Popular Culture (Film) Assignment 1

The aim of this essay is to answer the following questions: Why is the zombie genre so pervasive in American popular culture; Why is the Zombie utilised as a narrative device for exploring decaying social norms; What does this tell us about America’s cultural condition; and What dominant images, icons, values, and discursive formations are utilised in the film(s) of my choice. The films chosen for this essay is Zombieland and Warm Bodies, even though both of these films are part of the zombie genre, they obviously share some common attributes, but they also differ from one another and this will all be discussed later in this essay. The zombie is a surprisingly interesting symbol and metaphor in American popular culture which will come to light very soon. Before doing all of this though, the following quotation by Balaji (2013) will be discussed shortly before engaging with the essay completely.

“The ‘zombie industry’, as it has become commonly known, is now generating upward of $5 billion a year (a conservative estimate), thanks to the expanse of media and cultural products offered to hordes of eager consumers. However, the implications of this consumption go far beyond just audiences, the commodification of the undead and the perpetuation of global capitalism. There are social and psychological ramifications as well, particularly as they relate to our fear of Others, insecurities over self-reflection and the deep-seated paranoia over the possibility of an apocalyptic event. Some have even opined that the obsession over zombies is rooted in the temporality of the white-collar workforce in an age of economic displacement and the cementing of the divide between the haves and have-nots.”

The quote above by Balaji touches on many different elements of what the zombie could signify for various people. Some see it as social decay, a simple psychological fear of the dead/undead, fear of a potential apocalypse, or that the whole zombie genre is a commentary on American politics and economics. All of these elements will be discussed in the next section of this essay.

Zombie films and other forms of popular culture the zombie genre form a part of have most if not all of their origins in The United States of America and it soon enough became some sort of an obsession for the Americans, but to an extent also to the rest of the world but not to the same extent. It can be argued that the zombie craze is not only linked to America culturally, but also politically. The statement of it being political for America will be discussed further later in this essay. Zombies and what they symbolise and mean will be discussed in more depth later, but for now it can be said that the zombie genre is definitely omnipresent in American popular culture as a form of political propaganda.

The zombie genre is also a form of new historicism and cultural materialism. A simple definition for new historicism is that it is a approach based on the parallel reading of literary and non-literary texts, usually of the same historical period. New historicism refuses to ‘privilege’ the literary text (Barry, 2009: 116). Cultural materialism can be described as ‘a politicised form of historiography’. It can also be described as a foreword as designating a critical approach which has four characteristics, it combines an attention to: historical context; theoretical method; political commitment; and textual analysis (Barry, 2009: 121-122).

The zombie’s origins began in the form of some sort of voodoo and is part of old folklore associated with Africans and Native Americans. This is what makes the zombie a cultural phenomenon in part. Voodoo zombies are taboo and this contributes to the popularity of the monster (Bishop, 2010: 64). In the 21st century the zombie genre became an individual genre as it no longer fell under the horror genre. The zombie took over all forms of media in popular culture, not only literary but also non-literary media. The first person to make zombies truly popular was Romero who’s first zombie film was called Night of the Living Dead, but it can be argued that there were earlier forms of ‘zombies’ in novels and films. Romero moved the zombie away from voodoo and folklore and made it more gothic and supernatural like most other popular monsters that form part of popular culture (Bishop, 2010: 94).

Every few years a new ‘boss’ monster takes the spotlight in American popular culture, it started with ghosts, aliens, vampires and werewolves and now it is the zombie. In comparison, the attractive vampire that came before it, the zombie looks revolting and seems extremely tedious. Most of the older monsters were terrifying in some way, but the zombie appears to be no real threat because it is slow and stupid. What makes the zombie scary though is the fact that they rise from the dead, kill and eat living human beings and this makes them mindless killing machines regardless of their speed (Gomel, 2013: 31).

Zombies are basically human corpses raised from the dead in some or other way, but the repercussions of this is that these zombies instinctively have the urge for human flesh and/or brains. Zombies address fears inherent to the human condition and specific to the time of their resurrection (Platts, 2013: 587).

After the occurrence of 9/11 in America things began to change as the Americans became more anxious and fearful of not only other counties, but also other people. If anyone looked suspicious in any way people would steer clear of them in fear of their presence. Zombie narratives after 9/11 aided in expressing these American fears without audiences even realising it at times. Not only is it the portrayal of fear of the monster and violent death associated with it, but it is also accompanied with post-apocalyptic conditions, the collapse of infrastructure, survivalist fantasies being activated, and the general fear of other human beings (Pricehorn, 2015 :12).

The aftereffects of war, terrorism, and natural disasters, as seen and portrayed by America’s experiences closely resemble the scenarios of the zombie genre’s representation in the media (Platts, 2013: 548). Zombies have become phantasmal replacements for Islamist terrorists, illegal immigrants, carriers of foreign contagions, and other ‘dangerous’ border crossers that enter The United States of America on the pursuit of destroying the country from the inside out (Saunders, 2012: 80).

There are many theories behind what the zombie represents with regard to America, but one that often comes up is the following: it is the portrayal of fear experienced by the ‘superior’ white race in America being threatened by a possible overpowering by the ‘inferior’ black race in America. African Americans are seen as savage cannibals because of their roots in ‘dark’ Africa. The zombie can also represent people from ‘hated’ races, genders and religions (Cassells, 2015: 37).

From an evolutionary perspective, zombies produce generate terror because of a deep-rooted psychological fear of infectious contagions, loss of independence, and finally death. Culturally, zombies represent monstrous tabula rasa fears and anxieties. From a more modern perspective, zombie narratives more often than not present apocalyptic tales of societies in state collapse wherein a minority of survivors receive restricted refuge from zombie hordes (Platts, 2013: 587).

The zombie genre is both philosophical and political in nature, because it makes people question and debate the importance of life, the healthcare system and the financial institutions of the global economy. The zombie also emphasises the undoing and crumbling political system and is offered as a lens for the people of the outside to look into America (Boyer, 2014: 1139). Zombies are metaphors for illicit globalisation (Saunders, 2012: 80). Zombies are a popular cultural metaphor for the political ‘other’ illegal immigrants and not legal citizens. Within the zombie genre in whatever type of media, it often shows existing governmental institutions being overwhelmed by a zombie apocalypse, including local governments, the military, public health agencies, emergency services, and public utilities (Smith-Walter & Sharif, 2014: 336).

Smith (2016: 2) mentioned that the zombie can be used as a tool for measuring America and the rest of the world’s cultural anxieties. When looking at the zombie through the subject of cultural studies with regard to America, one of the theories are that the zombie is a manifestation of white Americans’ fear of the black African American citizens. The zombie monster is similar to a human being in many ways except for the fact that it is not intellectual at all, it has an animalistic mentality, and poses a danger to society. White Americans believed the same to be the case with the African Americans, but over time this view and feeling has declined and they have become more tolerable towards the African Americans. Assuming this is the theory behind the zombie, when analysing the zombie in popular culture, it can be said that it is possible to examine white Americans’ attitude towards the African American citizens.

Since the zombie is often viewed as being the ‘other’ in American popular culture, the otherness has recently become somewhat attractive in that it provides a strange specialness: pain and trauma distinguishes the individual’s complex uniqueness, and allow its truths to be spoken against normative social pressures. The zombie is a monster that can be seen as being pitiful, a victim of circumstance, a sacred being and an abject figure to some even. Discourse that exhibit the ‘conformism of objection’ includes names such as: wound culture, trauma culture, or victim culture (Botting, 2012: 29).

Bishop (2010: 158) mentioned that one of the ‘big’ questions people ask with regard to zombies is: ‘Are they dead or alive?’ the walking corpses called zombies used to be a terrifying monster for anyone seeing it on whatever form of media, but as time progressed, just like every other ‘scary’ monster, the zombie has been humanised in some or other way. This will be examined and discussed more later with regard to one of the chosen films for this essay, Warm Bodies.

Now before coming to the final part of the essay where the analysis of the two zombie films, Zombieland and Warm Bodies will be done, there is one last thing to said by Boyer (2014: 1139), the key lesson of all zombie texts is that the real threat is not the zombies, but instead the darker elements of humanity that obliterated civilisation long before the dead began to rise.

Before watching the two chosen films, a summary of each film will be given before identifying dominant images, icons, values and discursive formations. An opinion about each of the films will be given as well with regard to the theory that has been handles earlier in this essay.

Zombieland is set in American a few months after a disastrous disease infected almost everyone and turned them into zombies. The United States of America is now called The United States of Zombieland. Only a few people survived which is featured in the film as Columbus, a young male, Tallahassee, an older male, Wichita, a young female and her younger sister, Little Rock. Each has a mission, Columbus wants to find his parents, Tallahassee wants to find Twinkies, the two sisters want to go to the Pacific Playland, an amusement park which is apparently free of zombies. Columbus continuously work on his list of how to survive the zombie apocalypse because so far it has worked for him. The girls con the guys a few times but they always end up together again. Together they drive through zombies, shoot zombies and just try to get away from the zombies. At the amusement park, the activation of the rides and games drew the attention of the zombies and the guys had to go and rescue the girls from them. They are successful. Tallahassee finds his Twinkies, but soon after Columbus destroys it after being startled. The group leave together in the end and Columbus says that without other people you might as well all be a zombie, but the four of them are now a family as well.

When looking at the film, Zombieland, there are various different dominant images, icons, values and discursive formations. Below all of these things identified within the film will be named after which a deeper analysis and opinion of the film will be given.

Some of the dominant images within Zombieland include the following: blood; guts; death; zombies; running; shooting; weapons; deserted towns and cities; broken down cars; everything is dirty; and even military equipment that has been abandoned.

Many if not all of these images portray what a post-apocalyptic world would look like after everyone got infected and turned into zombies. Everything is destroyed and the human race is practically extinct in America. If someone somehow survived without getting infected it becomes a priority to stay alive and safe.

Some of the dominant icons within Zombieland include the following: tattered American flag; burning White House; fighting military; American military rituals following the death of Bill Murray.

All of these icons are related to America and show America’s demise after the zombie apocalypse, even the military and the president did not make it out alive and if some of them did, they could not save the country they resembled and stood for. It is clear to see that America has fallen as a result of the zombies taking over. Politically this is an extremely bad thing that is portrayed here: this means ‘the enemy’ won, whoever they may be: the Islamist terrorists, the Mexicans, the African Americans or whoever else it could have been.

Some of the dominant values within Zombieland include the following: rules are important and there for a reason; family and/or friends are very important; real names are kept secret in order to remain safe; there is a need/yearning for love, affection and acceptance; and last but not least, follow your instincts.

Columbus’ list of rules he made included the following rules: cardio is important; double tap when killing zombies; beware of bathrooms; seatbelts are important to wear; travel light; always check the backseat of a car; limber up before going into any possibly dangerous situation; when in doubt know your way out; enjoy the little things; and do not be a hero. Zombies attack when people are vulnerable thus the rule: beware of bathrooms. Columbus said more than once that you should never trust anyone, because they will either hurt you or coincidently be a zombie trying to eat you. The humans in Zombieland barely trusted each other.

Discursive formations identified within Zombieland include the following: the disease began because of a hamburger being contaminated by meat from a cow with madcow disease which infected human soon creative ‘mad’ zombies, this shows how the people in charge of health and safety of food were negligent and indirectly caused the apocalypse; the economy is destroyed; the medical officials and medicine was not good enough to prevent or cure the disease in humans; anxiety and fear rules most if not all people before and after the zombie apocalypse; survivors wish they could just be normal Americans again; there is safety in numbers; mistakes can cost lives; and it is important never to get attached to anyone or anything in The United States of Zombieland.

For survival Columbus, Tallahassee, Wichita and Little Rock stuck together. An example of mistakes costing lives is when the group goes to Bill Murray’s mansion to rest and Bill Murray himself is still alive but dressed up and made up to look like a zombie. He played a prank on Columbus resulting in him being shot in the chest and obviously this was fatal and he died.

Warm Bodies is a zombie film told from the zombie’s perspective, well, a zombie’s perspective and that zombie is simply known as R. R and many of the other zombies live at an airport while the humans live further away behind an extremely high wall. Bonies are also a type of zombie but they gave up on everything and gave in to the flesh-eating urge. What makes zombies and bonies different is not only their looks but their attitudes towards humans. Long story short, a group of humans go beyond the wall in order to get medical supplies because they are running low within the wall and while they are scavenging for supplies a group of zombies attach them, R is one of those zombies. Perry shoots R but does not kill him resulting in him raging out and killing him and eating his brains. When consuming a human’s brain, zombies receive all of their past memories, thus R received all of Perry’s memories and that in part is why he saved one of the human girls from the other zombies. That human girl was Perry’s girlfriend, Julie. After a long time of looking after her R begins to change slowly back into a human. Other zombies started to change too but bonies are beyond the point of no return. In the end, the zombies help the humans fight the bonies since they are also becoming human again. Once they are triumphant, humans accept the zombies and the zombies slowly turn into humans again. R and Julie fall in love with each other and watch together as the walls of the city gets destroyed now that it is a new world free of zombies. Basically, in an even shorter summary, Warm Bodies is the story of Romeo and Juliet.

When looking at the film, Warm Bodies, there are various different dominant images, icons, values and discursive formations. Below all of these things identified within the film will be named after which a deeper analysis and opinion of the film will be given.

Some of the dominant images in Warm Bodies include the following: news article titles about the disease spreading; zombies; bonies (also zombies but beyond the point of no return); deserted infrastructure; graffiti; death; R (zombie) and Julie (human) together; sleeping and dreaming means you are alive; wall gets broken down in the end; Warm Bodies is Romeo and Juliet.

As seen with simply their names R and Julie is Romeo and Juliet.

Some of the dominant icons in Warm Bodies include the following: the president of The United States of America is infected by the disease; bonies is the bad version of zombies; the military is active always with guarding and protecting the remaining humans.

On a political level America has definitely been affected by the disease and the zombies, but there seems to be some form of hope left since there are so many human survivors still. The zombies and bonies have not taken over yet. By distinguishing the zombies and bonies from one another is makes it apparent that even though they are the same (dead) they are also different almost as if though to say just because people are of the same religion or race or country, it does not mean that they are all the same. In short, do not stereotype people because of the group they represent, everyone is different.

Some of the dominant values in Warm Bodies include the following: zombies are lonely and lost, showing they have specks of humanity left in them; zombies use interspection often and keep asking themselves questions; there is safety in numbers; zombies kill to survive but hate hurting people; memories are important because they disappear so easily; it is possible to change; stay hopeful; and love trumps all.

Basically, here is proves that zombies are still part human and that anyone can change if they just get the opportunity to do so and to prove themselves. The film also tells us that love is a powerful thing and through love anything can be achieved.

Some discursive formations in Warm Bodies include the following: the zombies are waiting for something but do not know what in the beginning; zombies yearn to be human again; love can make a zombie human again if they have not turned into a bonie yet; death has become such a normal thing; zombies show remorse, bonies does not; they say there is no cure for the zombies and they will never change, but they did; humans and zombies unite to fight against the bonies and remain united afterwards as they all change back into humans.

the questions asked with regard to this essay have all been answered and discussed. The two films, Zombieland and Warm Bodies have been discussed with regard to dominant images, icons, values and discursive formations as well as a little extra analysis. The zombie genre as surprisingly fascinating really and I learned a lot while working on this assignment such as the symbolism and meaning behind the zombie. The two films may be from the same genre and have zombies in common, but one of the big things that distinguishes the two is the fact that the one film is from the human perspective and the other film is from the zombie perspective.




Princehorn, Z., 2015, Among the Living Dead: The             Zombie Narrative in a Post-9/11 Era, date viewed     15 June 2015, from       http://www.otterbein.edu/docs/default-      source/files/academics/Departments/English/swp-      awards/princehorn-ls-swp.pdf?sfvrsn=2.

Bishop, K.W., 2010, American Zombie Gothic,        McFarland & Company, Inc: North Carolina.

Gomel, E., 2013, Invasion of the Dead (Languages):         Zombie Apocalypse and the End of Narrative,            FRAME, 26 (1): 31-46.

Cassells, L., 2015, Magic to manic : the evolution of          the zombie figure In fiction and its basis In moral             panic dissemination, date viewed 15 June 2015,   from       http://repository.up.ac.za/bitstream/handle/2263/57      236/Cassells_Magic_2016.pdf?sequence=1&isAllo     wed=y.

Botting, F., 2012, The Gothic in Contemporary        Literature and Popular Culture, edited by Edwards   J.D. and Monnet A.S., Routledge: New York.

Smith, C., 2016, The Evolution of Protagonist-Zombie       Interactions in American Zombie Cinema: A Mirror           of Evolving Race Relations Between White and Black America, date viewed 15 June 2017, from           https://writing-speech.dartmouth.edu/sites/writing-      speech.dartmouth.edu/files/2016dickerson2-3- smith.pdf.

Boyer, E., 2014, Zombies All! The Janus-Faced      Zombie of the Twenty-first Century, The Journal of Popular Culture, 47 (6): 1139-1152.

Balaji, M., 2013, Thinking Dead: What the Zombie Apocalypse Means, Lexington Books: Lanham.

Platts, T.K., 2013, Locating Zombies in the Sociology        of Popular Culture, Sociology Compass, 7 (7): 547-       560.

Saunders, R.A., 2012, Undead Spaces: Fear,         Globalisation, and the Popular Geopolitics of        Zombiism, Geopolitics, 17 (1): 80-104.

Smith-Walter, A. and Sharif, F.S., 2014, Is   Government (Un)Dead?: What Apocalyptic Fiction          Tells Us About Our View Of Public Administration,   International Journal Of Organization Theory And       Behavior, 17 (3): 336-366.

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Intersection (Gender): Assignment 2

Gender and the division it causes in society is ever present and often a great theme in novels. Structural gendered imbalances will be identified and discussed as they manifest in and shape the experiences of different characters in the two chosen novels. The novels chosen for this essay is Isabel Allende’s The House of The Spirits and Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God. Stevi Jackson and Sue Scott (2002: 1) say the following with regard to gender:

“gender as we define it denotes a hierarchal division between men and women embedded in both social institutions and social practices. Gender is thus a social structural phenomenon but it is also produced, negotiated and sustained at the level of everyday interaction.”

OpenStax College (2013: 2) produced an article explaining the difference between sex and gender. The definitions they provided can be read below:

“Sex refers to physical or physiological differences between males and females, including primary sex characteristics (reproductive systems) and secondary characteristics (masculine or feminine attributes). Gender is a term that refers to social or cultural distinctions associated with being male or female.”

The difference between sex and gender according to Butler (1990: 6) aid in the argument that any biological interacting sex seems to have, does not influence that gender is culturally constructed. Butler (1988: 519-520) also stated the following with regard to gender:

“Gender is instituted through the stylization of the body in various different ways that constitute the illusion of an abiding gendered self. This formation moves the conception of gender off the ground of a substantial model of identity to one that requires a conception of a constituted social temporality.”

The history of the society people come from aid in giving a better understanding into hoe men and women lived. Through cultural social comparisons it is clearly observable that men and their actions held more value and probably still do in comparison to women and their actions. Men have always been considered to be more important and dominant than women, because they are the providers and women are the nurturers. This have resulted in inequality between the two sexes and/or genders (Holmes, 2007: 19).

Gender roles start forming children from a very young age that is rewarded and punished for either gender appropriate or gender inappropriate behaviours. This act both encourage and discourage children to behave in a certain way that is considered to be socially acceptable for their gender. This moulds the children into the adults they one day become. Their actions should then match what is associated with their gender and what they have been taught as children will manifest in their everyday lives as adults (Risman & Davis, 2012: 4).

Men and women differ from one another in the sense that men are considered to me more influential in society and that women are easily influenced according to society. There are often status inequalities between men and women as well. Men are more often than not, socially and financially above women. The higher the status, the more influence a man possess over women. In a lower socioeconomic status, men and women are often seen as equals with regard to the influence they possess. What is comes down to is that social gender roles and equality varies with socioeconomic status (Eagly, 1983: 971).

How children are taught their gender appropriate behaviours as well as seeing how the socioeconomic status of characters influence their equality and power will be discussed below with specific regard to two novels. The two chosen novels for this topic is Isabel Allende’s The House of The Spirits and Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God in that order.

Isabel Allende’s The House of the Spirits is a novel that tells the story of three generations of women, who is also the protagonists of the novel: Clara, Blanca and Alba. All three of these characters stand up for their rights as women in a male dominated society, each in their own way. These three women rarely condemn gender inequality however, they are influenced by it. Without causing too much waves, each of these women stood up against the patriarchal society in their own ways which turned out to be far more effective in challenging a continuing struggle for change (Ahrling, 2010: 5-6).

Alba’s purpose in The House of the Spirits is of a dual nature: to recover her female ancestors’ story and to continue enduring through their empowerment (Smith, 2009: 80). Through Alba, Clara and Blanca’s voices are heard, it would otherwise have been lost and forgotten (Thomson, 2016: 47).

The period of time in which the story of The House of the Spirits is set in, the military destroy the country and erase many if not all of its previous history. Alba writes her family’s story and she includes all the important women in her life in the story and all the things they did. Alba and her female ancestors thus become living symbols of a more embracing way of looking at history. Alba allows her grandfather, Esteban, to narrate some parts of the story as well, but he never truly overpower her narration even when he tries. He tells the same story, but from his perspective. In his perspective of the story, it is clearly notable that Esteban is a stubborn patriarch that insist he is always right even when contrary evidence is presented in the form of Clara’s notebooks. Alba uses her grandmother’s notebooks to be able to write a more inclusive kind of story (Smith, 2009: 80).

There is a clear division between the male and female characters in Isabel Allende’s The House of the Spirits. There is an unequal standing of power that one sex (male), maintain over the other (female), through religion, control of sexuality, denial of equal privileges, and violence (Hubata-Ashton, 2012: 13). In The House of the Spirits, Esteban realised that Clara did not belong to him and as long as she continued living in her own world filled with spirits, she probably never would. Esteban did once believe that he could own her or at the very least control her as seen in Allende (1986: 96):

“He wanted far more than her body; he wanted control over that undefined and luminous material that lay within her and that escaped him even in those moments when she appeared to be dying of pleasure.”

In The House of the Spirits women are viewed to be second-class in status in comparison to men. The female characters in the novel stand up for their rights and gender equality through what is considered to be feminism. Clara and Alba are considered to be third-wave feminists and Blanca is part of second-wave feminism which happened during the late 1960’s. All three of the women support one another with their endeavours (Hubata-Ashton, 2012: 8-9).

Throughout the novel, The House of the Spirits, however there are indications of how men and women should be according so society and the family and instances showing how the women in the novel go against what is expected of them. A few examples include the following:

“It was the custom then for women and children not to attend funerals, which were considered a male province, but at the last-minute Clara managed to slip into the cortège to accompany her sister Rosa…” (Allende, 1986: 34).

“If women don’t know that two and two are four, how are they going to be able to handle a scalpel? Their duty is motherhood and the home. At the rate they’re going, the next thing you know they’ll be asking to be deputies, judges – even President of the Republic!” (Allende, 1986: 77).

“Since when has a man not beaten his wife? If he doesn’t beat her, it’s either because he doesn’t love her or because he isn’t a real man. Since when is a man’s pay check or the fruit of the earth or what the chickens lay shared between them, when everybody knows he is the one in charge? Since when has a woman ever done the same things as a man? Besides, she was born with a wound between her legs and without balls, right, Señora Clara?” they would say. Clara was beside herself.” (Allende, 1986: 106).

“He had finally come to accept – beaten into it by the tide of new ideas – that not all women were complete idiots, and he believed that Alba, who was too plain to attract a well-to-do husband, could enter one of the professions and make her living like a man.” (Allende, 1986: 301).

Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God is considered to be an enthralling novel by Hooks (1995: 245) because of the way in which it challenges conservative sexist beliefs of a woman’s role in marriage and romantic love, persisting on the importance of female self-actualisation. Their Eyes Were Watching God has also been referred to as an ‘apologia’ for traditional sex and gender roles and it has been commended as one of the earliest and clearest black feminist novels. The novel has been seen as being about the quest for self-fulfilment or self-identity. It is also considered to be a novel about black love and the humanistic principles that love embodies, and it has been both defended and condemned. The reason for that is because Their Eyes Were Watching God expresses its protest against white injustice only by affirming the creative power of black folk life (Pondrom, 1986: 181).

Black women as seen in Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God, can be considered to be doubly oppressed and suppressed. The reason for this is because they live in a patriarchal society where men dominate and also, they still experience the after-effects of the slavery and colonialization which was caused by the white Americans. Black women were considered to be objects that men could possess and apart from working hard at home and being obedient, women were also seen as a source of pleasure for both their husbands and their white masters (Fard & Zarrinjooee, 2014: 474).

The protagonist of Their Eyes Were Watching God is called Janie. She went through three marriages I her lifetime. The first was to a farmer named Logan. She was never happy with him and that is why she left him for Jody. Janie always thought that once she got married it will be the best romantic experience ever, but her realisation came rather soon as seen in Hurston (2007: 34), “She knew now that marriage did not make love. Janie’s first dream was dead, so she became a woman.”

Eatonville is the town in Florida in which Janie went to settle in live with Jody, but in this town gender roles was still taken very seriously. Women had to stay at home while their husbands worked or socialised. The men were known for beating their wives regularly especially after a stressful or frustrating day at work. This is how the men kept asserting their dominance in their relationships. Regardless of being beaten so often, the women stuck by their husbands, because a single woman in Eatonville is worth nothing (Van Rees, 2012: 10). An example of this can be seen as written by Hurston (2007: 121-122) when Jody dies and leaves Janie a widow in Eatonville:

“Uh woman by herself is uh pitiful thing,” she was told over and again. “Dey needs aid and assistance. God never meant ‘em tuh try tuh stand by theirselves. You ain’t been used tuh knockin’ round and doin’ fuh yo’self, Mis’ Starks. You been well taken keer of, you needs a man.”

“Womenfolks is easy taken advantage of. You know what tuh let none uh dese stray niggers dat’s settin’ round heah git de inside track on yuh. They’s jes lak uh pack uh hawgs, when dey see uh full trough. What yuh needs is uh man dat yuh done lived uhround and know all about tuh sort of manage yo’ things fuh yuh and generally do round.”

At the young age of only sixteen years old, Janie was forced by her grandmother to marry an older man, a farmer names Logan. Janie is a bit of a romantic and therefore runs off with Jody, a young up-and-coming black business man. After twenty years of being together, he passes away and this is when Janie met a younger man, Tea Cake. For two years they were happy together, but after being bitten by a dog infected with rabies, Tea Cake tried to kill Janie. She had no choice but to kill him in self-defence. Their Eyes Were Watching God is written in a way which white Americans see black people as being, very simple and traditional (Wright, 1993: 17).

After Tea Cake’s death Janie returned to Eatonville in overalls and none of her old fancy clothes. Many of the members of the Eatonville community thought that Tea Cake stole her money and left her alone, but she knows what the truth is and did not care what they thought. Janie decided to tell Phoeby what happened, not to explain herself or to justify her situation, but simply because she is her friend (Padhi, 2014: 50).

Janie had oppressive experiences with all three of the men she was married to and also with her grandmother in the beginning of her story. She became weak and spoiled at some point, but in the end of the novel there is a change. Janie gets a strong sense of self, reaches self-actualisation and finds her own voice after developing into an independent woman (Safitri, 2007: 18-19).

Throughout the novel, Their Eyes Were Watching God, there are many instances where the men in Janie’s life tries to tell her what to do and how to behave. There is also instances where the men talk among one another about women. A few examples include the following:

“Six months back he [Logan] had told her, “If Ah kin haul de wood heah and chop it fuh yuh, look lak you oughta be able tuh tote it inside. Mah fust wife never bothered me ‘bout choppin’ no wood nohow. She’d grab dat ax and sling chips lak uh man. You done been spoilt rotten.” (Hurston, 2007: 35).

[Joe:] “Somebody got to think for women and chillun and chickens and cows. I god, they sho don’t think none theirselves.” (Hurston, 2007: 95).

“Ah knows uh few things, and womenfolks thinks sometimes too!” (Hurston, 2007: 95).

“Aw naw they don’t. They just think they’s thinkin’. When Ah see one thing Ah understands ten. You see ten things and don’t understand one.” (Hurston, 2007: 95).

[Tea Cake:] “Put dat two hundred back wid de rest, Janie. Mah dice. Ah no need no assistance tuh help me feed mah woman. From now on, you gointuh eat whutever mah money can buy uh and wear de same. When Ah ain’t got nothin’ you don’t git nothin’.” (Hurston, 2007: 171).

Isabel Allende’s The House of The Spirits and Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God, are both novels telling the story of female protagonists. Even though the characters from the two novels come from different racial and cultural backgrounds, gender inequality was present in both novels. Structural gendered imbalances and their everyday manifestations was discussed along with how this shaped the characters in the two novels I have chosen to do with regard to this topic.




Ahrling, J., 2010, A Feminist Reading of The House of      the Spirits, Song of Solomon, and One Hundred             Years of Solitude, viewed 1 August, from    https://www.diva-      portal.org/smash/get/diva2:419360/FULLTEXT01.p      df.

Allende, I., 1986, The House of Spirits, Bantam Books:     New York.

Butler, J., 1988, Performative Acts and Gender       Constitution: An Essay in Phenomenology and             Feminist Theory, Theatre Journal, 40(4): 519-531.

Butler. J., 1990, Gender Trouble: Feminism and the           Subversion of Identity, Routledge: New York.

Eagly, A.H., 1983, Gender and Social Influence: A             Social Psychological Analysis, viewed 26 July, from       http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=

Fard, Z.M. and Zarrinjooee, B., 2014, The Double Oppression of Black Women in Their Eyes Were      Watching God, Journal of Novel Applied Sciences,          3(5): 474-481.

Habuta-Ashton, R., 2012, Isabel Allende’s The House       of the Spirits: Examining Magical Realism as It       Bears Witness to Life, viewed 1 August, from       https://www.midlandstech.edu/sites/default/files/mt      c/academics/Eng_Dept/2012%20Ashton.pdf.

Holmes, M., 2007, What is Gender? Sociological    Approaches, SAGE Publications Inc: Los Angeles.

Hooks, B., 1995, Zora Neale Hurston a Subversive            Reading, Black Women’s Diasporas, Volume 2 of        Moving Beyond Boundaries. Edited by Davies,            C.B., New York University Press, 244-55.

Hurston, Z.N., 2007, Their Eyes Were Watching God,       Harper & Row Publishers Inc.: New York.

Jackson, S. and Scott, S., 2002, Gender: A Sociological Reader, Routledge: New York.


OpenStax College, 2013, The Difference Between Sex     and Gender, viewed 21 July, from file:///C:/Users/Chan/Downloads/the-difference-           between-sex-and-gender-5.pdf.

Padhi, P.K., 2014, Thematic Concerns in Zora Neale         Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God, Journal      Of Humanities and Social Science, 19(9): 48-52.

Pondrom, C., 1986, The Role of Myth in Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God, American         Literature, 58(2): 181-202.

Risman, B.J., and Davis, G., 2012, From sex roles to        gender structure, viewed 28 July, from       http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/00113      92113479315.

Safritri, A.A., 2007, Feminism Approach-Based       Character Analysis on Zora Neale Hurston’s Their            Eyes Were Watching God, viewed 2 August, from       http://repository.uinjkt.ac.id/dspace/bitstream/1234      56789/15573/1/AJENG%20ANNISA%20SAFITRI-       FAH.pdf.

Smith, K.M., 2009, Telling (T)he(i)r Story: The Rise of       Female Narration and Women’s History in Isabel      Allende’s The House of the Spirits, Florida Atlantic       Comparative Studies Journal, 11(1): 79-92.

Thomson, E., 2016, “Not to Die, but to Survive”: The       Construction of Female Voice in Isabel Allende’s          The House of the Spirits, Undergraduate Research        Journal, 8(1): 41-48.

Van Rees, H., 2012, Their Eyes Were Watching God:       Black Feminism and White Ideals, viewed 3            August, from       https://dspace.library.uu.nl/bitstream/…/BA%20The      sis%20Hilde%20van%20Rees%2036

Wright, R., 1993, Their Eyes Were Watching God. Zora Neale Hurston Critical Perspectives Past and          Present. Edited by Appiah, A. and Gates, H.L. Jnr.,         Amistad, 16-24.

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Intersections (Race) Assignment 1

Race and racism in whatever form are often topics of interest in different novels and films. Race plays a big role in both, To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee and Triomf by Marlene van Niekerk. Stereotypes and prejudices that occur because of race and will be the main points of focus in this essay in relation to the two novels mentioned above. What will be done exactly is the following: First, the two terms, stereotypes and prejudice, will be defined. Second, stereotypes and prejudices will be discussed with regard to what it is, how it is interpreted, some examples perhaps and general information about it. Third, To Kill A Mockingbird and Triomf will be discussed with the topics of racial stereotypes and prejudices in mind and how both of these acts are present and represented within the two novels.

Before the real topic at hand can be discussed, the definitions of both stereotypes and prejudices has to be known in order to further discuss the meanings, ideologies and examples of it. Stereotypes is a commonly understood, but fixed and overgeneralised image or idea of a particular thing or group of people, in the case of this assignment, people that is a part of the black race. Prejudices are quite similar to stereotypes, but the specific definition is that is it a preconceived opinion that is not based on reason, fact or personal experience, there is also racial prejudices towards black people and other races, but specifically towards black people with regard to this essay.

Racial stereotypes and racial prejudices come from set ideas and opinions about racial groups, but specifically the black race for the purpose of this assignment. Below some additional information will be given with regard to both stereotypes as well as prejudices. Some parts of the information that will be given below will be purely about stereotypes or prejudices, but some bits of information will be about both of these concepts. It can be argued that racial stereotypes and prejudices come from individuals who are considered to be racists which is another group of people found within society in the past and still today. Racist ideologies dominate most other shared social representations, especially racist attitudes, racial prejudices and racial stereotypes (Van Dijk, 2000: 98).

Group categories such as identity, feelings, beliefs, and related mental structures are all factors expressed in human interactions that influence the structure and basic conditions of social organisations. Bobo and Fox (2003: 319) go on by saying that race, racism, and discrimination that happen because of racial stereotypes and prejudices, can also be seen as sources and methods of hierarchal differentiation that shape the ordering of social relations as well as the sharing of life experiences and life choices.

Mai (2016: 2) stated that no matter how true or false a stereotype is, it is mostly based on some reality, truth, a half-truth, or a full-blown fact. Universally, it is a natural tendency to seek people with which there are common interests, hobbies, habits, beliefs, languages and so on. The more people have in common with one another the more comfortable they will feel around these people. In some cases, individuals seek out other individuals from which they differ in many aspects as to learn from them, but unfortunately doing this can be criticised, certain individuals could argue that different races should not mix company. This is an obstacle in the road that society has to get over to be able to make any sort of progress.

Stereotypes of any sort tend to have a negative impact on society, especially in the following ways as written by Mai (2016: 5-6): It traps people in a certain mindset with regard to things or groups of people and this is then extremely hard to change within these people since it becomes so fixed in their minds; when someone believes in stereotypes they refuse  to acknowledge the existence of the possibility of people being part of a group, but not fitting the stereotype at all; stereotypes just like many other mindsets can result in self-fulfilling prophecies because of the link between belief and behaviour.

Stereotypes are generally seen to be a negative phenomenon that only racists engage in, but many different people have a tendency of putting others in a box of some sort regardless of knowing that they are judging these people based on a stereotype. Stereotyping have become a natural thing to do in today’s society and it is hard to be unlearned though it is possible to do so. It is especially hard to shake off this habit because many people who engage in stereotyping find it hard to accept anything that proves the contrary of any stereotype that they believe in (Mai, 2016: 2).

A common existing stereotype about the black race is that they are more likely that other races to be violent or to engage in criminal behaviour. The stereotype of black people being criminals is a widely known stereotype and it is deeply embedded especially within the minds of American regardless of the level of prejudice or personal beliefs they have with regard to this stereotype (Quilliam & Pager, 2001: 721-722).

Prejudices of any sort, but specifically racial prejudices in this case, can start because of the following aspects that occur between different groups of people: conflict of resources; conflict of desires and the ‘blame game’; institutional support and so on (Mai, 2016: 9-11). Mai (2016: 7) then goes on to say that stereotypes can on the odd occasion be considered to be positive, but prejudices are always negative, there is no exception. Prejudices are also usually accompanied with feelings of hostility, rage and judgement. Prejudices are also emotionally fuelled and as well as being a personal attitude/thought process and this can all be transferred into actions which then manifests as discrimination.

At am individual level and not just on group levels, racisms are often expressed in the form of prejudice either in direct or insinuating way. Knowing that prejudices suggest negative attitudes and beliefs, it can often become self-fulfilling prophesies as mentioned before and that would then support and validate prejudiced judgements. When contrary evidence in the form of one or more individuals being different is presented to prejudiced people, they refuse to acknowledge or believe it as proof that the group is not in fact like the stereotype of prejudice and perhaps instead simply and exception to the rule (Sanson et.al. 1997: 12).

Below the ideologies discussed above will be discussed with specific relation to the novel, To Kill A Mockingbird and then toTriomf. Specific articles with regard to the topic and books will be used as well as my own application of examples from the novels and their films (if films are available) to present evidence of racial stereotypes and prejudices present in both of the books.

Class, gender as well as racial prejudices are introduced to Jem and Scout in To Kill A Mockingbird. This is a novel in which these two children learn about life and themselves as a part of it and that society is not always fair to those who do not fit in or follow society’s predetermined rules (Best, 2009: 541). To Kill A Mockingbird is also considered to be a coming-of-age novel and/or as a commentary on racial injustice in the south of the United States of America in the 1930’s (Ernst, 2015: 1020).

Racism is openly presented in To Kill A Mockingbird, sometimes subtle and sometimes blatant through the means of actions and words uttered by the citizens of Maycomb. The layout of the town even supports the segregation of the different races and classes, one area for whites, one area for the ‘white-trash’ and another area for the blacks. The different races are also not allowed to mix company in public places such as the court (Nair, 2014: 208). When Tom Robinson is a black man who is wrongly accused of raping Mayella Ewell who is a white woman, he has to go to court for his trail and it is seen how white and black people are kept separate from one another, the black people has to sit in the gallery and the white people is sitting at the bottom in the court. Before the trail even started the white citizens of Maycomb called Atticus Finch a ‘nigger lover’ because he dared to take Tom’s case to try and help him. The white people in this town also often called black people ‘niggers’, which is slang for Negro which is what black people were called during that time, but it was also considered to be extremely disrespectful to call anyone that term.

The children in To Kill A Mockingbird are exposed to society’s racism and other injustices through Tom Robinson’s trail. The Children’s father, Atticus Finch, Tom’s lawyer, is also faced with significant disapproval from the white citizens of Maycomb (Ernst, 2015: 1021). Other than being called a ‘nigger lover’ for helping Tom, Atticus also faced a mob of angry white men wanting to inflict harm on Tom when he was in jail awaiting is trail the next day and he has to ward them off, lucky for him is children followed him into town and indirectly came to his rescue since their presence resulted in the mob taking their leave. Atticus soon after tells his son, Jem, that there are ugly things in the world, by which he means racism, that he wishes he could keep away from him in order to protect him from the harshness of what society can do.

The people in Maycomb who are considered to be racists, think that all black people are part of a dishonoured race, are undependable and dishonest (Nair, 2014: 208). Mister Ewell confronted Atticus when he heard that he is the man defending Tom Robinson in court and told him that he is sorry that he has to defend a black man. Another example of this is when everyone just assumed Tom is guilty of the crime he was accused of simply because he is a black man. When Tom said he helped Mayella Ewell with little tasks around the house for free, he said the reason for it was that he felt sorry for her, every white person in court was in shock because of his statement and said how dare he, a black man, feel sorry for a white woman. During Atticus’ closing statement in court he made a few more points against the state for Tom showing obvious signs of prejudice and stereotypes being present in Maycomb and that court. Some of the things Atticus pointed out was: Mayella tempted Tom but he was accused of rape because if she admitted that she was the one to tempt him, she would be ridiculed for it, she kissed a black man; The state witnesses was confident on the witness stand because they believed that the all-white jury would believe their testimonies against Tom and that everyone would believe the ‘evil’ assumption that all black people lie, all black people are immoral beings and all black men cannot be trusted around white women.

Tom Robinson’s trail can be seen as an excellent example of injustice because of racial prejudice in To Kill A Mockingbird. He was prejudged by many different people purely because of the colour of his skin (Hutami, 2014: 23-24). The state continuously tried to twist Tom’s words and use it against him in court, but the injustice can be shown in ways other than this. When the jury came back from discussing the trail and deciding on a verdict, the said that they find Tom Robinson guilty of the crime he was charged for even though throughout the trail Atticus made so many points clear to them to why Tom could not have assaulted and raped Mayella as well as motivation as to why Mayella may have accused him of that crime. Atticus was so sure that he and Tom could appeal the case and have another try at clearing Tom’s name, but later that evening after taking Tom to a jail out of town for his own safety, Tom ran and was shot because of it, he died from the hit. There was no justice for the innocent black man wrongly accused of a crime he did not commit.

In the end of the film though, the sheriff did admit that Tom was innocent and that a black man is dead for no reason, showing that some white individuals did know they were wrong to judge a man based on the colour of his skin. The Finch family was also not racist and loved and respected Calpurnia, a black woman working for them at their house.

The whites of South Africa are often referred to as the Afrikaner and they expected their women like in Marlene van Niekerk’s novel, Triomf, translated into English by Leon de Kock, to transfer themselves to and cooperate in the establishment of Afrikaner nationalism’s volks-utopia by taking on the role of the patient and suffering volksmoeder who would sacrifice everything for God and Vaderland (Rossman, 2012: 160). This may not sound that bad, but it is in fact a stereotype that has formed over the years of how older white Afrikaner women are or should be according to society.

Marlene van Niekerk’s use of demotic Afrikaans and the pervasive code-switching in Triomf is linked to the novel’s antinationalist project, which satirises related idea about white Afrikaner racial ‘purity’ and the linguistic integrity of white Afrikaans (Devarenne, 2006: 106). There is a stereotype that only white people speak Afrikaans when in reality other races speak the language as well. It is also believed by whites that they are pure just like the Afrikaans language, but anyone who mixes their language are not considered pure and the same goes for when mixing company with other races. This is obviously not true, but not all stereotypes are based on truths, and only based on false truths.

The town called Triomf in Gauteng where the story plays out is where the old Sophiatown used to be locate before it was demolished to make a new living area for the poor whites of South Africa. The people who live there sees this as a triumphant achievement of Afrikaner racial domination of blacks, hint the name of the town (Devarenne, 2006: 111). The stereotype of whites always dominating blacks is coming up in the passage above, but not all white was or are like that.

As with all races, with the white Afrikaner race, classes exist, having said that the Benade family in Triomf is considered to be white trash and white trash has a stereotype connected to them. The stereotype is that white trash people more often than not engage in incest in order to remain pure and keep their superior genetics, but in reality, this ‘scrambles’ their genetics completely. The mother, Mol, started out by giving her son, Lambert, hand jobs to calm him down whenever he got aggressive with his fits, but eventually that was not enough and he wanted to put his thing in her as they say. Mol gave up her body for her son and brothers in order to keep the family happy and together (Devarenne, 2006: 106). The Benade family also believes that they are racially superior because they are white Afrikaners and engage in incest in order to not mix with coloured or blacks and to stay pure. The stereotype here is that white Afrikaners engage in incest in order to remain pure, but this is rarely ever the case.

The Benade family also engage in incest because they are not good enough to mix with other whites, but they were initially not allowed to mix with coloureds or blacks because of the Apartheid government that existed shortly before the time the novel’s story played out. At a later point in the novel for Lambert’s birthday Pops and Treppie ‘bought’ him a prostitute for the day who was a coloured girl whose company he enjoyed so much (Botha, 2011: 29). This part of the novel contradicts the stereotypes of white people not mixing with blacks or coloureds.

Within this essay race, racisms, stereotypes and prejudices have been defined and discussed and identified within Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird and Marlene van Niekerk’s Triomf. The first novel is about the unjust treatment of a black man based on the colour of his skin, he was judged based on stereotypes and was prejudiced against in the old American South. Luckily it was not all bad, because there was compassion from the Finch family towards black people and they did not act different to black people just because they are black, they respected them for who they are. The second novel plays out in a recently democratic South Africa soon after Apartheid. This is a story about the Benade family who is white Afrikaners who is considered to be poor whites also known as white trash. Some stereotypes come into play in this novel with regard to white people believing that they are superior over other races and in order to stay pure they had to engage in incest. Incest is also a stereotypical kind of behaviour associated with white trash people, but not all poor whites are like that and not all whites are obsessed with staying pure or believe that they are superior to other races in anyway. This assignment showed me that Racial stereotypes and prejudices to more harm than good, but that there is still hope out there, there is still good people out there that regardless of race respect one another for being the person they are. History was not kind and pinned the different races against each other, but in our modern society things are changing for the better and race does not play as big as a role as it once did.




Best, R.H., 2009, Panopticism and the Use of “the Other” in To Kill a Mockingbird Best, The Mississippi Quarterly, 62:(¾),  541 – 552.

Bobo, L.D. & Fox, C., 2003, Race, Racism, and      Discrimination: Bridging Problems, Methods, and       Theory in Social Psychological Research, Social            Psychology Quarterly, 66:(4), 319-332.

Botha, C., 2011, On The Way Home: Heidegger and         Marlene van Niekerk’s Triomf, Phronimon, 12:(1),      19 – 39.

Devarenne, N., 2006, “In hell you hear only your     mother tongue”: Afrikaner Nationalist Ideology,             Linguistic Subversion, and Cultural Renewal in       Marlene van Niekerk’s Triomf, Research In African    Literatures, 37:(4), 105 – 120.

Ernst, J.L., 2015, Women In Litigation Literature: The        Exoneration Of Mayella Ewell In To Kill A    Mockingbird, date viewed 20 May 2017, from           http://ideaexchange.uakron.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi      ?article=1276&context=akronlawreview.

Hutami, W.T.R., 2014, Racial Prejudice Revealed In          Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird, viewed 20 May             2017, from       http://eprints.uny.ac.id/19356/1/Wening%20Tyas%      20Rah%20Hutami%2007211144025.pdf.

Mai, N.P., 2016, Potential Problems In Crosscultural       Communications: Stereotypes, Prejudices, And            Racism, viewed 20 May 2017, from       http://www.amsterdamuas.com/binaries/…/chapter-      4-stereotypes-prejudices-racism.pdf?.

Nair, P., 2014, Racial Elements in Harper Lee’s To Kill      A Mockingbird, The Criterion: An International             Journal in English, 5:(6), 207 – 211.

Quillian, L. & Pager, D., 2001, Black Neighbors,      Higher Crime? The Role of Racial Stereotypes in      Evaluations of Neighborhood Crime, American            Journal of Sociology, 107:(3), 717–767.

Rossman, J., 2012, Martha(martyr)dom: Compassion,      Sacrifice and the Abject Mother in Marlene van           Niekerk’s Triomf, Current Writing: Text and            Reception in Southern Africa, 24:(2), 159 – 168.

Sanson, A. et.al., 1997, Racism and Prejudice A    Psychological Perspective, The Australian     Psychological Society Ltd: Australia.

Van Dijk, T.A., 2000, 5  Ideologies, Racism,             Discourse: Debates on Immigration and Ethnic   Issues, viewed 20 May 2017, from          http://discourses.org/OldArticles/Ideologies,%20rac      ism,%20discourse.pdf.


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English Heritage (Renaissance) Assignment 1

The tragedy and the tragic hero has always been a significant theme often present in renaissance texts. Richard II by William Shakespeare and Doctor Faustus by Christopher Marlowe are both considered to be tragedies with a tragic hero present. These two texts will be used within this paper to discuss tragedy as renaissance literature as well as various elements present in tragedies as well as to what extent it relates to the philosopher, Aristotle’s idea of tragedy. The various elements include: Personal failure of the hero/heroine and their misfortune; The moral value systems that underlie each play and; The effect the play has on the audience and relating it to the way Aristotle described it. These various elements will be discussed with regard to Richard II first and then with regard to Doctor Faustus.

The Renaissance era was from 1300 – 1700 and this period in time within Europe can be regarded as being a bridge of some sort between the Middle ages and what we now consider as modern history. The word ‘renaissance’ though is derived from French and it translates to the word ‘rebirth’. The history of where the word or name of the era comes from is very important and valid when learning about the Renaissance era, because many changes occurred throughout Europe during this period almost as if though Europe has been reborn. The most significant changes that occurred during this time though is with regard to art and intellect. More and more people had the chance to get educated and to educate others in various fields and on various topics. On the other hand, another group of individuals explored art much more in the form of paintings, sculptures, poetry and plays. The Renaissance era was a very important period in time for literature as we know it today, because it helped shape the present and will continue shaping the future with what we learned from it. One of the important impacts the Renaissance era has on literature was in the form of plays, but more specifically, tragedies.

The tragedy type of plays emerged within the Renaissance era and is to this day one of the recognising characteristics of the Renaissance era. The tragedy however does refer to a play of some sort, but it had its origin roots pre-Renaissance, but not really in the form of a play exactly, but rather in the form of an extremely long poem telling the life story and sometimes the death of some known or fictional figure in the past (Pincombe, 2010: 3).

Sutherland (2014: 23), pointed out that Aristotle, with regard to tragedy, made the point that it is not what is portrayed in tragedy which affects the audience or reader, and gives aesthetic pleasure, but instead how the tragedy is represented. What the audience or reader enjoy is not the cruelty, but the art, the representation or imitation, mimesis as Aristotle called it. Aristotle also had other elements which he considered to be part of tragedy other than imitation which are the following: an action that is serious; complete and of a certain magnitude; language embellished with artistic ornaments; acting, not narration and; catharsis.

Reeves (1952: 187), wrote an article where he said the following with regard to what Aristotle’s idea of tragedy and the tragic hero: “Since man is by nature moral and since pity and fear depend upon certain moral conditions to evoke them, it is now clear why the type of tragic hero must be defined in moral terms. It could hardly be otherwise. The hero, the course of the plot, the character, the convolutions of discovery and reversal, and all the machinery of the practical creation of the tragic effect must be adjusted to the moral nature of man and the moral origin of the tragic emotions.”

Haupt (1973: 21), also had something to say with regard to Aristotle’s idea and what he said was that for Aristotle a tragedy must incite specific emotions in the audience or reader which is pity and fear, and that a totally ‘good’ man who meets a terrible fate is horrible instead of pitiful or fear-provoking. Thus, a tragic hero needs to be both good and bad. The tragic hero should also not be met with a ‘disaster’ he deserves, because that would not evoke pity in the audience or reader, the penance always outweighs the crime committed which in turn makes the character a tragic hero.

What also makes a tragic hero, other than what has been mentioned above, is that the character that is considered to be a tragic hero often strives for more and tries to be better and this has some sort of disastrous effect. Soon after the tragic hero realise that what they have done is wrong and they try to undo what has been done, this usually happens too late and then they have to pay for their actions or sins in a way that is much worse than anticipated.

Other than Aristotle’s idea of tragedy and the tragic hero, fate and fortune or perhaps rather misfortune, plays a very big role in tragedies. Another element that plays a big role within tragedies is the presence or absence of a moral or value system in the protagonist. Even though Aristotle said that a tragedy should inspire fear and pity in the audience or reader, it happens almost all the time anyway, because people live themselves into the play that they are watching or reading and this makes them feel everything vicariously through the characters.

Now what has been written above will be identified and applied within the two texts, Richard II and Doctor Faustus.

Aristotle’s idea of tragedy relates well to the Shakespearean play, Richard II, Richard was not a good king and definitely not a good man and that is why in the end when he falls, the audience or reader felt pity towards him and also a little bit of fear because of how he was lead to his downfall.

Richard II was written by Shakespeare and the play is considered to be both a history and a tragedy because it was originally called: “The Tragedie of King Richard, the Second.” Richard II also seemed to be a drama centred around the fall of the protagonist, Richard, producing the intense emotions unique to tragedy. Richard II is also considered to be a tragedy rather than just another history because the plot of the play goes beyond just political questions and makes them irrelevant (Elliot, 1968: 256).

Within the play, Richard II, Richard is a king and this is made clear to the audience or reader even within the first scenes of the play. He has to handle a dispute between two parties and this soon enough results into a problem for him. Richard is soon after suspected of murder after a character known as Woodstock was found dead. Richard is soon after arrested and held captive for his ‘sins’, not long after being prosecuted, Richard died. Richard was also described as being unruly, impulsive, conceited, and selfish. These are not qualities of a ‘good’ man and can lead to a swift demise as it did in this play (Franco, 2008: 7).

What aided in Richard’s fall and ultimate demise was a rebellion that arose against him and so Richard was forced to resign his crown and throne. Henry Bolingbroke is the one who took the crown afterwards and this made Richard want revenge on him, but Henry was a better man than Richard and did not make the same mistakes as he did as king. Richard’s vengefulness is what ultimately lead to his death (Franco, 2008: 8).

Fortune is not permanent and secure, but instead it can be modified and changed. Henry was able to alter his own fate and fortune as well as Richard’s fate and fortune when he took the crown, but Richard’s take on fate and fortune was completely different to Henry’s take on it. Richard believed it to be fixed and that no matter what, he will always have it. His take on fate and fortune was quite medieval (Franco, 2008: 32).

Richard was quite conceited and did not want to believe that Henry Bolingbroke could take his throne from him and that the rebellion would fail, he said the following words with regard to this topic as written by Shakespeare (1986: 386): “His treason will sit blushing in his face, not able to endure the sight of day, but self-affrighted tremble at his sin. Not all the water in the rough sea can wash the balm off from and anointed king. The breath of worldly men cannot depose the deputy elected by the Lord, for every man that Bolingbroke hath pressed to lift shrewd steel against our golden crown, God for his Richard hath in heavenly pay a glorious angel; then, if angels fight, weak men must fall, for heaven still guards the right.”.

Stow (1999: 601), believed that Richard’s personality is what actually lead to his downfall to an extent and not just his vengefulness alone. There was never any agreement or deals to be reached with him and even today he is still considered to be one of the most mysterious and misunderstood kings of all time.

Richard was a dangerous man and his breakdown in the end was considered to be a tragedy. The revenge he wanted to achieve made him reckless, he lost control and this lead to his demise (Stow, 1999: 602).

The play evokes some form of fear within the audience or reader, but more so pity was evoked. One starts feeling pity towards Richard from the point where he lost his crown to Henry, failed at revenge and ultimately then he fell. Some of Richard’s last words while alone in prison shows how he came to the realisation of his life and time coming to an end and he also acknowledges that he did not live his life right, he concentrated too much on the wrong things and not on what he was supposed to, he wasted time as written in Shakespeare (1986: 398): “I wasted time, and now doth time waste me: For now hath time made me his numb’ring clock; My thoughts are minutes, and with sighs they jar their watches on unto mine eyes, the outward watch, whereto my finger, like a dial’s point, is pointing still, in cleansing them from tears. Now, sir, the sound that tells what hour it is are clamorous groans which strike upon my heart, which us the bell – so sighs, and tears, and groans, show minutes, times, and hours”.

Marlowe was another playwright alongside Shakespeare in the Renaissance era and he wrote a well-known tragedy himself, Doctor Faustus, which can also be applied to Aristotle’s idea of tragedy and the tragic hero and this is what will be discussed below.

Aristotle’s idea of tragedy and the tragic hero is well represented within Doctor Faustus, because Faustus was a man who was never content with what he had and he always strived for more knowledge and power. His constant craving for more lead to him making bad decisions causing him misfortune and his ultimate demise all because of his own personal failures. He forgot all about all his morals he once had in the process and lost himself completely. Only when it was time for him to die and pay for his ‘sins’ did he realise how wrong he was, but it was too late for him and thus both fear and pity is felt by the audience or reader of this play.

Within Doctor Faustus, Marlowe showed a renaissance man of curiosity and intelligence as a protagonist, Faustus, who is also a tragic hero. In the play, Faustus tries hard to go against human limitations formulated in medieval Christian tradition and he sells his soul to the devil for more knowledge which is an ancient motif found within Christian Folklore (Rahman, 2015: 23).

Faustus, in his first speech, rejects medicine and law which were common studies in the renaissance era to do, for ‘metaphysics of magicians’ also known as studies of the occult which is an untested and experimental field of study. This field of study was also considered to be wrong by the Catholic Christian religion that was prominent at the time. Faustus rejected organised control, order and blessedness. Instead he chose atomistic wilfulness, anarchy and despair (Green, 1946: 277). Faustus said within his first speech the following words as written by Marlowe (1994: 4): “These metaphysics of magicians and necromantic books are heavenly; Lines, circles, scenes, letters, and characters, ay, these are those that Faustus most desires”.

According to Demers (1971: 74 – 75), Faustus represents a mortal man who looked upon his rescue and escape in a way unlike the tragic heroes who had some form of morality. Having decided that everyone sins and therefore must sin, Faustus disregards death and the ultimate judgement of God. Faustus summoned a demon also described as a devil but not Lucifer himself, Mephistophilis in order to make a deal with the devil for ultimate knowledge and to be able to learn more about metaphysics as he previously said he most desires. After he summons Mephistophilis he asks him to serve and obey him, but Mephistophilis rejects this offer saying he is under the command of his master Lucifer, but he will otherwise give Faustus what he pleases in turn for Faustus’ soul for Lucifer which he will come and retrieve when his time is over. Mephistophilis said the following to Faustus before the deal has officially been made and Faustus’ soul signed over as written by Marlowe (1994: 20): “Then Faustus, stab thy arm courageously. And bind thy soul that at some certain day great Lucifer may claim it as his own; and then be thou as great as Lucifer”.

The protagonist of Doctor Faustus, Faustus has been considered to have been extremely foolish and irresponsible, but never truly criminal in his endeavours. As a tragic hero, Faustus’ insubordinate defiant pride is the main obstacle in the way of his potential return to grace (Campbell, 1952: 220 – 222). Before it is Faustus’ time to go, some scholars show up and ask him what ails him and he tells them the following as written by Marlowe (1994: 53): “But Faustus’ offences can never be pardoned: the serpent that tempted Eve may be sav’d, but not Faustus. Ah, gentlemen, hear me with patience, and tremble not at my speeches! Though my heart pants and quivers to remember that I have been a student here these thirty years, oh, would I had never seen Wittenberg, never read book! And wat wonders I have done, all Germany can witness, yea, the world; for which Faustus hath lost both Germany and the world, yea Heaven itself, Heaven, the seat of God, the throne of the blessed, the kingdom of joy; and must remain in hell for ever, hell, ah, hell, for ever! Sweet friends! what shall become of Faustus being in hell for ever?”.

Faustus had the chance to redeem himself and repent for his sins and still be saved by the mercy of God, but he felt as if though he was not worthy and had to face what was coming to him even though the scholars that was with him in his last hours told him that if he called upon God he would probably have been saved.

After watching or reading Doctor Faustus, the audience or reader feel fearful because of the lesson the play teaches us, pity is also experienced and felt towards the protagonist, Faustus, because it seems as if though his punishment outweighs his crime. Faustus realised he was wrong in his pursuit of knowledge and power and he still goes to hell for it in the end.

Tragedy and the tragic hero as explained by Aristotle evokes both pity and fear in the audience or reader, has misfortune of some sort that is usually a result of personal failure of the protagonist, and has a moral or value system undertone underlying the play. All of these elements were present in the two chosen texts, Richard II by William Shakespeare and Doctor Faustus by Christopher Marlowe, it has also been examined and discussed. This was both brilliant plays to use with regard to the topic of the Aristotelian tragedy and the tragic hero. Not only has these elements mentioned above been discussed, but some history was given on the Renaissance era as well and some history of tragedies as a unique form of literature. The two of these plays made me re-evaluate the way in which society and people strive for more knowledge and more power without thinking of what they are giving up for it, or the fact that they may have to face punishment for their endeavours at some point or another. The lesson taught within these tragedies is to always work hard, be humble and be a good person.






Campbell, L.B., 1952, Doctor Faustus: A Case of   Conscience, PMLA, 67 (2): 219 – 239.

Demers, P., 1971, Christopher Marlowe and His Use         of Morality Tradition, date viewed 13 April 2017,             from       https://macsphere.mcmaster.ca/bitstream/11375/10      016/1/fulltext.pdf.

Elliott, J.R., 1968, History and Tragedy in Richard II,          Studies in English Literature 1500 – 1900, 8 (2):            253 – 271.

Franco, T.M., 2008, Shakespeare’s Richard II:        Machiavelli for the Good of England, date viewed            13 April 2017, from       https://ir.stonybrook.edu/xmlui/bitstream/handle/11      401/71493/000000274.sbu.pdf?sequence=3.

Green, C., 1946, Doctor Faustus: Tragedy of           Individualism, Science and Society, 10 (3): 275 –     283.

Haupt, G.E., 1973, A Note on the Tragic Flaw and Causation in Shakespearean Tragedy,         Interpretations, 5 (1): 20 – 32.

Marlowe. C., 1994, Doctor Faustus, Dover   Publications: New York.

Noor, F., 2015, Assignment of Criticism, date viewed         23 April 2017, from           http:www.slideshare.net/fatimanoor212/six-      elements-of-tragedy.

Pincombe, M., 2013, English Renaissance tragedy:           theories and antecedents, in: McEachorn, C., (ed.),   The Cambridge Companion to Shakespearean            Tragedy,  2nd Edition, Cambridge University Press,   pp. 3 – 16.

Rahman, M., 2015, Evolution of the Tragic Hero: A            Shift from God to Man, date viewed 13 April 2017,        from       http://dspace.bracu.ac.bd:8080/xmlui/bitstream/han      dle/10361/5014/final.pdf;sequence=1.

Reeves, C.H., 1952, The Aristotelian Concept of the          Tragic Hero, The American Journal of Philosophy, 73 (2): 172 – 188.

Shakespeare, W., 1986, William Shakespeare The            Comedies and The Histories, Cambridge University      Press: London.

Stow, G.B., 1999, Stubbs, Steel, and Richard II as             Insane: The Origin and Evolution of an English     Historiographical Myth, Proceedings of the         American Philosophical Society, 143 (4): 601 –    638.

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A Work in Progress

Sorry I haven’t posted anything in a while, I have been extremely busy. I have started my studies, finished my first assignment and started researching for ideas for my research paper for my honors year.

I decided on doing Gothic literature, other than than nothing specific. I have to decide for myself what I want to do with regard to this genre as well as what texts I want to use for it. Unfortunately we are not allowed to use any of our prescribed books from this year so I couldn’t use the classic, Dracula by Bram Stoker, but I still have great texts to use which I have officially decided on.

Identifying the Gothic Elements Within Frankenstein by Mary Shelley and Interview With The Vampire by Anne Rice.


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What Can I Do?

I started this blog for a reason, to get my writing out there in the world, the only problem is that I do not know what to write about and I do not want to only write some of my old poems here, besides a friend anyway has 2 of my 3 poetry books that she still wants to read through.

I could write reviews on books I have read, but it wouldn’t be very long and also, I do not always read the ‘mainstream’ books out there that everyone is reading at this specific point in time. Other more popular books I have read has been some time ago, so is it still relevant to write about it and review it?

I guess I can write some articles, but what do I write about? The ‘big’ topics are usually: sex, religion and politics. I have no problem writing about sex and gender, my thesis was with regard to that. Religion is interesting but what exactly do I write about with regard to religion? Comparison studies or what? And then there is politics, I just honestly do not want to write about that, there is so much political drama all over the world right now, suicide bombers, genocide, farm murders, Trump, Zuma and all that other topics that make everyone just go completely bonkers. So no thanks, I do not want to write about politics, especially not in my country… I will probably get in trouble if i state my opinion about everything that is going on.

So I guess why I wrote this blog entry, is for 2 reasons: Firstly, just to finally write something again; Secondly, to ask whoever is following my blog or randomly reading this now to give me some ideas, anything you want to know I can go do some research about and write here, or if you like my poetry I will write more, tell me if you want to see movie or book reviews or even short stories or random updates about my week.

Please drop a comment below if you can think about anything 🙂

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My Studies at UNISA, University of South Africa

This is just a random post I am making to say a little about what my studies are about this year. I am doing my Honours in English Studies at UNISA, and my subjects are following:

  • Intersections: Race, Class, and Gender: This is an interesting subject looking at a few different topics and themes that are often present in literature and with my 3 assignments I have for this subject I have an assignment on each of the topics mentioned within the name of the subject. I have a big list of prescribed books to choose from when implementing them with regard to each topic, something I have done in previous studies.
  • Research Paper/Thesis: I initially had 35 topics to choose from and I have narrowed it down to more or less 1o that I am interested in. I have not yet chosen a specific topic but I have looked at what literature fits within these different categories and which of those I have which makes the ultimate choice that much easier.
  • The English Heritage: With this subject we learn about English literature and it’s history, again we have 3 assignments and for the first one we had to choose between the Medieval or  Renaissance periods, I chose Renaissance because of Shakespeare, I love the guy. For my second assignment we could choose either the Romantic or Victorian period or one of the above which we did not choose for the first assignment, I chose Victorian because I found this period fascinating. For the third assignment we can choose another question on either of the periods I already did, but a question I have not yet chosen to do. We have several prescribed books for this subject to choose from for topics and some they specify which books we need to do for a specific question.
  • Popular Culture and the Practices of Reception: Once again a very interesting subject, the assignments are just a little weird for me but hey, it is about popular culture after all. My first assignment is basically about a zombie movie, my second assignment about fashion and the third is about music videos, one of which is ‘Anaconda’ by Nicki Minaj, an assignment about booty! This is something I have never encountered with regard to my studies before, but this could be an interesting new learning experience.
  • Africa Text and Territories: Not sure what This is about exactly but I have a rough idea, I am only doing this next year though, because I couldn’t apply for it this year after I dropped Decoloniality as a subject.

I think this year’s studies will be different to previous years in many ways other than the fact that it is for an Honours degree and not a normal BA degree. The methods of studying for this, the assignments and discussions is all very different and interesting. I am both excited and nervous for my studies at UNISA this year. Just keep your fingers crossed for me that I do good and pass everything I need to pass.

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