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laugardagur, apríl 22, 2006

Composition II: April 30th 2002
Eva Heisler

Happy Endings

Nína Rúna Kvaran
What is it that makes a story a good story? Is it realistic character creation or solid settings? Is it perhaps a good storyline or an elaborate plot? Or is it maybe the disposition of the author or his or hers ability to combine all of the above that gives a piece of fiction the essentials to be a good one? Although being myself a ferocious and enthusiastic reader, I am nevertheless clueless as to what the correct answer to these questions is and somehow I doubt that they can be fully explained. Perhaps the mystery about what it exactly is that makes a piece of art a successful one, is in fact that it is mysterious to an extent so that it raises questions. But with everything else set aside it is common knowledge to all who indulge in reading fiction (or any piece of writing when it comes to that) that the beginning is very important. The beginning has to catch the reader’s interest so that he’ll be convinced to read on. But more important and perhaps the most crucial part is the ending. The ending is the last thing to be read and usually has the biggest impact on the reader simply because it’s what the reader is most likely to remember about the piece. Whether the ending is happy, sad or plain is not always the biggest issue, but whether it gives the reader a sense of closure. People tend to feel unsatisfied if they are simply left with a bunch of loose ends hanging in thin air.
In this essay I will be looking at a short story by Margaret Atwood called “Happy Endings”. The purpose is to do a close reading of the story with the basic idea of plot as a thematic content in mind.
“Happy Endings” is definitely not a short story of the conventional kind. It has quite an unusual structure. It starts with a three line introductory part that sets the reader up for what is to come next: “John and Mary meet. /What happens next? / If you want a happy ending, try A”. Then the rest of the piece is divided into six very short chapters marked A, B, C, D, E and F. Each chapter tells different versions of plots destined for the four characters mentioned: John, Mary, Madge and Fred.
If one opts for the happy ending and looks at chapter A, then one quickly realizes that there isn’t very much to say about it. The vocabulary is appropriately rich but diction is as if someone just wrote down a list of things to buy at the grocery shop. The chapter is a very short description of the happy and wonderful life John and Mary have together and it summarizes how perfect their existence is from beginning to end until they die. Of course nobody who has passed the primary school level would write a story like that even though the intention was to have a happy ending. There is no character creation, no point of view, little as no setting and no crisis. The first sentence “John and Mary fall in love and get married” is as overwhelmingly simplified as are the rest of the sentences in the chapter. It’s a deliberately simplified version of a perfect existence that is utterly uninteresting and boring because of its perfectness. That is perhaps the whole idea with chapter A. It shows you how useless it would be to write only about situations that go completely smoothly and people who never meet with any difficulties in their lives. Even though a story is elaborately written and prolonged with detailed description, nobody wants to read it if there is no crisis to be dealt with and no climax to it. It may be very nice and what everybody dreams of, to go through life without making mistakes and facing problems, but it’s not realistic and a story written like that offers no development of character and as a result no sympathy for the reader. It’s totally passionless and more importantly, there is no plot in it. That leads us back to what I mentioned before and that is that without some kind of plot there is no story, or at least no story really worth writing about.
Chapter B is much more elaborate than the first one although the diction has the same kind of dispassionate feeling to it. Strangely enough it continues to be almost robot-like even though the sentences are much longer and more complex than in chapter A. Now we have a sad ending instead of the happy ending before. Mary and John are in a completely different situation. She is in love with him but it’s not repaid and John treats her horribly. Although the chapter is very short we have at least some character description and the setting is Mary’s apartment, although the reader does not get a very visual image of the place.
John is “using her body for selfish pleasure and ego gratification of a tepid kind” so from the start we know that he’s an asshole. He takes her cooking, affection and sexual favors completely for granted and treats poor Mary with the utmost disrespect. She, on the other hand, seems to be a desperate and self-loathing person who diminishes herself in her relations with John in the faint hope of him eventually asking her to get married: “…surely he’ll get used to her, he’ll come to depend on her and they will get married…” Mary slowly deteriorates because of this relationship but refuses to take her friends’ advise about getting out of it. She continues to belief that deep down inside “is another John, who is much nicer”. Then one evening, John complains about Mary’s cooking and he has never done that before so that can be seen as a sign or a forewarning to something awful about to happen. The climax of the chapter is when Mary finds out that John has been seeing another woman called Madge and the fact that he takes that woman to a restaurant hurts her so deeply that she takes an overdose of pills and kills herself, all the while hoping that John will rescue, repent and marry her. The chapter ends with a short comment about John marrying Madge and everything continuing in their lives as it did in chapter A so eventually John and Madge die.
Chapter B is obviously much more interesting than chapter A even though it’s a depressing and unfair storyline. The characters are much better outlined; there are the images of setting in the apartment and the restaurant and most importantly there is a plot, a storyline. The story is plausible and realistic (not that that is a necessity for fiction) and it at least awakens some feelings of repulsion and sympathy for the characters, albeit it’s not crucial for the reader to necessarily identify with them. The sad ending also has its affect, creating pity for Mary and a feeling of rage towards John who gets away so easily and lives a happy life with Madge until his death, just as prescribed in chapter A. This plot works because it’s interesting enough to raise questions and keep the reader in some suspense about the fate of the characters.
In Chapter C the plot thickens and becomes much more complex. Now John is a desperate, bolding, older man, married to Madge but in love with 22-year-old Mary. Young Mary does not love him but sleeps with him on Thursday evenings because the young man she’s in love with, James, isn’t ready for a committed relationship. In this chapter the situation is reversed if compared to chapter B. Mary has sex with John simply because he’s her second choice and she can’t have what she really wants and since he’s an older man he can “keep it up longer”, so she uses him for her own gratification. In chapter C we have a much deeper character creation then in the other two chapters, at least when it comes to Mary and John. We have Mary, a young, inconsiderate woman who blatantly takes advantage of a man desperately in love with her. We have John, an older but seemingly harmless man going through some kind of midlife crisis and who turns out to be a killer. We have totally irresponsible James on his motorcycle that only wants to be free. Then we have Madge, John’s wife and Fred, the man she marries after John’s death. Maybe claiming that the character creation is much deeper is going too far, but at least we have some sort of character development in John as he surprisingly ends up murdering both Mary and James before committing suicide, because he had discovered them high on dope in bed together. He starts out as being the good guy that gets the readers sympathy but ends up being the one who controls the fate of all of them, even his wife, who after “a suitable period of mourning” marries a man called Fred and lives happily ever after until they both die as prescribed in chapter A.
In chapter C we also have more variety in the setting. Mary met John in their workplace, John has a charming house where his wife and two children reside and then Mary has her apartment. Of course the places are only mentioned and not carefully described but they give the reader a sense of surroundings never the less.
The plot is much more complex as I said before. We have the classic love-triangle which could be considered a love-rectangle if we include Madge. There is the tension in Mary’s and John’s relationship, as neither one is ready to commit to the other. John even repeats to Mary that he will not leave his wife, not realizing that Mary doesn’t really care and is just bored with him. Then there is the classic situation where the hypocritical betrayer (John) is betrayed (by Mary) that leads to the climax of the story. John seems to think that even though he himself cheats on his wife, he will not tolerate betrayal himself and in despair buys a handgun with the aforementioned results. Atwood admits that the handgun and killing part of the plot is a thin one but says that if a writer chooses to go by this chapter, that part of the plot can be dealt with later and refined to be more realistic. The chapter then ends with the main characters tragically dead and the eventual death of Madge and Fred as they live happily ever after. Even though chapter C is more detailed than B, it is written in the same matter-of-fact tone. This kind of writing style is somehow so impersonal that despite the fact that there are descriptions of how the characters think and what their dreams are, the reader will probably have difficulties sympathizing with them. The only points of view we get are in chapters B and C but they are not very detailed or deep inspections into the minds of the characters.
Chapter D is a kind of sequel to chapter C if somebody wants to add a little flavor to the “happily ever after” part of the remaining characters’ lives. Actually, I would say that this very short chapter is redundant because the whole plot of it seems very unrealistic and ridiculous, especially if it’s ment to be a sequel to chapter C that described a very believable situation that has often come true in real life.
Now Madge and Fred are living a happy life in their charming house by the seashore. But then, a giant tidal wave approaches but miraculously they both escape and there is a final image of them: “Finally on high ground they clasp each other, wet and dripping and grateful, and continue as in A”. Here there is a freak natural phenomenon that decides the fates of the characters and controls the plot, making it a tad bit difficult to swallow except for the more adventurous readers. Of course they then both live happily ever after and then die.
Chapter E is an even shorter one, offering an option of a little more drama and a sad ending instead of a happy one. Now Fred has a bad heart and “the rest of the story is about how kind and understanding they both are until Fred dies”. Then Madge devotes herself to charity work until she dies. Atwood also brings about the idea of a slightly more bitter storyline were Madge has cancer, they both feel guilty and confused and Fred assumingly devotes himself to bird watching after Madge’s death until he dies himself. Atwood’s latter option is so briefly described that she only gives the keywords “Madge”, “cancer”, “guilty and confused” and “bird watching”. There’s no setting in this chapter and only a rough sketch of character development but surly both Fred and Madge would mature going through the experience of fatal illness.
There is one very interesting thing that is perhaps worth to note and that is the frequent mentioning of real estate values going up or down. In chapter A, they buy a charming house and just then real estate values go up, as to emphasis their fortune and good luck. In chapter C John and Madge bought their charming house just before real estate values went up and in chapter D real estate values go down as the tidal wave approaches, as to emphasize the seriousness of the situation. I don’t know exactly what the intention of Atwood is by this but the real estate business does give the stories a kind of middle-class, suburban atmosphere to them.
And that is were chapter F comes into view. It offers a slightly different setting for those who think the other chapters are too “bourgeois”. John could be a revolutionary and Mary a counterespionage agent, but no matter what you do, Atwood reminds, you will always still end up with A.
Atwood’s conclusion seems to be that no matter what kind of ending you choose, you’ll always end up with the same thing. She exclaims that all endings that even try to be different from the ending she says is the only authentic one, that is, that John and Mary die (thrice repeated for emphasis), are fake endings. I didn’t really know what to think of this when I read it for the first time. Of course people eventually die so that shouldn’t even have to be mentioned. But perhaps that is what Atwood is trying to say, that the ending isn’t the most important thing. She says that beginnings are much more fun but people of good taste will always have their eyes on the thing in between, the most difficult thing to write, the plot. But if the plot is just a sequel of one thing after another, as it seems to be in all the plots that she gives in this story, then something is missing. I think that she is saying that how and why the plot develops, is more important than what actually happens at the end of the story.
I also think that it’s vital not to take this story too seriously and I’m sure Atwood would agree with that. She is first and foremost playing with the classical and very overused form that is so popular in Hollywood’s romantic sector and romance novels; the Jane Austin-like theme of “boy meets girl” etc. She is both making fun of it in her own way and at the same time perhaps commenting on how difficult it is to be original in art creation. It’s just very hard to stay away from the clichés and formulas and be a little spunky. Not only is it problematic because you need to possess imaginative, artistic, creative and original talent to write good fiction but it’s also very difficult because a huge number of fiction lovers unfortunately don’t appreciate what you’re doing and opt for a good, old fashioned formula novel with a solid but predictable ending. That brings you to the question which is maybe the most vital: for whom are you writing and why? Is any kind of art creation done in favor of a potential audience or should it be done solely for the purposes of the artist himself, without any consideration to whether anyone will appreciate it or not? I think the answer is that it’s impossible for the serious artist to ignore the commercial value of art. An artist, who wants to make his living by his art, has to consider the potential buyer when he makes his art, but try at the same time to be true to his convictions. This kind of compromising might be seen as an evil by many, but is most likely the secret behind the successful artist.

fimmtudagur, apríl 20, 2006


Í gylltum sólargeisla sigurofnum
stoltir foreldrar í sælu fagna ögn.
Gleðiloga í brennandi trúarglóð
kveikir gulleldur ástarbáls ævióð.

Í roðagylltu skauti lífslindar ljúft
lifir vissa um eilífðargöngu sálar.
Ef mamma tárast eða kímir glatt
undrakrílið í samhyggð tekur þátt.

Um tíma ósýnileg sál í elskuhreiðri
unaðar í kyrrð og yl vex og dafnar.
Með von og vísi að ævisögu í anda
veraldar einbúans af hug og hjarta.

Nú er lítil stjarna í örmum foreldra
umvafin ljómandi kærleiksneistum.
Í okkar veröld með undrun og spurn
opnar lífstakt ævintýraþels framtíðar.

Höf. Jóna Rúna Kvaran Ort 11-9-2004

A Literary Analysis of Tennessee Williams’ Blanche Dubois from A Streetcar Named Desire
Nína Rúna Kvaran 6th April 2004


The theme of man against woman and vice versa, whether it be in a sexual, social, or genderized form, is as old as human kind and has perhaps never been as prominent as nowadays, in the modern world of education, female liberation and sexuality. It is amazing to brief through the literary history of the Western world and see how the concept and literary treatment of woman has developed from being almost absent, to being there but limited to certain “feminine” spheres, to being almost as visible as man in all aspects literary, social, and sexual. The theatrical world has in the recent years been bomb shelled with plays concerning the relations between men and women, sexuality and scrutinizing of the traditional roles of gender. Although feminist theory did not really start to become clearly visible until in the sixties, exploration of femininity and feminine sexuality had long since started with the likes of Sigmund Freud. But when it came to the literary world, although being abundant with female characters, authors were not commonly diving into the deep end and exploring subjects and topic matters such as sexuality, different sexual orientations and the purpose of gender based roles. One exception from this was of course American playwright, Tennessee Williams. Being one of the most influential playwrights from the period of the middle of the twentieth century, Williams went into territories that most authors of his time had not dared venture. As editor Matthew C. Roudané says in his introduction to The Cambridge Companion to Tennessee Williams on Williams’ creative world:Within such a paradoxical world Williams succeeded in expanding the boundaries of theatricality itself, combining a lyricism and experimentalism that has revolutionized American drama after World War II (i).Whether it is due to Williams’ own homosexuality, the fact that his beloved sister was severely mentally ill, or simply out of his immense intellect and creativity, it is clear that in his works are to be found many of the most memorable female characters the theatrical stage has seen. One of these is of course Blanche Dubois from A Streetcar Named Desire. In this essay the intention is to examine and analyse briefly the above-mentioned character from the viewpoint of feminist, Freudian and gay theories in the context of whether Blanche can be considered a woman’s parody of a woman. Feminist Theory According to Elizabeth Gross in her article “What is Feminist Theory?” as feminist theory came to be, it was clear that the purpose was to elevate women from the status of either being ignored by patriarchal discourses or being treated with a hostile or aggressive attitude by them. It is certainly obvious that Tennessee Williams did not ignore women in his works but rather focused immensely on them. Blanche Dubois is the main character of A Streetcar Named Desire but whether she is really a protagonist of the play is hard to say. She does seem to cause more trouble than anything else and due to her entrance into the lives of Stella and Stanley, everything becomes dishevelled and out of order. In Elia Kazan’s eponymous movie from 1951, Stanley (Marlon Brando) was made out to be the protagonist of the story rather than Blanche who then could be seen as the root of all his troubles. This could also be interpreted as clear chauvinism on the part of the filmmakers, since this is not such a clear-cut case in the original text itself and a portrayal of Blanche as an almost parasitic nuisance is a good example of the hostile and aggressive attitude mentioned above. When looking at Blanche through the eye of feminist theory, her character does work as a two-edged sword. In some ways she challenges the patriarchal view and masculine power, but in other ways she encourages it. It seems that in most of Tennessee Williams’ plays, there is the presence of a dominant, male character. Usually this is a middle-aged man, forceful and in need to dominate the world. Albeit not exactly middle-aged, the character of Stanley falls into this category and from the moment Blanche arrives on the scene, she is in battle with him. She sees Stanley as an animal-like brute and openly expresses this view:He acts like an animal, has an animal’s habits! Eats like one, moves like one, talks like one! There’s even something­­ – sub-human – something not quite to the stages of humanity yet! Yes, something – ape-like about him, like one of those pictures I’ve seen in – anthropological studies! (Williams 510)It is clear that Blanche considers Stanley to be the ultimate, masculine brute and power figure and she is determined to fight against his tyranny and for her sister Stella’s affection. This in itself can be viewed as a feminine protest against patriarchal authority but the methodology that Blanche uses prevents one from seeing her as a feminist heroine. She firstly tries to flirt with Stanley and this turns out to be catastrophic. She not only fails to manipulate him as she perhaps expected to be able to do, she also is later raped by him, although whether that is a definite result of her coquettish behaviour, is hard to say. By flirting, Blanche is essentially doing two things. She is trying to appeal to Stanley’s sexuality as a man, and is therefore, obviously putting on a show. She is pretending to be a woman that he might desire sexually; a clear case of a woman’s parody of a certain type woman. She is also creating a kind of prelude to the almost inevitable rape scene. As is revealed, Blanche is not unaccustomed to men and she feels as if she can analyse their type rather easily. If this is so, she should have known that a “brute” such as Stanley would not be manipulated by her flirting but rather led into the idea of having sexual relations with her, as he later so forcefully does. Could she have prevented the rape or is it fair to say that she played her own part in creating a foundation for it to take place on? Perhaps she never stood a chance against Stanley because she exactly miscalculated his intelligence by almost immediately looking down on him. The second fact that prevents one from seeing Blanche as a feminist character is that when she realizes the extent of Stanley’s crudeness and physical power over Stella and herself, she immediately seeks help from another male source. Felicia Hardison Londré has duly noted this in her article “A streetcar running fifty years”: [ . . . ] although Blanche regards Stella’s husband as a brutal predator, her first impulse is to turn to another man as saviour. There is a subtle irony in her reflexive reversion to the Southern Belle’s habits of thought – that is, emotional dependence on a patriarchal system of male protection for the helpless female (56). Even Blanche herself in her famous last line: “Whoever you are – I have always depended on the kindness of strangers” (Williams 563), admits her own inability to stand on her own as an independent woman. But perhaps this is just another parade of lies because her past, both as a caretaker of the dying at Belle Reve and a guest at the notorious Hotel Flamingo, suggests otherwise. The Freudian View As most know, Freud is the father of modern day psychoanalysis and his, at the time, outrageously provocative theories, have seeped into almost every genre imaginable in the modern world. Literature is not excluded from that. His categorizing of women as being practically tormented by the lack of something only belonging to men (the symbolic or literal lack of a penis or phallic envy) has been torn to pieces by later day feminists who find the notion to be thoroughly insulting since women do have their own “equipment” that is perfectly equivalent in quality to that of men’s. Perhaps it stands more to reason to try to see Freud’s theory as purely symbolic, so that the meaning becomes that women desire not literally a male penis, but the power and status associated with those that do possess that organ. Freud was especially interested in analysing the so-called “hysteria” of women and he had a special interest in women that were of an intellectual kind, or perhaps of what he considered to be a more masculine cast. These were women he claimed to have no erotic attraction for, but that surrounded him at various times in his life. One of these was Joan Riviere, a highly intellectual woman and a psychoanalyst herself. Her article “Womanliness as a Masquerade” which was published in the International Journal of Psychoanalysis in 1929 is an analytic writing on female sexuality. The article itself is very straightforward and focuses mostly on women that wish for masculinity but as a result put on a mask of womanliness, for fear of retribution from men and anxiety. Riviere develops her theory from a case regarding a highly successful and intellectual woman who, after public engagements, seeks reassurance from men in the form of sexual attention:To speak broadly, analysis of her behaviour after her performances showed that she was attempting to obtain sexual advances from the particular type of men by means of flirting and coquetting with them in a more or less veiled manner (Riviere 36).Blanche Dubois seems to be exactly that kind of masquerading woman. She puts on a show at all times, and especially around men. As mentioned before, she flirts with Stanley and tries to convince him that she possesses a kind of innocent nature of a true lady. Obviously, she fails miserably in this, as Stanley, despite his brutish behaviour, sees right through her act from the beginning. He immediately suspects her of losing Belle Reve and squandering the family fortune. He soon discovers the truth about her stay at the Hotel Flamingo, where she presumably prostituted herself to survive and she does not fool him at all. But he nevertheless feels threatened by Blanche. She invades the privacy of his home, steals the attention of his wife and prevents him from enjoying private moments with her. In the case of Stanley, Blanche does intimidate him, but she cannot fool him and therefore her parody of an idealistic woman, fails her.As Riviere explains, in a masquerade, a woman mimics an authentic – genuine – womanliness and Blanche seems at first to be doing a much better job of this in her relationship with Mitch rather than Stanley. Mitch is fascinated by her understanding of his intimate connection to his sick mother and seems quite enthralled by her lady-like composure. But as Blanche openly admits to her own sister, she is putting on an act once again: “What I mean is – he thinks I’m sort of prim and proper, you know! (She laughs out sharply) I want to deceive him enough to make him – want me. . .” (Williams 517). But to show Blanche a bit of fairness it is necessary to mention that Riviere does question the actual authenticity of the so-called “authentic womanliness”. In fact, to Riviere, it is almost as much of a deception and mimicry as the woman’s masquerade because to be a woman is to dissimulate a fundamental masculinity and femininity is that dissimilation. So how much of Blanche’s behaviour is deliberate deception and how much is simply a pure necessity derived from being female? Nietzsche makes this abundantly clear in The Gay Science:Finally, women. Reflect on the whole history of women: do they not have to be first of all and above all else actresses? Listen to physicians who have hypnotized women; finally, love them – let yourself be ‘hypnotized by them’! What is always the end result? That they put on something even when they take off everything. Woman is so artistic (317). The Gay Perspective Though many critics do not agree with analysing works based upon the actual lives of the authors, it can sometimes be useful to realize certain facts about the author’s life. Nobody can write a creative work of fiction if its subject matter is completely unknown to the author. The result would without a doubt be very unconvincing. Tennessee Williams was an extremely autobiographical writer and the theme of his sister Laura and his relationship with her is obvious in some of his plays as for example Glass Menagerie. It is a well-known fact that Tennessee Williams was gay and it is obvious that although limited by the boundaries of the time period he lived in, Williams did subtly (and sometimes not so subtly) refer to homosexuality in a number of his plays. A Streetcar Named Desire is one of those plays. Some have claimed that characters such as Stanley, represented the kind of masculinity Williams himself was attracted to. Whether this is true or false will not be debated here but it certainly is very clear that Stanley is a rather exaggerated male character. He is extremely narcissistic, dominating, and aggressive but above all this, he has no respect for women at all. His rude remarks and violent behaviour towards the women that were a consequence of him not being immediately obeyed at the poker game, shows clearly that he feels women are inferior. Could it be that Williams deliberately made Stanley so extremely chauvinist in order to let him represent a sort of extreme homosexual view of female hatred? Whether the creation of Stanley is in any way connected to Williams’ own homosexuality, is a matter of opinion since the evidence is rather vague. But there are definitely other aspects in the play that are obviously connected to gayness.Blanche’s very young husband committed suicide and it is rather freely indicated that she was responsible for this tragedy. She discovered him in bed with an older man or as she describes it herself: “By coming suddenly into a room that I thought was empty – which wasn’t empty, but had two people in it . . . the boy I had married and an older man who had been his friend for years” (Williams 527). Blanche evidently pretended that nothing had happened but later told the boy that she had seen it and that he disgusted her. He ran away and committed suicide. What is the significance of this chain of events? Some critics say that Blanche Dubois is really too much of a woman to be believable. Her movements, speech and wardrobe seem so extravagantly feminine that it has even been indicated that she is almost a drag queen, a vulgar imitation of a woman but not really a woman. She does not seem to be really sexual but rather asexual. In her article “Imitation and Gender Insubordination” lesbian feminist Judith Butler claims that “[ . . . ] drag is not an imitation or a copy of some prior or true gender simply because there is no “proper” gender or a gender proper to one sex rather than another”. Blanche might therefore be interpreted as kind of disturbance in the otherwise clear-cut world of categorized genders and sexual orientations. She is somehow de-gendered. Blanche can be seen as representing both the homosexual element and the homophobic at the same time. Perhaps this is why some have claimed that Blanche represents Williams himself and his own guilt-ridden homophobia. The homosexual male aspect is then expressed by her over-the-top femininity (meant to cover the homosexual maleness but not succeeding) and the homophobic aspect by her disgust at witnessing the homosexual sex of the two men. When Blanche’s gay boy-husband then kills himself as a result of her homophobia, Williams has in fact become an accomplice in his own symbolic destruction as a homosexual and the boy’s suicide reflects a self-destructive force derived perhaps from the frustration with being homosexual. Furthermore it is obvious that even though Blanche has aged, her taste for the young male has not been altered. She was fired from her teaching post because of an indecent relationship with a student and she blatantly flirts with and kisses a young man that knocks on the door. After kissing him she exclaims: “Now run along, now, quickly! It would be nice to keep you, but I’ve got to be good – and keep my hands off children” (Williams 520). This could (obviously) be interpreted as Williams’ own guilt-ridden attraction to younger men. If this is the case, the conclusion is that Blanche is not simply a woman’s parody of a woman, but a man’s parody of a woman’s parody of a woman! Whether the gay-lesbian element has been interpreted into ridiculous depths here will not be debated any further at this point but the whole idea of homosexuality in Williams’ plays is without a doubt a very interesting subject. Conclusion Tennessee Williams was a master playwright. This came about not only because of his immense interest in the atmosphere, lighting and techniques of the theatre, but also because of the ingredients in his plays and how he worked his way through them. Despite everything else that might have been mentioned above, perhaps the most important theme in his plays is that of entrapment or confinement of some sort. The characters in his plays are very often marked by this paralysing fear of entrapment. This feeling is overwhelming in A Streetcar Named Desire where almost all the characters are stuck in an impossible situation that they cannot get out of. The way in which he presents to the audience/reader, these little moments of importance, these flashes of truth in human nature, is truly awe-inspiring. As Matthew C. Roudané says: Ultimately Williams would become less secret about his life and art, and his exultations less clear of purpose, but he worked assiduously in creating poetic stage moments, moments in which social fact, psychological collapse, and eroticized encounter form a still point in which the imagination, itself, becomes the last refuge for his fated characters (Roudané I).Blanche Dubois is without a doubt one of Williams’ most memorable characters for a variety of reasons. She is one woman and at the same time many women. She is a classic Southern belle, a loving sister, is a schoolteacher, a flirt, a widow, a whore, a nuisance, all in one package. She is also one of these sadly fated characters that Roudané speaks of. She has passed her prime and her concern is more with mortality than actual sexuality although she exploits the latter to manipulate those around her. The audience somehow knows from the start that she is doomed for destruction but how the audience can sense that lies perhaps in the genius with which Williams created her. She is like a moth attracted to a flame and (since Williams had such a flare for the symbolic) when she covers up the lantern with a paper shade that might be seen as a symbolic effort to avoid the inevitable. But is she really a woman’s parody of a woman? Does not that sentence in itself indicate a preconceived view of what a woman is or should be? One would think it necessary to have a clear definition of what a woman is in order to make such an assumption. Maybe Blanche is after all a true woman; unlike any other women perhaps, but still a woman.


Butler, Judith. “Imitation and Gender Insubordination”. Kyn, bókmenntir og heimspeki. Comp. Geir Svansson. Reykjavík: Háskóli Íslands, 1999.Gross, Elizabeth. “What is Feminist Theory?” Knowing Women. Ed. Helen Crowley and Susan Himmelweit. Milton Keynes: Polity Press in association with The Open University, 1992.Heath, Stephen. “Joan Riviere and the Masquerade”. Bókmenntir og kynjafræði 05.42.47 – 030. Ed. Dagný Kristjánsdóttir. Reykjavík: Prentgarður, Háskólafjölritun, 2003.Londré, Felicia Hardison. “A streetcar running fifty years”. The Cambridge Companion to Tennessee Williams. Ed. Matthew C. Roudané. United Kingdom, Cambridge University Press, 1997.Nietzsche, Friedrich. The Gay Science. [1881]. New York: Vintage Books, 1974, 317.Roudané, Matthew C., ed. The Cambridge Companion to Tennessee Williams. United Kingdom, Cambridge University Press, 1997.Williams, Tennessee. Plays 1937-1955: A Streetcar Named Desire. U.S.A., The Library of America, 2000. Film Referred To: A Streetcar Named Desire. Director: Elia Kazan. Starring: Marlon Brando, Vivien Leigh and others. Warner Studios, 1951.

miðvikudagur, apríl 19, 2006

Most of us have plenty of reasons to be sad now and then. When our inner situation is such, it is crucial to search for a way out of the sadness by occupying ourselves with something that will have a strong hold on our mind and soul and will also give us good feelings and thoughts.
When feeling weak and sad it is wise to expose oneself to positive communication with those who are stimulating and cheerful. Disappointment with our situation and interactions with others, are of course worthy projects that we have to resolve and work through meticulously, if possible. We should not let disappointment drag us down to an abyss of despair and fear of the life we have to live. With enough effort it is possible to be happy and warm on the inside; if we want to and long for such well being sincerely and decisively.
There is nothing in our inner life so twisted or complicated that it can’t be dealt with, using definite actions, if we truly want to. A temporary uncheerful disposition towards life and other people can easily cause us great problems if we don’t train ourselves to deal with it correctly. It is of course normal for healthy people to experience periods of hopelessness, especially when people can’t accomplish their goals, are rejected or loose someone.
All human experience is multi-dimensional and complex; being made out of sadness as much as happiness. The better we know ourselves the better our chances to defeat our unhappiness. We should make a habit out of being generally happy and grateful in most situations and avoid letting temporary troubles crush us and make us sad. Sadness is not an undefeatable situation. Therefore it is important that when we are down, we try to focus mainly on behaviour and thoughts that will increase our believe in better and just feelings. Optimism is favourable in a fragile situation, especially if we find it joyless or unacceptable.
Where there is a will there is a way and we can control our disposition towards anything that happens to us. It goes without saying that it’s best to be determined to choose to react to difficulty by believing that it serves a purpose, instead of letting it make us sad and silent. Those of us who want to, can also change our attitude towards the things that we can not control and make us feel hopeless and sad. We can do that by being encouraging and positive towards ourselves and others, whatever our situation may be.
The best solution is to change sadness and depression to happiness and optimism. That kind of disposition makes it easier for us to enjoy that which is most precious to us and that is life; even though we sometimes shamefully forget that fact.

Það er afar áríðandi að það ríki sátt og samlyndi milli hunds og húsbóndi hans.'I þessari tegund samskipta getur óánægja, af gefnu tilefni, verið viðsjárverð og spillt tiltölulega góðu sambandi þannig að til vandræða verði. 'I þessari grein verður sagt frá ótrúlegu hundahárlosi og afleiðingum þess á þá sem þurftu að takast á við það. Um er að ræða hárvanda sem óx og magnaðist með þeim hætti að grípa varð til "neyðarúrræðis" í leit að bærilegri lausn.
Á heimilinu okkar eru þrjár tíkur þær Sunna, Kola og Sara. Allt ljómandi ágætir hundar en ólíkir. Samkomulag heimilisfastra hefur sjaldan verið betra en einmitt þessa mánuðina. Það hefur þó áður ýmislegt gert þessa nánu og viðkvæmu sambúð bæði sársaukafulla og þreytandi. Á tíma­bili lá við sambúðarslitum vegna óásættanlegrar vinnu við að hreinsa upp úr gólfunum óvelkomin, dökkleit og lopakennd hundahár.Hárin höfðu smátt og smátt hækkað teppahæðina og breytt upphaflegum lit þeirra sem eru ljós í svartan lit og ljótan.Þegar tekið var í taumana voru allir tvífætlingar heimilisins á barmi hinnar fullkomnu og sársauka­blöndnu örvæntingar. Ýmsir heimilisfastir voru m.a. á þeim huglægu nótum,þegar verst lét, að taka hatt sinn og staf og hverfa á vergang um óákveðin tíma.
Sara var tekin í fóstur af heimilisföstum fyrir um það bil tveimur árum. Sunna og Kola höfðu þá verið á heimilinu í nokkur ár.Þeirra vandamál liggja ekki í óeðlilegu hárlosi. 'A hinn bóginn kom það strax fram við vistaskipti Söru að hundurinn fer óeðlilega hratt og oft úr hárum.Fram að því að hún kom á heimilið álitum við að hamskipti og hármissir viðgengjust ekki nema á vorin og haustin hjá heilbrigðum hundum. Sara fer, öllum til ama, stöðugt úr hárum.Við héldum kannski á tímabili að örðug vistaskiptin og nýjir húsbændur mynduðu innra með henni streitu sem hún réði ekki við og það kynni m.a. að koma fram í auknu hárlosi.Svo reyndist þó ekki vera.
Ástandið var vægast sagt óþolandi og þar sem einungis virtist vera hárlos hjá Sunnu og Kolu á vorin og haustin er ekkert óeðlilegt við það þó að vinsældir Söru hafi verið í hættu.Enda voru geðshræringar og vanþóknun í algleymingi í hennar garð, þó allir sýndu vandanum yfirnáttúrlegt umburðarlyndi.Aldrei fékk hún tiltal heldur var henni sent sársaukafullt augnaráð. Jafnframt heyrði hún útundan sér, af gefnum tilefnum, píslavættiseintal þess sem þurfti nauðugur að ryksuga hárbreiðurnar sem féllu fyrirhafnalaust af feldi hennar. Hún fær sama fæðið og hinir hundarnir. Ekki er um efnaskort að ræða.Hún er spræk og hress.Sara er reyndar fjörlega vaxin vegna ævintýrlegrar og þráhyggjukenndrar matarlystar.
Hárlos Söru var borið undir ótal sérfræðinga með litlum sem engum árangri.Ráðin sem þeir gáfu dugðu alls ekki til þess að draga úr þessum ósköpum.'Ohætt er að fullyrða að það voru allir í meters fjarlægð við Söru að niðurlotum komnir.Það var m.a. ráðlagt að gefa henni lýsi og B-vítamín. Eins var ráðlagt að kemba hana af ákveðni og ryksuga jafnframt létt yfir feldinn hennar. Ótal önnur og kunnugleg ráð fengust endurgjaldslaust.En lítil breyting varð á vanda Söru.Áfram hélt tíkin reglulega og fyrirhafnarlaust að teppaleggja vistaverur heimilisfastra þeim til skelfingar og sorgar.'Ibúðin var nánast svört.
Þá gerist það einn daginn að aðaleigandi hundsins Nína Rúna, er orðin svo þreytt á þessum óvelkomnu hárum að hún fær lánaða hundarakvél sem notuð hafði verið á púðluhunda. Hún ákvað að prófa upp á von og óvon að raka meirihluta feldsins af Söru vitandi það að öllum sönnum hunda­aðáendum myndi ekki líka þessi frumstæða en gagnlega aðferðafræði eiganda Söru.'I samúðarskyni og af öryggis­ástæðum fengu Sunna og Kola sömu meðferð þrátt fyrir að ólíklegt væri að þær væru í vondum hármálum.
Ekki verður því haldið fram af nokkrum trúverðugleika að hundunum hafi líkað meðferðin á sér. Enda framkvæmdin tímafrek og óviðfelldin. Þær létu sig þó hafa meðferðina í byrjun með miklum semingi.Aðdráttarafl hundanna og þokki breyttist.Þær voru ekki ýkja hárprúðar í nokkra daga eftir meðferð.Segja má að þær hafi notið sín best á þessu tímabili niður við gólf, niðurlútar og feimnar.
Það sem gerist síðan fljótlega eftir hársnyrtinguna er að teppin fóru að taka stakkaskiptum aftur og líkast upphaflegri áferð sinni.Hvort þessi aðferðafræði gengur til lengdar er ósannað. Hún virðist alla vega duga vel í nokkrar vikur. Eftir ítrekaða endurtekn­ingu virðast koma færri hár en þau hætta engan veginn að falla.Þau er á hinn bóginn færri og ná því ekki að mynda ný gólfteppi sem er léttir fyrir þolendur.Það verður að framkvæma meðferðina varlega og varast að skaða dýrið eða særa.
Vafalaust sýnist sitt hverjum um hvers konar meðferð var notuð til þess að stemma stigu við þessum ósköpum. Aðalatriðið er að aðferðin hefur góð áhrif, þó ekki sé um varanlega lausn að ræða.Klippingin virkar fyrst og fremst fyrirbyggjandi. Vafalaust reynist hún misvel og fer það sennilega eftir því hvaða hundategund á í hlut.Sara og Sunna eru nánast hreinræktaðir labradorar en Kola er blendingur. Feldur hundanna er heil­brigður að sjá.Hann hefur vaxið vel og gljáir fallega.Fæðið er það sama og fyrir klippingu. Ekki er mælt með hárskurði nema í neyð.

Skrifað fyrir nokkrum árum

mánudagur, apríl 17, 2006

The Threads of Life
In the sound of the moment, the pulse of life beats in sweet harmony.
But looking back, echos of that which was, are constant.
In the flora of memories, broken promises and disappointments thrive,
expecting understanding and release from that which failed and was.
The moment should not savour the frivolous, for it is.
That which is, sooths and knows, but not that which was or will be.

In the awareness of the moment, live the wise sisters, Hope and Light.
They see the present, perceive the future and tolerate the past.
They refuse to reject that which is for that which was,
though the darkness of difficulties and misfortune increases for a while.
The moment should not suffer for that which was, for it is.
That which is, understands and sees, but not that which was or will be.

In the power of the moment, exist the love of life and enthusiasm.
The siblings that light the powerful fire of victorious flames and bright hope.
Often in the protection of faith and love for that which is and without
the chains of that which was and went by, but treasures the past.
The moment lives in the harmony of creation, for it is.
That which is, grows and blossoms, but not that which was or will be.

In the soul of the moment, the most malignant bonds of the past
are those overwhelmed by shattered visions and the brooding of the spirit.
It is crucial to eliminate that which is fleeting, for it comes and goes,
not sprouting roots anywhere or flourishing.
The moment cries and mourns if life is lost, for it is.
That which is, heals and teaches, but not that which was or will be.

In the light of the moment, live those who expect nothing, but know
how to inspire and love without demands of rewards or attention.
That which is, gives value to life and a purpose beyond that
which is or will be, if encouraged by faith, hope and charity.
The moment flies on life´s wings of wisdom, for it is.
That which is, warms and inspires, but not that which was or will be.

In the arms of the moment, rests the truthfulness of understanding
of the life form, which lights in the heart, sparkles of love and joy.
It is not worth while to endure life in the abyss of disappointments,
for that which was and will never be again.
The moment feeds the flames of life and the embers of victory, for it is.
That which is, conquers and shines, but not that which was or will be.

In the music of the moment, sound the divine chords of truth,
meant for life and maturity in the mind of those who doubt, but are.
The music can transform darkness to brightness and fighting to peace,
in the minds of all who crave the light, but can not see it if they sleep.
The moment keeps the history of the generations without words, for it is.
That which is, will obtain eternity, but not that which was and will be.

Fléttur andartaksins
Í ómi andartaksins, tifar lífstakturinn í ljúfu samræmi.
En þegar litið er um öxl bergmálar stöðugt það sem var.
Í minningaflórunni lifa brostnar forsendur og vonbrigði
sem vænta skilnings og lausnar frá því sem brást og var.
Andartakið á ekki að vista það forgengilega, því það er.
Það sem er, sefar og veit, en ekki það sem var eða verður.

Í vitund andartaksins, búa þær systur, Von og Birta.
Þær sjá nútíðina, skynja framtíðina og umbera fortíðina.
Þær neita að hafna því sem er vegna þess sem var, þó að
myrkur örðugleika og óláns eflist um tíma í minningunni.
Andartakið á ekki að líða fyrir það sem var, því það er.
Það sem er, skilur og sér, en ekki það sem var eða verður.

Í krafti andartaksins, lifa lífsástin og eldmóðurinn.
Systkinin sem kveikja orkubál sigurloga og vonarbirtu.
Oftast í skjóli trúar og elsku til þess sem er og án
hlekkja þess sem var og leið, en geymir liðna tíð.
Andartakið lifir í samhljóm sköpunarinnar, því það er.
Það sem er, vex og dafnar, en ekki það sem var eða verður.

Í sál andartaksins, eru þeir fortíðarfjötrar verstir,
sem þrúgaðir eru af brostinni lífssýn og bölyrkju andans.
Það er áríðandi að uppræta það sem er hverfult, vegna þess
að það kemur og fer, en festir ekki rætur eða dafnar.
Andartakið grætur og tregar ef lífið tapast, því það er.
Það sem er, græðir og agar, en ekki það sem var eða verður.

Í birtu andartaksins, lifa þeir sem einskis vænta, en
kunna að örva og elska án óska um umbun eða eftirtekt.
Það sem er, gefur lífinu gildi og tilgang umfram það sem
var eða verður, ef það er örvað af trú, von og kærleika.
Andartakið flýgur á viskuvængjum lífsins, því það er.
Það sem er, yljar og örvar, en ekki það sem var eða verður.

Í armi andartaksins, hvílir sannleikskorn skilnings um
það lífsform, sem glæðir í hjartanu loga ástar og gleði.
Það borgar sig ekki að láta lífið daga uppi í hyldýpi
vonbrigða, vegna þess sem var og kemur aldrei aftur.
Andartakið kveikir lífsloga og sigurglóð, því það er.
Það sem er, sigrar og skín, en ekki það sem var eða verður.

Í tónum andartaksins, óma guðlegir sannleikshljómar, sem
ætlað er líf og þroski í vitund þess sem efast, en er.
Tónarnir geta breytt myrkri í birtu og ósætti í frið í
hugum allra sem þrá ljósið, en sjá það ekki ef þeir sofa.
Andartakið geymir sögu kynslóðanna án orða, því það er.
Það sem er, öðlast eilífð, en ekki það sem var eða verður.

sunnudagur, apríl 16, 2006

Frjáls til góðra verka

Feigðin kallar
eilífðin opnast
englar birtast
dauðinn heilsar
kaldur tekur.

Guð er nærri
allt er hljótt
þjáning hverfur
í armi drottins
líknar ljósið.

Himneskur friður
fullur kærleika
ylríkur sefar
einmana sál
á framandi slóðum.

Guð veri með þér
í nýrri framtíð
fjarri ástvinum
en þó svo nærri
í heimi andans.

Farðu frjáls
áfram veginn
til góðra verka
í eilífðarfaðmi
um aldir alda.

Ort til eiginmanns míns, Ævars R. Kvaran

Seiðandi návist
ókunnra afla
kallar á einingu
við frumkraftinn.
En efnið
umvefur löngunina
og kæfir andann
í garði minninganna.
Og árin líða hjá
í fjaðraþyt tímans.