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Allegory in Short Film: Neighbours (1952)

Stop motion by Norman McLaren:

In the award-winning film “Neighbours”, concrete elements are used to powerfully express abstract ideas. The fence plays an important part as both a set and prop, and presents an allegory that is linked to the timeline of events in the film. The fence’s role and purpose change throughout the story, and its degradation can signify the transformation of the men’s relationship. Friendship between the two was found before the existence of the fence. The fence first appears as a territorial mark between the two properties as the two men claim their land. As the argument escalates, the pickets are used as a weapon as the men start a light duel. The fight worsens, and the blows hit by the wood get harsher and more deadly. As war is declared, the fence’s original purpose as a boundary is terminated and its destruction symbolizes the breaking of a barrier. The splintered wood decorates the coffins of the two men, portraying peace once more, and the end of a terrible fight. The fence’s state changes and each different stage can be related to the cycle of human relationships and the fomenting of war.

Published from November 25, 2010.

Thanks for reading,
thebookybunhead

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Oedipus Rex Essay

OEDIPUS REX: Tragedy in Drama and Dance

                Oedipus Rex, written by Sophocles, tells the story of a man from Thebes who kills his father and marries his mother despite valiant efforts to escape this horrible fate. The play is a Greek tragedy in which fate is predestined and controlled absolutely by greater forces. Oedipus, our protagonist, was doomed by Apollo’s oracle to commit sins of murder and incest from his birth:

And to Laius and his wife Jocasta a son was born.

Before even a name had been give to this infant…

His life was clouded with the presage if disaster…

He was destined one day to kill his father,

And to become his own mother’s husband. (23)

The story is a struggle between Oedipus and his destiny as he attempts to flee from the path that had been placed before him. He leaves Corinth, the home of his adopted parents, to thwart the predicted events from occurring, but in doing so walks closer to the very fate he is trying to avoid. Three terms of tragedy reflect the tragic irony and imminent destiny that is the core of a classical tragedy.  The devastation of a hero obliviously trapped in the hands of the gods can be explained through the terms hubris, irony of fate, and catastrophe. These elements present in the script are also found in Martha Graham’s modern expressionist ballet, Night Journey, which expresses the play from Jocasta’s point of view.

Hubris is the fatal flaw of pride that gives Oedipus the bravery to fight the oracle’s prophecy but also blinds him from seeing the truth, therefore eventually leading to his downfall. Oedipus’ pride in defying the gods creates false assurance of his success in evading his fate, and this security allows Oedipus to seek his identity with confidence. Despite warnings from Teresias, Creon and his own mother, Oedipus continues his search, ignoring and insulting those who are essentially trying to protect him. Because of his pride, he fails to understand the intent of their warnings and assumes other reasons for their guarded behaviour:

(To Creon): “Have you the face to stand before my door,

Proved plotter against my life, thief of my crown?” (40)

(Regarding Jocasta): “Go, someone; fetch the shepherd. Leave the lady

To enjoy her pride of birth.” (55)

Oedipus accuses Creon of plotting to steal his throne and dismisses Jocasta as an arrogant noble, scared of discovering her husband as slave-born. In the ballet, Oedipus’ superiority is presented as he climbs the steps made by the sculptures to stand magnificently at the summit. His high status of king is established when he stands above Jocasta, putting his leg over her shoulder, and by the draping robe that displays a powerful stature. The dramatic length and folds that serve this purpose ironically also represents Oedipus’ tangled situation as he pulls and wraps the circular fabric around his arms to find the material overwhelmingly twisted. His difficulty in collecting the infinite fabric of the robe that represents his royalty is also a foreshadowing of a dark, underlying secret. Ultimately, the flaw of pride in Oedipus’ character causes his insistence in proving the stars wrong as well as his ignorance in refusing to realize the truth, until it is too late.

The fact that Oedipus is completely unaware of the implications of his search and that other characters, the chorus, and the audience or reader comprehend more of his fate than he creates irony. After determining that capturing Laius’ murderer would absolve the nation, Oedipus states the punishment that awaits him:

No matter who he may be, he is forbidden

Shelter or intercourse with any man

In all this country over which I rule…

Expelled from every house, unclean, accursed,

In accordance with the Pythian oracle. (32)

Pronouncing this sentence of banishment, Oedipus seals his own future; he enforces the will of the gods yet he himself is the one who defies them. By capturing his enemy, he unknowingly captures himself. In Night Journey, irony of fate is found in the use of a prop that symbolizes the relationship between the king and queen, and its curse. In slow and precise movements, Oedipus and Jocasta use a rope to entwine themselves in poses of affection and sensuality, signifying their union in marriage. In contrast to their dance is chaos presented simultaneously in the music and the choreography of the corps, or chorus. The women jump to crashing chords, perform series of sharp rolls and contractions, and cover their eyes as if to shield themselves from the horror of the contemporary pas de deux. The interlacing rope is an interpretation of another relationship: that of mother and child, connected by an umbilical cord. This same cord is later the tool used to commit Jocasta’s suicide; the double bond between her and Oedipus proved fatal. When perceived differently from reality, certain actions and situations gain significance as they can cause a change of fortune and reversal of fate when the truth is revealed.

The weakness of pride and dramatic irony in both play and ballet lead to the catastrophe, the devastating defeat of the hero. In fighting destiny, Oedipus ends up completing it. This unconscious self-condemnation is also performed by the character Macbeth in Shakespeare’s play Macbeth. The two protagonists possessed hubris, were influenced by supernatural forces, and believed in their abilities to change their fates – Oedipus denies the oracle’s prophecy while Macbeth follows the witches’ predictions. However, despite these similarities, their circumstances differ: Macbeth deliberately chooses to commit murder against his conscience but Oedipus has no idea of the true consequences of his actions. While Macbeth is therefore responsible for his terrible conclusion, in a Classical tragedy, the hero is powerless and will meet his destiny regardless of his choices. With no chance of exonerating himself, Oedipus accepts his misfortune and in a final act of desperation punishes himself to a most awful death, destroying his own eyes to forever wander the earth.

Where is there any beauty for me to see?

Where loveliness of sight and sound? Away!

Lead me quickly away

Out of this land. I am lost,

Hated of gods, no man so damned. (63)

The classical tragedy of Oedipus Rex portrays the impossible battle between man and his destiny. Time is inevitable, and so is the fate that with all certainty will be fulfilled. In Night Journey, Teresias, the blind prophet, is the last character to be seen, crossing the stage with his staff. The steady pounding of his stick demands authority in the complete silence following Jocasta’s death. It is the last, echoing sound, symbolizing the advance of time, sealing of the prophecy, and continuing power of fate.

Published from June 14, 2012.

(To my email followers: I’m sorry if you receive duplicate emails; I had publish this earlier but something happened that caused it to be turned into a draft again. Sorry for the hassle.)

Thanks for reading,
thebookybunhead

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Regret: Another nostalgic paragraph assignment

There was a smell of Regret in the air tonight. She (Rebecca) smiled and turned the fancy in her mind. There was a thought. What did Regret smell like? Like smoke and rust and cobwebs. And if you wondered what Regret sounded like it sounded like the airy whispers of forgotten ghosts, and crushed bone, and a mirror shattering into a thousand tiny slivers, and silent screams. And, going further, what did Regret look like? Regret looked like dead flies trapped between the glasses of a windowsill or it looked like invisible splinters in the tip of a finger, or a burning piece of crumpled paper slowly engulfed by flames, slowly crumbling into nothing but withered ashes. That was how Regret smelled and looked and sounded. And tonight – Rebecca shoved a hand into the pack of cigarettes – tonight you could almost touch Regret.
(The Streetlight Chronicles)

This was a fill-in-the-blank-type assignment entitled “Is Characterizing Abstract Nouns Personification?” written in 2009. We were inspired to write our own version of the following paragraph written by Ray Bradbury:

There was a smell of Time in the air tonight. He (Tomas) smiled and turned the fancy in his mind. There was a thought. What did Time smell like? Like dust and clocks and people. And if you wondered what Time sounded like it sounded like water running in a dark cave and voices crying and dirt dropping down upon hollow box lids, and rain. And, going further, what did Time look like? Time looked like snow dropping silently into a black room or it looked like a silent film in an ancient theatre, or one hundred billion faces falling like those New Year balloons, down and down into nothing. That was how Time smelled and looked and sounded. And tonight – Tomas shoved his hand into the wind outside the truck – tonight you could almost touch Time.
(Ray Bradbury, The Martian Chronicles)

Thanks for reading,
thebookybunhead

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Personification paragraph assignment

The breathing block of cold stand lonely in the bare corner of the kitchen, humming to itself, glumly. Its boring, smooth face hides underneath a magnetic collage of seasonal picture frames and cards, magnetic maple leafs and hockey sticks with ‘Canada’ written on them, cartoon spelling alphabets and mini plush animals. The jolly decor that covers the otherwise empty wall distracts one from the quiet grumbling caused by the refrigerator’s internal burden of frozen veggies and giant pitchers of juice. It mopes in its limited patch of floor, sinking slouchily from exhaustion because it can’t sit down, and silently shuddering from the freezing air it contains. Its only importance is to keep cheese cold and no one notices its discomfort or unhappiness. The fridge stays in the kitchen this way until someone wants a yogurt tube and opens the door. And in that one moment, it awakes from its monotonous slumber, growing taller brightening its lights, blowing a chilly sigh of relief to the one who saw its existence. It stays somewhat happy for a minute or two, feeling a tiny bit of pride flutter from somewhere deep within and momentarily congratulates itself for its ingenious usefulness. But soon, it discretely retracts back into its quiet place, slowly settling back into its lonely, melancholic way. And the refrigerator stands dull again in its insignificant corner of the kitchen, humming a little tune to itself, like it always does when it feels invisible.

Rediscovered and republished from 2009
by thebookybunhead

PS: I believe this character may have been inspired by this beloved robot from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: there is certainly a resemblance, no?


Marvin the Paranoid Android

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