Herland, by Charlotte Perkins Gilman – A Thesis

herlandThis thesis was written as part of a MOOC I took. More info here.

The motif I found most different, yet substantial, is the author’s conscious/subconscious slotting of men into ‘types’, each represented by the 3 friends, how women react to each type, how men think of what women want, and how different it is from what women actually want.

The author casts Terry as a brash, outspoken, rakish sort of man, with a corresponding desire to ‘conquer’ a woman by force of will. He wishes to subjugate Alima, and to a greater extent all the women of Herland. He is greatly affected when he realizes that these women aren’t pushovers, but have qualities of mental and physical strength. He calls them names and basically implies that they are sexless creatures.

Contrast Terry with Jeff, who worships women and the ground they walk on. In his eyes, they can do no wrong. He is the quickest to adapt to the Herland way of life, and, indeed, from the trio of men he is the only one to stay back in Herland and make it his home, along with his wife, Celis.

In between these two extreme caricatures of men lies Van, who, with his background in Sociology has a more rational mind, and who also finds his two friends somewhat extreme in their respective ardor. Van, because of his attitude of treating women as equals, becomes more popular than the other men, as it seems the women of Herland respond to such an attitude. Not surprisingly, his and Ellador’s love is the strongest and deepest.

Throughout, the author projects her ideal male in Van, and shows the other two as being unappealing types of men. Indeed, Charlotte Perkins Gilman was a prominent sociologist (as was Van, in Herland), this during a time when her accomplishments were exceptional for women.

You can view the previously published theses here.

Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley – A Thesis

This thesis was written as part of a MOOC I took. More info here.

          Frankenstein is about the perils of unconstrained ambition and how it affects people to the detriment of themselves and their loved ones. In Frankenstein, the overly-ambitious people are represented by Victor Frankenstein and Robert Walton.

Walton wants to leave his mark on the world with an ambitious expedition to the North Pole. On this journey he encounters a worn-out Frankenstein who tells his tale.

Victor loses his mother at an early age and this would influence his future obsession with Life and Death. He begins work on reanimating the dead, playing God with his deeds. Working feverishly, he sacrifices a social life, his health, and losing touch with family for long periods. He finally brings to life his creation but is horrified by it and flees.

Victor learns of Williams’ death, and on his way home he spots the Monster and at once realizes it is the cause of Williams’ death. Yet, he stays quiet through all of Justine’s trials. Two people have died, but Victor is most concerned about avoiding being perceived a lunatic were he to tell all.

Victor finally meets the Monster who tells his tale of woe. Victor only acquiesces to the Monster’s request for a bride because it threatens to harm his loved ones, but goes back on his promise by destroying the half-finished bride, sending the Monster into frenzy. It kills Clerval and Elizabeth in revenge. Victor’s father dies of grief soon after. Victor desires revenge on the Monster even on his deathbed. The Monster visits Victor and mourns him, witnessed by Walton. Walton decides to turn around and return to England, not wanting to put his crew in further danger.

          Victor’s ambition led to horror, suffering the death of his beloved, a thirst for revenge, and his death. Walton is sobered by Victor’s tale and sacrifices his ambition to his and his crew’s safety.

You can view the previously published thesis Little Brother, by Cory Doctorow here.

Introduction to Philosophy Course - Statement of Accomplishment

Coursera had offered a 7-week-long Introduction to Philosophy course in collaboration with the University of Edinburgh. I scored a respectable 57.5%

Course details here – https://www.coursera.org/course/introphil

Little Brother, by Cory Doctorow – A Thesis

This thesis was written as part of a MOOC I took. More info here.

Little-Brother

In Little Brother, Cory Doctorow shows us two points of view to paranoia: One from the point of view of the government and the other from that of the individual (the common man), in this book represented by Marcus and his ilk.

At the beginning of the book we see how the people in power seek to encroach upon the freedoms of individuals by using the “it’s-for-your-own-good” argument. Doctorow tries to show us that the extreme surveillance depicted in the book isn’t a far-off reality and instances of it are very real in today’s day, one example being the UK. On the other hand, governments try to force such legislation that make surveillance even more prevalent, as can be seen in the US after the 9/11 attacks aftermath.

From the point of view of governments these can be seen as necessary evils; a few lost freedoms are a small price to pay for the security of everyone. They believe they have no choice but to pass such laws, laws that curtail and impose upon individual freedoms. Doctorow makes the point that a 99% success rate is still a 1% failure rate, and in a city with a large population that’s a great number of perfectly ordinary citizens who are being more than slightly inconvenienced.

Doctorow suggests through the book that security need not be about whittling away individual freedoms, that constitutional freedoms and individual security as provided by the government need not be mutually exclusive.

Marcus has a vigilante sense of justice and brings down the government by breaking the laws of the very Constitution he tries to protect, hiding behind a paragraph of the Constitution to justify his thoughts and actions.

While the book makes it clear whose side Doctorow falls down on, it still serves as a window into the paranoic mindsets of both the government and the individual.

Note: I made some very minor edits in this version, but haven’t added anything substantial to it, keeping to the integrity of the original thesis written within the stipulated word-limit.

P.S. I wrote a post earlier after having finished reading this book, titled – Do Not Track Me

A Note On My Coursera Theses

Last week I finished an 11-week-long course on Coursera called Fantasy and Science Fiction: The Human Mind, Our Modern World, which was offered in collaboration with the University Of Michigan. I’ll be receiving a certificate of course completion soon enough. It involved writing a total of ten theses on 10+ books (list below) and I thought I’d publish some of those here on the blog, so people who want to better understand any one of these works of fiction may benefit from my insights. Note that it was strictly required for each of the theses to be a minimum of 270 words or a maximum of 320 words, putting me in the position of rambling on in some and exercising extreme brevity with others. Also, all of the theses have each been read and critiqued by at least 5 peers and I’ve received ample feedback on their form and content, but if you have something to say regarding any essay I’ll be glad to read and respond to such inputs.

Reading list:

  • Grimm — Children’s and Household Tales
  • Carroll — Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass
  • Stoker — Dracula
  • Shelley — Frankenstein
  • Hawthorne & Poe — Selected stories and poems
  • Wells — The Island of Dr. MoreauThe Invisible Man, The Country of the Blind, The Star
  • Burroughs & Gilman — A Princess of Mars & Herland
  • Bradbury — The Martian Chronicles
  • LeGuin — The Left Hand of Darkness
  • Doctorow — Little Brother

I’ll try to post one a day over the next few days.

Edit: Because of the word limit almost all of them cover only a part aspect or a single motif of the work under scrutiny. None of them is to serve as a book review and almost all have some element of plot revealed, or spoilers as they’re commonly known. Best to read the theses if you’re already familiar with the works, for a deeper understanding, rather than as a book review.

Novel 1: Update 1

I’ve just crossed the 10,000-word mark of my first draft, and that gets me a fifth of the way through to my target of 50,000 words. That, by the end of April. I had dropped out of NaNoWriMo in November, had tried to write without a real plan of what my novel was going to be about or look like. I decided to not make that same mistake this time, for Camp NaNoWriMo, putting together an outline and even a three-page summary of the flow of the novel in the months leading up to April.

Not that it has (so far) turned out the way I had envisioned it; the characters and plot have taken on a life of their own, evolving in surprising ways, coming into existence from some corner of my subconscious I had no idea I had access to.

And it really isn’t the piece of shit I thought it would turn out to be.

The trick during this writing period is to not edit, to quash the inner editor and just write, to get that complete first draft at the end of one month of writing madness. The editing aspect comes later, after you’ve celebrated finishing the first cut of your manuscript with a lot of alcohol and other assorted debauchery, and renewed ties with your family and friends and worried office mates after emerging from your cave.

I’ll post the second update of my progress once I hit the halfway mark of 25,000 words. Wish me luck! 😀

I Did Some Math Today

Here’s what it looks like:

2007 – 4 posts

2008 – 37 posts

2009 – 22 posts

2010 – 21 posts

2011 – 5 posts

2012 – 5 posts

2013 – 2 posts (so far)

I looked at these numbers and thought “why did I ever stop writing as much as I did”? But I didn’t stop writing; I just stopped posting stuff online. There’s dozens of half-written posts lying in the drafts folder (of WordPress) and in Evernote (where I write thoughts on the fly). I never did get around to editing them and so they’re gathering dust, waiting for me to someday blow off the grime and polish them and display them and take pride in them.