November 7, 2010

Why are English papers so much work?

Because I devote hours and hours (and pages and pages) to the following drivel:

The intersections of morality, religion, and sex.

How does an individual define what is right? When people choose a path, what makes them determine in which direction they want to bend? Society influences, yes, but in what ways? How so?

The power of religion. Decisions are made around it, people join or flee it. Yet it is defined, more often than not, but the individual.

Religion and the conscience. How do we decide things?

Tess of the D'bervilles

-innocence destroyed by rape

-rape defines a marriage

The Purity Myth

-goodness of women is defined entirely by what they have between their legs.

But is it? Really? Truly? The fallen woman can be seen in so many places, but she redeems herself in the eyes of the reader. But what is redemption for the men?

Gender and atonement: what sins are worth a life?

Jane Eyre—he's redeemed himself, but has she?

Orlando—a man, a woman, both at once, but he is not a man who ever needs redeeming

Tess of the D'ubervilles—Tess, obviously, spends a lifetime trying to make up for a sin that wasn't hers, but it seems, in the end, that it is religion understanding, not atonement, that drives her (with the death of her 'husband' she returns to her husband). For Alec, though, what is there? He turns to religion, then believes that the only way he can make it up is through marriage, a life's commitment.

Redemption is sacrifice.

What is it that makes an individual good? How do people define what is right and what is wrong, and to what extent is this dichotomy of thought present in our everyday lives?

The Purity Myth, by Jessica Valenti, centers on the idea that the societal perception of a woman's morality stems entirely from her chastity. No quality is as important, no trait as worth protecting, as virginity.

Is this true? Judging by the books, the answer is resoundingly yes. In Tess of the D'ubervilles, we have a woman who, after she is raped, is a ruined woman; her eventual marriage falls apart, her life is spent searching for redemption.

When old books—centuries old, not whatever your grandmother considered popular literature—are read, it becomes very clear that from a modern perspective, with its own take on what is morally upstanding and politically correct, the good can be far more evil than the author intended. Who today would consider the ivory trade savory, the oft-said 'nigger' polite? This is made even more clear when considering opinions that haven't changed. In past centuries, marriage has shifted away from a sacred institution, defined by God.

The lack of stagnation in moral perceptions is demonstrated clearly by shifting perceptions of marriage. In days of yore, marriage was defined by sex.

You should see how much worse the handwritten crap is.