The Value of Life

The idea for my multimedia post is partially from Edward Munch’s art. Jonas described his works as confused when he added extra lines with his palette knife. As he uses lines that does not typically blend into most of his works, I was inspired to do that. The messy lines on the page that isolates the words from the pictures is supposed to show loneliness as Lina is constantly separated from her loved ones, and her fear of further separations. My idea for this multimedia post is to focus on the value of human life and connections. At first, I focused on items that the Lithuanians in the labor camps might have traded to spy on their own labor groups. It is also about how Jonas was essentially “bought” with the pocket watch. As the Russians treated the Lithuanians like cattle, they removed all human attachments to them, and had prices for everything. The latter part of the poem focuses on Lina and her connections and how she was finally able to emphasize with Kretskey over the loss of their mothers. Human lives and the relationships that are formed between us should always remain priceless.

 

Who Would Want to be Pretty?

When does beauty start to become too much? “Is it not good to make society full of beautiful people?” (Yang Yuan, quoted in the New York Times) Yet the price of beauty for Scott Westerfeld’s Uglies is that everyone looked, thought and acted the same. Tally Youngblood, the protagonist of the story just wants to turn “pretty” when she turns sixteen. Yet she meets Shay, a teenager around her age who doesn’t want to turn “pretty”. Instead, she leaves for Smoke, a city of people who has never turned “pretty”, but not before leaving Tally coded instructions as to how to get there.

The character who represented the theme that I am working on the best is Shay. Shay was introduced as a fun loving friend from the same city as Tally. From teaching Tally hoverboarding to helping her get into trouble, Shay just seemed like any other ugly, being mischievous and daring. Yet she knew a secret that the society of pretties were trying to suppress, she knew a way to get to Smoke. This is the first time where we see a character who actively goes against the idea of being pretty. After that, she just seemed like a loyal friend, determined to go to Smoke, and to take Tally with her. “She and I… Shay changes her mind pretty quickly, you know” (Westerfeld, p237) Shay is not loyal nor does she want stubbornly stay in Smoke. She just wanted to be wherever her friends are.

The main theme of the story is definitely that even a perfect society has its flaws. If you looked hard enough, nothing is ever perfect. The pretty’s society was presented as a perfect society that has moved on from our own after a near apocalyptic event somewhere in the future. The society is virtually flawless, relying entirely on renewable resources. The people are happy, “new pretties”, or teenagers who had recently got their surgery, enjoys a life full of partying for almost every second of their lives. “We exist in equilibrium with the environment, Tally, purifying the water that we put back into the river, recycling the biomass, and using only power drawn from our own solar footprint.” (p103) Yet as Tally learns from David, Az and Maddie, the idealistic world that Shay and herself had grown up in and has been conditioned to trust hides many secrets. To keep the pretties placated, most of the ones who goes through the operation also has a lesion planted into their brain, making them unable to react to situations quickly, among other things. And the Special Circumstances would do anything to keep it that way, even if it means killing to silence those who knows the truth. “He lay on his back, his head turned at an angle that Tally instantly knew was utterly wrong… She remembered what the Special Circumstances had said to her more than once: We don’t want to hurt you, but we will if we have to. (p316)

Although mocked in the story as being a terrible practice, the world of the pretties probably started with a desire to be the same as models or idols. It also represents the theme well as idols and models are supposed to be beautiful and great. Whatever brands they promote will always sell out within the first few days, especially if the idol was really popular. Yet the lifestyle that they lead is not always the healthiest. There is fierce competition in the industry as more and more young people tries to be idols. Even after that, the idol’s lives are almost entirely controlled by their companies. Uglies probably represents the youths who longs to become the idols that they looked up to, without considering the pain they had to go through. The Uglies were taught from a young age to want to become pretty, thinking that it is only normal and anyone who wasn’t pretty was a freak. This could possibly compare to children who compares themselves to others, admiring the ones prettier then themselves. “Tally stared at the picture and shivered. Why go back to this? “Spooky, huh?” Shay turned away. “(p 191)

With Great Power

Red Scarf Girl by Ji-Li Jiang follows the author and her family through the Chinese Cultural revolution. The story began with Jiang Ji-Li living a comfortable life and constantly being showered with praise from her teachers. Yet her life was changed forever changed when her family status of her grandfather being a landlord was discovered. At first, she cursed her grandfather for exploiting the people, but she realizes quickly that her fate would not change even if her family status did. After all, they were wealthy and the Cultural Revolution aimed to destroy social classes. Throughout the book, she watched, powerless and terrified as the world she knew collapsed and face the humiliation of being classified as bourgeois. Finally, forced with deciding whether or not to frame her father for something he did not do, Ji-Li Jiang chose her family over her own social status and the revolution.

People with power use it to their own advantage. This is shown especially in the beginning with Du Hai and Yin Lan-Lan. Before the revolution started, Ji-Li Jiang recalled herself helping Yin Lan-Lan with her math homework. Du Hai was not much different. Yet after they gained the title of “Red Successors”, their attitudes changed dramatically. “‘I know what her grandfather was.’ He paused dramatically… A LANDLORD” (Jiang, p.58). Before the revolution started, Du Hai would not have dared to say that to his Da Dui Zhang. Similarly, when the students first began to write the DaZiBao, they would criticize teachers who punished them for their bad behavior in school by attacking them with DaZiBao. “One was titled ‘Teacher Li, Abuser of the Young’ The student had failed to hand in her homework assignments on time, and Teacher Li had told her to copy the assignment over five times as a punishment.” (p.29). This form of punishment for students was really common back then. But students made the revolution into an excuse to complain against the people they dislike, such as smarter students and strict teachers. An experience my grandmother had during the more active years of the revolution was similar to the searches that happened in the story. She recalled one of her neighbors being struggled against, then, the neighbor’s house was searched. Yet as the older students filed out of the house, she recalled that some of them had things in their pockets that they didn’t have before. Back then, she thought the students had too much to carry and had to carry some in their pockets, but now, she was unsure if those students had “betrayed” Maoist ideals and had kept the valuables for themselves. In the end, under the guise of starting a revolution, even though they truly believed in Mao and his ideals, so much suffering would have been avoided if the “working class” did not abuse the power that had been now handed to them.

An Open Book

In The Distance Between Us by Reyna Grande, her life and experiences as an immigrant in America, the importance of her family and not losing hope were persistent themes within the memoir. Unfortunately, Grande’s childhood was far from peaceful and loving, instead being one full of traumatizing experiences and events. Still, as of now, it is my favorite non-fiction book. Yet because I misplaced my copy of this book, I cannot cite direct evidence to support some of my ideas, however, I will be trying to give an honest impression of this book as it had a very lasting impact on me, which means all quotes are taken from articles that Reyna Grande has written or posted on her website. Finally, there are some minor to major spoilers to the book in this blog post.

A controversial subject that is very relevant in the theme of the book is the problem of illegal immigration. Children from Central and South America are often separated from their parents when they leave their homes for work in the United States, often through illegal means. In The Distance Between Us, Reyna suffered from her family being split apart by immigration. As young kids, she and her siblings didn’t understand why her parents are leaving them and feels abandoned when they learned that their mother was pregnant with their baby sister Betty. This was caused mainly by the time and distance that separated her and her parents, a problem that Grande really tried to emphasize, instead of the more global issues that immigration pose to a country.

But an immigration to America meant she would face many forms of discrimination. At the start of the story, Reyna was strictly punished because she used her left hand, or the “devil’s” hand. She was not able to afford lunch like much of the other kids, and when one of the students dropped a mango on a stick, she and her sister argue about who would pick it up, both embarrassed and afraid that their classmates would judge them for it. This is further shown when in America, she faced further discrimination from her teachers. For example, when she got into the writing competition in fifth grade, Reyna noticed that her teacher put her story which she wrote in Spanish directly into the pile of rejected works. This continued into her college life. ““You have a wild imagination,” my teacher would say of my autobiographical stories of Mexican poverty, immigration, and broken homes. I wanted to tell her that her job was to critique my craft, not my cultural experiences—but my shame kept me silent.”(Grande, Article)

Even through all the tough times and events that she has endured, Reyna continues to strive to be her best for her family. Growing up, she never really had her family as her father immigrated to America when she was very young. After her mother left, Reyna felt truly alone, even if she stayed optimistic, she was still unsure if her parents would ever come back to Mexico. Therefore, when she was told that her mother had given birth to her little sister Betty, she was very distressed, thinking that her parents were finally abandoning her. But the ray of hope came from her sister, Mago, when she told Reyna that “It doesn’t matter that there’s a distance between us now. That cord is there forever.” Yet when her family is reunited, it is not quite the same as it was before, despite how much they wanted it to be. “The man behind the glass” was not the father she had wanted. He had divorced her mother and married a new woman named Mila. Furthermore, he was abusive towards his children and later his wife.

Tough family circumstances lead her own sister to abandon her in a time where she needed someone the most. Her father constantly tried to put her down, trying to discourage her from going to university. Yet Grande never gave up hope for a better future. Her turning point was when her college professor Diana Savas gave her a purpose. Under Diana’s tutoring, she turned out to be an excellent writer and in turn, Diana let Reyna know about authors who had similar experiences as her, giving her lives and characters she could finally relate to. But, because of her father’s deteriorating health, she still chose to stay by his side. In the end however, her father must have realized his fault, and at least tried to make it up to Reyna by letting her go and allowing her to follow her dreams.

Reyna Grande made it very clear in the story that she was not promoting illegal immigration in any way. She showed the trauma and neglect she faced as a kid due to her family immigrating to the United States. But she also made it clear, that even in the hellish conditions she was in before and after she immigrated, she did not stop striving for a better future, no matter the struggles she faces along the way. At the very end of the epilogue, Reyna described her last moments with her dying father, how she tried to forget about all the pain he has caused her, instead focused on the moments where she was truly happy, and she realized that without her father, she would never have had the courage to move to the United States, nor the encouragement needed to stay in school and become who she is today. Her point in writing this memoir was to prove that, not matter where you come from, with whatever family background, equal opportunities should be given.

 

Give and Take

As a part of one of my favorite series, it is basically impossible for me to not try to analyze the theme for The Rose Society written by Marie Lu. Adelina’s story is one of many chaos and dark moments, yet it is also filled with determination or a certain amount of bullheadedness. Therefore, it is not surprising that there are multiple themes throughout the second book of the Young Elites series. Betrayal, kindness and the idea of an identity are amongst the most important lessons that is taught in The Rose Society.

The worst betrayal in the second book is surprisingly similar to the one the the first book. In both scenarios, Adelina was the one to first hurt the people around her. This creates an uncomfortable barrier between her and the people who cares for her and her doubt of their intentions always lead to her downfall. In this story, your actions and inactions lead to your downfall. She refused Violetta’s advice to not feed her powers by killing again and again, making her sister feel disrespected, hurt and fearful, and when Violetta forcefully takes away her powers, she lashes out at her sister, causing her to flee. She leads to her own downfall in 2 different versions of events, except this time, she doesn’t have her sister. as she betrayed her, and not matter how much comfort Magiano will give to her, her own actions will lead to her downfall again and again until she learns that not everyone has evil intentions behind their actions.

Which lead me to another important theme, to trust people who are giving you kindness. But given her past history with betrayal, I doubt that she will trust anyone anytime soon. As well as the whispers in her head that increases in volume every time she kills someone, an effect of her powers rebounding onto herself.  “None of it was your fault, the whispers in my head argue. You didn’t kill him, after all — it was not your blade that ended his life. So why are you the one cast out? You didn’t have to return to the Daggers — you didn’t need to help them rescue Raffaele. And still they turned on you. Why does everyone forget your good intentions, Adelina?” (Lu, p4). In this case, Raffaele is also making wrong choices as all of the kindness that he gives comes with a price. If he is not willing to give kindness without any strings attached, then she will never trust him enough to help him to try to find a cure for the elite powers that are affecting everyone. So if Adelina wants kindness, she needs to trust and if Raffaele wants trust from Adelina or anyone else, he needs to give true kindness.

The third and final theme that revolves around all of the characters is discovering an identity that is beneficial to yourself as much as others. “The irony of life is that those who wear masks often tell us more truths than those with open faces.” (p19) This quote often confuses me as it never made sense in the context of the story. Throughout the book, Raffaele is forced to carry the heavy burden of becoming the leader of the malfettos and sharing their personal pains. Then, queen Maeve forced a new “mask” onto him and he was once again burdened with a duty, this time to seduce Giulietta and hopefully separate her and Teren. He is essentially a painted dummy, each person painting their ideas and hopes onto him. And he lets them get away with it, not because he is willing, but because he feels as if he has not purpose other than to sacrifice his own happiness and peace for another’s. He learns this twisted lesson at a young age, when he sacrificed himself just to get his family enough food so they would not starve. He wasn’t even allowed time to grieve for the person he loved, and ultimately his plans failed when Adelina replicated what was left of his person and became bonded to Enzo, securing her place on the throne. “Hiding it makes you more beautiful,” Magiano says. Then he takes his hand away, exposing my scar again. “But revealing it makes you you.” He nods at me. “So wear it proudly.”  But Adelina does not need to know that. She is very well defined and her boundaries are set and will not budge for just anyone. But unfortunately for her, because of her rigid ideals, she ultimately refused help and closed in onto herself.

As I’ve said before, there are many other themes throughout the series. But the one that resonated with me the most are all listed here. Firstly, every action has a consequence and if you have broken your trust with a person, don’t blame them for your betrayal. Second, kindness and trust are two sides of the same coin and both needs to be built over a period of time and sacrifice. Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, don’t let what everyone else thinks you should be define you. Set up some boundaries, but don’t be unnecessarily stubborn about it. Everything is connected like a scale. To not hit the ground, or be raised up too high, there should be a balance of give and take.

 

Past Betrayals

“No one ever gives me their kindness without hoping for something in exchange.
Are they any different? Are they all the same? They all want to use you, use you, use you until they get what they want, and then they will toss you aside.”

From the beginning of the story, to the end, Adelina is constantly seeking company that will give her kindness with no strings attached. In my multimedia post, I showed how Adelina (In a modern alternate universe) wrote a letter in a description of a youtube video to her father, mentioning that she is with wonderful people (the Daggers). In the story, she tried to find happiness within the Daggers, but in the end, she realized that the only one to ever show her true kindness without ever wanting anything in return was her sister.

Thing Thing About Martyrs

 

(Current working title: Stop making drafts and publish already)

 

Warning: Spoilers for the ending of the first book of the The Young Elites series. Spoilers and references to the ending and middle of Tokyo Ghoul:Re which is a manga so… don’t like don’t read.

 

 

In modern young adult media, martyrs are seen as heroes and rarely do we see them ever do anything except for the “greater good”. Whether or not this is shown in their heroic acts of saving civilians ranging to sacrificing their own lives to save the world, martyrs are generally looked up to as role models. Yet in The Young Elites by Marie Lu, being a martyr clearly doesn’t make you a better person, yet not acting doesn’t either. Teren and Adelina presents this theme better than anyone else in this series. Both of them sank further into darkness by the end of the book, both being selfishly selfless, yet one still clings on by a sliver of hope.

 

Teren is introduced very early on as a character who is evil to no ends. “It doesn’t seem right or kind, I know-  it seems cruel, but it must be done” (Lu, 262) Yet later in the story, we are shown his point of view. We see how he was helplessly enraptured by Giulietta and his brainwashing into hurting himself. This is most likely due to the neglect he felt when he became a malfetto. So when Giulietta gave him a purpose- to eradicate all malfettos- Teren clung to her, worshipping her like a god. Essentially, Giulietta twisted his already messed up psyche to make him despise himself and everyone like him and be willing to do anything to achieve his goal, making him a martyr.

 

So far in the series, there is no other person that has an unhealthier lifestyle then Teren. Using his powers to heal himself, he would rip himself apart and then let his powers stitch himself back together. Which nicely segments to my connection. Kishou Arima is the grim reaper of the CCG. Everyone knows his name. He is almost treated as a noble by the general public, very much like Teren, who does hold a position of power as the lead Inquisitor. Yet during his battle with Ken, he was incapacitated by his own student. Having nothing left to loose, the grim reaper reveals a shocking secret, he isn’t human, at least not entirely. The Washuu clan bred certain individuals together to make a stronger human, yet the human, or half human, will have a shorter lifespan, if they do not consume human flesh. The “children of the garden” are generally neglected unless they showed extreme battle prowess. Therefore, when a young Eto met with Arima, he was easily manipulated into working with her, becoming the One Eyed King. Sound familiar? While Arima’s life did not go downhill from meeting Eto, his situation was already rock bottom so he focused on his goals to pass on his legacy. Yet ultimately, Kaneki was not fit for King as Arima acted too rashly and Kaneki’s indecisions made him a terrible leader so here is another example of a character who became a martyr for a cause they believed to be responsible for, and failed.

 

On the other hand, Adelina is quite the selfish character, lashing out at her sister for telling the authorities even though it was the only option for her at the time. Adelina’s selfishness lead to her own downfall. Most of the things she did for herself and her sister. This is exactly where Adelina’s flaw is stabilized. She had someone to believe in and she destroy her future for her sister. Adelina descended into madness. But she also learns by the end to rely on her sister.

 

I guess what I was trying to say is that for the most part, giving is an essential part of every relationship. But to give and give without taking or questioning if what you’re doing is right is definitely not the best choice. Adelina and Teren were polar opposites at the beginning of the story, yet Adelina, by the end, found a slight stability in her sister while Teren descended into darkness. “But tonight, we stay where we are, holding on, lost in the dark.”