After reading Self-Reliance, I believe that Ralph Waldo Emerson is contradicting himself when he says that you should listen to what is emerging from within you rather than listen to what other people say but at the same time wants his reader to listen to him. Emerson promotes conformity, saying that "whoso would be a man must be a nonconformist" (82). On the contrary, he writes to "let us never bow and apologize more" (85). He is contradicting himself in that he is telling others to be nonconformist but also telling others to conform to nonconforming ways. In fact, not only does he contradict himself there, he is constantly contradicting himself throughout the entire essay. Emerson even rhetorically asks in the essay "why should you keep your head over your shoulder? Why drag about this corpse of your memory, lest you contradict somewhat you have stated in this or that public palce? Suppose you should contradict yourself; what then?" (84). Emerson is all about nonconformity; nonconformity to both societal standards and patterns. He says that it is okay to not have a pattern or behave inconsistently. Everybody likes consistency, but if you're just not a consistent person, then why limit yourself? Why not just be your true self? Your ideas are still yours and they can also change! I think that you should listen to Emerson with a grain of salt; take what you like and leave what you don't. Don't imitate, but do innovate! Apply Emerson's words to you in a way that makes you most comfortable. This essay is all about him, but it is all for you! Let Emerson's individuality inspire you to become your own individual! So what if you contradict yourself by conforming to the nonconformist? LISTEN to what is emerging from within you. If your heart says to listen to Emerson, then so be it! So what if Emerson is contradicting himself? Let him do what he wants, because even if you don't, he will still do whatever he pleases. I got a little derailed from the topic, but Emerson is definitely contradicting himself, and it is definitely okay! At the same time, do you really even KNOW if Emerson WANTS you to listen to him. Obviously he published it and all but maybe during his writing process this piece wasn't even written to a specific audience rather just him recording his spontaneous overflow of emotions and feelings, which is probably why the essay can appear contradictory at times. Don't we all contradict ourselves from time to time, or all the time? Because I surely do!
PS Emerson says "to be great is to be misunderstood"(85). His contradictions may cause him to be misunderstood, but isn't that what he wanted all along?
Monday, October 12, 2015
The critic Michiko Kakutani’s assessment of The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri is fully justified through her validated arguments that the coming of age novel “is resonant in its exploration of what is acquired and lost by immigrants and their children in pursuit of the American Dream” (Kakutani). Kakutani suggests that strong connections with those who share similarities and a wider view of the world can be gained from immigration to the United States. As mentioned in the article, holiday celebrations with relatives quickly become holiday celebrations other fellow Bengalis with similar backgrounds. First generations, Moushumi and Gogol, are also able to bond over their similar experiences growing up that are hard to share with others who haven’t experienced the same. What is lost in the pursuit of the American Dream is the feeling of belonging. Kakutani mentions that “Rice Krispies, Planters peanuts and onions are mixed together to approximate a favorite Calcutta snack” (Kakutani). The key word here is approximate. An approximation can bring someone hints of happy memories, but never the entire experience, because it just simply isn’t the same. Towards the end of the novel, Lahiri writes that Ashima decides to spend six months each year in Calcutta. One of the reasons she wants to go back and spend that time there is to eat the food, experience parts of her old life that she heavily yearns for in the United States. Some aspects of the text that the review does not mention is that all of Gogol’s girlfriends documented in the book, other than Moushumi, are presumably white. Not every single girlfriend is proven to be white but it is presumable because of these women’s descriptions. These women are described to have light colored eyes with light colored hair, occasionally described with pale skin. Whether Gogol does it consciously or subconsciously, it seems though as if Gogol dates white women to stay far away from his Bengali roots that he is so ashamed of. The same goes towards Moushumi. Some point in the book, she even mentions that she never saw herself with a Bengali man. Also, adding on to what Kakutani wrote about Ashima’s feeling out of place with being foreign, Lahiri’s descriptions of Ashima and Ashoke bringing their own culture to the United States and feeling foreign throughout the book shows that immigrants can never truly immerse themselves and fit in with their new adopted culture. To fully immerse ourselves in a new culture means to erase the other culture living in us, which is something no one should want to do. We need to remember our roots, even reclaim them when needed, because that is what makes us individuals. Having roots and adopting bits of new culture shapes us into the great and interesting people we become.