October 17th, 2013
The Hardships of Relationships: How Do We Coexist Together?
The works read for this week's blog all center on the relationships between people and how we put up boundaries that may hinder these important relationships from forming. Both Dunbar's "Theology" and Cullen's "Tableau" question the present, often closed-minded or perhaps ignorant views of the people around them, in Dunbar's case discussing religious "holier than thou" syndrome and Cullen discussing the blatant judgments and racism of 1920's America. The first half of Shelley’s Frankenstein is entirely focused on the failed relationship between Victor and the Monster that he creates and abandons. In addition to the themes of relationships with others, these works pose an even greater question about the relationships we have with ourselves and whether or not we're being like the people being scolded in the poems. This relates to the lecture by Father John O'Malley regarding Messina and Jesuit education because he continually talked about the development of a whole person and knowing one’s self, something necessary in forming functional and positive relationships with the ones around us.
"Theology" by Paul Dunbar is short but very powerful. The importance of this poem begins right away in the title of "Theology". This poem is not exactly the traditional view of theology or the Christian faith; if anything it is mocking that traditional view. I have a feeling that his cynicism may be connected to the time period and the fact that Dunbar was an African-American man. Many people in the bible belt of the south claim strong religious devotion, almost to the point of fervor. Yet these very people cannot keep up simple tasks such as "Love thy neighbor" due to their ignorance and poor treatment of the African-American community that they live in the same space with. Instead of trying to reason with these type of people Dunbar ultimately dismisses them, saying "There is a hell, I'm quite as sure; for pray, If there were not, where would my neighbors go?" (Dunbar, 252). This poem shows that certain relationships are harder to accept and work with and with this type of tension, peaceful coexistence will never be possible.
Countee Cullen's "Tableau" focuses on similar themes and questions the moral compass of those around him but explicitly mentions race as the subject. Instead of being cynical and pessimistic about the state of the relationships in his life Cullen paints a picture of a world with equality and two boys, one white and one black, walking happily hand-in-hand. The most uplifting part of this poem is the fact that the two boys "oblivious to look and word" continue on with their relationship and refuse to let the opinions of others define them (Cullen, 489). Cullen is urging, in perhaps a lighter tone than Dunbar, for the people around him to change their ways and broaden their outlooks on what a traditional relationship should be.
"Frankenstein" focuses on the failed relationship between Victor and the Monster he chose to create and chooses to ignore. The monster from the start of his creation is an outcast and will never be accepted by the general public because he is so different, saying himself "Was I, then, a monster, a blot upon the earth, from which all men fled and whom all men disowned?"(Shelley, 85). In a way it seems he is feeling similar to Dunbar and Cullen in the fact that he feels people are neglecting a relationship with him unjustly. Not only does Frankenstein feel distant from the general public, he feels neglected by his own creator that abandoned him. Victor’s own selfish desire and feverish drive blind him from realizing the immorality of his act of creating such an unnatural creature. In focusing on himself and not on being there for the ones around him Victor creates a host of issues for himself. His act of fleeing the monster and running away from that relationship ultimately leads to the deaths of William and Josephine.
The Messina lecture held by Father O’Malley discussed the basics of Messina and what it means for the Loyola education system. Some points he made specifically connected to the theme of relationships and acceptance. He brought up the idea of “cure personalis” or the development of the whole person which inherently relates to traits like acceptance and friendliness to people of all backgrounds. A person who has worked hard on themselves is better suited to be in important, deep, and healthy relationships. Also, in developing a whole person and exposing them to different ideal s and cultural you lead them to be more interested in things like equality and social justice. Just like the works read for this week, the lecture asked us to think about ourselves and whether we are coexisting with others to the best of our ability.