't get any clue what made Lilith evil. So, honestly, I don't recommend this movie to be watched. .

PT56 23.17 290411

Friday, April 22, 2011

T R I F L E S


'TRIFLES' is always in the curriculum of DRAMA ANALYSIS CLASS that I handle in the even semester.


PLOT


This one-act drama written by Susan Glaspell tells us about a murder of a husband, John Wright. His wife, Mrs. Wright -- her maiden name was Minnie Foster -- was the suspect since she was the last person seen when a neighbor -- Mr. Hale -- found Mr. Wright dead in his house. The following day after the finding, Mr. Hale came back to the house together with the Sheriff and County Attorney to gather evidence -- either to make themselves convinced that Mrs. Wright was the murderer or on the way around: they might find fingerprints of the 'real murderer'. These three men were accompanied by Mrs. Hale -- the wife of the neighbor -- and Mrs. Peter -- the wife of the Sheriff. The two women were about to collect some personal belongings of Mrs. Wright who apparently was already in custody; these personal belongings were, among other things. clothes, some stuff to quilt, etc.


Glaspell intentionally showed the contradictory traits between men and women: the three men paid more attention to anything 'big' or 'serious' to collect evidence, because the crime done was also a serious one: murder. On the contrary, the two women took a very close look at some 'trivial things (alias 'trifles') such as, preserves, bread set, a large sewing basket and a piece cloth Mrs. Wright was quilting. In the end, it turned out that the women even found the evidence that strongly showed Mrs. Wright was the murderer from those trifles, while the men did not find any. However, to show 'loyalty to the same gender' -- as accused by the County Attorney when Mrs. Hale defended Mrs. Wright when the County Attorney said bad things about how messy the kitchen of Mr. Wright's house was -- the two women kept the evidence for themselves.


DESPERATE HOUSEWIFE -- an analysis


From the conversation between Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters, one can conclude that John Wright had a contradictory trait from his wife, Minnie Foster. Before marrying John, Minnie was a very cheerful girl, singing in a choir, wearing pretty dresses as well as colorful ribbons on her hair. Meanwhile, John belonged to a very quiet man. He refused the offer of Mr. Hale to 'go on a party telephone' by saying that 'folks talked too much'. Apparently he didn't like noise at all.


Because of that, it can be concluded that during their marriage -- for about thirty years -- Minnie was forced to be someone else who was not herself in the past. She could not sing, she could not enjoy having a company -- let us say when a neighbor dropped by at her house. Mrs. Hale herself as a neighbor said that she did not really like visiting the Wrights' house since John did not like it.


When the two women found a dead canary hidden inside a box in the sewing basket, they directly drew a conclusion what made Minnie killed her husband. John killed Minnie's only entertainment. (Mrs. Hale said that only a year ago Minnie bought the canary, 29 years after the wedding, after 29 years living in a quietness and being repressive.) It can be interpreted that John killed Minnie's soul. No longer could Minnie control her emotion, she killed her husband.


HISTORICAL BACKGROUND


The choice of 'kitchen' as the main setting by Glaspell refers to the setting considered as the only women's sphere in that era. 'Trifles' was written in 1916, the decade considered to be important before American women got their right to vote in 1920 after struggling to get it since the first summit in 1848. Despite the fact that women had spent some decades for that demand, the government did not really pay attention to it.


Through this play, Glaspell wanted to criticize the government that it was high time for them to give right to women to be involved in 'men's spheres'. Although 'only' gathering evidence through trivial things -- homemaking stuff -- in the so-called unimportant setting, the two women found evidence as well as the motif why Minnie Foster killed the husband.


A woman indeed will be able to do anything that people might think impossible when she is cornered, when she is forced.


PT56 21.24 220411

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Kartini and the exposure


When discussing a poem entitled AN OBSTACLE by Charlotte Perkins Gilman in my Poetry Analysis Class, I didn't give the students the background of Gilman at the first place. This was to show the students that in analyzing some poems by certain poets, using biographical approach will help critics to understand poems better.

Here is the poem:

    An Obstacle

    by Charlotte Perkins Gilman

    I was climbing a mountain path
    With many things to do,
    Important business of my own,
    And other people’s too,
    When I ran against a Prejudice,
    That quite cut off the view,
 
    My work was such as could not wait,
    My path quite clearly showed,
    My strength and time were limited,
    I carried quite a load;
    And there that hulking Prejudice
    Sat all across the road.
  
    So I spoke to him politely,
    For he was huge and high,
    And begged that he would move a bit
    And let me travel by.
    He smiled, but as for moving! –
    He didn’t even try.
     
    And then I reasoned quietly
    With that colossal mule:
    My time was short—no other path—
    The mountain winds were cool.
    I argued like a Solomon;
    He sat there like a fool.
     
    Then I flew into a passion,
    And I danced and howled and swore;
    I pelted and belabored him
    Till I was stiff and sore,
    He got as mad as I did---
    But he sat there as before.
     
    And then I begged him on my knees,
    I might be kneeling still
    If so I hoped to move that mass
    Of obdurate ill-will—
    As well invite the monument
    To vacate Bunker Hill!
     
    So I sat before him helpless,
    In an ecstasy of woe—
    The mountain mists were rising fast,
    The sun was sinking slow—
    When a sudden inspiration came,
    As sudden winds do blow.
     
    I took my hat, I took my stick,
    My load I settled fair,
    I approached that awful incubus
    Win an absent-minded air—
    And I walked directly through him,
    As if he wasn’t there!

Gilman mostly used straight-to-the-point words in her poems, without complicating flowering figurative languages so that it will be a lot easier for critics to understand her poems. After giving the material to the students, giving them 15 minutes to discuss the poem in groups of three to find out what the poem is trying to tell its readers, I got an explanation that I wanted to hear: the poet is struggling something in his life. He found it hard, however, he didn't easily feel discouraged. He kept moving on.

I intentionally used the pronoun 'he' above since the students thought that 'Charlotte Perkins Gilman' was a man. They thought that the name 'Charlotte' is androgyn name, just like 'Nana' can be used for both male and female. 

After knowing that in fact the poet was a woman, the students still did not get what was the 'thing' to be struggled by Giilman. To find out more, I gave them another poem by Gilman. In this case, I planned to combine to explain the function of biographical approach as well as comparative approach; in this case, especially comparing more than one poems written by the same poet. (Another kind of comparative approach is comparing poems having similar themes from different poets.)

Here is another poem:

    Reassurance
    by Charlotte Perkins Gilman
   
    Can you imagine nothing better, brother,
    Than that which you have always had before?
    Have you been so content with "wife and mother,"
    You dare hope nothing more?
     
    Have you forever prized her, praised her, sung her,
    The happy queen of a most happy reign?
    Never dishonored her, despised her, flung her
    Derision and disdain?
     
    Go ask the literature of all the ages!
    Books that were written before women read!
    Pagan and Christian, satirists and sages–
    Read what the world has said.
     
    There was no power on earth to bid you slacken
    The generous hand that painted her disgrace!
    There was no shame on earth too black to blacken
    That much-praised woman-face.
     
    Eve and Pandora!–always you begin it–
    The ancients called her Sin and Shame and Death.
    "There is no evil without woman in it,
    "The modern proverb saith.
     
    She has been yours in uttermost possession–
    Your slave, your mother, your well-chosen bride–
    And you have owned in million-fold confession,
    You were not satisfied.
     
    Peace then! Fear not the coming woman, brother.
    Owning herself, she giveth all the more.
    She shall be better woman, wife and mother,
    Than man hath known before.

This second poem more clearly shows what Gillman struggled in her life: equality between men and women. 



"Did she struggle for 'emancipation' just like what Kartini did in the past?" one student asked me.

Perhaps because this is April, a month where most of Indonesian people commemorate Kartini's birth on April 21 as one date to encourage women's equality to men, this particular student of mine mentioned the name 'Kartini' while in fact I didn't think that way at the beginning. (How coincident! I was explaining some fundamental approaches in analyzing literary work -- especially biographical and comparative approaches -- by choosing Gilman's poems in April. FYI, you can guess, I never pass up my literature classes not to discuss literary work by women; that can be viewed using feminist approach.)

Then I explained a little background of Gilman. She was born in 1860 and died in 1935. She started writing poems, short stories, articles as well as novels by the end of the 19th century, to release herself from the nervous breakdown, a mental illness 'attacking' her since she was in her early twenties. It became worse after she married her first husband.

Women movement in American started to rise with the first women summit in 1848 in Seneca Falls. Gilman was born with such exposure. As we all know, American women got the right to vote in 1920, after that first summit, more than 7 decades later.

Kartini got some privileges in her life:
  • was born in an aristocratic wealthy family so she could go to school, although only in primary school
  • could speak Dutch so she could correspond with her Dutch friends

(In that era, people who were not born in aristocratic wealthy families could not go to school, moreover women. They would not be able to communicate in good Dutch. They would not have friends from the Netherlands. They would not get any exposure to books from the Netherlands, let's say.

 

I believe her intelligence as well as those privileges gave her an idea to set up school for girls. I believe she got exposed to books from Holland; she also got exposed to news or information about how women in other countries at that time struggled for women's betterment; one of them could be Charlotte Perkins Gilman's writings or other 'feminists' from England or other European countries. Gilman's writings as well as her lectures she gave by traveling to all over America and also England reached Kartini.

Unfortunately indeed that Kartini could not refuse her father's instruction to marry a married man although she realized that polygamy was just one way to show women's degraded position; her father who gave her the privilege to be able to go to (primary) scholol, the same man who gave her privilege to correspond to her Dutch friends to get know what was going on in Europe.

When Gilman got 'baby blue' when delivering her baby, but she could not on living to continue her struggle, Kartini had to die at a young age after delivering her first baby.

Happy Kartini Day, my folks. Let's continue struggling for our betterment in our lives in the future. Let us empower ourselves!!!

GL7 08.57 210411 

To read my interpretation on AN OBSTACLE, click here.

To read my interpretation on REASSURANCE, click here.

To read more writings of mine on Charlotte Perkins Gilman, click here.