EN 101 17
Reading Response 1/31
Selfish motives are often covered by the appearance of individuals’ acts of charity. Acts of so-called love or desire to do help commonly arise from self-interests. In Nathaniel Hawthrone’s “The Birthmark”, and Charolette Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper”, the husbands are motivated by their own wants. Catherine Savell’s presentation on “Haiti Three Years Later: Micro-Changes” also demonstrates self-centered reasons to supposedly help others. William Wordsworth’s poem, “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud” contrasts the common theme by the poet’s ability to fulfill his own happiness for pure selfless reasons.
Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “The Birthmark” tells the story of a scientist and his obsession with his wife’s imperfection. The wife, Georgiana, had an imperfection on her cheek in the appearance of a crimson hand. The husband Aylmer wished to remove the blemish, “He found this one defect grow more and more intolerable with every moment of their united lives. It was the fatal flaw of humanity…” (468). Aylmer desperately wanted to remove the blemish, he stared at the imperfection until his wife “…learned to shudder at his gaze…” (468). Until Aylmer’s discontent with the mark his wife had imagined it to be a charm (467). Instead Aylmer’s manifests his selfish desire to remove the deformity as a gift to her, to complete her perfection. Aylmer wanted to “intertwine” his love of science with his love for his wife (467). He was motivated by the vanity of perfecting his wife’s skin and by using his own knowledge and power to heal her. Aylmer’s supposedly good deed to remove his wife’s blemish kills her instead. Georgiana was content with the blemish. Instead her husband’s hate of the mark caused her isolation from life and joy, and her decision to risk her life to have it removed. Aylmer’s act of charity is Georgiana’s downfall and death.
“The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman narrates a woman’s spiral into disillusion and madness. The narrator is a married sickly woman, depressed and nervous, although she thinks it is something more. The sickly wife lives a life of isolation and oppression in addition to her depression. She is physically isolated in a “queer” vacation house; also her husband is often in the village for work. The narrator’s account of her marriage suggests she is oppressed by her husband and even mentally isolated. John, the husband, forbids her to work and “…hates for her to write a word…” (389). He also ignores her input on her condition and how she believes her health is. As a physician he insists that he knows what is right for her (394). Instead the narrator obviously suffers from more than depression and nervous tendencies. At the conclusion of the story she has gone mad freeing a woman from behind the bars of the ugly yellow wallpaper. The woman in the wallpaper represents the narrator and her own oppression. The husband does not address the narrator’s isolation and medical problems in her best interest. John insists repeatedly that he knows what is best for his wife and disregards the few words she can speak about her health and wants before crying. The husband’s good deeds as a physician and husband are really his dominance over his wife to oppress her and his idea that he knows more than she about her health. At the conclusion of the story the narrator goes completely mad. Her shoulder fits perfectly into the “long smooch” in the wall already circling the room, symbolizing previous people who had gone mad from their oppression.
A Loyola University event hosted by Catherine Savell highlights the common theme of misguided acts of good or charity. Catherine Savell discussed “Haiti Three Years Later: Micro-Changes”. On January 12, 2012 Haiti experienced a devastating earthquake. An estimated 220,000 died and 300,000 injuries occurred within the first thirty seconds. Savell discussed the progress made within the last three years, yet approximately 358,000 people still live in tenst5 and 2.1 million-face severe food insecurity. The presentation showed the enormous response to the disaster Haiti received originally, with about seventy meetings a week among agencies. Unfortunately Haiti fell victim to false good deeds from others. Although billions of dollars were pledged to the Haitian government, it only received one percent of the money eventually donated. Professor Savell discussed how people look down on the people especially with a lack of faith in their abilities. Catherine Savell mentioned the story of a boy who had his leg crushed and crippled in the earthquake. The only thing that eventually pulled him out of his depression was a job given to cut wire. Ms. Savell continued on to describe how a woman with a supposedly camp of helpers was rude and angered that she could not cut the wire and that she had to give the job back to the boy. The woman was more concerned with making herself feel good thinking she helped than actually helping. Had she been more concerned with helping others she would have gladly stopped doing the job that was the only joy to the injured adolescent. Catherine Savell also talked about various groups or organizations that claimed to help the people but in reality only donated cheap un-useful materials and goods. These organizations helped long enough to have their picture taken and were gone by the time whatever they donated crumbled from its cheapness. Even sadder were instances of church “poor tours” that thought kicking a ball with the children and handing out candy bars was a good idea. In reality they were just touring the poverty and destruction, causing more nuisance than genuine help. Haiti although making progress in tiny steps is backtracked by the selfish motives of others. People whom are all talk and no actual help discourage the country’s progress. It wastes the time and hope of those who are selfless in their desires to help the country and the people.
I thought William Wordsworth’s poem “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud” was a good contrast to the previous literature works. Instead of dwelling in self-isolation or being oppressed by his own thoughts, he finds his own happiness. Wordsworth’s content with wandering lonely as a cloud, for whenever he “Lie/ In vacant or in a pensive mood” he recalls the daffodils and his “heart with pleasure fills”. The poem reminded me of meditation and the ability to mediate and focus on what you enjoy and not what bothers you.
Nathaniel Hawthrone’s “The Birthmark”, Charolette Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper” and Catherine Savell’s presentation on “Haiti Three Years Later: Micro-Changes” all share a common theme. They show the unfortunate characteristic of human nature to hide selfish motives behind supposedly good deeds. William Wordsworth’s poem, “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud” contrasted the theme of selfish motives and isolation. Instead Wordsworth makes the effort to better his attitude and behavior and reflect on what makes him happy, similar to my experience with meditation in the previous week.