Life is perhaps one big search to discover who we truly are. As we grow older, we also change. As we move from place to place and from group to group, people see us in different lights, and we are indeed impacted. As all of these transformations affect who we are, our perception of ourselves often times begins to blur. As if we are a Monet painting, from far away we appear as a complete, oft beautiful product, but with a closer, more examining look, we are made of thick lines and messy colors. We are more than the reflection in the mirror, more than the face in pictures, more than the image in others’ minds. Virginia Woolf thoroughly explores these issues by making readers question how perception is different from reality. By using defamiliarization, presenting the everyday in a strange way, Woolf juxtaposes our understanding of who we are and how those around us influence how we see ourselves. When we strip away everything people perceive and the material things, then we can truly begin to examine ourselves for who we really are, regardless of whether or not we like what we see.
The power of language helps take readers to a place they could only imagine in their wildest dreams. It allows them to envision grand earthquakes and utopias. It lets them see the world on a deeper level than just the sometimes uniform world around them. Language lets writers tell a story, regardless of how farfetched or enchanted it might be if it were actually true. It helps them to convey certain messages through symbols and analogies. It encourages them to point out the fallacies and contradictions in common belief. Most of all, it brings together the two groups to create an interesting, unusual interaction. Without language, the world would truly be in the dark. Without this communication, people would have no way to dissent, no way to have their opinion known, no way to tell stories. With language, people have power. But what is this power if there is no style along with it? Anyone can throw words together to make a sentence, to let their voice be heard. But without some sense of a particular peculiarity and character, this diction will never be more than just words. To truly make a point clear, a writer must develop his story by challenging the reader with language and ideas that sometimes contradict each other but work in a way that they serve a deeper purpose. Voltaire thoroughly wields this power in Candide by using literary devices and stylized language to clearly demonstrate his critiques on optimism, war, and blissful ignorance.
In Juarez, women have no worth. They are treated like sex symbols and lowly laborers. When hundreds of them end up missing and murdered in this border town, the authorities don’t take full notice or conduct very complete investigations. Many people claim that these girls simply run away from home or go off to be with their boyfriends. However, more often than not, these theories are incredibly far from the truth. If those were actually the case, then maybe all of these girls wouldn’t end up being brutally beaten, raped, and eventually murdered. Although there have been some arrests, the murders continue, and in a greater multitude than ever before. While Alicia Gaspar de Alba provides many reasons as to why these femicides are occurring, her biggest argument is that the United State’s economy and globalization impact (through the North American Free Trade Agreement) on Mexico is primarily to blame.
Woman. Certain images come to peoples’ minds when they hear this word. At her best, she is empowered, independent, successful, and free. At her worst, she is vindictive, spiteful, unsympathetic, and diluted. These ideas influence the way that women interact with each other. In fact, it can cause people to blame women for the experiences they are put up against. If a woman is beaten by a man, she must have done something to deserve it. If a woman is cheated on by her husband, she must not have been pleasing him enough. It is these types of symbols that the female protagonists (and in certain ways and stories, antagonists) in the short stories in “Woman Hollering Creek” by Sandra Cisneros must confront. Cleófilas in “Woman Hollering Creek” is hurt by a man, and in turn comes to learn the strength that all women have within them. Clemencia in “Never Marry a Mexican” is also hurt by a man, but in her revenge, she falsifies herself into believing that she gains her strength through hurting another woman. While the relationships women have with each other are frequently complicated enough by the differences in their own personalities, backgrounds, and culture, often times, it can be the men in their lives who really shape these interactions.
Earnest J. Gaines tackles the idea of what it means to be human in his book, A Lesson Before Dying. He shows the transformation of a man who was wrongfully sentenced to death. This man, Jefferson, describes himself through much of the novel as a hog. However, it is with the support of his family, especially is godmother Miss Emma, and his community, in particular, the school teacher Grant, that he discovers what it means to be human. Gaines shows us that it takes the encouragement of others and the will power of ourselves to fully realize our existence. In this, we assert this existence in a number of ways. Jefferson did so by “walking” to his death. Becoming human is a unique process. People, unlike animals, unlike hogs, have to ability to reason. This goes beyond the simple, rational facets such as thinking and comprehending ideas. In the beginning, Jefferson might have had these parts of reasoning, but it wasn’t until he discovered his true humanity that he found the other, deeper parts. He learned to show the ones who loved him that he loved them in return. He showed appreciation. He showed pride. He showed his feelings. And with that, he showed he would die as a human being.