Author Archives: swtrinchet

The King and the Jinni


The Demon symbolized blind pride and vengefulness. He was going to kill anyone who released him from the jar, despite the fact that it would be easy to assume that the people releasing him were doing him a kind service. He admitted to having originally wanted to reward the people kind enough to free him, but grew bitter at his trapped state and decided to kill whoever freed him.

This is a direct comparison to the King in the base story of 1001 Nights. One woman wronged the king and he proceeded to punish citizen after citizen, just as the demon was punishing anyone who freed him, just because previous possible saviors had not succeeded in freeing him.

The story is an allegory for the king to realize that he is being irrational and blind in his treatment of his citizens. The fisherman tricked the demon just as she tricked the king – with a story and with reason.


Jell-o, Honor, and Mortality: the Important Themes of Our Time


The beef and the jello are both consumables that represent pre- v post-industrialization, nature v technology, and the past v the present. Something as visceral as carrying and eating meat was used as a way of expressing the character’s state of being emotionally and also her position in the world while she was running. Back at home, at the end, the clean, bright, and clinical non-food that is jello represented where she ended up at the conclusion.


My overall impression of Leila’s father is not a good one, and I don’t believe I’m supposed to come away with a positive opinion of his actions. His character, however, is never directly attacked. He is not demonized. Most of his actions are explainable by societal norms. I don’t like using the word “patriarchy” because it’s so overused and polarizing. But as I read this and Tartuffe, I felt that Orgon and he both showed strong evidence of being decent human beings wrapped up in a certain way of looking at the world and acting. Leila does not seem to judge her father for acting the way that she did, but she does report that he put his honor above both of their lives, particularly in court. This makes him understandable, maybe even sympathetic, but not a person I would want to depend on to treat people ethically.


The Senator represents every person facing their own mortality. His act of falling in love with a younger woman and finding love only when he’s closest to death represents humanity’s obsession with remaining young and dwelling on youth. He is most alive and most deeply in love when he’s aware of his impending mortality. “Death Constant Beyond Love” reminds us that whether we’re in love, whether we acknowledge death’s inevitability, death will always be there. It is our choice whether or not to love before death takes us. The Senator’s life is improved with the love, yet he still dies. This is the happiest ending any story can have because it is the essence of humanity’s search for happiness and love.



Gregor is not a part of the family. His sister takes care of him by bringing him food, but refuses to speak to him. His mother defends him to his manager, but the writing implies that this is an act of self-protection. In fact, his sister and mother seem to interact with him only as a source of livelihood. His father is like a dark cloud in the house. He’s presented as unable to work at the beginning, but it later becomes clear that he’s plenty physically able when he beats Gregor. He seems to hate Gregor for working when he refuses to, while simultaneously depending on him for his work. Gregor is deprived quality time with them because his entire life is work and sleep and thinking about work. By the time the story starts, he’s just a house guest to them.


In the beginning of the story, Gregor is ignored by the family and the family ignores each other. He provides for them but they are nothing more than grateful for the money. Familial warmth and love are both absent. He is simultaneously emasculating his father by doing the work that needs to be done and emasculated by his father for being forced to do the work when it’s not something he wants to do.

When Gregor turns into a giant insect, his family’s need to keep the chief manager from finding out bond them. Then his presence continues to be a reminder that they need to provide for themselves. The sister and housekeeper continue to physically care for Gregor, but as they realize that the father needs a job and the mother needs to rent out rooms, their shared need wakes them up and brings them together.

By then, Gregor might as well not be there. And now that his family is starting to sustain themselves, he is now the useless part of the family. They were the cockroaches when he worked and paid for their lives, but now that he has literally become what they figuratively used to be, they see him for the useless thing that he is and start talking about getting rid of him. He hears this and, as they should have done if they had realized they were useless before, removes himself so that they don’t have to take care of him anymore


Akhmatova’s Requiem is a great work of art and manages to function as political protest without being political or social propaganda. This comes from the poem’s concentration on the human lives during Stalin regimes not as caricatures of suffering but as real humans in difficult situations.   It is not totally lacking in influence because oppressive regimes exist all around the world. It will only be lacking in influence when the last totalitarian ruling body is gone.


The famous command at the end of Archaic Torso of Apollo is an answer to the rest of the description of the torso. Apollo’s torso is described as filled with some stronger power, and this is visualized by the author as different types of light. Even a torso of a statue has meaning when connected to the energy of life. You must change your life means, you can be filled with this “light” also. It’s vague enough that I see lots of different interpretations in the others students answers about how exactly that change is supposed to happen. They all seem equally reasonable because the poem is supposed to get at the heart of what each individual wants or needs and point out that their jobs as living things are to get to that.

Saintly Servants, Sinful Women, and a Bloody Tree


Felicite is a simple-minded servant, but she is also a complicated human. Simple-minded servant is a label that applies to her, but like all labels, it cannot fully capture her as a character. There are some ways in which she acted saintly. Her selfless defense of the Aubain and the siblings, for example, could be seen as saintly. Her endless love of LouLou could be saintly, or very simple-minded, depending on what was going on in her head. The fact is, we don’t actually get a great deal of insight into her motivations and character.

The same goes for Mme. Aubain. Her situation is unfortunate and she perseveres. This dogged strength could be viewed as saintly suffering or as an old woman being pragmatic and cold. Despite the wildly different ways to interpret her as a character, we are given no clear answers about her motivations or thought process. Neither Felicite or Aubain adhere enough to any label’s rules of conduct for me to decide. That is what I like about this story. It elegantly shows the difference a slightly changed perspective can make.


It was difficult to read the stereotypes outlined in these poems. The language was beautiful, powerful, and compelling. Yet the worldview painted caused a familiar sting. Gender described in such a polarizing way causes in me a  gnawing feeling of both an ugly truth I don’t want to acknowledge and a bitterness over the reality that growing up in such a culture inevitably reinforces behaviors in both genders that continue the cycle. This behavior widens the divide between genders and then more bitter art like Baudelaire’s is produced. I don’t get the impression from these poems that Baudelaire is happy about the giant disconnect between men and women. In fact, both genders are presented in disgusted ways. Women’s physical power as the object of masculine gaze is powerful, but that unbalanced agency is always stripped by time. Men are given the both the power and the awful responsibility of the masculine gaze and then feel weak and manipulated by women’s physical power. Most of the poems are from the perspective of men, so descriptions of women from the outside in are contrasted by descriptions of men from the inside out. Women as sex objects are depicted often, and then that depiction is torn down by other poems and sometimes by the end of the same poem.


Rama and Sita are the perfect Eastern ideal of selflessness. They unquestioningly sacrifice themselves to help each other and in the process their individuality is stripped away, yet they end up happy and successful. Chidam and Chandara are much closer to the Western ideal of individuality. They fight for themselves, to the point of sacrificing themselves. They build up clear senses of themselves and what they want to do to make their own lives better, while losing any sense of their connection with the group and ending up hurting each other.


I chose the Rose Tree because I have no idea what’s going on in this poem. The contrasting metaphors of the well water, the ocean breeze, and the human blood’s effect on the tree are the key to this poem. The ocean breeze is something that can whither the tree and is closely connected to “politic words,” so… politeness kills living things? The well water is something that creates and encourages beautiful, pride-worthy growth. Yet the well water is gone. Human blood is the final way to encourage the growth. Not beautiful or pride-worthy growth – just a “right” rose tree. I think it’s human relationships. Politeness kills it, traditional means of communication have died in the industrial age, and humans are hurting themselves over the worthy cause of keeping those relationships alive. I don’t think this is the final answer. I’m not even sure if it makes any sense. It’s what I feel when I read it, but what I love about this poem is that it can be interpreted in so many ways.

Dehumanized Tartuffe, Humanized Satan, and Bittersweet Poems


Tartuffe definitely only attacks the corruptions of religion. Moliere’s characters  Cleante and Dorine are written as counterpoints and examples of proper, decent religion. They both have lengthy speeches about men that are religious and not hypocritical being the pinnacle of humanity. When Orgon finds out about Tartuffe’s attempted seduction (or actual sexual assault, depending on the staging of the production) he condemns all pious men. Cleante then scolds him and says that if you can only be one extreme between condemning and trusting all pious men, it’s better to ere on the side of trust because most religious people are good and trustworthy. I believe that this is Moliere writing in the central message of his play.


Hugo’s Satan goes through the majority of the steps of the Hero’s Journey. I’m missing a clear goddess or temptress, but most of the trials other than that fit. Hugo’s Satan is also represented in a more human way. His emotions are presented for the audience to empathize with, which is a fascinating way to write about the devil. Hugo’s version of Hell seems a more elegant and simplistic version than the one presented by Dante. All of the levels and historical figures were almost lavish and distracting compared to the one guide of Satan in Hugo’s version.


The Village Saturday  and  A Young Man Loves a Maiden are connected in a subtle way that is fascinating to examine. I have trouble describing why the two are connected, but I felt so strongly that they were after reading them that I had to choose the two to examine. Both poems feel wistful.  The Village  is about innocence and village life. Its style is more dense and flowery than  A Young Man   but nonetheless, it expressed two parts of a story. Innocence and simple joys described in The Village  are then wasted by young adults of  A Young Man.  I don’t think it’s an entirely pessimistic comparison, though. Both poems feel like an eternal story that is repeated and shared by all generations. And though neither ends completely happily, the cycle continues and humans connect through the shared experience. Though the young man has his heart broken, he will have children someday that live through the simple pleasures of childhood, rush into adulthood, and also have their hearts broken. The cycle is filled with sadness and joy – the definition of bittersweet.

Women’s Roles as Storytellers and Wives

1. The Tenth Story of the Tenth Day: Why is Griselda being tested?

Griselda is being tested by her husband to prove her humility and loyalty. On some levels, it reminds me of the story of Job. Her value is that she doesn’t question or fight back, but accepts and moves forward. This is a rather disturbing lens to view this story through because it sets up Griselda as the human and her husband as God. By extension, women in the culture of the Tenth Story of the Tenth Day are rewarded for blind faith in abusive men.

2. Compare the frame tales in the Decameron, and The Thousand and One Nights. In each case, what is the reason for telling stories? Do the stories accomplish the purpose for which they are intended? How important is the relationship between the tale and the teller?

The woman in Thousand and One Nights that tells stories is doing so to slowly teach her husband how to be a good and trusting ruler. She knows that if she does not do so effectively each night, her life will end the next day. The women in the Decameron tell their stories partially as morality tales for how they will live if they survive the black death. It is a hopeful wish fulfillment of a life that continues outside of their present isolation. It is also a way to teach each other and the readers life values that can be put to use after the black plague passes by. Stories to Sharazad are weapons, shields, and textbooks on life lessons for the king. Stories for the people of Decameron are treatments, group therapy, and textbooks on life lessons for everyone.

3. In Laustic, what does the nightingale symbolize? Explain your answer.

The nightingale symbolizes her desire for freedom and fulfillment. Nightingales sing and express themselves during the night, which is a contrast to her trapped state when her husband is at home. Once the nightingale is captured by her husband, though, so too are her desires to be free contained and minimized. Her sexual and romantic desire is squashed too, controlled by her husband just as he controls the bird. Presumably, before she married him, she was more like the free bird. But after her marriage, she became like the caged bird. The nightingale’s defeat symbolizes the defeat of her hope.

My Journey with Dante


Dante learned how strict and structured Hell was and, by extension, all of the things he needed to avoid doing in order not to land himself in any of the levels of Hell. I learned that the more specific and literal religious literature gets, the more outrageous it seems to me. I learned that I have a particular dislike of religions that have punitive measures built into their systems. It seems an unfairly harsh way of looking at humans, who most religions admit are inherently flawed. Are most of us really going to Hell? Because based on the system laid out in Dante’s Inferno, it would be very hard to avoid getting sent there.

Shahrayar, Animals, and The Sin Bell Curve


Shahrayar’s madness is a literary representation (and exaggeration) of a universal insecurity. Fear of inadequacy crosses cultural, gender, and age divides. Overreaction to egos being bruised, especially when it involves close relationships, is a common occurrence all over the world. This natural, human reaction is exacerbated by cultural standards placed on men to control the women they are supposed to care for and to never show vulnerability when their feelings are hurt. Those standards are strongest in patriarchal societies, which Shahrayar and the original The Thousand and One Nights audience lived in. His is a special case in that he had the resources to kill so many women in a row, but I don’t believe his reaction was one, especially considering The Thousand and One Nights is a very self-aware work of fiction.


In the Tale of the Ox and the Donkey, there is a special attribute of a human that allows them to be understood. They’re the key element of a morality tale about self-help and confidence in a way that I’m gonna bet modern audiences connect to easier because of a relatively gender-less story. Animals can frequently be written off as effectively genderless in literature. The Tale of the Merchant and His Wife involves animals playing advocates for different societal standards, the Rooster most notably as patriarchal values. These stories’ relatively different roles are more evidence of the varying sources and worldviews that The Thousand and One Nights represents. Part of the reason why this work of literature is so valuable is because it represents, in some ways, a melting pot of the areas it was written and passed down in. Some of those areas are rather progressive (from our point of view) and some others are intensely patriarchal, in which women and animals hold the same role in relation to men- they’re chattel.


Let me answer this by first describing a bell curve. On one end is people who commit no sins, on the other is people who fully and knowingly commit every sin possible; they are the outliers. Most people indulge in a moderate amount of some sins and they lie on the highest point of the curve. The sinless get a spiritual get-out-of-jail-free card. Seems fair enough. But the psychopathic such as mass-murderers and child-molesters, the ones on the other extreme, are lumped together with someone who indulged in one sin and no others. There is no sliding scale, only classifications. This is already not appropriate for the sins committed because it doesn’t take into account severity. This unfairness seems egregious from an objective standpoint.

On a more subjective, personal level, I’ve never felt like harshly punitive measures are effective in the living world. I have no idea why they’re needed in the afterlife. Why not just make those souls go away and let good all go to the same afterlife? What good does punishing anyone do for the people still alive or the people in the good afterlife?


Hindu Heroes and Morality


Rama is considered a virtually perfect man but that word “virtually” is what keeps him from being a less interesting character. The points where he falls short and must struggle internally to retain his near-perfect moral composure are the most interesting, especially since much of it is in the subtext. His reaction to being exiled is an example of that. Though he retains his composure on the surface, the text and his brothers response to him heavily implies that retaining that careful composure is a great effort for him. The restraint of the text in not directly stating this turmoil is a parallel for his own hidden dilemma, and also a parallel for the Hindu value of human actions matching decency, despite any internal conflicts. I wish that more contemporary literature had such subtlety.



In the Bhagavad-Gita, Krishna seems like a god with a more solid moral high-ground than any of the gods portrayed in the Iliad. In comparison to the internal dilemma that Arjuna undertakes with a wise supernatural figure to advise and challenge him, Achilles seems like a petulant child. Arjuna is weighing the lives and well-being of virtually all of the humans he could possibly effect, while Achilles is weighing his own Honor against his own Glory. And while his Honor and Glory do incidentally effect the people around him, his awareness of that is filtered through his own quest for personal achievements. Arjuna’s quest for success is directly dependent on the good his actions do others. Violence in the Bhagavad-Gita is a force that must be considered for it’s overall effect on the world and whether it’s a positive or negative force. Violence in the Iliad is a means to an end – Honor and Glory for the individual using it.

Judeo-Christian God v the Old Gods


Heaven and Hell of both Islamic and Christian are meritocracies, but the merit that qualifies people to get into one or the other is vastly different. Christianity and Judaism require belief and repentance for sins to get into Heaven. The merit is in the belief, not the actions. Islam goes a step further by requiring both belief and good deeds to outweigh bad actions. The merit is in the actions of the believer.


The Virgin Mary was impregnated by a supernatural being. This is well in line with Greek gods creating their demi-god children. Many pagan religions were inclusive and because Jesus was another demi-god to add to the party, he was accepted relatively easily. Judaism, on the other hand, was exclusive and a new element was not as easily incorporated, especially considering how much of the core mythology of Jewish culture involves God punishing people for not unquestioningly worshiping.


In Gilgamesh and the Illiad, there were intermediate states between gods and humans (eg Gilgamesh and Achilles) and the space between full gods and full mortals was less extreme. Most gods weren’t omnipotent and none had full power over the workings of the world. They and demi-gods were involved in human life on a personal scale; they got mad at humans, had quarrels with each other over human affairs, and fell in love with and cared for human life. The Judeo-Christian god, on the other hand, is a relationship represented in a simultaneously more internal and distant way. Judeo-Christian god does not interfere as directly, he sends signals and causes catastrophes. His fights with other supernatural beings don’t usually get humans caught in the crossfire – mostly because there aren’t too many other supernatural beings to bicker with. The gods in Gilgamesh and Illiad don’t care about the beliefs or motivations of humans, whereas Judeo-Christian god cares almost exclusively about belief and motivations of individual humans.