Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Sula the heroine?

In my reading of this novel, I had a rather difficult time thinking of Sula as a hero. Usually, heroes are persons that make great positive changes that affect personal lives. Sula's return and way of being, thought of as evil by the community, is the catalyst for them to live together against her ways. Her ways are to disregard social conventions, to sleep around with different men, even to pull Nel's husband, Jude, away. I consider my heroes to be my family, friends, people that really make a positive change in lives. The change that comes about through Sula's return, is only to show how twisted she is in their view. She is not a proper woman and lives too freely. Their hatred for Sula unites the community against her. The hero I would consider would be Eva. She provides for her family, takes care of others in her life, and works to get some semblance of reconnection with Sula before Sula dies. She has her own faults too, but she, unlike Sula, kept the peace and harmony of the Bottom, whereas the other gnawed at it with her loose ways. To me, Eva is the hero of the novel, though she works to keep the status quo. She at least works for the betterment of all, instead of doing selfish acts like Sula did.

Eva: The Real Hero?

I have a very hard time thinking of Sula as the hero of this novel. If I were a single, black female I would feel different, however. I can see how her wild sexuality and care free spirit could seem inspiring and enlightening. However, throughout the book I saw her character more or less as a Greek Goddess. When she needed something from the other characters, she would show up and take it. I never felt emotionally invested in Sula at all. When Ajax walks out on her, I started to feel some sympathy for her. Then I remembered how many homes she had disturbed by sleeping with other men, especially Nel’s husband, and lost any sympathy I felt. In fact, after Nel visits when she is bed-ridden and sick, I still could not feel emotionally invested in her. When it was evident that she was starting to die, I had actually hoped that Nel was standing above her with a match and some gasoline.
The character that was more of a hero in my reading was Eva. I felt empowered by her ability to judge good from evil, such as with her son’s drug problem. Her ability of a surrogate mother to the deweys and drunken Tar Baby also gained my respect. Although we never find out what happened truly to her leg, I had hope after reading that it was some noble and honest loss. Finally, when she calls Nel out on Sula and her accidental murder of the child in the water, I felt somewhat relieved that someone had questioned about the scene. To think of Eva all alone in a dormitory type room broke my heart.

Sula- A True Hero of Femininity (But to a Major Extreme)

Sula is a smear of problems over every page of her namesake book, Toni Morrison's Sula.
In the storyline itself Sula is a problematic character. At her death no one cares but one, and leading up to her death no one, including that one (Nel), even likes her. In fact, Nel is the only member of her entire community who even cares enough to emotionally attend her funeral. Sula likes no one but herself, and herself she worships as an ultimate God. In her community, even in her dearest friend, she excites no love, only deep disregard. In the world in which Sula lives, then, she is far from being anything heroic.
Sula is equally as problematic in feminist reading analysis. For despite all of these negative personal and social qualities, she is utterly exemplar- to a major extreme- of a hero of the womenfolk everywhere. She is a character of intense personality- strong, hot-headed, and head-strong. She refuses to be anything but herself. Social norms she throws away, including- and especially- the social norm of womanhood. In this sense she represents a feminist hero, a true champion of full womanhood.
But it takes a full reading to accept this view. Before the tale's end, at which Nel finally realizes how socially transcendent and freeing Sula's strong female personality is, the reader can only see how foreign her extreme feminist personality is. Her womanhood proves to be more villianous than heroic. Rather than being socially freeing, it is in fact socially desctructive, a wrecking ball to community, family, and friends. But in light of Nel's final realization, Sula's impact forces a new perspective. For by it Nel is, for the first time in her life, effectively freed from the constraints of womanhood that have always been placed on her. She realizes she doesn't miss her husband, she doesn't need her husband, and she doesn't ever desire another man to love her like her husband had.
When Nel realizes this, Sula becomes her feminine hero.

Anti-hero Feminism

To answer the question of whether Sula is a heroine, I have to reply both yes and no. She is a savior figure, but only insomuch as she unifies through hatred. When she returns home to the Bottom years later, her disreputable actions invoke the ire of the townspeople, and they rally as one against her. However, her heroism (or anti-heroism) fails upon her death, when the common dislike of Sula is suddenly dissolved, along with the unity amongst the people that was formerly enjoyed.
The only lasting contribution of Sula's heroism is her dying conversation with Nel. She tells Nel that women everywhere are dying like stumps, because of their refusal to acknowledge their ability to remain independent. Sula charges Nel with this offense also, and states that Jude, Nel's ex-husband, was a space filler, nothing more. This kind of discourse raises many questions about the nature of good and evil, hiding them in ambivalence rather than shedding new light. Sula claims she is good, that has always followed her own will and desires rather than bend to social constructs. In her mind, she is only partially responsible for the dissolution of both her friendship with Nel and the marriage of Nel and Jude. In both those actions, another party had a part to play. In this manner, Sula sees herself as a heroine, seeing the submission to society as an act of anti-feminism, thereby marking society as phallocentric and in opposition to women, especially, in the case of Sula, black women.

Sula: A Hero in Disguise?

The question of heroism in Toni Morrison’s Sula will no doubt provide ample room and inspiration for discussion. Sula is an extremely complex personality – her character is difficult to interpret and analyze as a result of her independent qualities. Still, a close reading of Morrison’s protagonist (for whom the book is named) rouses questions of identity and the value of actions. Through Sula, Morrison seems to deconstruct the traditional notion of heroism; many of Sula’s actions are difficult to justify until the ends of these actions are fully realized.

I may be in the dissenting minority, but I see value in Sula’s traditionally reprehensible actions. Clearly, Sula’s role in dissolving Nel’s marriage contradicts accepted morality. So does her frequent interracial fornication. But I feel strongly that such transgressions are what define Sula as a disguised hero. She lives for herself, according to her own principles. She bears the contempt of her community that ultimately leads to better communal awareness and establishment of a cultural identity for the people of the Bottom. Teapot’s death and the ramifications that come from the accident provide evidence for my claim: Teapot’s negligent mother realizes her shortcomings as a mother after her son’s death and changes her methods of parenting. By shouldering the contempt of her community, Sula gains heroine status – untraditional as it may be.

Sula The Heroine

Before answering the question "Is Sula the hero/heroine of the novel," the term hero needs to be defined. Growing up, I was exposed to heros that showed moral acts such as courage, honor and personali integrity. This is the stereotypical view of most heroes thanks to Superman and friends. But what does a hero really do? I would make the argument that Sula is in fact the hero of the novel. Sula does not show a lot of moral honor within the story which can be seen through several examples, one of which is sleeping with Jude. This is not Sula's role in the story though. Sula is in fact the heroine of the story. To me, a hero is someone who affects the community for positive outcomes. Sula's presence after college puts the community in harmony. Because they are able to label her as the source of evil, their own lives become better. After Sula's death, the community plunges into turmoil. So how is Sula still the heroine even if the community starts to tear itself apart? The answer lies in the end of Nel's story. Part of being a hero is saving people, and Sula does this for Nel. Nel is in constant denial about specifics concerning the ending of her marriage. Fortunately, Nel comes to a realization that her denial lies in the regrets that she has over the way her life has gone. Nel is able to realize where she can grow in society and thus can be seen as being saved mentally and emotionally. Sula, even though she did not intend on "saving" anybody, saves her bestfriend. She is able to let Nel take one more step towards a personal harmony, which I believe is a heroic act. Nel is essentially saved from her denial and guilt. This act is something heroic even though it does not conform to traditional hero narratives, or does it?

Sula: Not a Hero for All

In Toni Morrison's Sula, the female characters all show some aspect of feminism. Many of the women are strong-willed, independent, and in some way intelligent. Sula, the focus of much of the story, seems to float along with the themes of the story as something different, as something not completely right. As a child she oddly inquisitive, watching her mother sleep with a myriad of men, watching her burn to death, and investigating numerous things with Nel. Her thirst for knowledge leads her to college, where she learns much before returning to the Bottom. When she returns she is seen as a demon, an evil person working. Her independence and arrogance alienate her from her family, friends, neighbors, and even Nel. She is an embodiment of many feminist virtues, but in the end, it seems that she is only slightly deified. Though her evil brings some good, not one person truly mourns her loss. It isn't until Nel realizes she has lost Sula, not her husband, that she finally acknowledges missing Sula. In the end, everything comes full circle, and the Bottom has forgotten Sula and everyone else. So, though she embodied the virtues of Feminism, she left no large mark on the history of her home town.

Sula the "hero?"

I think that the word hero, as it pertains to this story is a pretty shady term. I think one of the main themes of Sula is that no one is perfect, and that we all have serious issues. If there were any people in the book that were portrayed as wholly good and righteous, without some shadiness or negative activities, there weren't many. Then again, maybe one of the themes of the book is that no matter how good of a person you are, you will always be criticized. In other words, there will always be people who second-guess you and criticize who you are and the decisions you made. This is done by and to most characters in Sula. However, most of the characters in Sula did things that deserved criticizing. This is shown through the townspeople, whose views of Sula turn very negative by the end of the story. For example, they view Sula as a "witch" and her death as "the best news they had heard since the promise of work at the tunnel." I think it is hard to label a woman with this level of a semi-earned reputation a hero.

Another complication of the word hero, are the values that the person has that makes him/her a hero. Different people have different sets of beliefs and values, so different people will view different characters as a hero or not. From my perspective, I would not consider Sula a heroine to be admired or imitated. I think this is an important quality of a hero: that we see value in a part of them that is imitatable. I don't find many of her values and actions worth modeling myself after. However, if one were to read Sula from a feminist perspective, there are some admirable qualities that can be drawn from Sula. For example, Sula leaving bottom to attend college and not coming back for 10 years would break the traditional role of a woman in 1927. This would break the essentialist view of the time that a woman's skills and abilities would be best suited for her to be a housewife. Unless she was going to be a teacher or nurse, they would probably see it as pointless for Sula to go to college. Sula went against traditional gender roles and essentialists who would try to say that it is natural for a woman to seek her niche in the home under her husband. Instead, Sula went off to college, and presumably spent an extra six years away from Bottom. Then, on her reentry to bottom, she appears strong and flashy, looking like a movie star. The people of Bottom didn't like this, and associated it with the plague of Robins. But feminists might interpret this as a negative view due to Sula putting off an ora of power, which again, breaks traditional female roles.

Sula, not a hero

In the novel Sula, I do not believe that Sula is a hero. She does not show any characteristic of what a hero should carry. She was neither cunning, honorable, courageous, nor selfless. Sure there is the part where she helps chicken little up the tree when Nel was teasing him. She was talking to him in a “reassuring voice”, she would “steady him when he needed it”. Nel continued to tease him and when they made it down he mispronounced brother as “brovver”. After this nice thing that Sula did for the boy she then turns around and mocks the way that he talks. That is no way that a hero should act. One could even argue that she led him up the tree so that Nel and her would find something to make fun of him for. Another example of when Sula doesn’t show heroics is when Eva burns Sula’s mother, Hannah. In the book it says that “Sula was probably struck dumb…” but Eva responds to this by saying that “…Sula has watched Hannah burn not because she was paralyzed, but because she was interested.” That instance says a lot about the character of Sula. For someone to watch there own mother being burnt and not do anything about it is bold in and of itself. Any other child would have tried to do something about the fire but Sula just stood there and watched.


Toni Morrison’s Sula presents the relationship between cause and effect with Morrison’s portrayal of Sula. Sula does not behave heroically .The improvements that her sinister actions bring to the community do not last. Sula’s wickedness causes the people in the Bottom community to improve their own behavior. However, after Sula dies the moral standards in the Bottom begin to deteriorate. Morrison makes it clear that Sula returns to the bottom as a self-centered, cunning, and a morally depraved woman. She notes that “ When got about Eva being put in Sunnydale, the people in the Bottom shook their heads and said Sula was a roach…the saw how she took Jude , then ditched him for others”(112). The reference to Sula as a ‘Roach’ emphasizes her nature as a morally unclean, user that steels her best friend’s husband and takes her own grandmothers house from her.
Sula’s behavior causes the Bottom community to label Sula evil and work to improve their own moral standards. For example, Tea Pot’s mother neglects him until she believes that Sula attempts to harm him. Morrison states “The very idea of a grown woman hurting her boy kept her teeth on edge. She became the most devoted mother She became the most devoted mother: sober, clean and industrious” (114). As a result of Sula’s negative reputation, Teapot’s mother receives the inspiration to improve and take better care of her son. Sula’s wicked behavior causes this positive reaction initially, but after Sula’s death Teapot’s mother reverts back to her old ways. Sula does not behave heroically and seems to do more harm than good in the end.

You tell me?

Think of a Hero from all genres of literature, and what comes to mind? Does the brute force of Beowulf spring to mind; or does the man who saves the damsel in distress come to mind? Nevertheless, these two depictions are rather commonly understood throughout all forms of text. However, can a hero be a woman, who during the time of her existence, been understood as a “witch”? All these questions adhere to the story, Sula, by Toni Morrison. In this story, a woman named Sula, seems to give her towns people a sense of camaraderie—this sense of camaraderie is because they all fear, or dislike her. So, is Sula a true hero?
To answer the question simplistically, yes, yes Sula is a hero. Being an avid reader of comic books, as well as movie buff, my understanding of a hero is someone who gives people hope, unifies while strengthening. Now, in Sula, Morrison depicts the town Bottom, as one that needs someone, or something to force cause and effect on to. In this story, the cause that is directed at Sula is negative. All the negative parts of life are believed to be Sula’s fault. But this leads me back to my question, is Sula a hero? After understanding that she as a person is not, but her presence is, it is hard not to say she is a hero. Because she acts in unharmonious, evil, and even immoral ways—which these seem illustrate her persona—Sula is a hero, just not in an epic way. The reason I believe her presence is that of a Hero, is because once she dies, people don’t have this entity to fall onto if things go wrong. Sula’s presence gave the town of Bottom as reason to unify. The town was strengthened, unified, and morally strong, because Sula was not. If that isn’t a characteristic of a HERO, than what is?

Sula's Role

Toni Morrison’s novel, Sula, features several different aspects of women, and begs the question of who the real “hero” of the book is. The title character, Sula, is a rebellious woman, one who tests the limits of being a woman by, as her friend says, “walking around all independent-like, doing whatever you like, taking what you want, leaving what you don’t” (Morrison 143). She sleeps around, denies men control over her life, and flaunts her sexuality. Her “sister” Nel, however, is the opposite; she respects society’s restrains, and embraces her passionate emotions. These two women explore two polar ends of the feminist spectrum, yet still share the title of “woman.”

Sula is the protagonist of the book, as her free spirited nature allows her to push the boundaries of what women can and can’t do. By acting like a man, she has shunned the cultural chains and gives herself what she perceives to be success. Furthermore, by acting as a pseudo-martyr, Sula is able to unite the people against a common enemy, and bring out the best motherly care the woman can produce. Her death results in women falling back into a subservient role, and revert to a malicious state. Morrison states that, “Other mothers who had defended their children from Sula’s malevolence (or who had defended their positions as malevolence…now had nothing to rub against” (Morrison 153), which demonstrates that Sula is an enemy for the mothers of the Bottom. By seducing men, Sula had gotten women to step into their roles as protectors of the family, and daughters as caretakers. Without the pressure of a "female man," women turn into abusive witches, who shun their responsibilities that they once so proudly displayed. Sula's “wicked” ways of freedom symbolizes a feminine storm that results in womankind uniting, and her death equals the loss of female independence.

Sula: Morrison's Judas and Martryr

            Toni Morrison is one of the few authors I have read whose writing style defies conventions, yet is on a higher level because of it.  In terms of plotting, her novels tend not to follow the strict outline of exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and, finally, the resolution.  Instead, if I had to describe it, her stories hover right around the top of Freytag’s pyramid, with the maximum amount of tension and intrigue, occasionally climaxing with jarring, life-changing events.

            In the same way that I cannot elucidate the narrative structure of Morrison’s Sula, I cannot pin down the titular character.  Is she the hero? The protagonist? A little bit of both? Neither?  It’s a complicated question for a complex character.  In reading the novel, Sula’s actions are alternately praise-worthy and reprehensible, and sometimes both at once.  In the instance where Sula cuts off a bit of her finger, my reaction was a combination of the horror that Nel felt and a feeling of admiration for Sula.  I have a hard time not sympathizing with a character that does something like that because “[she] was so scared she had mutilated herself, to protect herself” (Morrison 101).  Don’t heroes stand up for themselves? Yes, but don’t heroes also think rationally?

            My gut instinct when faced with a main character sleeping with her best friend’s husband is disgust, yet Morrison does not permit me to hold onto that seemingly automatic response.  While Nel is the more relatable character, in my opinion, Sula tends to bring out the best in people despite her own “devilishness.”  When Morrison introduces the reader to Nel and Jude’s marital situation, she paints Jude as a man who manipulates for self-sympathy: “He expected his story to dovetail into milkwarm commiseration…”  Sula does not allow that, however: “…but before Nel could excrete [sympathy], Sula said she didn’t know about that—[Jude’s life] looked like a pretty good life to her” (Morrison 103).  The word that Morrison uses, “excrete,” is a hint towards her opinion of Jude’s behavior, apparently connoting sympathy and Nel’s use of it with all the glory of a bowel movement.  Suddenly, Jude, who has been reliant on his wife is free from that ugly character trait, thanks to Sula. Of course, he then goes on to sleep with his wife’s best friend, which knocks Sula down a few rungs in the “Hero Ladder.” 

            The same could be said about everyone in the town, that Sula brings out the best in them while acting as the scapegoat for the Bottom.  If she’s a hero, then her role must be of a martyr.  She lived lonely, loved only one man Ajax who left her as soon as she began exhibiting traits of a domesticated woman, and she died alone.  Yet, Morrison notes that while Sula lived, mothers didn’t hit their children, women didn’t coddle their husbands, and wives cared for their mothers-in-laws (Morrison 154). Is Sula, in my opinion, a hero? Yes, but she is human, and she wears all the flaws that come with that designation with pride.  

Monday, March 30, 2009

Sula is not a hero

In Toni Morrison's Sula, I believe Sula was not a hero. A hero is somebody that leads by example, is courageous, protects the innocent, and is selfless. She may have brought people together, but her inspiration was not by example, courage, or heroism. Because of her being 'evil', people were driven to be morally superior and better than her to "other" themselves from her. She was selfish; she was driven by desire/emotion and what she wanted. From the book, Sula sees all her emotions and actions (even her mother's burning) as just 'something to do.' A hero would be driven to help others, not be obsessed with entertainment value of everything going around you. Are you a hero for following personal desires and satisfaction over caring for the safety of society and the bond of friendship? I say no.

Sula: Is Nel the actual hero?

During my reading of Sula I did not see many heroic qualities in the character of Sula. I believe that a hero is someone who displays exceptional courage, nobility, strength, and contributes some type of positive transforming quality to society. Sula’s negative reputation actually rallies the Bottom together against her. Sula serves as a symbol that all the people of the Bottom can oppose. So indirectly, Sula unites the Bottom. However, I do not view any of her acts as noble. Whether it is watching her mother burn, putting Eva into a nursing home, or having an affair with Jude, I see none of these scenes as noble.
Taking a closer look at Sula as a character, she does not value anything external. She even goes on to justify her affair with Jude, telling Nel: “I didn’t kill him, I just fucked him. If we were such good friends, how come you couldn’t get over it” (145). In this statement, she faults Nel for the affair, something I find completely out of line. The only heroic quality I see within the novel is displayed in the end by Nel. Her self-examination and confrontation of her own lifestyle is something admirable, noble, and may possibly lead to positive changes in her future. In that respect, I believe that Sula serves as the spark that ignites Nel's heroic qualities.

Friday, March 6, 2009

The Poetic Form of "Seventh Street"

What strikes me about Toomer's "Seventh Street" is the form of the text which synthesizes both poetry and prose. However, the important question for is: What can I learn from the form, and are the forms really what we think they are? For me, I think this piece was originally supposed to be a poem. Thus Toomer begins the story with a traditional poem, but that feeling shifts when Toomer switches to prose.

But this prose doesn't read like prose. Its language is interestingly poetic and it has a flow to it that is enhanced by questions and imagery. The prose itself, also, resembles stream-of-consciousness type of writing, and Toomer is pouring all of his emotions and feelings into this vision of the 7th street. I find this piece remarkable because it seems to me that Toomer is deconstructing our notions of what a poem should be because it does not adequately capture his feelings and experiences on 7th street. Therefore, the poems at the beginning and at the end of the prose are afterthoughts that frame the prose. The utilization of the poems as frames suggests that Toomer wants us to think of the prose as a new poetic form.

Personally, I like this approach to poetry; it's edgy, raw, and powerful. And to an extent, it captures Toomer's ideas and feelings a 7th street better than traditional poetic forms. This doesn't mean that the poetry in the piece isn't powerful or emotional itself; I just think that this piece is Toomer's way of saying that: "while traditional poetry does capture emotion, it doesn't accomplish what I need it to for my experiences." I think we can learn a lot from this piece and its focus on form.

Wedges in "Seventh Street"

Wedges are an important part of this poem. The word 'wedge' is used to divide, show a piece, and shine in this place. Seventh Street of Washington, D.C. is a "wedge of nigger life" (Toomer 41), a little slice of the larger world. It's characterized by the colors white and red, of blood and the white of a majority. The wedge is again brought in as rusting, unable to split the city though encouraged to try with "Split it! In two! Again! Shred it!" (41). The wedges shine in the sunlight, perhaps symbolizing the action of the people in this time as they work to form an identity through music and art. The wedges break down the walls of oppression, making the wet wood, perhaps hatred, dry up and blow away. Class structure might have wedges driven in as people seem more as equals here. Wedges carry many different meanings in this piece, both as a bit of life and a way to change life.

Flowing Disarray

The repeated use of "flowing", "wet", and "soggy" strikes my attention. It creates a consistent image of a river, or a flood, even, pouring through a city. But this is no ordinary river: through this city is flowing a flood of blood. The blood all over Seventh Street is of unnatural origin. It's shown to arise from the "bastard of Prohibition and War", flowing from the splintered and shattered world of Washington. We get a picture of this splintered world in the list: "shanties, brick office buildings, drug stores, restaurants, cabarets." Similar to the scene of Toomer's "Theater", the city holds a stark juxtaposition of poor and prosperous, but the river of blood flowing through blends these two together, so that the whole scene reeks of death. The flow exposes the rotten aspects of the city, the pocket-burning money, the bootleggars and the zooming Cadillacs that are at the backdrop of the scene. Toomer calls this to shame: "Who set you flowing? ...Swirling like a blood-red smoke up where the buzzards fly in heaven? Who set you flowing?"

Money in Toomer's "Seventh Street"

In "Seventh St", money corrupts people. Toomer sees blacks on Seventh St. as becoming prosperous through bad means --it is "a bastard of Prohibition and the War." Toomers says that "money burns the pocket." It corrupts. Toomer sees it as wrong to see a street with such decadence. He describes "bootleggers in silken shirts/Ballooned, zooming Cadillacs". Toomer is disgusted by people making money off the war and from smuggling alcohol. He sees the street becoming pretentious from their new found money by "breathing its loafer air" in contempt of people that don't have money.

Blood (Heritage)

Jean Toomer’s “Seventh Street,” is a story that expresses the influence of two different cultures. In an attempt to analyze the story it is necessary to look at it through a specific critical lens. As a way of understanding the influx of symbols present in the story, it is necessary to take a post colonial (P.S.) approach. This approach allows for a broader understanding of specific symbols.
Throughout the story it becomes a pattern how certain nouns become inflicted by outside forces, causing those nouns to develop new understandings. What is meant by new understandings may seem a little unclear. For an example, in the story Toomer describes blood as “black reddish blood;” this description conveys to the reader a sense of resistance. “Black reddish blood,” not just red blood which is generally understood; this blood has keep its old features, but understood from the “reddish” is that there is an overwhelming force that is causing the infiltration.
This idea of resistance in this play seems to be a common theme, but the resistance seems to be alleviated as a result of the government. However, the government mentioned isn’t the only force that is causing individual people, cultures, and races to slowly lose their true blood (heritage). As a result of assimilation present in this story, the blood will continue to dilute heritage until there is one dominant culture.

The Blood of Seventh Street

Jean Toomer's "Seventh Street," a short story/poem in Cane, features one recurring symbol I find especially important: blood.

The first use we see is the wedge that thrusts "black reddish blood into the white and whitewashed wood of Washington." This imagery marks an important contrast. To begin with, we have the "white" of Washington, and the "whitewashed," that which has been abducted by the white man. The "black reddish blood" is inserted into this, contrasting the status quo. We have "black" blood, referring to African Americans, but the metaphor takes it one step further with "reddish" implying perhaps that black blood is not quite as red, or human, as white blood. We again see the phrase "black reddish blood", this time standing alone as a sentence. This marks two important uses: one, repetition, to emphasize the image; and two, the phrase standing by itself, as an island of meaning within the text.

The next use is seen in the sentence, "Blood suckers of the War would spin in a frenzy of dizziness if they drank your blood." Here we have "blood suckers of the War" in contrast to "your blood." The former could refer to any number of things; perhaps it refers to people who benefited from the war. The benefactors of the war would have certainly been white businessman, as production went soaring during World War I. Here we see an image of drinking blood. And "your blood" is definitely black blood. Perhaps the "blood suckers" could not drink the black blood in the sense that they could not swindle the blacks, or else they would "spin in a frenzy of dizziness."

The third use of blood in the text incurs the already used image of "white" and "whitewash." Here we see that the whites and whitewash "disappears in blood." We also see that the sentence "Who set you flowing," a phrase that uses blood imagery, is set on either side of this earlier image. The phrase "who set you flowing?" also appears two more times in the text, marking more repetition than any other phrase in the text.

The flowing image is seen in the next paragraph when it refers to the blood flowing down Seventh Street, in "shanties, brick office buildings, theaters, drug stores, restaurants, and cabarets." Here we see the blood flowing, taking over Seventh Street: the rise of black power.

Another image is the "blood-red smoke" that rises towards the heavens, where the  buzzards fly.

The final image is the of God. Here, we see that "God would not dare to suck black red blood." The reddish image is abandoned finally but even so, black blood is not fit for God, for that would make him a "Nigger God," who "would duck his head in shame and call for the Judgement Day."

Wedges in Toomer's "Seventh Street"

In many of the stories in Toomer’s Cane, symbols are used to express important themes or ideas. “Seventh Street” is no exception. The use of “wedges” to represent the Black culture prevalent on Seventh Street is no doubt one of Toomer’s most important examples of metaphor and symbolic metonymy.

While the wood may represent the city itself, the wedge of Seventh Street splits the city – this probably refers to the ongoing racial separations that existed in the early 20th century. It is described as “crude boned” and “soft skinned,” possibly signifying a sarcastic understanding of the deeper beauty of Seventh Street and Black culture in general. Toomer writes that “wedges are brilliant in the sun,” an analogy to the literature and music produced by the African-American community. For Toomer, these art forms, when allowed to rise above the racial tensions, have the ability to escape the traditional bounds of race. However, they will rust and lose their beauty if they become stuck in the “soggy wood” of culture clash.

Blood in "7th Street"

The most obvious metaphor in "Seventh Street" is blood, specifically "black reddish blood." This blood represents southern blacks who have been in an immigration movement up to Washington DC in this time period. The white people who already lived in DC are represented by the "white and whitewashed wood of Washington." The narrator seems to describe the whites living in DC negatively, describing the wood as stale and soggy causing wedges to rust. This sogginess may or may not be caused by the blood. The cause is not stated.

The phrase “who set you flowing?” is used repeatedly, as if to say “Why are you here? Who invited you?” Then the blood is described as running down Seventh Street (probably a black neighborhood in this time) into all the neighborhood buildings. This describes blacks as they assimilate into and dominate Seventh Street in all aspects of the community. This is significant because “white and whitewash disappear in blood.” This disappearance could imply “white flight” (the idea that white people leave areas that people of other racial backgrounds begin to take over). Or it could bring up the age old dichotomy of white v. dark representing purity v. impurity. In other words people of other ethnicities (represented through color) corrupt the pure (white) society already in place, removing its purity altogether.

The narrator refers more negatively to the blacks through comments about drinking blood. He implies alcoholism through the statement “Blood suckers of the War would spin in a frenzy of dizziness if they drank your blood. Prohibition would put a stop to it.” The use of “prohibition” specifies alcohol is involved, and the narrator describes some effects of drunkenness in the people who hypothetically drank the black red blood. Then the narrator says, “God would not dare to suck black red blood. A Nigger God! He would duck his head in shame and call for the Judgement Day.” The use of the word “Nigger” implies a low view of blacks, but God’s rejection of blacks implies the inferiority of blacks to whites, even in God’s eyes. The narrator implies not only that God rejects blacks and is ashamed of them, but that He would end the world if he “drank the blood” of black people. I would assume drinking the blood means associating with and accepting black people.

Making Music on "Seventh Street"


As I read Jean Toomer’s “Seventh Street,” I am drawn in by the musical quality of the prose poem/poem, mostly through Toomer’s use of repetition.  A quatrain opens the piece and closes the piece.  Toomer utilizes repetition throughout, with phrases like, “Who set you flowing?” and “black red blood,” seemingly rising through the narrator’s unconsciousness and onto the paper.  I felt that the piece itself mimicked the “unconscious rhythms” that the narrator mentions with the repetition of key phrases and the use of the quatrain.  But the music implied does not uplift the reader; if I were to transpose this to a song, it would most certainly be in a minor key.  The reader is kept in a cycle of despondence with phrases like “stale soggy wood,” “blood suckers,” and “crude-boned” keeping the mood dark.

But why does Toomer choose to open and close his prose poem with the quatrain?  The stanza gives the reader the impression that life on Seventh Street is quick: Cadillacs “whiz” down the street, presumably controlled by drivers who spend quick, with the money burning holes in their pockets.  I think the stanza also lends a cyclical quality to the piece.  Toomer chooses the word “eddying,” which implies a circular movement. “Seventh Street” swirls, eventually comes back to where it started, with the reader left to imagine that the rich, blood-red life on Seventh Street will continue in contrast to its surroundings for some time to come.   

Thursday, March 5, 2009

It's just a street past Sixth, and then you're there...

Jean Toomer’s Seventh Street is littered with interpretive symbols, and colorful imagery. It depicts the street itself, and focuses on the intense dichotomies of black and white, as well as the economic and social statuses of the inhabitants. Of these, the most noticeable is the “black reddish blood” (Toomer 41), and the flowing of said blood that ensues. The blood appears several times within the short prose/poem, contrasting sharply with the “whitewashed wood” (Toomer 41).

The blood is thrust onto the wood of Washington, symbolizing a covering of government that cannot be ignored. It is almost an attack; the thrusting implies force and combustion. As the blood overtakes the wall, the white is overcome by black. This black flow continues to overtake the rest of the street, implying a complete domination of culture. There are attempts to end this consumption (prohibition), but the pouring is too much. As the assimilation nears its completion, it mirrors smoke billowing near buzzards, a sign of deceased white culture being dissected.

Seventh Street

The symbols I would like to focus on in Jean Toomer's Seventh Street are the "silken shirts" and "zooming Cadillacs". Cadillacs and silk shirts can be considered forms of luxury, however, they seem very out of place within the context of Seventh Street. Toomer makes it seem as if they do not belong on Seventh Street. I believe that the Cadillacs and silk shirts are representations of superficiality. In what we have read in Cane thus far, there is a difference in the country/rural life and the city life. This new lifestyle on Seventh Street is heavily influenced by materialism. With all of the "theaters, drug stores, restaurants, and cabarets" it is possible for one to feel the pressures to become "cultured" within the city. However, Toomer is saying that all of this luxury portrayed by the people on Seventh Street is fake. Although they may drive luxury vehicles and wear fine clothing, ultimately their pockets still hurt, and their social status will never change.

Monday, March 2, 2009

The Pillowman in The Pillowman

I was greatly intrigued by Katurian’s short story about the Pillowman, and why McDonagh chose it as the namesake of his entire production. I did not understand the story the first time I heard it, nor the second time, but only after it was explained to me by a friend. After putting some thought to it now, though, and looking at how it applies to the rest of the play, I’ve come to hold a little stronger grasp of it.
In Katurian’s story, the Pillowman is a character whose job it is to convince young children to commit suicide before they become adults. He assumes that all children are unhappy- and if happy, only deceivingly so- and that their unhappiness will only grow as they grow older, until eventually as thoroughly unhappy adults they will take their lives anyway. He sees it as his mission to rescue them from the tragedies of life. Unfortunately he is often unsuccessful, a fact that breaks his heart over and over again. He realizes that in order to keep his own heart from breaking thus he must go back in time and convince his own young boy-self to erase the possibility of adulthood tragedy by burning himself, the Pillowman, to death. It’s quite gruesome. But when he does this, he hears the piercing cry of the thousands of young children who never would receive the refreshing comfort of his soft and happy-looking Pillowman-self, and would go on to die later in life unhappy and alone. He disappears in smoke to the shriek their cries.
Since the play is titled The Pillowman, this story must in some clever way reverberate throughout it. Its theme of unhappy children is obvious: none of the characters in the story- Katurian, Michael, Michael’s three victims, Tupolski, and Ariel- has a pleasant, happy-go-lucky childhood with a good ending. The Pillowman’s assumption is right. However, he doesn’t seem to come to life in any individual character. Obviously none of the characters fully takes on the job of “designated Pillowman,” for none of them frequently goes back in time to convince young children to die. However, there are bits of Pillowman-personality in many of them.
For example, Katurian does kill Michael with the intent of saving him from later torture and brutal execution. And both Ariel and Tupolski have devoted their lives to protecting children from the sad tragedies of life. In these aspects of their lives these characters possess the vulgar heroism of the Pillowman. In other aspects they possess also his final irony. For Katurian’s murder of his brother only serves to come against him later as providing the authorities a reason to burn his stories, and Tupolski and Ariel, despite their best efforts, at the end of the day are still left with grief and tragedy on their hands.
The message of Katurian’s short Pillowman story- that is, the futility of attempting to dispel unhappiness from the world- thus becomes the message of the greater story as well. It’s a strange twist, and a strange method to reinforce a theme, but it certainly works. After watching The Pillowman there was hardly a feeling of hope or happiness within me.
(After doing some research I found that McDonagh very likely wrote the play immediately after the September 11, 2001, attacks in New York and Washington D.C. Perhaps he was trying to convey that initial overwhelming dismay and disbelief in the goodness of the world. If so, this he quite convincingly achieved.)


I liked the structure of the play and the way that the scenes were arranged and broken with the two intermissions. McDonagh creates a lot of dark humor throughout a lot of his works and this performance was a great example. At the end of the scene 2, in the audience I herd a lot of people laughing at some part and others commenting on their laugher. “Why is he laughing at that doesn’t he know that they are talking about a little kid being tortured?” This type of reaction is what I believe McDonagh wanted from the audience he wanted them to see two sides of this play. One side being that there are little kids being killed because of someone’s writings and another side where the audience is thinking and understanding that there is another meaning behind this play. Now McDonagh is notorious for not talking about his play. So we will never really know what his meaning is, he allows the audience to take his work and make whatever of it. This is why Prof. Abbott arranged two intermissions. He wanted to let the audience take a break from the content of the play. In the script the play is not written with two intermissions but with some set complications and content of the scenes the breaks give the audience a chance to regain themselves before being thrown into another moral challenging scene. This break can also be seen with the production of In Brudge, and other work by McDonagh. In this film the break from the content comes with the midget. When ever the midget comes into the scene the contest changes and hilarity ensues.

Good or Bad: Character Development in McDonagh's "Pillowman"

In keeping with our theme of binaries, an analysis of the good/bad dichotomy in The Pillowman seems appropriate. Martin McDonagh makes frequent use of this classic binary in his play – in fact, the entire play seems to depend on the contradiction of good and bad.

One of the first (and most basic) examples of this binary comes in the representation of the good cop/bad cop stereotype. We are immediately introduced to this duo and we immediately understand their roles in the play. Although these characters are not as deeply developed as Katurian and Michal, Tupolski and Ariel (good and bad, respectively) are no doubt important to the overall story. In his portrayal of the good and bad cops, McDonagh effectively deconstructs the binary that his characters represent. We learn that bad cop Ariel actually has soft nature; a victim of child abuse himself, Ariel gradually becomes more sympathetic toward Katurian’s plight. Tupolski, on the other hand, begins as the good cop but develops into an unsympathetic character obsessed with his own superiority and eventual martyrdom. The deconstruction of the good cop/bad cop dynamic is important for McDonagh. The playwright blurs the lines of this binary.

Another important portrayal of this dichotomy can be understood through an analysis of the treatment of Katurian and Michal. McDonagh originally leads the audience to label Katurian as a bad person, a child abuser and murderer. His brother Michal serves as the foil to Katurian; his mental handicap provides an illusion of innocence – a false impression that is soon righted. Again, McDonagh deconstructs the good/bad binary by blurring the audience perception of what is actually good and what is actually bad. In reality, Katurian is not guilty of the murders of three children (most would claim that this is good). However, he is indirectly and unintentionally responsible because of the stories he read to his brother. Michal is at first seen as a good and innocent character: he cooperates with the police and seems incapable of the atrocities to which he eventually confesses. However, Michal must ultimately be considered bad – as are most serial child-killers. Again, through character development, McDonagh blurs the lines between good and bad and deconstructs the binary present throughout the play.

Wabash Presents "The Pillowman"

The Wabash College production of The Pillowman was one that I thoroughly enjoyed. I thought the storyline was smart and morbidly hilarious. That being said, I had some issues with the play as a whole. One thing that troubled me in the beginning of the play was the constant cursing. Before there was any true plot given or character development the two officers, Tupolski and Ariel, are spouting off fucks and shits left and right. Once we find out the reason for Katurian being interrogated (for the killing of 3 children), the cussing and intimidation makes more sense. However, I do not think that the excessive cussing truly worked as an advantage to the play until we got a sense of the sickening stories that Katurian wrote.
Another thing that I had a problem with during the play was that it seemed to try too hard sometimes to shock the audience. One instance which I got this was from Katurian’s name: Katurian Katurian Katurian. The first thing that I thought of when I heard him say this was that his initials are KKK which goes hand in hand with the troubles of the south and the hate of racism. Another cheap shock that bothered me in the play was the portrayal of Katurian’s brother. I cannot say that I did not laugh at the character whenever he talked, but had I been the father, brother, or any other close relation with a mentally handicapped person, I would have probably taken great offense to the character.
Those thoughts aside, I thought the actors, directors, and crew did a fantastic job. The intimacy of such a small audience was perfect with the suffocating feeling that Katurian must have felt while being interrogated. It was a very entertaining show to say the least.

Would you? or wouldn't you?

After having watched, and had ample time to reflect on the play Pillowman, I feel that the play attempts to convey several messages. These messages that Martin McDonagh– the creator of the play- exemplified through his play can be interpreted as both positive and negative. Throughout the play there were a number of scenes that could be the cause of criticism. However, I will put the vulgarity, grotesqueness, and disturbing images aside and focus on what I believed the main message to be. Being a truly optimistic person by heart, I believe that this dark and gloomy play was attempting to convey to the audience the self-worth of your offspring. Unlike most general understandings of offspring, the creator uses all forms of personal creation to describe one's offspring.
Taking a post structuralism approach, that in which there is no use of outside text, I will begin to break down the play. The play starts off with an interrogation scene of the protagonist Katurian. Rather shortly into the play it is demonstrated how passionate Katurian is about his short-stories. These stories become “his babies;” later on in the play it is more noticeable the extent in which he takes in an attempt to save them. Deviating briefly, the play focuses our attention to how his brother, Michael, becomes who he is. At the age of eight, Michael begins to be tortured by his parents:justifing their actions as an experiment. This experiment becomes a plot device for the rest of the play; Katurian is nurtured, while Michael is tortured in an attempt to distinguish a discrepancy between the two. At the end of the play when the audience finds out that Michael did commit these heinous crimes, it is evident the extent in which the treatment as a child has affect these two men. Katurian kills his parents out of compassion for his brother, while Michael kills the children out of pure curiosity. This difference can be attributed to the parents; Katurian aggressively tells Michael that he is just like their parents, “You killed those innocence kids for no reason. You will now live eternity with mom and dad taking care of you.” Although there are more subtle reinforcements of the self-worth of offspring, McDonagh explicitly conveys this theme at the end of the play. Katurian knows he is going to be executed, so he takes drastic measures to save the life of his offspring: his offspring being his texts. He admits to six killings, three of which he didn’t commit, just to preserve the sanctity of his works.
Although this condensed analysis doesn’t give the play enough credit, it does lay a base for what I believe the overarching metaphor of the story is,self-worth of one’s offspring. Throughout the bulk of the play our attention is directed at the relationship between the brothers; when at our subconscious level, we are being force feed the worth of Katurian’s offspring. At the very end of the play Katurian is executed due to his “justifiable” actions, at least in his mind. However, as noticed by Ariel, the bad cop, the incriminating information divulged by Katurian wouldn’t have been brought to the forefront if he didn’t passionately care about his texts. The final scene ends with a bang, literally, with the death of Katurian by gun shot. He died for his offspring, no matter if that offspring was only on paper. As the crowd began to disperse, I was left with a personal question that seemed rather obvious at first, but upon reflection I begin to further ponder the answer. As a last thought I direct the question towards you; would you give your life to preserve the life of your offspring?

Stories inside of stories

The part that most intrigued me about Michael MacDonagh's Pillowman, was the fact that everything of importance in the story was relayed through smaller stories inside the play. This was exceptional to see, not only because of the way it related to the main character, Katurian, as an author, but also because it turned out to be the way nearly all the characters really developed and deepened. The plot itself was pushed along by the stories written by Katurian. The killings, as the audience found out, were mimicking the stories that Katurian had written, thus the reason he was brought in for questioning. Two acts of the play, "The Writer and the Writer's Brother" and "The Little Jesus" were narrated by Katurian as if he were reading the story he wrote. The first somewhat told the autobiographical story of Michal and Katurian's childhood as the first was tortured and the other was treated well by their parents. The second story was used to build the suspense and tension of the story, alluding to the horrible murder (though not real) of another small child.

Ariel, one of the brutal police officers, deepens his character through two stories. The first story is his dream of his future. He wants to take care of the children that can't take care of themselves, that way when he is older, he will be adored by children and they will give him their "sweets." This shows the reason he is so brutal and why he has a bigger heart than his partner. His character is deepened even moreso when a joint effort between Tupolski and Katurian lead Ariel's past into light. Ariel was abused by his father, whom he killed, and is thus sworn himself to the protection of children.

Tupolski, the other officer, tells his own version of a story. His story, though mixed and muddled, tells about a deaf, retarded, Chinese boy that is walking on the railroad tracks. A train comes, but the boy cannot hear it. In a high tower, an old man is watchin the kid and for fun, takes a piece of paper to figure out the time and distance in which the train will hit the boy. He finds his answer, folds the paper into a paper plane, and tosses it out the window. Right before the train hits the boy, the boy leaps to catch the paper airplane as the train rushes down the track. Tupolski explains that the old man knew that he would save the kid, just as Tupolski, in his own tower, must save people for murderors. This deepens Tupolski to a semi-righteous chracter, not just a neurotic asshole out to punish anyone who comes into his office.

Stage Design and Metaphor within Pillowman

I would like to begin by saying that the Pillowman was an excellent piece of theatre that I enjoyed, but at the same time I felt that the play has many complex themes and images that would take a lot of time to unpack. Therefore, I can’t cover all of them but I feel there are some important elements in the play to consider.

The first thing that really caught my eye during the play was the setting and stage design. One of the most important themes within the play was the feeling of being trapped, and the stage design encourages this theme because each setting makes it appear as though the characters are trapped. For instance, the interrogation room has angled walls that make the room seem smaller and a cage like pattern etches the walls. Also, the flashback scenes with house are a cage as well because the house is just frame that contains a trauma—like child abuse—and nothing happens outside of the house. Even the audience feels this sense of being trapped because of the experimental theatre, and through out the entire play I felt confined, tense, and hot. I felt as though I was being drawn into the play and was trapped just like the characters on stage. The stage design and location enhanced these feelings of confinement, drew the audience into the play, and helped me understand that an abusive experience traps people, whether that trap is literal like the interrogation room or mental like that of the traumatic experience.

Another element to the play that I really enjoyed was the play’s idea that a story is a metaphor. And I found it interesting that each character had a story, usually in the form of a metaphor, to explain their current predicament. These stories were usually presupposed with the phrase, “that reminds me…” which I felt was the most loaded line of the entire play. But overall, I felt that the play was a metaphor for the cruelty of life—and that can be an abusive relationship or living within a totalitarian state—and the characters used metaphors to highlight this point. Therefore, I felt metaphors were used to explain a greater metaphor that we all should all consider: where does the human element end and the animal begin?

The Pillowman: Enjoy Life through the Pain.

After watching The Pillowman, I felt one important aspect that should be considered is an underlying message to enjoy life. Even though Katurian wrote horrific stories, some of which were played out on the stage, his zest for life was easily seen. Katurian did what he enjoyed… and loved it so much, his life meant less than his stories. He wanted his work to live on. Examining the rest of the dramatis personae in turn, Michael was a simple person… though that was from his parents’ torturing of him early on in life. He was a little slow, and did not think about what he did to those children, but he seemed to enjoy life too… though in a morbid and sick way. He enjoyed his brother’s stories and used them to make his life more interesting even if it meant the deaths of these young children. The street-wise policeman Ariel hates child abusers and from what the audience can gather, enjoys his job since he can make a difference in people’s lives. Even though he plays the Bad Cop, he is still one that is sympathetic to others… even to Katurian in some extent by keeping his stories from the flames. The character of Tupolski is another that enjoys life by being a detective and taking down scum like Katurian and Michael. Even though the audience is exposed to the horrifying tales of Katurian, we can perhaps sympathize with the idea that one must do what they enjoy… but as we can be hit by the conscience, we must temper our own zest with decency and thought. As long as you do not hurt others or yourself in your enjoyment of life, you do a fine job. The Pillowman makes us uncomfortable on different levels but there is that message of “don’t follow the Pillowman, no matter how enticing he might seem, no matter what happens in life”.

Emotional Irony: My Reaction to The Pillowman

I think the most successful aspect of The Pillowman was the playwright’s ability to evoke laughter from the darkest areas of my mind. My favorite line comes when the characters are discussing the effects of childhood rape on Ariel by his father. Tupolski explains, “Then Ariel murdered his father, with a pillow, right?” Ariel stood despondent in the corner. “Although, I guess you could say it was self-defense,” Tupolski continued, “I just call it ‘murder’ to tease him.” Reading it on this piece of paper, there’s nothing funny about it. The subject matter that surrounds it is all that’s abominable, and the words themselves aren’t funny. Yet, as the actor said that line, I found myself laughing louder and more deeply than I have in a long time. Why would writer Martin McDonagh choose to use humor in his play? I would say it came from necessity: to watch two-and-a-half hours of child abuse, child rape, child murder, profanity, and good old-fashioned torture would have been abysmal.

Kurt Vonnegut once said, “Humor is an almost physiological response to fear,” and this play proved that. McDonagh most likely wanted to confront his audience with this material but use humor to ironically depict it and to make something so confrontational somewhat accessible. In a strange way, the “Little Jesus” segment of the play, at least to me, was made more disturbing because of the use of humor throughout. It was as if the levity of the laughter made the fall back down into the sickening story that much more dramatic. I can see why in other college productions, the scene had been cut. But if it had here, the symmetry and rhythm of McDonagh’s play as well as the fearless humor would have been cut short.

A Real Pillowman

Wabash College’s production, The Pillowman, introduces several interesting concepts, and provokes both humor and intrigue. Main character Katurian K. Katurian weaves several tales, which through the actions of the characters become true. The title story, however, is the most relevant to Katurian, as he inadvertently represents a real life version of the character. There are similarities between the two characters, and a few differences, however, that distinguish the two.

Katurian believes that he will be saving his brother from a hellish death, as he smothers him with a pillow, similar to his previous murders. This reflects the Pillowman’s own mantra, as he kills children at a young age to prevent a horrible suicide that causes more grief than a younger death would. Interestingly, the Pillowman asks his victims to kill themselves via a lake or bag, instead of hugging them with his pillow arms. This seems like a more painful fate, but perhaps a more easily explained one (how would a parent explain a child that inexplicably stopped breathing?). With Katurian, however, a smothering is the only way to go, and a somewhat easily explained one, since there would be no easily distinguished motive by the police.

Wabash College presents: The Pillowman

First of all, I would like to congratulate all of the actors/actresses and people who worked on this semester's production of The Pillowman. This was the best performance I have seen so far over the course of my 3 years here at Wabash.

With that being said, the thing that stood out to me about The Pillowman was actually the audience. The actual plot of the story is pretty saddening, depressing, and gruesome. However, the "dark comedy" as it was advertised, truly displayed itself. Despite the intense plot, I was drawn into the sarcasm of the character Tupolski. Played by Matt Goodrich, I thought this character was actually hilarious. However, on more than one occasion, I found myself wondering how the audience could possibly be laughing at such a morbid play. It really made me think about how our human nature uses humor to cover up any fears we may have. Sometimes, despite how serious something may be, we can just "laugh it off". This is usually done when we as humans, are put into an uncomfortable situation. It made me question as to whether or not the intentions of a certain line or phrase were to actually evoke laughter from the audience, or if it was just the audiences' way of hiding their discomfort.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

The Pillowman

Martin McDonah’s The Pillowman uses morbid comedy to portray Katurian and Michal’s ordeal as they are interrogated by the police for the murder of children. The two police officers, Ariel and Tupolski, use abrasive language and physical abuse to attempt to force Katurian into confessing the murders of the children. While Katurian describes his stories to the officers, he makes it clear his story The Writer and the Writer’s brother have autobiographical elements. This story recounts how Katurian’s parents tortured his brother and began to develop Katurian’s warped since of fantasy. The information the police gather form this story echoes the autobiographical analysis technique readers often use to understand a text. Readers allow an authors history to inform their understanding of an authors writing and what it points to. The detectives use this technique in the play and come to understand that Katurian murders his parents for torturing his brother for many years. The detectives do not rely only on Katurian’s story, but also manipulate him into divulging the information by threatening to destroy his voice, his stories.

Happiness: The Irony of The Pillowman

The Pillowman, though a dark comedy, sends an ironically happy message. This is reflected in two main ways: one, with the resolution of Katurian's tale whence the play derives its name and with the resolution of the play itself. Also, this message manifests itself in many other ways. 

The tale that Katurian recites to Michal has an inherently dark message that children should kill themselves early in life for two reasons: one, they will avoid the pain that life brings; and two, their families will find the loss of a child to "accident" easier than the loss of this child as an adult committing suicide. However, the Pillowman eventually encounters himself as a child, convincing him to kill himself (and thereby destroy the adult Pillowman). The surface interpretation might be that even the one responsible for removing the pain of others is too miserable to exist. However, a deeper look yields the conclusion that even though life is terrible, it is worth experiencing; hence, the destruction of the Pillowman (for a taker of lives is not necessary). 

Also, the play's resolution presents an interesting question: if Michal was approached by the Pillowman, how would he respond? Knowing full well that he would be tortured, and then eventually driven to murder through experimentation due to his brother's stories, Michal responds that he would be willing to suffer that life so that Katurian's stories could be produced, for even they are worth living a harsh life. 

There are many other examples where the play exemplifies this notion. The tale of the Writer and the Writer's Brother, which Katurian claims has a happy ending, empowers his tortured brother, who writes a story better than Katurian could ever hope to produce. Ariel, after hearing all of Katurian's story, becomes a protagonist rather than antatgonist, and, moving against the wishes of the dispassionate Tupolski, saves the stories that drove Michal to murder children; even these stories, which caused death, are worth saving. And there is the third child as well. Katurian was most saddened by her "death", for Michal said she was killed in the manner of the Little Jesus. However, the girl was not harmed, as she was the subject of the tale concerning the green pig, and for a time both Ariel and Katurian are overjoyed. And finally we have the tale of town on the river: the child is maimed by the mysterious stranger, a harsh deed in exchange for the boy's kindness. But what the man really does is save the boy from future abduction (as the man was the Pied Piper of Hamelin); so that even the horrible suffering from having toes removed is worth being alive.

In short, the message of the Pillowman entices us to enjoy life. It will be harsh, and we will suffer, but when the call of the Pillowman comes, we should refuse to answer him. 

the play "Pillowman"

The play was 'interesting' to say the least. It was dark and disturbing. I want to focus on the relationship between him and his parents. It shows the impact that parents have on their children. Although people have free-will, parents have a huge role in their children's lives. Because of his weird childhood and all the horrors he grew up with, he started writing about them. Writing is never a purely 'original' idea. It is always based on some sort of reality and/or inspiration. His stories represent his belief that bad things can happen to even innocent people. He also shows his desire to die. He wishes he had the opportunity to meet the acclaimed 'Pillowman' when he was a kid, so he did not have to live his horrible life and be killed in the end.

Ive heard it said that people whose parents sexual abuse them, being a violent drunk, dads who hit their wives, steal, murder, et cetera all have a very high chance of repeating the same deeds when they are older. It shows again the impact that parents have on their children. The parents in the play did an 'experiment' to see if all the horrible deeds and sounds he heard would have an impact on his life and his writings, and they did. He first wrote great stories, and then these wonderful stories turned into dark, gruesome stories representing the influences of his life and parents.