With the Word We Will be Healed

“Stoned to death in the streets of San Francisco,

in the year of grace 1869 by a mob

of half-grown boys and Christian school children.”

 

The tiniest one cast first

then lined up for smiles

in sepia school picture

viewing a future stranger

says how cute the young

pale tot smiles into the present.

 

Wan Lee’s human flesh

was never photographed.

Rather, the iron and wood

in which he worked became

what his master’s religion bid

them to be. A conduit imposed on.

 

It was true.

 

Wan Lee was meek.

If only forcibly.

And so he inherited soil.

And yet it was foreign.

The Complexities of a Modern Woman: Casting Aside Dramatic Tradition

August Strindberg wrote Miss Julie in the context of his attempt at understanding women as a whole, which was not an easy endeavor, considering his own complicated love life. His critics claim that Strindberg was a misogynist, and his preface to the play would seemingly confirm that theory to first-time readers and staunch feminists. Yet ironically enough the man who belittled the woman would be one of the first dramatists to give her a fully rounded character- instead of the stilted, one-dimensional characters that pervaded melodramas and so-called well made plays that were so prevalent in late 19th century Europe. The title character, Miss Julie, was constructed as a reflection of what Strindberg believed to be the motives and passions of aristocratic women in his period, at least from his own perspective, because he had experienced an affair with a young woman with the same background, making him surmise that her naiveté’ and pompousness was applicable to all.

Strindberg represented his own views on why an aristocratic woman would act so trivial through Jean, when the character expressed his thoughts on Miss Julie being paradoxically snobbish while trying to act like a commoner: “She’s too stuck-up in some ways and not proud enough in others…” (and then goes on explaining how her mother was the same way). The irony in this description is that instead of demeaning her as a person, Jean is in a way justifying her wild actions to his fiancé, Christine, in that he does not write her off as static, but instead exemplifies the wavering characteristics of an aristocratic female. This characterization is in stark contrast to previous representations of women in literature and especially drama, as the female was widely portrayed as motivated by one trait, such as passion, lust, love, etc. -which became redundant as female characters in plays could easily be substituted with one another without any difference because of their shallowness and universal attributes. Another way Strindberg set Miss Julie apart from previous female characters was by using her mother that was wrought with tragedy as a prominent reason for Miss Julie’s mindset and actions.

Miss Julie would ultimately kill herself partly because her mother had taught her to hate men, and quixotically raised her as if she was a male, in order to prove that women could be just as good as them- another irony, but one that is profound in that such a thing was absolutely unheard of back then. The most intriguing aspect of her complex character was shown in the final pages of the play, as Miss Julie was subtly begging Jean to command her to off herself, “Who’s to blame for what has happened? My father, my mother, myself? Myself? I don’t have a self that’s my own. I don’t have a single thought I didn’t get from my father, not an emotion I didn’t get from my mother… What difference does it make who’s to blame? I’m still the one who has to bear the guilt, suffer the consequences-”. Thus, Strindberg, although apparently a misogynist, offered heartfelt sympathy for Miss Julie by explaining the reasons why she felt and acted so wildly while contradicting her aristocratic ideals. She was suffering from the guilt of her mother’s sins in the way that her mother had treated her father (mainly committing arson on his estate), and in the end, she astutely came to the conclusion that it did not matter who was to blame, but that she just did not want to live dealing with her uncontrollable emotions anymore.

Gainor, Ellen J., Stanton B. Garner, Jr., and Martin Puchner. The Nineteenth Century to the Present. Vol. 2. New York: W.W. Norton and, 2009. Print. The Norton Anthology of Drama.

Strindberg, August. Miss Julie. 1888

Development of Italy and Germany as Nation-States in 19th Century Europe

Count Camillo di Cavour and Otto von Bismarck led the unifications of Italy and Germany simultaneously throughout the 1860s.  They shared many of the same beliefs and instituted some of the same practices, but ultimately, unified Italy remained weak, while the newly unified German Empire became increasingly stronger throughout the rest of the late nineteenth century and culminating (then reemerging as the Third Reich) in the twentieth century.  Cavour’s interests involved unifying Italy under Piedmont, while maintaining a monarchial state, and quelling the republican forces led by Mazzini.  Bismarck was interested in unifying Germany, yet changed from a reactionary’s point of view to a conservative standpoint by the time he became chancellor of Prussia.  Cavour was a moderate, Bismarck was conservative, neither of them had any radical ideals.  The unifications of their states were a means to an end, and both men wished for their respective homelands to dominate and influence their newly unified nation-states.

Cavour represented King Victor Emmanuel II by using cunning politics and secretive diplomacy in order to further Piedmont’s interests in the Italian peninsula.  The King attempted to wage war against the Habsburgs on two occasions and failed miserably both times.  Cavour used his cunningness to gain favor with Napolean III of France and eventually wage successful war against the Austrians.  The Piedmonts won Lombardy from the Habsburgs, meanwhile the Italian republican nationalists, led by Garibaldi, landed in Sicily and moved up north.  This prompted Cavour to order the Piedmont army to move south and meet the republicans, forcing Garibaldi to give up his republican ideals and choose national unification under the leadership of Piedmont.  Eventually, by 1870, all of Italy was unified, (except for a few small regions still occupied by the Austrians), yet this did not foster the strength that romantic nationalism promised.  The newly unified Italy became corrupt politically, and weak economically and militarily.

In contrast, Prussia was strong to begin with in the early 1860s and Bismarck led the country conservatively on a path of dominance in Germany.  Kaiser William I chose Bismarck because he knew the man would move against the liberal Prussian Parliament, and that is exactly what he did.  Bismarck gained the support of the bureaucracy and the military through conservative political maneuvers in parliament.  Then, he provoked war with the Danish, the Austrians, and ultimately the French as he led the Germans in defeating all of them.  The North German Confederation was established through the conservative institution of Prussia, and the southern German states united once the Franco-Prussian war began.  It was in that war that the Germans utterly destroyed the French, and Kaiser William I was crowned Emperor in Versailles.  Thus, Bismarck was cunning and at times pragmatic like Cavour, yet in the end, Germany was successful in her wars of aggression, and Italy never achieved the glorifying reemergence of the Roman Empire that it desired.

Another Look at Karl

Karl Marx was not necessarily the last of the philosophes, but in contrast, he could easily be seen as the death of the philosophes.  Karl Marx was avidly opposed to anything having to do with reform, instead, he advocated the revolution of the proletariat.  All of the eighteenth century philosophes were in support of reform through already established governments in order to implement their own ideas.  Karl Marx was influenced by, but directly opposed to the political reform strategies and the internal reform ideas of the French Socialists.  Marx believed that only revolution could cause true reform through destroying the social class structure.  Piecemeal reforms would not be able to transform society because the class struggles that permeated throughout history were never accidental factors, but class struggle was in itself deliberate, and the proletariat would have to become class-conscious in order to overcome their oppressive existence.

None of the philosophes brought that much complexity into their political ideals solely because they were reformist in nature according to Marx’s taste.  He was influenced by them, yet he understood that he would have to oppose all of their ideas in order for him to create what he thought was the correct intellectual agenda and ultimately achieve the revolution of the proletariat.  However, Marx conducted political writing and research in the very same ways that French philosophes such as Voltaire, Montesquieu, and Rousseau did.  He used a variety of directly opposing views as his resources, and he wrote his agendas in such an authoritative manner that would be reminiscent of Rousseau.  However, Marx’s nullification of all past political works including the philosophes and his radical, purely working class rhetoric would have been bizarrely foreign to the Enlightenment philosophers, and thus Marx only had abstract connections to them.

Marx’s theories were purely working class and revolutionary in manner.  Marx was indeed, the beginning of a new era in political writers who would write according to their own analyzations of events around them, (such as Marx’s reactions to the revolutions of 1848).  Marx utilized his own interpretations of Hegelian historical analysis in order to define and point out class struggle in the world around him.  Although Karl Marx absorbed influences and styles from the aforementioned great philosophers of the preceding century, his work can be more accurately interpreted in view of his contemporary surroundings.