Pre-Reading Task: A Doll’s House

Henrik Ibsen

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Henrik Ibsen is a Norwegian playwright and theatre director born on March 20 1828 to an affluent merchant family. He grew up in the Norwegian coastal town of Skien as the oldest child of five children. Though growing up initially wealthy, his family was soon thrown into poverty due to problems his father’s family had, resulting in him pulling out of school at the age of 15 to find work. He landed a job as a apprentice pharmacist in the small town of Grimstad; at this time he started writing plays, creating his first play the tragedy Catalina in 1850.

Henrik Ibsen’s plays can be split into three separate periods. The first period ended in 1877 with the appearance of The Pillars of Society. The second period covers the time where he wrote dramas in protest against social conditions such as Ghosts. The last period is marked by symbolic plays such as The Master Builder and When We Dead Awaken.

Henrik Ibsen was said to be a pioneer of modern drama because he deviated from the theatrical norm at the time by combining three key innovations of “colloquial dialogue, objectivity, and tightness of plot”. According to Writers Theatre: “his creation of settings, characters and narratives that were recognizable and relatable to his audiences was a monumental breakthrough. The plays, categorized as “Realism,” tapped into the intelligentsia’s discomfort with the hypocrisy between conventional moral values and the foundations and consequences of a post-Darwin, industrial-capitalist society.”

Some literary elements that Ibsen excelled at utilizing were symbolism and dramatic irony and a common theme used in his plays was Man vs. Society.

Norway

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Norway is located in the northern part of the European continent. The southern and western parts of Norway have more precipitation and milder winters compared to the northern and eastern parts of Norway. Norway’s current government is a unitary constitutional monarchy with a prime minister and king. Norway has one of the most developed economies in Europe, having the second-highest GDP per capita in Europe and the sixth highest in the world. Traditional Folklore in the region has a huge influence on Norse literature.

The Victorian Era

The Victorian era lasted from 1837 – 1901. It was a strictly patriarchal society where men had more economic and social control over women. Men were expected to go out into society and obtain a job to provide for the family while the women stayed at home to tend the household. An “ideal woman” at the time was one that was obedient to the head man of the family and would commit herself to the household chores and maintaining the family. Victorian society was divided into separate classes. Upper-class people were generally landowners who had to do little to no manual labor. The middle class was mostly composed of workers with skilled jobs and were able to support themselves and their families such as merchants and shopkeepers. The working class were unskilled workers who worked through harsh and unsanitary conditions. They often lacked basic necessities and many resorted to certain methods of escape such as alcohol and opium. The 19th-century feminism movement differed from modern feminism in that they fought primarily for women’s right to vote and were known as suffragettes.

Marriage in the Victorian Era

Marriage in the Victorian Era was an economic institution. Marriage was encouraged within one’s class and especially for the upper-class. By forming a relationship between two families, they will help each other politically, economically, and socially. Women and men had different expectations as men showed their ambitions in the public while women were limited within the house – only allowed to enjoy private life and take care of the children in the house. The book written by Mrs. Beeton directly shows the expectations of women at the time. The fact that women of all social classes had to stay and work within the households remains a similarity. However, lower-class women had worse conditions to work, which was a significant difference making the work harder for the lower-class women.

Realism

Theatrical realism describes a movement in theatre that began in the late nineteenth century, which aimed to bring greater faithfulness to real life to theatre. One of the influences which led to the development of theatrical realism may have been Charles Darwin, which must have questioned the traditional moral values of society. Some of the theatrical elements used in theatrical realism are diegetic sound and music, realistic characters and dialogue, realistic setting (no supernatural elements). Some realist works include Maxim Gorky’s The Lower Depths, and Anton Chekhov’s The Seagull.

Sources:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henrik_Ibsen#Plays

https://www.theatredatabase.com/19th_century/henrik_ibsen_001.html

The Father of Modern Drama

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Norway

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Victorian_era

Social Life in Victorian England

Victorian Era Women’s Suffrage

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mrs_Beeton%27s_Book_of_Household_Management

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Realism_(theatre)

Gordon Parks – “A Harlem Family”

Amongst the racial injustice of 20th-century American society, Gordon Parks aimed to use his photography to display the common lives of individuals under the pressure of racial inequality. One of his particular collections “A Harlem Family”–taken in 1967–documents the lives of the Fontenelle family, a black family, living in Harlem, exposing the hardships the family face and the extreme poverty situation. In this particular photo titled “Family Crowds Around Open Oven for Warmth”, Gordon Parks utilizes techniques such as posture, facial expressions, and composition to convey the drastic injustice of the system as a whole.

One technique Parks implements is body language. In the photo, the two main subjects Ms. Fontenelle and her son are posed in a specific way that depicts the hardships of their poverty. The son is seen kneeling on the ground as if he had lost everything and was surrounding himself to the world. In addition to that, he leans against his mother’s knee, similar to how a child tries to run to their mother whenever they’re sad or in trouble. The mother also exemplifies the hardships of the situation as seen through the clenching of her hands, expressing the stressfulness of their environment. Similar to her child, Ms. Fontenelle also expresses the sense of hopelessness as seen from her slumping shoulders and the way she looks down towards the ground, producing a sense of dreadfulness. The portrayal of the two’s dismay clenches the audience’s emotions, eliciting an emotion of sorrow towards the Fontenelles situation.

Another technique that Parks applies is facial expression. The son looks towards the foreground with eyes full of emptiness and sorrow, contrasting the usual image of an innocent, carefree child. The mother is the same, staring down at the ground sadly, her eyes ridden of all light. By displaying the same sorrowful facial expressions in both Ms. Fontenelle and her son, it further exemplifies the miserable situation of the Fontenelle family, evoking further pity from the audience to the individuals facing racial injustice.

Finally, Parks uses the technique of composition to serve his purpose. In the photograph, there are a total of three people with the son, the mother, and a man in the back. The three of them are placed in a specific order where the son is kneeling in the front, the mother sitting in the middle, and the man standing in the back. By creating such a column, it almost reminisces a family photo, displaying the different generations. Combining the similarity of facial expressions and body posture displaying dismay among the individuals, Parks conveys a message that racial injustice affects every single person no matter the generation, even the children. This greatly expands the impact of the situation on society, showing how racial injustice will impact past, present, and future generations.

In conclusion, Gordon Parks effectively implements visual techniques such as body language, facial expressions, and composition to uncover the struggles of a black family–like the Fontenelles–in a society full of racial injustice. Through his documentation of the family’s hardships, Gordon effectively captures and reveals the racial struggles of individuals in American society, raising awareness of the racial injustice in the system.

Knowledge & Politics

As a person who has facilitated groups before such as clubs and group projects, I would consider myself “political” but not in the sense that I am aware of politics around me but because I engage in making decisions that affect entire groups. For example, as a secretariat for BEIMUN, I have to make decisions in the MUN club and BEIMUN conference that will affect the actions of hundreds of individuals. Hence, the role I play would be suitable enough for me to be called “political” since I’m engaging in the politics of the groups.

Though many would consider a “political” individual being someone who is interested in politics, I would consider one being “political” as someone who takes actions that affects a whole group. For example, participating in a BLM protest or even the act of choosing to separate oneself from politics are political actions. Even if someone believes that they are non-political, so long as their actions affect a group of people, then they constitute as “political” themselves.

When considering if everything is political, my answer is almost everything. In our table group, we discussed whether or not the act of choosing what to eat for breakfast can be affected by politics. My reply was that it can be affected by politics since the government policies affect which types of food we can grow or import into the country and how they can be distributed which does affect our decision of what can we choose to eat for breakfast. However, there were also examples such as cutting one’s toenails where it was hard to see how they could be connected politically. Hence, I would say that a majority of actions can be constituted as political but there are still some aspects where the connection isn’t clear.

I feel that it is important to be aware of politics. Even if we choose to be separate from politics, the decisions made upon a group will affect us no matter what. In a world so intertwined and connected, it’s almost impossible to not associate oneself to a group or system. Therefore, I feel that it is important to be politically aware in order to see whether or not the system has benefited you or has brought you injustice. If we aren’t politically aware of our surroundings, then it is most likely possible that individuals could be exploited by the groups, being placed in a unjust system without them realizing it.

I believe that some political issues that are most important right now is the polarization of the media and international relations. Firstly, the polarization of media has caused radicalization of opposing ideals which has resulted in the masses enacting extremist actions such as the current situation in the United States and other western nations. In addition, there has also been an increasing tension between international relations. In combination with the polarization of media, governments have become increasingly polarized, with many of them only constituting far left or far right politicians. This is resulting in international relations becoming even more tense as the political atmosphere changes in countries as seen by the deteorating ties between the US and its traditional western allies. If this were the case, it would be harder for countries to cooperate with one another in the future and for organization such as the UN to bring real change to the global community.

After finishing all of my tests, I could say that I’m quite centrist, leaning very slightly to the right, conservative ideals. My political bias was at 0% which means that I stay quite factual and unbiased when assessing political situations. And looking from an unbiased view, I would say that the radicalization of opposing ideals is certainly a global issue that must be addressed immediately.

Visual Annotation–Gordon Parks

  • Guns: Symbolism of violence (possibly the gang violence in black communities)
  • Kids: the innocence of their actions; not realizing the darkness of the racial system itself
  • White and Black kids playing together: despite being different skin colors they really aren’t different in their actions
  • Smiles of the children: represents their happiness to be playing with one another even in their current situation. Representation that people of different races are still able to interact with one another to become happier. The fact that children can smile even when they are with people of other races shows the absurdity of the racial system in trying to separate the races to keep one another happy.
  • Barbed fence: Border separating the kids from society itself
  • Scrap of metal on the side: Represents the poverty of the situation
  • Person in the window in the background:
  • Rule of thirds: Three children placed right in the view of us.
  • Direct approach: The three children are the center of focus

Baby Oral Reflection

For my baby oral, I focused on pages 111-112 from American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang and focused on the global issue of racism. Some authorial choices I focused on were the use of repetition and diction in my extract and characterization, symbolism, and structure in the work as a whole. One thing I think that went well in my oral was how I was able to connect the different authorial choices into a single idea and how that idea affects the audience directly as they read the book. However, I need to improve on tieing the ideas and the audience into the global issue better as I had difficulty answering a question related to it. Next time, I will prepare myself by making thorough connections between the purpose of the passage to the audience to the global issue. I would try using diagrams such as a spider or Venn diagram to easily visualize the connections between the aspects. This way, I can be better prepared in preparing answers on how the ideas connect to one another.

DAMN. First Impression

What do these songs seem to be about?

One of the main themes I identified in many of the songs in the album is identity. Songs like “DNA” and “BLOOD.” refer to his black identity and talks about his personal experience as a black person. These songs also call on the racial issues of society such as in “DNA” where he talks about his resistance to a repressive society as a black man. Overall, his songs seem to be a combination of both identity and societal issues that he has personally experienced.

What makes these songs unique?

I think what makes these songs unique are the titles. All of the titles are individual words that are all-capitalized which is quite unusual for a song name. Another thing unique about the song is that it differentiates from the typical rap songs through its meaning. Most rap songs rap to boast about their wealth and power but in the DAMN. album, he raps about his identity.

What are some of the techniques that you notice recurring in the music?

One thing I noticed is that there were special words used throughout such as “finesse” and the N-word. These are common rap music terms that I have heard before in other pieces of rap music. Another feature of the music recurring was the use of transitions. He would use sudden changes that would transition the mood into a completely different aspect. It almost feels as if it were two separate songs.

Which song did you like best, and why?

My favorite songs were “DNA”, “YAH”, and “HUMBLE”. I personally liked the beat and melody in all of these songs, and I felt that the lyrics in these songs were the ones that I clearly understood.

The Social Dilemma

One of my biggest takeaways from the documentary “The Social Dilemma” is that data and information is not free, it’s filtered and given to you. While I knew that online services do take in data because they always ask users to agree with the terms of agreements, it caught me by surprise the extent of power algorithms can have on an individual. Through the documentary, I was able to understand why people of opposite views were unable to understand the other’s view. Because of the algorithm’s mission to keep users online at all times, all of the sources one person got only reinforced their view since that’s most likely to be the stuff that they are attracted to. This reality really helped me understand why polarization and discourse exist within the globe especially with events such as BLM and the 2020 US election.

In my follow-up discussion, I talked about how I was starting to see my data being filtered. For example, I recently followed an Asian news network on Instagram that was leaning towards the libertarian side. Ever since then, I’ve been receiving recommended feeds about Asian memes and Asian activism such as Asian Lives Matter. It was quite scary being suddenly recommended all of these different sources that all supported one viewpoint. My fellow classmates also agreed with my notion and said that they had experienced similar things happen with them receiving multiple pieces of information that all support one opinion. As a result, we said that the most viable way to prevent ourselves from becoming sheep is to follow different sources of media with differing viewpoints so we can get both sides of the story.

In essence, the documentary really was a frightening awakening to the reality of social media. I am glad we watched this documentary as it helped me open my eyes to the dilemma behind social media. Through this documentary, I am better able to control my own thoughts and actions and prevent myself from being controlled by an algorithm.

Cartoon Project – “Bad Mood”

Comic

The purpose of my cartoon was to convey the importance of seeking good even in times when you are most down. The comic uses a repetitive structure in order to emphasize certain aspects of the comic. The repeating clock panel helps to convey the chronological order of the piece and emphasizes the progression of Eric’s mood as he drags on throughout the day. Pairing that with the panel reflecting Eric’s inner mood–gradually getting more black spots as his day gets worse–it helps create a very sequential structure that helps exemplify the progressive worseness of Eric’s day.

In addition, I also included symbolism through the emphasis of colors. For the repeating mood panel, every time that panel appears, there are more black spots appearing. The black is meant to symbolize the negative thoughts and moods I am experiencing and how the progression of the day leads to an increase in my negative thoughts. While the piece remained mainly black and white, the color red was also utilized with effect. Whenever a certain event causes my mood to become increasingly gloomy, it is highlighted in red creating a contrasting effect the exemplifies it from the rest of the panels. By exemplifying the cause, it helps the audience link between the events and my increasing negativity.

Finally, onomotopia is used to convey the actions of the comic. Since the comic is rather simplistic, onomatopoeia helps to clarify to the reader certain actions such as when Eric’s mom comes into the room, there is a loud “BOOM” which helps to convey the sudden transition in tone of the piece from calm to intense tone. Through the uses of onomatopoeia, the piece is able to better show a progression of the actions that lead to Eric’s descent into his “bad mood”. In summary, the different techniques help convey progresses the storyline of the descent into a gloomy mood which sets up the beginning of the ascend to happiness.

Implication for the Development of Personal and Share Knowledge

For my interview, I decided to interview my mom. My mom grew up going to school in Shandong province in China and would later graduate from a Chinese university. While my mom learned under the public Chinese education system, I currently study under the International Baccalaureate (IB) system, which has many differences from her system. In addition, with the fact that my mom was studying in the 1980s, there were many differences between what tools and experiences we were able to obtain during our time at school.

When it came to the technology back then, my mom states how technologies such as computers were never used. When she was at school, everything was done in paper and pencil to accomplish tasks such as notetaking, testing, completing homework, and more. It was only later on when she went to university did she ever get access to a computer; for the majority of the time, she conducted her studies using paper. Also, the development of technology can be seen in her math class as time progressed. In primary school, my mom was given abacuses to help them out in math class. She only received a calculator by the time she was in high school. Also, she only had access to computers by the time she was in university; she was able to access tools such as Microsoft Excel. While it was certainly possible for her to do what I do today in math class, the rate at which knowledge can be accessed is certainly different to a great degree. What may have taken me 5 minutes of calculations today in school may have taken her an hour to complete in her time. My mom had the same experience transitioning from high school into university and gaining access to computers. By gaining access to computers in university, she no longer had to painstakingly hand draw graphs and could focus her efforts on different areas of knowledge. Therefore, the development of these tools helped accelerate the rate at which we can absorb knowledge.

Throughout my mom’s school career, a consistent pattern was the Chinese state’s excessive control over the education system of China. Going to a public school, my mom was supplied with textbooks that were approved by the government. Schools were taught by the textbook, and teachers usually never ever deviated from what the curriculum set by the school textbook. Teachers would give in-class lectures every day, and students would mostly listen and take notes but would rarely speak up to the teacher. While I still have lectures from teachers and read textbooks in the IB, my current curriculum is certainly more of a free environment where discussion is encouraged, and we’re told to think more deeply about the knowledge we are obtaining. In essence, my mom was taught to only be receiving knowledge, not to question or think about the knowledge they are receiving; however, I was taught to question my surroundings and not just simply be a receiver of knowledge.

An overall implication of my findings is that with the rise of modernization bringing new technologies and beliefs, more pathways to obtain personal and shared knowledge have been developed. In order to obtain knowledge, my mother’s only option was to use the government-issued textbook–a form of shared knowledge–as her method of obtaining knowledge. This, of course, meant that there existed certain biases imposed by the government in the shared knowledge that she could not know about given the limitation at the time. However, in modern times, I now have access to various sources of information such as news media outlets and online encyclopedias. While there still exists the risks of fake information and bias, it nonetheless provides a broader choice of sources to obtain shared knowledge rather than utilizing a single source. Furthermore, personal knowledge has also been developed through the shift in beliefs. While my mom had little chance to communicate with others because of the Chinese view that school should be only used to obtain knowledge, I am able to communicate with others freely with the encouragement of the global IB curriculum. I am able to develop my own personal knowledge through discussions with others allowing me to gain invaluable experiences that my mom would never have been able to obtain. Even if the Chinese education system still adheres to its traditional beliefs about education, students are still able to develop their own personal knowledge through new technologies such as online forums and chatrooms, interacting with one another to further stimulate their personal growth.

TOK Debate 1 Reflection

On October 26, 2020, we had our first TOK debate on the prompt of “Ignorance is bliss,” and I was arguing for the negative side.

The affirmative’s argument consisted of examples of how being unaware of a matter can reduce anxiety and improve emotional wellbeing. For example, they provided how early exposure to explicit content through the brothel case where a kid was exposed to the adult industry at a very early age brought emotional anxiety to the adolescence. Another argument the affirmative brought up was that ignorant individuals can be more confident in the Dunning-Kruger effect even if they knew less than others. By exposing them to information, their confidence drops and hence their bliss. This is also shown in the example of Qin Shi Huang, were not being ignorant led him to be too ambitious and resulted in a non-blissful life.

On the other hand, the negative’s arguments consisted of how ignorance has brought suffering for mankind. We argued that ignorance is a step backward in society. We stated many cases of how the ignorance of individuals and groups brought to wars and genocides such as the US-Iraq war, Rwandan Genocide. We further stated how even if one individual’s ignorance can lead them to bliss, it negatively affects the people around that person through the case of Fredrich Flick. Finally, our team argued with a modern example of ignorance being not bliss in the US pandemic exemplar in how the decision to be ignorant of the coronavirus caused the US to suffer from millions of cases of COVID-19 and more than 200,000 deaths.

Looking at the debate, I believe that the negative side won the debate. While the affirmative side did bring examples of how ignorance can lead to bliss in daily life, they fail to argue that an individual’s bliss through ignorance can lead to the suffering of many more individuals around them. Even more, the affirmative side goes on to call war and conflicts extreme cases despite these happening every year in the world, showing that they failed to compose a counter-argument to the examples of how ignorance is a step backward in society. In essence, the affirmative side focused more on the daily individual life of certain individuals. In contrast, the negative side focused more on the general population and stressed how the effect on a wider population far outweighs the individual’s effect.

I personally say the ignorance is not bliss. Bliss can bring bliss in some circumstances, such as being unaware of a family member’s passing, a summative assignment, global warming,  and more, but this only brings momentary bliss. There still exists a time where these circumstances will be no longer be avoidable and we must face the consequences. By being knowledgeable, we can better improve upon the circumstances by taking action early. If we were less ignorant about global warming, then we can take more action early on, helping save our planet from an impending armageddon. It is our responsibility to go and face the circumstances, even if it may be horrifying; this is how humanity has progressed up to now where we may enjoy modern-day commodities and technology. If our ancestors chose to be ignorant, we would most likely still be living like our ancestors did.