Friday, September 14, 2012


Einstein is typically (wrongly) claimed to a proponent of the mixture between science and religion. In reality, Einstein was very much a "pantheistic atheist" in the sense that he viewed "God" as nature -- but not a divinity, not even in a deistic sense.

Princeton, 3. 1. 1954

Dear Mr Gutkind,

Inspired by Brouwer’s repeated suggestion, I read a great deal in your book, and thank you very much for lending it to me ... With regard to the factual attitude to life and to the human community we have a great deal in common. Your personal ideal with its striving for freedom from ego-oriented desires, for making life beautiful and noble, with an emphasis on the purely human element ... unites us as having an “American Attitude.”

Still, without Brouwer’s suggestion I would never have gotten myself to engage intensively with your book because it is written in a language inaccessible to me. The word God is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weakness, the Bible a collection of honorable, but still purely primitive, legends which are nevertheless pretty childish. No interpretation no matter how subtle can (for me) change this. ... For me the Jewish religion like all other religions is an incarnation of the most childish superstition. And the Jewish people to whom I gladly belong ... have no different quality for me than all other people. As far as my experience goes, they are also no better than other human groups, although they are protected from the worst cancers by a lack of power. Otherwise I cannot see anything “chosen” about them.

In general I find it painful that you claim a privileged position and try to defend it by two walls of pride, an external one as a man and an internal one as a Jew. As a man you claim, so to speak, a dispensation from causality otherwise accepted, as a Jew of monotheism. But a limited causality is no longer a causality at all, as our wonderful Spinoza recognized with all incision...

Now that I have quite openly stated our differences in intellectual convictions it is still clear to me that we are quite close to each other in essential things, i.e. in our evaluation of human behavior ... I think that we would understand each other quite well if we talked about concrete things.

With friendly thanks and best wishes,


A. Einstein


Wednesday, September 12, 2012


"Focus on the Family" is a Judeo-Christian oriented "political thinktank" that is, in reality, nothing more than a bigoted hate-group spewing their poison into the ears of politicians in the government of the United States.

Recently, while conducting an interview with World Magazine -- a propaganda publishment for political-evangelicalism -- the recently appointed head of the hategroup, Jim Daily, made this comment:

"We're winning the younger generation on abortion, at least in theory. What about same-sex marriage? We're losing on that one, especially among the 20- and 30-somethings: 65 to 70 percent of them favor same-sex marriage. I don't know if that's going to change with a little more age-demographers would say probably not. We've probably lost that. I don't want to be extremist here, but I think we need to start calculating where we are in the culture."

(Bold is question, regular is the answer.)

As is typical, Jim Daily himself is a would-be tyrant -- a slobbering, slackjawed piece of filth that is just jealous he is a Baptist and not a Catholic, depriving him of protected access to the diddling of altar boys. I don't know how many more fat, sagging, old, male preachers (or senators, for that matter) that are caught fucking children or cruising bathroom stalls is needed until people start to realize these cads are nothing more than hypocrites. It is the Nietzschean concept of ressentiment -- to demonize that which you feel you cannot have, or feel too guilty to have. Slave morality at its worst.

What many of Daily's ilk fail to realize is that ultimately fail to realize is that their ashen husks are nothing more than bonemeal for the youth. In this digitized age of nigh infinite information, ancient Hebrew death cults cannot hope to survive. There is an inherent, though perhaps subconscious amongst the lesser intelligent, awakening of a postmodern, constructivist way of thinking -- that nothing is more important than individual liberty; that we live in a plastic world based on morality that is inherently hypocritical and subjective while trying to claim itself pious and objective.

If you think that their goal is any less than cultural domination (read: controlling Christians and non-Christians by use of the power of the State), you are wrong.

Quote Daily, "
Everything I'm trying to do at Focus on the Family is to win the culture."
As that thespian-turned-thief Reagan liked to say, "Weeeeeeeeeeell..."

Daily -- I've a piece of advice for you. Give up on the rest too -- and stop shoving your vile down the throats of who took the red pill.

Sunday, September 9, 2012


Here's a story that was inspired by a dream; I wrote it in a day. May 28, 2011.

The crumbing, moldy grey crosses lined the older part of Pine Grove Cemetary, all manner of what were once ornate tombstones having fallen into light disrepair – the workers would certainly polish a faceplate now and then, but many of the relatives of the graves’ residents were no longer paying, and it was only the interest of keeping a somewhat steady stream of clientele that they would keep the tombs at least presentable. With the exception of a few graves of Freemasons, scattered unevenly and sticking out like sore thumbs, it had once been a uniformly Christian burial ground.

It was quite the controversy when the new graves were lacking those crosses. Some damn Hollywood type had been born here, and so too did he wish to spend eternal rest here. He and his family had died in a plane crash on the way back from a USO in Germany sometime after World War II, and Brad had only been around 4 when it happened. He remembered his father’s disgust at the public funeral and the lack of any symbolism of faith on the graves. “No doubt a pinko,” Bradley’s dad used to say. But Communist or not, the Howsen family had left quite a large donation to Pine Grove in their collective will – a will no doubt written by the overtly patriarchal father of the family – and the money was enough that the old owners even “officially” renamed it Howsen Memorial Gardens, but like a lot of renamings in this old town the folks called it something totally different. They were never much on being “official.”

Brad remembered when Sarah-Ann wanted cremated. “Ludicrous, I reckon” he used to quarrel with her. “If the Lord had wanted you to turn to ashes so quick, he’da done it!” The memory brought a light smile to the bald wrinkles of sagging skin that was Brad’s face. His southern drawl tugged at his throat, years of chainsmoking having left him cancer free but with a light wheeze nonetheless. Those years of public speaking classes and Yankees giving him shit in the Army had left him with a mostly proper dialect, but when he was riled up enough it all fell apart.

He was able to at least convince her that cremation was somehow sacrilegious, but Sarah was a stubborn one, and if she was going to be six feet under, she wanted to be in the same cemetery as her mother. He didn’t want her or even himself buried here; the grave was like a standing reminder of how the town had changed. Going just by the years on the graves, one could see how the makeup had changed, in both the ethnic makeup and the influence of religion. Blacks hadn’t really started being buried here until the ‘70s, and while Brad didn’t have anything against “negroes,” he had grown up with segregation, and it was a natural thing to him. Folks that different were like oil and water, he thought.  Most of the churches had peaked in the ‘80s, thanks to the fervor brought by men like Reagan and Buckley, but it soon died down in the ‘90s, and – something Brad had never seen before – churches started closing and being demolished, their lots returning to the natural state they had once been in.

He felt a firm pinch in his chest at this. Not only was Sarah-Ann buried here, but there were no plots in the older part of the cemetery – her death had been so sudden that they hadn’t had time to really plan. The closest person she was buried to was some kid who had drunk himself dead after coming home on leave from the Marines, right after bootcamp in Parris Island. A farcry from being buried next to her mother. Now, like the Freemasons with their gravestones, Sarah’s stood out like a sore thumb. Brad made sure of that. He spent the vast majority of the fund he was saving for them to finally go out on a cruiseliner – something she had begged him for the better part of 40 years to do, but something he wanted to be sure to make overtly extravagant and long – on an enormous tribute to both her and to God, who had blessed them so much.  

His liverspotted hands clenched the roses so tightly that their thorns poked out from the plastic, drawing blood. He didn’t pay any notice to the pain – assuming his old nerves could even feel it at this point; his mind was too far gone, hypnotized by the sound of leaves crunching beneath his weary step.

Her funeral had been a quiet one; most of her friends had gone before her, but at least their children had made it. Of course, he could have done without the grandchildren – their fingers moved faster than an old typists on those phones, texting all throughout the procession. He wasn’t even sure if they had looked up even once. Not that they were bad kids, but for all the birthday money they had been given, they showed such a lack of respect. Brad sighed, supposing it was just the generation. At least they had been dressed up formal. He made damn sure junior had the money to buy the best. While Brad had ran the best furniture shop – the only furniture shop – in Pine Grove for the better part of fifty years, junior was going to make “the big bucks.” An intense schooling in politics and religion, he hoped, would make junior a fine politician. Instead, in the middle of his studies at university, he switched to finance, and became an investor.

“Not exactly the most pious profession,” he remembered thinking, but the pay was good, and Brad knew that junior would at least be able to provide for his family.

He didn’t know provide meant that they would practically be deprived of grandchildren when junior and his Misses packed up and moved; they were lucky to see them once, maybe twice, every three years. Brad just didn’t have the money to close up shop and take the time, especially going that far, and he assumed junior couldn’t either.

Assume – the word stung in his ears. His sergeant used to snarl whenever he heard it, “Don’t make an ‘ASS’ out of ‘U’ and ‘ME!’”

Brad’s watch beeped, breaking the trance like an alarm waking one from sleep. He had forgotten for a moment it had even been sent, forgetting even how to turn it off for a brief moment as he slapped at the buttons with a bleeding hand. Finally managing to do so, he gave a slow glance about himself – no one there to mock him, save for the songbirds. He sighed, dapping at his hand with the sleeve of his opposite arm’s shirt, hoping that the wound would clot. The pills for his heart made his blood run thin, and – “Pills,” he thought. He had to take his pills, but they were back in the car, and he figured he could go an hour or so off schedule.

He tried to make himself go faster, but the bad knees had taken their toll on his stride. Sarah had tried to convince him to go for replacement, but God had given him these knees, and a bad joint was a test of faith that Bradley could handle. The twilight hours were soon reaching noon, and beads of sweat rolled off of Brad’s uneven jawline as his calloused eyes found Sarah’s headstone. It wasn’t that hard; he might not have been able to read the inscription, but he knew this was Sarah’s grave – it dwarfed the others.

 Wanting to take a knee, but unable to muster the will to bend, and unsure if he would be able to get back up without some assistance, Brad clumsily dropped the flowers from his shaking hand onto the ground in front of him. Stifling tears at the realization that his best friend was in the ground beneath those flowers, he smacked his old, dry lips in some vain attempt at forcing away the saddened expression that lined his face. He let out a sigh, taking his John Deere hat from atop his head and running a hand over his wet, balding scalp.

Searching for the words to say, he came out empty; he had not spoken a word to her. He thought it a bit silly. She was In heaven, not here, he thought; only her earthly presence lingered here. He tried to convince himself that he was not excusing away the fact that her absence hurt so bad he could not bring himself to truly accept that she would not hear his words, and that he was beginning to forget what her beautiful voice had sounded like.

Calloused blue eyes squinted as the sun burnt through the trees, beams practically blinding Brad. Now he was wishing he had those sunglasses he had seen people his age wear, but he was far too stubborn for them. He thought they looked ridiculous. Starting aloud, “If God had wanted us to—“ he stopped. He realized that Sarah would not chide him with a chuckling “Oh, Bradley!” ever again.

Then he felt his heart ache. For a moment, he was worried he had put the pills off too long – but it was not that kind of heartache. It was the most painful ache of all – the realization that your most treasured bond has been broken, that the person whose life had melded with your own is gone, that a part of you is irrevocably dead. Now the tears came gushing; he had not cried for her yet. He tried, with a plastic smile, to imagine that she was in a better place now, but it was little comfort when he was without her. How much longer would the Lord keep him on this earth? Would he even go to heaven with her? They were old, yes, but Doctor Litsky had told them they both had another ten, maybe twenty years. More than enough time to take her on that cruise – more than enough time to take her to see the world. More than enough time to fulfill all those promises that were now irrevocably broken.

Clenching his teeth, the lost soul turned away, beginning shamed walk back to the truck. He shouldn’t have been allowed to drive, but everyone knew him, and without a car the furniture shop had no Bradley, and no Bradley meant the shop would probably go under. His prices were fair; if not so fair that he was now actually losing money on each sale, but it was his gift to the town. It was his charity.

He opened the door to the Chevy, giving the key to the ignition a strained turn. There was maybe a half a tank left according to the fuel gauge. Sarah would jokingly say how that meant they had ten miles left in this old gas guzzler – the memory bringing a gentle smile to Brad’s tearstained face. He opened the glovebox to search for his pills, but they were not there; he had forgotten yet again, and Sarah was not there to make sure to remind him.

The blue pickup truck went at least ten miles per hour under the speed limit on the road back home, much to the chagrin of some white sportscar that swerved left and right behind Bradley in an attempt to see if it was safe to pass in the two-lane, hilly road.

Brad paid the driver no attention – this was not the first time some passerthrough was angry at his driving, it would not be the last. His mind was elsewhere, playing the events of the past week over in his mind. Brad had gone out drinking that night instead of coming straight home from work, and he neglected to call Sarah to let her know. There was a game on, and Brad was curious to see how football would look now that, as the boys at the bar had said, “the NFL was pussified.”

He swallowed hard as he couldn’t blot out the memory – the plastic Jesus bobblehead on his dashboard that had sat there for decades bobbling along. He had thought it sacrilegious at first, but Sarah insisted, and it was a constant reminder of her to him.

 Junior had given them both cellphones for Christmas – neither of them could figure them out much, aside from mere dialing and calling, and it was surprisingly convenient. He remembered seeing the commercials for them on television, with their enlarged buttons for older eyes, and simple, humble design. Surprisingly no ring escaped the electric speakers of the phone when he was late home. Unusual, since he was usually in for a light scolding, but he assumed perhaps she had fallen asleep, or the towers were down.

He furrowed his brow. “Sorry, sarge…” he muttered under his breath.

That night he found Sarah in the bathroom floor, collapsed over in her nightgown –  his memory was a blur at that point. Everything happened at once in some sort of unnatural haze; the desperate dial to 9/11, the paramedics, the tubes, the doctor consoling him at the ER, the will reading, the insurance agents, barely slowing down when the funeral finally came. Dead of a stroke. Her body was still warm when he fell to the floor to grasp it and try to rouse her in some final bout of his former strength.

There were now two cars behind him, and the white one would every so often honk its horn in some vain attempt at speeding him up like a man prodding a dead cattle.

After the funeral had met with junior in private – his son had thought it necessary. He had never seen the old man with a face that was such a mask – so devoid of emotion, yet so telling at the same time. Bradley Jr’s childhood friend was one of the paramedics that arrived on scene. That same paramedic had accidentally muttered their findings on the phone on his way out of the hospital, failing to realize that Bradley Sr. was right there in the hallway, a catatonic mess.
“Dad,” junior said, “You can’t let this eat you up. You and mom had a great life.  Even if you had been there…”

Bradley Sr. blinked at this, “The hell you mean if I had been there, boy?” Junior blinked, not expecting the sudden irritation and anger in his father’s voice. “Look, Mike told me what they found. It’s not your fault you weren’t there. Even if you had been,” he repeated, “…it might not have done any good.”

The old man balled up his fists, walking over to junior – face to face, pointing at him with a crooked index finger and jabbing it into his shoulder. “Listen, when the good Lord decides it’s our time to go, it’s our time. Nothin’ no one no how can do about it. So I reckon that yer damn right I couldn’ta done nothin’. Don’t you try to comfort me, y’hear? I don’t feel no guilt ‘bout it.”

He watched as his son blinked, mouth hanging open like his jaw would hit the floor. “You don’t feel –any- guilt? You don’t feel… any guilt that you didn’t call mom to let her know you’d be late? I bought you that damn cellphone so you two could keep an eye on each other, rather than rely on some kid in a nursing home too.” He paused. The old man’s formerly pale cheeks were growing red with rage.

 “Oh,” Bradley junior began anew, a mocking tone to his lecturing voice. “But no, God absolves you of that! You don’t feel any guilt because after all, if mom had stepped into traffic, you could have watched with some stupid shrug of the shoulders. ”

“You best knock it the hell off, son.” His fists were shaking.

“Wee-eee-eelp, “ the younger man began, in an accent and voice that mocked his father. “I done guess it’s in da’ Lord’s hands now!”

The words stung like a glass shard in Brad’s heart. His pale blue eyes went wide at this, staring into his son’s own – like looking back in time at a younger, fiercer him – save for the brown hair that his son inherited from his mother.
“The Lord works in mysterious ways,” Bradley said. “It was her time… he – he is testing my faith. Now, don’t you worry, I’ll see her again. And so will ya’ll see her and see me should you worship Him, son.”

The words incensed his son even further. “Are you fucking kidding me?” he snarled – it was the first time he had ever used that word infront of his old man. “Are you that old and pathetic you’re going to repeat that cliché line that every two bit Pastor uses to keep the donations coming> Mom was a great person, and she was attached by the hips to you, and you only drug her down. All her hopes and ambitions lost upon you. She never even made it out of the country. If that was God’s plan for such an amazing woman to live such a fruitless life with a man who wouldn’t even check on her, then worship that? Never.”

Bradley couldn’t muster a response, actually taking a step back from the child who was now taller than him.
“You fucking tool – she’s GONE! No heaven, no hell. Just a waxed up, plastic bag of flesh filled with formaldehyde! the magic in her heart is dead. Wasted on you. You think there’s some magical place you’re going to appear in, where our ghosts will all live happily for eternity, flapping around with wings, fingers playing on strings; young and beautiful again? Where suddenly Spike the dog will be eternally playing fetch and you can make up for all the ills you committed in life? You think she’s going to be smiling down at you from the clouds while you blow the rest of your life in bars waiting for your precious savior to beam you up to heaven?”

He grabbed his father by the shoulders. “Wrong,” he growled, face red with anger. “She’s fucking WORMFOOD!”
Junior’s tirade was interrupted only by the fist of his father finding his lips, old arthritic fingers snapping and cracking as his knuckles split the skin. It wasn’t enough to knock out teeth, but it was more strength that the old man could usually muster. Junior pressed a hand to his lips, feeling the warm crimson seep through. His father looked like a pale demon in the courtyard of the church, his own children and wife staring frightened over at the two quarreling men.

“Piece of shit…” senior wheezed at his son, fists still balled up. “Yer gonna find that yer right ‘bout one thing, boy, and that’s that it’s some ripe BS you’ll be seein’ me or Sarah in the Lord’s court.” He turned his back on his son. “Done gonna break her heart when she never sees you again… what you done’s on the same level as blasphemy, in Jesus’ name I pray.”

Bradley junior spat, wiping furiously at his lips. Another string of vulgarities was on the tip of his tongue, but his own wife grabbed him by the hand and led him and the children back to their sedan.

The memory made Brad senior’s chest hurt again. The boy had stepped out of line, but Sarah would not have so readily judged him. That was God’s duty, not man’s, Brad thought. He bit at his lower lip with the dentures glued to his gums, letting out a forced sigh as his hand reached for the bulky cellphone in the empty passenger seat. He began to dial the number – never having figured out how to save it to the contact list of the phone – his failing eyes straining to find the enlarged keys.

He squinted as he saw two flashing red lights infront of the vehicle distracting him from the phone, slamming on the breaks upon realization that it was a railroad crossing. The cars that tailgated him crashed into his rearend, sending the pickup through the railroad crossing and onto the railroad. His phone flew from his hand and onto the dashboard, knocking Sarah’s plastic Jesus bobblehead from its magnetized position and onto the floor.

Brad could hear his heart beating in his own ears. He was wheezing, short on breath, his pulse racing from a mix of the lack of medication and the sudden wreck. Smoke filled the interior – not from airbags, but from the engine fire that was rapidly increasing. In a panic, the old man leaned over, reaching for the figurine.  He dare not take the risk of damage to his wife’s final gift to him.

The cellphone was put into speakerphone mode after being tossed from Bradley’s grip. The ringing ceased as the old man grabbed ahold of the bobbling God, bloodied fingers wrapping about its plastic white robes, staring into the fake blue eyes and absurd grin. It was the last time he would see the face of his Lord. “Plastic,” he thought. And his heart ached.

He heard his son’s voice over the speaker, after a light sigh, barely audible thanks to the volume of the phone – and the car horns honking desperately, and the screaming, and the screeching of the brakes, and a horn that began to grow louder and louder.


His son was met with an ear-shatteringly loud horn of a freight train, the digitized sound crackling from the speaker.  His hand helplessly dropped the cordless white phone, and in response a horrible played with the shattering of glass and grinding of metal as its instruments. Then silence – a click – and finally, the lifelessly dull drone of a dial-tone.


This is the poem Andrei wrote for the Odyssey Art Magazine competition, and was submitted to the Florida State poetry competition by the magazine. It is based from the viewpoint of a Roman patrician, post Emperor Julian.

Hearts do not bleed in arid desert sands (a)

They parch umber through gates of heaven (b)

Straightened has the ancient ankh’s curved strand (a)

Thrust to Petros’ arch, née Osiris’ seven (b)

Fated to two-thousand years’ resentment (c)

Our marble empire and Liber’s nature (d)

Endless holy scriptures, manmade parchment (c)

Bland pages speak of divine departure (d)

“I have come not to send peace, but a sword” (e)

Accept their truth and God, or damned thy fate (f)

Poison spat from eastern tongues, the false Word (e)

The Edict has been passed; it is too late (f)

There lay no red roses on the grave of Rome (g)

Instead she slumbers pale under the barbed throne. (g)


An old essay by Andrei.

Mary Huffer
AML 2020
25 September 2010
The Daughter of Tragedy

“Miserable, ephemeral race, children of hazard and hardship, why do you force me to say what it would be much more fruitful for you not to hear? The best of all things is something entirely outside your grasp: not to be born, not to be, to be nothing. But the second-best thing for you—is to die soon.” (Nietzsche 22)

            The Library of Congress in the United States houses a total of 261 books of literary criticism on the author James Joyce’s works – a fact that his grandson laments. “People want to brand this great work with their mark. I don’t accept that… All this crap they write.” (Max) Literary criticism is oft considered as important as the work it is based upon. Authorial intent seems to have taken a backseat to, instead, how the critics interpret the work. Some go as far to say that the critics’ interpretation renders authorial intent null – that their projection is more relevant. (Barthes 1) This is compounded when a work is left abstract, or a variety of interpretations are possible. One can make the existentialist argument that deriving meaning belongs to the reader. In academia, however, this may result in popular interpretation being taught as the only actual valid form of reading the work – whether out of political motivation, or sloppy scholarship. If one is to ignore the intent of the author, what makes a critic’s interpretation any more valid? Rather than mindlessly go about the recycling of popularly held interpretations, this writing challenges them – specifically the character of Edna in Kate Chopin’s “The Awakening,” not as a feminist heroine, nor a successful self-determiner but a tragic figure caught in a struggle between society and nature – between Apollo and Dionysus; with her awakening resulting not in growth, but loss.

“Having a group of people at my disposal, I thought it might be entertaining (to myself) to throw them together and see what would happen. I never dreamed of Mrs. Pontellier making such a mess of things and working out her own damnation as she did. If I had had the slightest intimation of such a thing I would have excluded her from the company. But when I found out what she was up to, the play was half over and it was then too late.” (Toth 296)

            This quote from author Kate Chopin was a response to critics of the time deriding “The Awakening” as immoral; popular interpretation – what a pattern – states that her response was one composed with tongue planted firmly in cheek. After all, the horrible controversy and scathing criticism was enough to kill Chopin’s career. There is no doubt that the character Edna stood in contrast to the established social norms of the day, and perhaps even today, though the controversy over such a fictional character is far less in modern times – one only needs to look at a show like “Sex and the City.” The character, despite her supposed death, was considered overtly raunchy, and venomous. Even reviews praising Kate Chopin’s writing did not challenge the validity of the novel. They challenged the character, equating her with the author

“The Awakening' is the sad story of a Southern lady who wanted to do what she wanted to. From wanting to, she did, with disastrous consequences; but as she swims out to sea in the end, it is to be hoped that her example may lie forever undredged. It is with high expectation that we open the volume, remembering the author's agreeable short stories, and with real disappointment that we close it. The recording reviewer drops a tear over one more clever author gone wrong.” (The Nation)

Such criticism did not end with the turn of the century. However, in the 1950s, a positive review of the novel was published by Kenneth Eble. “It is a first rate novel.” The concept of Edna as feminist, however, had not yet been established. Instead, wrote Eble, “Quite frankly, the book is about sex. Not only is it about sex, but the very texture of the writing is sensuous…amazingly honest, perceptive, and moving.” (262) It is in this critic’s interpretation that Edna’s “awakening” is not some sort of realization of an oppressive male society, but of an awakening to physical love. The sea stands for passion – passion that ultimately swallows the titular character up. It is as a Greek tragedy – the struggle of an overarching self-awareness, of passion.  Robert Cantwell, his critique also published in the 1950s, agreed, describing the work as a “result… of heightened sensuous awareness.” (492) Does this make Edna a feminist heroine, at least in terms of a political sense? No, writes James Justus – and, according to him, that is precisely the authorial intent.

 “The Awakening is devoid of authorial special pleading for any social or political program; indeed, even internally, the discontent with a specific condition which we see unfolding in Edna Pontellier is never elevated to any general state of things which needs correction. Edna herself could not care less if her own "ragged condition of soul" is to be found in other women.” (107)

Edna is self-aware, and such awareness is growing – but, still limited to the self. She is unconcerned with the state of others. Indeed,
“She has the luxury to question why and how is she is oppressed because she is not occupied struggling to survive. She has servants to clean her home and raise her children. While Edna realizes how bored she is as a white woman in the South, the “quadroon nurse,” the “little black girl” and “a maid” (whose race is not mentioned so she must be white) make Edna comfortable.” (Powell 277)

Edna hardly seems like a feminist heroine viewed from the lens of racial and economic inequality.

            While there is no doubt that there is certainly a patriarchal society in place, Edna’s story has oft been read also a tale of successful self-determination – instead of painting her as a “purely feminist” heroine. But was such truly successful? One critic repeats the theme of tragedy that had been expressed in the critique of the 1950s; indeed, the critic goes as far as to speculate that “The Awakening” is a Friedrich Nietzsche-influenced tale of the Apollonian, the plastic illusion of society, versus the Dionysian, the raw naturalism – after the Greek gods, and Greek tragedies – not only in theory, but intention. Patricia Bradley is that critic, and speculates with others that Chopin herself might have read Nietzsche’s “Birth of Tragedy”, due to the “Germanization” of Chopin’s hometown of St. Louis. (Bradley 42)
“What would acknowledging a relationship of influence between ‘The Birth of Tragedy’ and ‘The Awakening’ imply for Chopin critics and the direction of their criticism? The critical stakes as we consider this question could well be our cherished view of Chopin as feminist activist and the possibility that Edna’s identity as feminist goddess is merely a construct.” (41)

Even if Chopin never had read Nietzsche, the elements would be the same as the Greek tragedies for which Nietzsche’s piece was based upon. Indeed, viewed from another lens, one can see Edna’s struggle between light and dark, art and passion, the “nature of society” and true carnal nature.  There is the Apollonian, the influence of the sun, dreams, and solitude.

“There were days when she was very happy without knowing why. She was happy to be alive and breathing, when her whole being seemed to be one with the sunlight, the color, the odors, the luxuriant warmth of some perfect Southern day.” (Chopin 579 )
This contrasted a bipolar Dionysian nihilism, disgust for the plasticity of art, of society, thanks to an awakening to nature, but one that is practically subconscious.

“There were days when she was unhappy, she did not know why,— when it did not seem worthwhile to be glad or sorry, to be alive or dead; when life appeared to her like a grotesque pandemonium and humanity like worms struggling blindly toward inevitable annihilation.” (579)

For whereas the Apollonian is the artist – something Edna struggles with throughout the novel as some sort of outlet – the Dionysian is the work of art. In “The Birth of Tragedy,” Nietzsche recommended reconciliation between the two in a person’s life, something Edna is incapable of doing.

“The Apollonian principle stresses individuality and the ability to view the world at a dispassionate and often artistic distance. Dionysus, on the other hand, represents tumult, flux, and disorder; when overtaken by the Dionysian, the Apollonian finds its individuality overwhelmed by the pressure of the world as a tumultuous whole and its noble goals threatened by worldly-wise despair. Nietzsche held that disparate as they are, the two life principles... must merge and balance.” (Bradley 46)

 Her often maligned “fluctuating” between two worlds is seen in the context of this struggle and – in the end – she gives herself to the Dionysian aspect. Writes Bradley,

“As other critics have shown, Edna’s adopted Creole world already demands almost impossible reconciliations of its female sector: requiring faithful monogamy of its women and yet condoning a kind of polygamy for which the Quadroon Ball was a result; adhering to severe Catholicism and yet celebrating Mardi Gras; maintaining marital chastity while making extramarital flirtations practically de rigueur. Inevitably, the problem with structuring one’s life on Nietzschean antithesis and reconciliation is that the resulting ostensibly liberated cultural structure is still unequally balanced to favor the patriarchy and marginalize the feminine.” (51)

Edna is now neither feminist heroine, nor prevalent self-determinist.

            How has she struggled through her attachments to society and her want of nature, only to fall? She has failed in her reconciliation, for her awakening does not result in growth, but regression; she does not consolidate the Apollonian and the Dionysian, but falls to the latter, in a self-destructive rejection of adult society, intoxicated by nature – human nature. “There is no fault to find with the telling of the story, there are no blemishes in its art, but it leaves one sick of human nature and so one feels--cui bono!” (Porcher) Therein is the tragedy.

 “Edna's process of awakening is a kind of enlightenment, but it can hardly be called growth. What she discovers does not set her free but binds her even more tightly to a destined end. Moments before her death, she responds again to the seductive murmuring of the sea, which ‘invit[es] the soul to wander in abysses of solitude.’ Her final thoughts return not to Robert but to the clanging of the spurs of the cavalry officer, her childish first love, and to the bluegrass meadow of her childhood, with ‘no beginning and no end,’ her child-like longing for a state of being stripped of restraints.” (Justus 107)

Edna is neither a heroine, nor a successful self-determinist. Instead, she has only one side of the coin – enough to destroy, but not to create. Whether she intended to commit the act of suicide, or whether through her intoxication with nature she died accidentally, is ultimately irrelevant to the tragedy. Edna is ultimately a much more sympathetic character, but no martyr. Her rebellion is marked by an increased self-awareness -- arguably, one that could have been applied to a male as well, but in a different way. She is neither activist nor tramp, as two common interpretations state, but at worst, a tragic anti-villain.

            Perhaps, in some regard, her original audience held an unspoken sympathy for the character – sympathy they themselves became disgusted with – sympathy for the devil, with Edna’s struggle between the Apollonian and Dionysian, between the plastic ‘spiritual’ society and the vicious carnal nature. Indeed, one review published in the New York Times Book Review in 1899 read,
“Would it have been better had Mrs. Kate Chopin's heroine [in The Awakening] slept on forever and never had an awakening? Does that sudden condition of change from sleep to consciousness bring with it happiness? Not always, and particularly poignant is the woman's awakening, as Mrs. Chopin tells it. The author has a clever way of managing a difficult subject, and wisely tempers the emotional elements found in the situation. Such is the cleverness in the handling of the story that you feel pity for the most unfortunate of her sex.” (Review of “The Awakening”)

However, this interpretation is merely one of many – it is subjective. Novels should not be condemned to have a single valid reading, so long as one understands the actual facts behind the work. Critics seldom have universal agreements, and tales of all sorts take different meanings depending on the metaphorical lens one reads through. That is their inherent beauty.

Works Cited
Barthes, Roland. “Death of the Author.” Aspen 5.6 (1967): 1-20. Ubuweb. Web. 25 Sep. 2010.   
Bradley, Patricia L. “’The Birth of Tragedy’ and ‘The Awakening’: Influences and Intertextualities.”Southern Literary Journal 37.2 (2005): 40-60. Academic Search Complete. Web. 25 Sep. 2010.
Cantwell, Robert. “The Awakening.” The Georgia Review 4 (1956): 489-494. Literature Resources Center from Gale. Web. 25 Sep. 2010.
Chopin, Kate. “The Awakening.” The Norton Anthology of American Literature. 7th Ed. New York: Norton and Company, 2007. 535-624. Print.
Eble, Kenneth. “A Forgotten Novel: Kate Chopin’s ‘The Awakening.’” Western Humanities Review 3 (1956): 261-269. Literature Resource Center from Gale. Web. 25 Sep. 2010.
Justus, James. “The Unawakening of Edna Pontellier.” The Southern Literary Journal 10.2 (1978): 107. Literature Resource Center from Gale. Web. 25 Sep. 2010.
Max, D.T. “The Injustice Collector.” The New Yorker. 19 Jun. 2006. Web. 25 Sep 2010.
Nietzsche, Friedrich Wilhelm. The Birth of Tragedy. New York: Penguin Books, 1993. Print.
Porscher, Frances. “Kate Chopin’s Novel.” The Mirror 4 May 1899. Literature Resource Center from Gale. Web. 25 Sep. 2010.
Powell, Tamara. “Chopin’s The Awakening.” Explicator 67.4 (2009): 276-279. Academic Search Complete. Web. 25 Sep. 2010.
“Recent Novels: ‘The Awakening.’” The Nation 3 Aug. 1899: 69.1779, 96. Literature Resource Center from Gale. Web. 25 Sep. 2010.
“Review of ‘The Awakening.’” The New York Times Book Review. 4 Jun. 1899: 408. Literature Resoruce Center from Gale. Web. 25 Sep. 2010.
Toth, Emily. Kate Chopin’s Private Papers. Indiana: Indiana University Press, 1998. Print.


An essay by Andrei for Russian History.

How do Princess Olga's methods of vengeance act as moral tales?

     In the Epistle to the Galatians, Paul of Tarsus composes a moral warning against things such as “impurity... jealousy, drunkenness, envy” and others that he finds to be against the light of God. He calls these “the fruits of sin” or, alternatively, “acts of the flesh” dependent on translation. (Galatians) The Bible is full of stories that can at times be seen as metaphorical warnings against certain behaviors – this, too, is the case with many pseudo-historical chronicles such as the Viking Sagas and even the chronicle of Princess Olga. (Short) Despite having been a pagan at the time of her vengeance against the Derevlians, she turns their arrogance against them in four incidents of slaughtering. Olga displays extreme cleverness throughout the entirety of the Russian Primary Chronicle's account of her – both as a pagan, and later as a Christian.
     Once the Derevlians murder her husband, Igor, power fell to his and Olga's son, Syvatoslav. As he was merely a boy, Olga instead exercised her power over Kievan Russia. Twenty matchmakers arrive in Kiev by boat, boastfully proclaiming the death of Igor and beckoning for Olga to marry Prince Mal. They mock Igor's memory and claim that their princes are far better, but in reality they had plotted to “work their will upon” Olga's son, Syatoslav. She makes a seeming pleasing arrangement with them that they will be carried by Kievans in their boat, the matchmakers described as being “puffed up with pride” – lest, until their boat was dropped into the ditch that Olga ordered dug. (“Olga”) Here, Olga has them buried alive; their first sin is pride – considered by many Orthodox Christians to be the root of sin itself. (Morelli)
     After this, Olga demands that the Derevelians send only their best if they truly wish to converse with her. It is not stated whether the Derevelians realize Olga's slaughter of their messengers – nevertheless, they acquiesce, and send forth another wave. Olga prepares forth a bath for them. This was a typical Slavic custom, witnessed as early as 440 BCE by Herodotus. The bath was known as a banya. Early Christians found the custom amusing at times, and vulgar at others. According to the Russian primary Chronicle, St. Andrew described an almost violent ritual, stating that “They make of the act not a mere washing but a veritable torment.” (Chorazy) Regardless of the objective truth of the matter, Olga orders the doors closed, and a fire set from the inside. Thus, the second act of vengeance is complete as the Derevelians burn to death – punished for their vanity, and perhaps for their Slavic custom.
     Olga contacts the Derevelians again, with still no obvious telling of if they had insight as to the fate of their messengers. She demands an enormous feast be held so that she may mourn Igor's passing, telling them to prepare great quantities of mead. (“Olga”) Mead is a sort of wine brewed from honey, and was a staple in various forms including Medovukha up until the late 19th century in Russia, long after its abandonment by Western Europe. (“History of Mead”) Here, the Derevlians engage in feast with Olga, only to feast and drink to the point of drunkenness – as aforementioned, considered a sin by Paul. Olga, having brought the bodyguards of her dead husband, orders them to massacre the Derevelians. The Chronicle states that five-thousand die, before she returns to Kiev to form an army.
     The Derevelians offer further tribute to Olga, having been thoroughly humiliated and wishing to avoid further warfare. Instead of accepting their offer of honey and furs, she requests three pigeons and three sparrows from every house. The Derevelians comply, only to have those birds return with sulphur or burning paper tied to the legs of the birds. This set fire to the entirety of the Derevelian nation, and Olga's army routed the fleeing survivors, either killing them or enslaving them, while leaving a remnant to pay tribute. (“Olga”) This perhaps is the hardest act of vengeance to make a comparison with a punishment for sin, but sparrows play an important part in early Christian symbolism in a variety of different roles. Perhaps ironically, they tend to symbolize peace. (“Divine Birds”)
     It is written that after these acts of vengeance and conquering the remaining land of the Derevelians with her son, Olga was convinced by Emperor Constantine VII to convert to Christianity, who in turn baptized her – per her request. Once more she displays her clever nature by lecturing the Emperor on Christian law, saving herself from marriage with him. Her son, with whom she would partially share power with for a time, by no means approved of her decision, though it is said that he respected her will and gave her a Christian funeral upon her death. It is doubtful that the chronicle is entirely accurate, having been written from the perspective of later Christians. It is more legend than history as we would define it today, as so many accounts of ancient peoples tend to be. Nevertheless, Princess Olga remains a deeply important figure in Russian culture and history. She is seen as a champion of Christianity in the pagan Kievan Rus society, and was even proclaimed to be a saint, equal to the Apostles, by the Orthodox Church in 1547 – one of only five females to be granted such a status. (“Prominent Russians”)

Sources cited:

Chorazy, Vlad. “Rituals of the Russian Banya.” The Global Dispatches. [], accessed August 30th, 2012.

Divine Birds.” Squidoo. [], accessed August 30th, 2012.

Galatians 5:19-21.The Bible (NIV).

History of Mead.” [], accessed August 30th, 2012.

Morelli, George. “Pride: The Source of All Evil.” Orthodoxy Today. [], accessed August 30th, 2012.

Princess Olga.” Russian Primary Chronicle. [], accessed August 30th, 2012.

Prominent Russians: Princess Olga of Kiev.” Russiapedia, RT – Russia Today. [], accessed August 30th, 2012.

Short, William R. “Hurstwic: Honor, Dueling, and Drengskaper in the Viking Age.” Hurstwic. [], accessed August 30th, 2012.