16 October 2013
Power: Superiority, Inferiority, and Equality
The literary works of Paul Lawrence Dunbar, Countee Cullen, and Mary Shelley all focus on the central idea of power. This power is exemplified in different forms such as superiority, inferiority, equality, and inequality. This is seen throughout each work through the views and perspectives of different speakers and characters. Dunbar’s “Theology” deals with the idea of superiority and supremacy. The speaker believes that he is the only one destined to go to Heaven, essentially making him appear self-righteous and all-powerful. Additionally, Cullen’s “Tableau” focuses on the struggle for equality among blacks and whites during the period of the Harlem Renaissance. His work deals with power in many forms such as superiority, inferiority, and inequality. Finally, Shelley’s Frankenstein deals with a power struggle between the monster that was created and Victor in this newly sublime world. All of these literary works relate to Zen Meditation based on the ideas of superiority and power. With this event, we are encouraged to find power within ourselves, a sort of confidence. While we are supposed to clear our minds and free ourselves from stress, finding a true power and confidence within ourselves also plays a major role. Therefore, it is clear that all of the literary works by Dunbar, Cullen, and Shelley, as well as the Zen Meditiation event, share the common ideas of superiority, inferiority, equality and power through the different perspectives and values of the speakers and characters in each literary piece.
Dunbar’s “Theology” deals with the idea of power and superiority based on the speaker’s discussion of Heaven and Hell and his beliefs that he is self-righteous. While the speaker does struggle to define Heaven and Hell and wonders whether they exist, he believes that he is superior to all of his neighbors; ultimately allowing him to go to Heaven while the neighbors would not. With this, he questions where all of his neighbors would go if there were no Hell. He states, “There is a hell, I’m quite sure; for pray, If there were not, where would my neighbors go” (4-6)? This statement is suggesting that he is superior to his neighbors and he has some sort of power over them, which in turn, makes him self-righteous. Thus, through the speaker’s comparison to his neighbors as well as his judgements of his neighbors, it is clear that there is a sense of superiority and power.
Furthermore, Cullen’s “Tableau” from the Harlem Renaissance focuses on the inequality between blacks and whites and the clear superiority that is seen among the white people. Cullen creates a poem that suggests that equality and unity will never exist. This is seen in the poem when he uses the metaphor of a white and black boy walking together arm in arm. Essentially, this is not acceptable because it displays a sense of equality between the two boys. This idea is portrayed when the speaker states, “From lowered blinds the dark folk stare, and here the fair folk talk, indignant that these two should dare, in unison to walk” (5-8). This stanza suggests the central conflict of superiority vs. inferiority. It is clear that walking together is frowned upon. Based on the reactions of many of the white families watching, the blacks are labeled as inferior and the two should never walk in unity. The whites essentially are more powerful and labeled as “better” than the blacks. On the other hand, Cullen uses thunder and lightening to exemplify that just as thunder and lightening are associated with each other, blacks and whites should be seen as one in union. This is seen when the speaker states, “They pass, and see no wonder that lightening brilliant as a sword should blaze the path of thunder” (10-12). This stanza suggests that the two innocent boys should be seen together, just as lightening and thunder are associated with each other; however, it is still frowned upon among the older individuals of that time period and this equality will never exist as they become older and wiser. Therefore, it is clear that the ideas of power, superiority, inferiority, and inequality exist based on the lack of unity between blacks and whites.
Finally, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein deals with a power struggle between the monster that Victor created and himself as he faces this new sublime nature and world. After the creation of the monster, Victor seems to believe that the monster is the reason for his brother’s death and seems overpowered by this figure. He is unable to go back to his apartment because he feels the monster haunts it. With this, Victor can be viewed as inferior based on his fear that the monster will overpower him. It isn’t until his encounters with the monster on the glacier that Victor realizes that they are essentially equals. While the sublime world leads Victor to believe the monster is merely a grotesque, evil figure, the monster responds to Victor’s actions and words with intelligence and human-like emotion. This is seen when he alludes to Victor as his creator. By comparing him to a god-like figure it is clear that the monster has a thought process and is educated. This is seen when the monster states, “Thou hast made me more powerful than thyself; my height is superior to thine, my joints more supple . . . Remember, that I am thy creature: I ought to be thy Adam; but rather I am the fallen angel” (69). While the creature does suggest a more powerful physical being, his intelligence is equal to that of Victor. In alluding to the Bible, it shows he is as intelligent as man. Thus, they are equals. Therefore, while the monster he created once intimidated Victor, he was able to realize that they are of equal knowledge and intelligence. With this, it is clear that a power struggle was present; however, a sense of equality was soon detected.
All of the literary works relate to Zen Meditation based on the idea of finding power or even a sense of equality. While meditation helps to ease stresses, it also allows for a certain sort of power to come about within the body. I was not totally able to find this one power and confidence, but as I was able to block out stresses or things that bothered me, I was able to find a new, fresh, person that was confident in that moment. Therefore, like the literary works, where a form of power was a main focus, mediation also helped me to find power or confidence within myself.
Overall, the three literary works and mediation share the common idea of power struggles, which can come in the forms of superiority, inferiority, or even equality and inequality. Dunbar’s “Theology” focused on the power in the form of superiority as the speaker was viewed as superior to his neighbors as they would go to Hell while he would go to Heaven. Moreover, Cullen’s “Tableau” dealt with inferiority and inequality based on the relationship between the black boy and white boy. Finally, Shelley’s Frankenstein dealt with a power struggle between the monster and Victor, which ultimately led him to believe they were equals. All of these ideas related to the focus on confidence and power within the body in Zen Meditation as well. Therefore, it is clear that all three works and meditation concentrated on different forms of power based on the different views and perspectives exemplified through each speaker and narrator.