The Chronicles of Narnia: Where to Begin?

The Magician’s Nephew and The Horse and His Boy are set earlier in the story of Narnia, but published after, making them some sort of prequel. When first published, the books were not numbered.

C.S. Lewis’s reply to a letter from an American reading who was having an argument with his mother on the subject:

I think I agree with your [chronological] order for reading the books more than with your mother’s. The series was not planned beforehand as she thinks. When I wrote The Lion I did not know I was going to write any more. Then I wrote P. Caspian as a sequel and still didn’t think there would be any more, and when I had done The Voyage I felt quite sure it would be the last, but I found I was wrong. So perhaps it does not matter very much in which order anyone read them. I’m not even sure that all the others were written in the same order in which they were published.

In the end, like Lewis wrote : “perhaps it does not matter very much in which order anyone read them.”

  1. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe – Four adventurous siblings—Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy Pevensie—step through a wardrobe door and into the land of Narnia, a land frozen in eternal winter and enslaved by the power of the White Witch. But when almost all hope is lost, the return of the Great Lion, Aslan, signals a great change . . . and a great sacrifice.
  2. Prince Caspian – The Pevensie siblings travel back to Narnia to help a prince denied his rightful throne as he gathers an army in a desperate attempt to rid his land of a false king.
  3. The Voyage of the Dawn Treader – A king and some unexpected companions embark on a voyage that will take them beyond all known lands. As they sail farther and farther from charted waters, they discover that their quest is more than they imagined and that the world’s end is only the beginning.
  4. The Silver Chair – It takes place during the Golden Age of Narnia.Through dangers untold and caverns deep and dark, a noble band of friends is sent to rescue a prince held captive. But their mission to Underland brings them face-to-face with an evil more beautiful and more deadly than they ever expected.
  5. The Horse and His Boy – On a desperate journey, two runaways meet and join forces. Though they are only looking to escape their harsh and narrow lives, they soon find themselves at the center of a terrible battle. It is a battle that will decide their fate and the fate of Narnia itself.
  6. The Magician’s Nephew – This prequel brings the reader back to the origins of Narnia where we learn how Aslan created the world and how evil first entered it
  7. The Last Battle – The end of the world of Narnia. Jill and Eustace return to save Narnia from Shift, an ape, who tricks Puzzle, a donkey, into impersonating the lion Aslan, precipitating a showdown between the Calormenes and King Tirian.

 

The Chronicles of Narnia: Chronological Order

  1. The Magician’s Nephew
  2. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
  3. The Horse and His Boy
  4. Prince Caspian
  5. The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
  6. The Silver Chair
  7. The Last Battle

Throwback Thursday: Expressing Apocalyptic Belief

Throwback Thursday, where, essentially I post old writing samples, essays and short stories that I dig up from my pile of hoarded papers and school assignments or from the depths of my computer. So everyone can see how my writing has changed/improved over the years.


Belief in the apocalypse is pervasive in human nature, across societies, cultures, and time periods. Why is the belief in the apocalypse still so pervasive today? In what ways is it believed in, and why does it bring hope and fear in turn to different people? This paper will examine these questions through the lens of two articles: “Doomsday Prep for the Super Rich” by Evan Osnos and “‘In the Lord’s Hands’: America’s Apocalyptic Mindset” by Robert Jay Lifton. I will compare where these two authors differ in opinion—whether belief in the apocalypse stems from fear or hope—and how they ultimately agree in many fundamental ways. The fear and hope they argue for are two sides of the same coin, showing the perspectives of different people of the same apocalypse. Why and how people believe in the apocalypse today is constantly changing, and its view as a negative or positive is based on whether the world stands to get better or worse for you. Different individuals will see the same apocalypse with either hope or fear depending on if the world as they know it could improve (as is Lifton’s view) or worsen (as is Osnos’ view). I argue it is the same type of apocalypse they are writing about, viewed from different vantage points of what someone stands to lose or gain.

In “‘In the Lord’s Hands’: America’s Apocalyptic Mindset” Lifton’s focus is that ordinary people can believe in the apocalypse and that apocalyptic thinking can bleed into politics, for example, in situations like political coups, which can change the status quo for the better, or for the worse. A dramatic example of such political upheaval is World War II because “even secular movements like the Nazis have followed a version of the Armageddon script.” (Lifton 64), even political and secular apocalypse-like events follow themes and narratives of the religious apocalypse. Lifton details the historical definition of the apocalypse as “a form of ultimate idealism, a quest for spiritual utopia” (Lifton 59) and traces religious beliefs and their influences on politics. There is a major influence of religious apocalypses in America, clearly seen with the war on terror which was used “as a vehicle for our own salvation” (Lifton 69). This can also be seen as a protection of traditional Christian values and feeling threatened by other belief systems inherent to apocalyptic thinking which Lifton describes as “desolation as a possible means of fulfillment” (Lifton 66). While some may fear this desolation (as Osnos argues), Lifton sees it as a source of hope—a cleansing fire. Lifton thinks people’s motivation for apocalyptic belief is a mixture of hope and fear as “apocalyptic visions…have flourished during times of great suffering…powerful sources of hope” (Lifton 62). The idea is that if the world is going to end, it is for a grander purpose, a comfort for many who feel powerless. In this way, themes of the religious apocalypse feed secular apocalypse as a way of feeling in control of humanities destiny—that the way forward is clear, a set narrative path towards betterment. This can clearly be seen with President Bush “making the war on terrorism a war on evil” (Lifton 67); here, religious ideals were tied to political moves just as religious narratives influence secular apocalypse.

Views of the apocalypse change with the times, and the changing status quo is a potential for things to get better, just as the apocalypse brings a sense of hope through rebirth. As mentioned earlier, Lifton describes “desolation as a possible means of fulfillment” (Lifton 66)—before rebirth and the betterment that comes with it, current suffering must be endeared. Typically, the apocalypse connotes disaster—the world ending before it is reborn, getting worse before it gets better. Things have to get worse before they get better, and for some people, there is nothing left to lose. For these people, the apocalypse is nothing to fear, it is something to anticipate and welcome—the benefits are worth the price. For the majority of people, the apocalypse brings a sense of peace. The apocalypse is seen as “all-consuming violence in a hopelessly corrupt world was, in fact, required for the hopeful and lofty rebirth that was to follow” (Lifton 59), a necessary evil to get what you want, a sacrifice so that things can get better for those in desolate situations, and a promise that their suffering is not in vain.

In Lifton’s view, only the sinners—those who do not deserve nor benefit from rebirth—need fear the apocalypse. This description may very well fit those whom Osnos describes—the elite who stand to lose everything. In “Doomsday Prep for the Super Rich” Osnos interviews multiple prominent survivalists “among technology executives, hedge-fund managers, and others in their economic cohort” (Osnos 2), who typically benefit from the status quo. Those elite who fear this type of apocalypse, which directly affects them, and is more easily believed than a grand religious one. There are two major ideas presented in Osnos’ article: that doomsday prep is no longer a radical position, but as common as insurance for those who can afford it, with “forty percent of Americans [believing] that stocking up on supplies or building a bomb shelter [is] a wiser investment than a 401(k)” (Osnos 5). Second, that it perhaps distasteful that money and resources are sunk into these personal preparations rather than mitigating the causes of apocalyptic fears, such as political discourse, and environmental collapse. Osnos quotes Max Levchin, a founder of Paypal “‘It’s one of the few things about Silicon Valley that I actively dislike—the sense that we are superior giants who move the needle and, even if it’s our own failure, must be spared.’ To Levchin, prepping for survival is a moral miscalculation; he [says]… ‘All the other forms of fear that people bring up are artificial.’…In [Levchin’s] view, this is the time to invest in solutions, not escape” (Osnos 8). The thoughts of the possible apocalypse depicted in Osnos’ article stem from fear, fear which would be greatly assuaged if the causes of that fear, from political to environmental issues, were dealt with head on, rather than only anticipated as a future concern.

Osnos’ article deals overwhelmingly with the fear of the wealthy elite, such as those from Silicon Valley, that America as it is known will collapse. Revolution against the 1%, while not likely, is one of the most likely apocalyptic scenarios America could face. In relation, Osnos writes, quoting Antonio Garcia Martinez, a former Facebook product manager, “when society loses a healthy founding myth, it descends into chaos.” (Osnos 2). The primary founding myth of American culture is that of the “American Dream” the ideal that if one works hard enough, they can attain the life and status they desire. In recent decades, many have lost faith in this ideal, as the wealth gap increases, and further distance is driven between the 1% and the rest of the nation, leading to this aforementioned “chaos” that leads to apocalypse prep. He defines the apocalypse in terms of survivalism and preparation; “less focussed on a specific threat—a quake on the San Andreas, a pandemic, a dirty bomb—than…the aftermath” (Osnos 2). Osnos views the belief in the apocalypse as a manifestation of fear at the changing status quo as well as a coping device—there is ego and self-defense as well as perhaps a sort of guilt at play.

Lifton and Osnos disagree in many ways. Osnos presents the apocalypse as a varied and fearful thing—though even among survivalists there is contention about the specifics, the core belief system holds constant. Lifton shows different religious views that seem very different and are often argued on, even to the point of war and bloodshed, but they essentially boil down to the same narrative structure: some general hope, fear and expectation—that the world will end and be reborn. Those who stand to benefit from a new world order look to the apocalypse with hope (Lifton’s view) and those who stand to lose status or success in this new world order fear it (Osnos’ view), but the apocalypse itself is one and the same. Lifton and Osnos at their core present a very similar argument—that it is fundamental human nature to believe in the apocalypse. The difference in attitude towards the apocalypse does not come from a different belief in what the apocalypse is, but what a person stands to lose of gain from the apocalypse. No matter the ideal of separating the religious and secular—it never works.

More than their differences, Osnos and Lifton don’t seem to disagree too much, in so much as they analyze separate aspects and perspectives of the very same fundamental facet of human nature. While Lifton and Osnos’ thoughts on the apocalypse seem to be separated as religious and secular respectively, with only slight influence from the other type of apocalyptic theory, they are speaking of the same type of apocalypse, split less along secular/non-secular lines and more on socio-economic lines. Lifton’s arguments and beliefs lend more to the common experience of the majority, while Osnos details the experiences of the 1%—while very different thought goes into the why of the fear, the fear and anticipation of the apocalypse is held common. It is the same apocalypse. Reid Hoffman, co-founder of LinkedIn told Osnos in an interview “Human motivation is complex, and I think people can say, ‘now I have a safety blanket for this thing that scares me.’” (Osnos 7). This idea of a safety net is important, because this is how Lifton portrays apocalyptic views in his article; the apocalypse brings a sense of hope that things will one day get better for them. As Lifton says, “Apocalyptic visions…have flourished during times of great suffering.” (Lifton 62). Lifton’s view of the apocalypse offers hope, a safety net of sorts, for those who need it, that things will get better eventually. But the duality of Lifton and Osnos’ arguments is, that for things to improve for the people Lifton is describing, it is generally thought that they have to worsen for the elite Osnos offers insight to, painting a common apocalypse as a sort of zero-sum game.

Fear is the driving belief of the apocalypse, not necessarily fear of the apocalypse, but its cause, coming from an external force. Fear of being unprepared, or the consequences if it isn’t your apocalypse—that if you are not a part of it, you’ll be left behind. For the masses analyzed by Lifton, there is a fear that if the apocalypse, or some apocalyptic-like event does not come to pass, things will never get better. For them, the apocalypse is a source of comfort and hope. For the upper-crust described by Osnos, this very same apocalypse which gives the majority comfort is a source of fear, because they have achieved what they see as their best possible lives, and any change in the status quo may mean the downfall of their money or power. But there is also a comfort to naming this fear; comfort in feeling as if one can prepare for an apocalyptic event rather than a nameless, faceless uneasiness which can stem from an unconscious sense of guilt for leading these better lives. The apocalypse changes with times and places, as the status quo shifts and power changes hands, but the core belief remains the same: a name, a system to believe in, for the fear people have, and the hope they crave.


Works Cited

Lifton, Robert Jay. ““In the Lord’s Hands”.” World Policy Journal 20, no. 3 (September 1, 2003): 59-69. Accessed September 1, 2018. doi:10.1215/07402775-2003-4002.

Osnos, Evan. “Doomsday Prep for The Super-Rich.” The New Yorker. August 10, 2017. Accessed September 01, 2018. https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/01/30/doomsday-prep-for-the-super-rich.

 

Want More Book Reviews?

A lot of times, when I finish a book, I don’t have enough time or inclination to write a full blog post review.

So, I have recently started doing Bookstagram again and I’ve been posting mini-reviews of every book I’ve ever read, including going back and writing a review of every book I’ve read and never received in the past as well as going forward.

 

Give me a follow: My New Bookstagram

Throwback Thursday: Obesity Is Not A Disease

Throwback Thursday, where, essentially I post old writing samples, essays and short stories that I dig up from my pile of hoarded papers and school assignments or from the depths of my computer. So everyone can see how my writing has changed/improved over the years.


Obesity, once merely a risk factor for diseases, has been reclassified as a disease as of 2013, as “the…AMA[1]…endorsed further medicalization… of obesity…Obesity, once considered a risk condition for diseases…has now, itself, been classified as a disease by the AMA” (Reiheld “Aiming at Body Size”). Society understands obesity as being significantly overweight. This is not the exact medical definition, which will be examined shortly, but essentially leads laymen to conclude that being extremely overweight is a disease. However, obesity itself is not necessarily a disease, and should not be considered one. Though for some people it can cause disease, in others obesity mostly causes changes in appearance and Body Mass Index (BMI) but not in overall health. The AMA has classified other not-necessarily-diseases as disease in the past[2]to increase availability of treatment for those who need or seek it. Obesity should be considered a medical risk condition – and treated and monitored as such – but should not be termed a disease.

The definition of obesity may colloquially be the condition of being severely overweight, but the exact definition varies. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines obesity as “a condition characterized by the excessive accumulation and storage of fat in the body,” while the CDC defines obesity as “BMI is 30.0 or higher…falls within the obese range”. The Obesity Medicine Association (OMA) defines obesity as “a chronic…disease, wherein an increase in body fat…result[s] in adverse metabolic, biomechanical, and psychosocial health consequences.” Though it is important to note two major distinctions between the CDC and OMA’s definitions: first, the OMA uses BMI, abdominal circumference, and body fat percentage in diagnoses, not only BMI. Second, the OMA paints a far more classical image of disease than the CDC does for obesity, but each boils down to the same medical definition of being overweight by a specific margin or greater. The Merriam-Webster definition does not define obesity as a disease, but a condition of excessive fat on the body, essentially the same definition, in less disguised language.

The language disguises the issue of conforming to western beauty standards, specifically the notion that being skinny is beautiful and the natural state for human beings. These definitions which revolve around body fat reinforce the notion that anyone not conforming has something specifically wrong with them. This is prominent in society in a variety of ways, an example being that “overweight women seen eating apparently unhealthy foods are far more likely than… “ideal”-weight women to be publicly corrected for what they eat” (Reiheld “Women and Responsibility for Health”). This shows how the focus has been shifted from health to body-type when it comes to food and extends to medical diagnoses.

There is a stigma that surrounds overweight bodies, based on a supposed choice to be unattractive. Attractiveness is not something which can be medically addressed, and so weight is used as a proxy to shame individuals, since “we know how to make overweight people miserable, but we have no idea how to make them thin” (Freidenfelds “The Problem”). It is not always about losing weight. For some obese people with other underlying medical causes, as obesity can be a symptom of other diseases such as hypothyroidism, it is about conforming to societal standards. Medical risks are used as an excuse to police fat bodies; whereas when a skinny person is unhealthy, no one’s first thought is their weight.

Though weight can play a role in disease (obesity can for example increase risks of heart disease, high blood pressure, etc.) it is not the sole cause and should not be conflated as such. Considering obesity a disease allows for outside judgement and can cause outside pressure to control factors of health or diet that are not always directly in a person’s control or directly responsible for their obesity. It is also important to note “how damaging the ‘war on obesity’ has been…turning food and bodies from sources of pleasure to sources of dread and shame” (Freidenfelds “The Problem”). The medicalization of obesity only allows for the exacerbation of these problems and shaming. We should not consider obesity a disease in and of itself, it should be considered a risk condition for disease, as “weight and fat distribution have little to do with overall health” (Klein “Body Image”).

For example, smoking increases lung diseases such as Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) and lung cancer, but is not itself a disease, despite being considered a poor choice by society. While obesity is not a choice (though part of fat-phobia is the assumption that it is, at least in part) it functions similarly as a risk factor. Obesity, much like smoking, is not an easily changed part of a person and their body. Similar risk factors with this comparison are age, the condition of menopause, and pregnancy all of which are also inalterable, also not a disease. It is also particularly telling that being underweight is not a disease, it is still considered a risk factor. While obesity has been medicalized, being severely underweight has neither been given a name nor medicalization, which shows how “the overwhelming cultural understanding of health in our society emphasizes being slim and muscular” (Klein “Body Image”).

Some might argue that medicalizing obesity can decrease the stigma surrounding it. Medicalization can decrease stigma over some medical conditions, such as autism, but not in every instance. For example, the medicalization of HIV/AIDS has done nothing for the stigma which surrounds it and which “is highly value-laden because of its association with socially unacceptable behaviors” (Reiheld “Patient Complains of…” 83). Similarly, medicalization does not destigmatize obesity because it does not address the root concern of value attached to that condition by society. While medicalization offers acceptability to autism by putting a name to the behavior, HIV and obesity are similarly not granted acceptability because they are still stigmatized as being the result of a poor choice.

Medicalization reifies the thought that obesity is wrong or unnatural and can pin a negative label on individuals who others might not have had the stigma, as obesity visually and physiologically varies by person. This is the very definition of a reification, to make something or equate something as a fact of nature rather than a social construct (Reiheld “Patient Complains of…” 77). Reification allows for the perpetuation of current stigma and societal norms. Medicalization of a reified disease like obesity brings more aspects of our lives under expert control, allowing for the continuation of this reification, in a vicious cycle (Reiheld “Patient Complains of…”). Obesity should be treated as a medical condition, as it can carry health risks, but over-medicalization can have significant inherent risks as well (Freidenfelds “The Problem”).

In order to consider the issues with medicalizing obesity and the reason for its medicalization one must consider the definition of disease before defining obesity as a disease. A disease is defined as “a disorder of structure or function in a human… especially one that produces specific symptoms…and is not simply a direct result of physical injury.” (Oxford Dictionary). Compare this to the definition of a risk factor, “something that increases the chance of developing a disease…examples of risk factors…are age, a family history…use of tobacco products…and certain genetic[s].” (National Cancer Institute). Obesity is not a disorder to the structure or function of a human being – weight can be determined by genetic predisposition or lifestyle, but being overweight, compared to the average weight for a person of a specific gender, height, and age, is not always, or even often, due to a disorder of some kind (such as a thyroid disorder).[3]  It is important to note here, “all adults categorized as overweight and most of those categorized as obese have a lower mortality risk than so-called normal-weight individuals. If the government were to redefine normal weight as one that doesn’t increase the risk of death, then about 130 million of the 165 million American adults currently categorized as overweight and obese would be re-categorized as normal weight instead” (Campos “Our Absurd Fear of Fat”). This demonstrates that the problem being addressed by medicalizing obesity is not health, it’s weight itself.

Obesity more closely aligns with the definition of a risk factor, as it can increase the chance of heart disease, etc. Boorse defines disease as “a type of internal state which impairs health, i.e. reduces one or more functional abilities below typical efficiency” (Boorse 555). Obesity in and of itself does not impede functionality of the human body, so Boorse would not consider it a disease. Only in cases such as those where breathing difficulties or heart disease developed in causation to the obesity would Boorse possibility see obesity as a disease for some individuals and not for others, depending on how functioning was impaired by varying symptoms. Obesity leads to increased risk of certain disease but does not always or even necessarily cause them.

However, one significant benefit to the medicalization of the condition as a disease is increasing access to resources and treatments, such as liposuction, therapy, and support groups. Medicalization increases access to these treatments and preventative measures such as nutrition counselling by increasing insurance coverage and encouraging patients to seek these treatments. There is another side to this though. If medicalization of obesity increases access to treatment, it increases the way treatment may be forced on individuals who may not want or even really need to be treated. In these situations, it is important to know that “baselessly categorizing at least 130 million Americans — and hundreds of millions in the rest of the world — as people in need of “treatment” for their “condition” serves the economic interests of, among others, the multibillion-dollar weight-loss industry and large pharmaceutical companies,” (Campos “Our Absurd Fear of Fat”). Medicalization of obesity may have come about from a standpoint of social stigma and economic value, rather than health concerns, which is not the reason a disease should be labeled as such.

The major issue with these definitions in medicalizing obesity is that they lose the nuances of obesity and distill it as a commonly experienced disease. Obesity does not have a singular cause nor a singular presentation. Obesity can be experienced by a person in name or appearance only, being overweight with a BMI over 30, but with no other symptoms or health issues experienced at all. Obesity can be caused by genetic predisposition and slow metabolic rate, or simply be the result of poor diet and exercise habits, neither of which distinctly must be classified as a disease, let alone grouped together as a singular disease. In fact, “we don’t know whether the small increase in mortality risk observed among very obese people is caused by their weight or by any number of other factors, including lower socioeconomic status, dieting and the weight cycling that accompanies it, social discrimination and stigma, or stress.” (Campos “Our Absurd Fear of Fat”).

Using these definitions of a BMI over 30, some conditions which are not typically seen as obesity would carry the connotation, stigma, or be misdiagnosed as obesity with this as the diagnosis criteria. Examples can include a bodybuilder, who might have a BMI over 30 due to weight in proportion to height, but would not be considered obese by any health professional or layman who happened to see him, despite the BMI being the CDC’s criteria for diagnosis. This is because the definition of obesity as a disease is about standards of beauty and fat shaming, not about technicalities over BMI. Otherwise, obesity would have remained a risk factor, not a disease, or being severely underweight also would have been classified as a disease, whereas it is still considered an unhealthy risk factor.

Another disease which may fall into the categorization of obesity is Cushing’s Disease. Cushing’s Disease, also calledhypercortisolism, is caused by overexposure or overproduction by the body to the hormone cortisol. Cushing’s can cause obesity, and its other major symptoms, high blood pressure and diabetes are easily mistakenly attributed to obesity (Mayo Clinic). To diagnose obesity as a disease in and of itself, it may discourage further investigation or diagnoses, and may lead to the misdiagnosis of diseases which can cause obesity, as solely obesity itself.While Cushing’s falls into the BMI over 30 requirements, it is drastically different than traditional obesity and can cause harm if mistreated or misdiagnosed. There is also a common history of medical professionals ignoring other health concerns because of the appearance of obesity, which can be harmful and stigmatizing to individuals with disease which could be mistaken for obesity.

Obesity should be classified as a medical condition, and deserves treatment for those who want it, but calling obesity a disease does more harm than good, as this ignores the nuances and different forms obesity can take, as well as ignoring the stigma a diagnosis of obesity can carry.


Works Cited

Boorse, Christopher. “Health as a Theoretical Concept.” Philosophy of Science, vol. 44, no. 4, 1977, pp. 542–573., doi:10.1086/288768.

Campos, Paul F. “Opinion | Our Absurd Fear of Fat.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 19 Oct. 2018, mobile.nytimes.com/2013/01/03/opinion/our-imaginary-weight-problem.html.

“Cushing Syndrome.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 6 Mar. 2018, http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/cushing-syndrome/symptoms-causes/syc-20351310.

“Defining Adult Overweight and Obesity.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 16 June 2016, www.cdc.gov/obesity/adult/defining.html.

“Definition of Obesity.” Obesity Medicine Association, 29 Aug. 2017, obesitymedicine.org/definition-of-obesity/.

“Disease | Definition of Disease in English by Oxford Dictionaries.” Oxford Dictionaries | English, Oxford Dictionaries, en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/disease.

Freidenfelds, Lara. “The Problem with Fat-Talk at the Pediatrician’s Office.” Nursing Clio, 13 July 2016, nursingclio.org/2016/07/13/the-problem-with-fat-talk-at-the-pediatricians-office/.

Klein, Ula. “Body Image, BMI, and the Continuing Problem of the Standards of Beauty.” IJFAB Blog, 15 Apr. 2014, www.ijfab.org/blog/2014/04/body-image-bmi-and-the-continuing-problem-of-the-standards-of-beauty/.

“National Center for Health Statistics.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 3 May 2017, www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/obesity-overweight.htm.

“NCI Dictionary of Cancer Terms.” National Cancer Institute, www.cancer.gov/publications/dictionaries/cancer-terms/def/risk-factor.

“Obesity.”Merriam-Webster, Merriam-Webster, http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/obesity.

Reiheld, Alison. “Aiming at Body Size: How Medicalizing Obesity Changes the Very Notion of What It Is to Be Healthy.” IJFAB Blog, The International Journal of Feminist Approaches to Bioethics, 16 June 2014, www.ijfab.org/blog/2014/06/aiming-at-body-size-how-medicalizing-obesity-changes-the-very-notion-of-what-it-is-to-be-healthy/.

Reiheld, Alison. “Patient Complains of . . .: How Medicalization Mediates Power and Justice.” International Journal of Feminist Approaches to Bioethics, vol. 3, no. 1, 2010, pp. 72–98., doi:10.2979/fab.2010.3.1.72.

Reiheld, Alison. “Women and Responsibility for Health: Food, Physical Activity, and Feminism.” International Journal of Feminist Approaches to Bioethics, 8 Oct. 2014, www.ijfab.org/blog/women-and-responsibility-for-health-food-physical- activity-and-feminism/.


[1]American Medical Association (AMA)

     [2]Boorse argues minor ear deformities and the like fall into this category, as his definition of disease boils down to: that which impairs normal function, according to a reference class of the same species, age, and gender (Boorse, 555). Some which considered autism as a different way of living rather than a true disease would also apply autism to this statement.

     [3]It is important to note that, if this idea of a reference class of specific age, gender, and height is being used to classify what the line for overweight is, the percent of adults aged 20 and over with obesity is 39.8% (CDC).

 

Throwback Thursday: Cloud Nine Essay: Where is Tommy?

Throwback Thursday, where, essentially I post old writing samples, essays and short stories that I dig up from my pile of hoarded papers and school assignments or from the depths of my computer. So everyone can see how my writing has changed/improved over the years.


In theater, casting is often very intentional. In Caryl Churchill’s 1978 play Cloud Nine, casting in integral to the themes of gender identity and expression of sexuality at the core of the play. The casting is very specific, and thoroughly thought through, with the choices for the casting of many characters being explained by Churchill herself. However, there is one character in Cloud Nine whose casting is not given an explanation at all, because he is not cast at all. Tommy, who is Victoria’s son in Act II of the play, is referred to as if on stage, but is never on stage at all. The simplistic explanation would be to say that, as every other character is double cast between Act I and Act II, there simply wasn’t another actor to play Tommy without throwing off the parallels of casting between Act I and Act II, but for this, he could have been played by a doll as a parallel to his mother in Act I. Given the intense thought behind the casting of each other character, there has to be a metaphorical or symbolic reasoning behind Tommy not being on stage.

There are established reasons in theater that a character may be unseen or off stage for the duration of the play. Generally, absent characters exist beyond the space the play takes place in (ie. referred to as if in another room, etc.), “the matter of each characters’ absence is closely tied to those characters’ occupation of space.” (Carlson 1).  Tommy is not simply existing offstage though – he is quite literally invisible to the audience. Unseen characters can also represent omnipresence, which Tommy is not, nor is he a narrator or even the central character. Absent characters usually play a key significance and are central to a work. While Tommy is important in what he represents for Victoria’s story, the story being told is not one about Tommy. The traditional use of an absensent character would leave Tommy at home, off stage; instead, he is referred to as if on stage when he simply is not, which is not the traditional convention for absent characters. These are established conventions, and much of Churchill’s play is about subverting expectation and societal norm. Having Tommy be unseen to the audience, while the characters act as if he is there, might to another form of this subversion; where the general expectation is to see this child – he is unseen.

Most unseen characters are absent characters, affecting the story tangentially or omnipresently but not directly as they are not on stage nor interacting with those on stage from the audience’s perspective; Tommy fits the description of an unseen character but not an absent character. The very first mention of him is on the second page of Act II, when his mother says “Tommy, it’s Jimmy’s gun.” (Churchill 49) directly addressing him, but he is not on stage. Tommy isn’t even on the character list at the beginning – a list even Victoria-played-by-a-doll is on. They also speak about Tommy’s possible concussion referring to the “nasty bump” (Churchill 53) on his head as if Tommy is standing right there, but he isn’t; Betty also says “bye bye Tommy” (Churchill 56) later in the scene. There are many references throughout Act II like this, establishing that though the audience is not seeing Tommy, the other characters are. Because multiple characters refer to him, not just Victoria or Martin, we can assume he is a real child, despite his invisibility, not a hallucination. A typically absent character in theater would be referred to as if elsewhere in the world of the play, not as if standing right there when they aren’t, which means Tommy’s absence isn’t following the typical theater conventions of an absent character.

Cloud Nineis largely about subverting societal expectations – alongside the themes of gender, and sexuality subversions, Tommy’s lack of physical presence can be a play on the common social expectation that “children should be seen not heard”. In Act I, Victoria is played by a literal doll – a physical embodiment of this expectation for children, while the story revolves around the adults. Tommy’s absence takes this further – putting him mute and invisible, but still a weight in the minds of his parents, with his well-being constantly brought up. The concept that children should be seen not heard is meant to lessen their burden on their parents – a tenant of well behaved children not adding stress upon their parents (Writing Explained), but Tommy, even silent and invisible, is a major factor for why Victoria holds herself back from loving Lin, and by extension her own happiness. Sometimes societal expectations do not line up to reality, and even stereotypically well-behaved children can be a burden by nature. Where Tommy represents societal expectations of well-behaved children etc., he also shows how expectations do not always work out perfectly in practice.

In contrast to Tommy’s invisibility is Cathy – who is shown as a large and overwhelming presence on stage. Showing this parallel between Tommy and Cathy – inverted expectations of sons (who are meant to be loud and demanding) and daughters (who are meant to play quietly, speak softly) – could be showing how Cathy overshadows Tommy to such a degree that he is not even seen by the audience. In an introduction to the play, Churchill says that “Cathy is played by a man…partly because the size and presence…seemed appropriate to the emotional force of young children…[and] to show more clearly the issues…in learning…correct behavior for a girl.”  Just as Cathy doesn’t met the expectations for a young girl, Tommy doesn’t met the expectations for a young boy – he is silent and Cathy is louder and larger in personality. To the point that the adults even forgot Tommy is with them at times – like when they lose him in the park, and he nearly drowns. In scene II of Act II, Tommy is feeding the ducks, and the adults lose track of him when dealing with their own problems, leading them to ask Cathy, the other child and the only one paying attention to him where he was repeatedly asking variations of “did he fall in the pond?”.  They lose sight of him amidst their own problems.

Parental influence is also a possibility for Tommy’s invisibility. Victoria in Act I is unable to speak or control her own actions (being played by a doll) and in Act II feels trapped into a similar situation, unable to speak candidly to Martin about her unhappiness in their relationship until a ways through the act, unable to leave her son behind to take a new job, a new relationship etc. This concept also applies to Cathy. The implication is Cathy is the way she is because of Lin’s homosexuality – that she is loud and generally displaces more masculine associated traits such as being demanding, or playing in dirt etc. That Cathy “acts like a boy”  while Lin is lesbian (which is commonly associated with a woman acting contrary to gender norms) can be seen as a reinforcement of harmful stereotypes that a homosexual parent will raise a homosexual child.

The idea is that children absorb and learn the behaviors around them. If Tommy isn’t on stage he cannot be negatively influenced. Martin says he’d take custody of Tommy, even though custody is generally afforded to mothers. This is because “between 1967 and 1985, lesbian and gay parents lost many more court battles than they won” (Rivers 917), it was considered that “the best interests of the child always lay in a heterosexual household” (Rivers 920). Alongside the message of tolerance for other sexual orientations expressed in the play – a controversially liberal position at the time, there is also the unstated implication that interactions with those of other orientations will convert of encourage children to have those other orientations. Tommy being off stage could be a way to show how he isn’t directly affect by his mother or uncle’s sexuality, despite the undertone that Harry Bagley made Edward gay, that association with him or Lin converted Victoria; Tommy being unseen is because he is not tied up in this messy implication of sexual desires imprinted or learned by those around him. In this play of sexual caricatures, he isn’t on stage because it doesn’t have a way of subverting gender or sexuality expectations.  By not being seen on stage, he can be seen as breaking this cycle or this stereotype. By not being on stage, not being explicitly affected or “turned gay” after Victoria gets together with Lin might be a way of showing that a parent’s orientation isn’t always transferred on a child, in contrast to the relationship of Lin and Cathy, which you can take as reinforcing the stereotype.

Especially prominent in Act II is the progress of societal norms in terms of marriage and divorce – progress which is generally one step forward and two steps back. Act I shows a strict structure of marriage – that everyone must marry and divorce isn’t an option. By Act II, divorce is more allowable – but still something society would frown on in many instances, for instance Victoria and Martin, because they have a son. Tommy the main reason Victoria is hesitant to leave Martin, because there is still a social expectation to “stay together for the kid.” Martin also threatens to take custody of Tommy away from Victoria, a custody case he might have won because even today homosexual parents are seen as unfit parents in many instances. Tommy is a manifestation of the love Victoria and Martin had for one another, and so Tommy’s invisibility could be symbolic of the lost love between Martin and Victoria.

That Tommy is invisible he is idealized, both Victoria and Martin seem to want custody for reasons not entirely about Tommy, but perhaps the expectation of duty to their offspring or to spite their spouse. Neither gives any mention of which would benefit Tommy, nor any actual interests of his at all. The audience has no information about Tommy, beyond that he is male, he is their son, and he presumably is around Cathy’s age, though there is no specific mention of his age. They love him, but they don’t really see him, he isn’t a separate entity from the marriage and societal script that they have followed. Martin himself even says “I don’t like to say he is my son but he is my son” (Churchill 79) showing that he may not have wanted kids, but is adhering to the societal script. This symbolism is heightened by the fact that, when Victoria decides to leave Martin for Lin, they realize Tommy is missing and might have drowned; a symbol for the death of their marriage. Right before they realize Tommy has gone missing when they think he’s drowned, Victoria and Lin have a conversation about their own relationship, with Victoria admitting she maybe doesn’t love Martin anymore saying “it’s got to stop” (Churchill 65) and asking Lin if Lin loved her. The near-death of Tommy shows how Victoria is considering killing her marriage. Along with this, even at the start of Act II Lin references Tommy’s death as a way to get Victoria to herself, to leave Martin saying “I’ll give [Cathy] a rifle…blast Tommy’s pretty head off” (Churchill 52) showing an awareness that Tommy is what is keeping Victoria and Martin’s marriage together.

Most societal expectations are invisible, intangible things, and Tommy represents these invisible societal expectations on Victoria and Martin’s relationship – unseen, but not out of mind. Tommy himself represents societal expectation, and losing track of him when he nearly drowns is indicative of the play’s larger theme of letting societal expectations fall to the wayside to be true to oneself, and the way societal expectations can seem to be killed in the name of progress but they do not die easily. Even when they think Tommy has drowned, he has not, just as how they think progress has been made, it really has not.

Absent characters have importance through “‘proximate cause’ for the action that occurs onstage…a cause that directly produces an event and without which the event would not have occurred” (Morrow 2). While Tommy does not directly speak to any of the other characters, he is a proximate cause of much of Victoria and Martin’s dialogue, as well as much of the conflict Victoria has over wanting to be with Lin over Martin, he is a driving force of the conflict in Act II. Without Tommy, much of the conflict of Act II doesn’t happen at all, as Victoria would have had an easier time of divorcing Martin. Tommy represents the way societal expectations creates conflict within and between individuals.

The casting choices of this play serve to highlight inner feelings, the breaking from a typical expectation of that character; but Tommy’s role is so instinctively understood that he doesn’t need to be seen. Unlike every other character who shows some deviation from what is accepted by society, Tommy is the reinforcement of societal ideals, he doesn’t need to be seen by an audience that is being shown subversions of societal expectations because he is the societal expectation. Societal expectations aren’t seen, and don’t have to be acknowledged, but they do have a tangibility  to them; by being unseen Tommy is symbolic of the assumptions people make, but that he is unseen doesn’t mean he can be ignored entirely. Societal expectations can be ignored, and many characters in Cloud Ninedo ignore them, but their effect on actions taken cannot be discounted – Tommy is a reference point for what the audience sees as off in the other characters of the play. Regardless of Churchill’s original intent, Tommy’s absence paints him as a reminder and symbol of societies invisible expectations – that even non-tangible things can be hard to break away from. Churchill’s Cloud Nine is a play about changing societal roles, expectations and progress and Tommy serves as a reminder that progress is typically two steps forward but one step back. His character undermines the progress that has been made – that progress is more in name than in reality a lot of the time, even as things change they stay the same. His absence shows how these problems are invisible – he represents the status quo, silently followed, invisible but always present, always a consideration before acting.


Works Cited

Carlson, Stephanie D., “Absent Characters: Stage Space and Social Change in Modern Drama” Thesis, Vanderbilt University, 2016. discoverarchive.vanderbilt.edu/bitstream/handle/1803/8435/Stephanie%20Carlson%20-%20Absent%20Characters.pdf?sequence=2&isAllowed=y.

Churchill, Caryl. Cloud Nine. Theatre Communications Group, 1994.

Morrow, Sarah Emily, “Absent Characters as Proximate Cause in Twentieth Century American Drama.” Thesis, Georgia State University, 2009. scholarworks.gsu.edu/english_theses/58.

Rivers, Daniel. “‘IN THE BEST INTERESTS OF THE CHILD’: LESBIAN AND GAY PARENTING CUSTODY CASES, 1967-1985.” Journal of Social History, vol. 43, no. 4, 2010, pp. 917–943. JSTOR, JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/40802011.

“What Does Children Should Be Seen and Not Heard Mean?” Writing Explained, writingexplained.org/idiom-dictionary/children-should-be-seen-and-not-heard.

 

Romance Fails In Fiction Tag

Some Other Recent Romance Posts:

Discussion: Who Would You Pick In This YA Love Triangle?

THE VALENTINE’S DAY WRITE TAG!

Power Couples Book Tag

The Book Courtship Tag

Discussion: What Makes A Good Book Boyfriend?


Rules:

  • Please PINGBACK to Kate @ Melting Pots and Other Calamities.
  • You can choose ten romance fails from ANY media you like: books, movies, anime, manga, T.V shows, or Webtoons. You can even mix them up if you want.
  • You can choose funny fails or serious ones; for the serious ones, phrase it humorously. Remember, this is a fun tag! It’s not meant to be serious.
  • Mention who’s who in the fails. (I.E, who fails and who is the recipient of the failure). If there isn’t  recipient, per se, just state the couple (or non-couple).
  • Optional: Rank the failures from least extreme to most extreme.
  • 5 failures at LEAST.
  • Tag as many people as you want, but at least one person.

These fails are less about the biggest fails in fiction and more about the first ones I thought of – but they are fails.


5 Romance Fails in Books

Blue/Adam
(The Raven Boys)

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I LOVE The Raven Cycle books, a lot. Adam and Blue are a relationship set up to fail from the beginning, but it doesn’t make it less of a fail.

Cammie/Josh
(I’d Tell You I Loved You But Then I’d Have To Kill You)

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Book Review: I’d Tell You I Love You, But Then I’d Have to Kill You

Cammie spends the whole book sneaking around and breaking rules and lying to data Josh, only for him to be completely irrelevant by the next book because he can’t handle the weirdness and has his memory wiped. Definitely a romance fail.

America/Aspen
(The Selection)

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There is no plot aside from the love triangle, but its an obnoxious one. America obviously loves Maxon, but can’t get over Aspen when he’s always there, despite having been the one to break up with her. Three books of being annoying for me reason. Ugh.

Vivi/Jonah
(When We Collided)

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Review: When We Collided

One of the few YA books I’ve ever read where a couple didn’t need to be together forever in the end. Its okay for a first love not to be a forever love. I love their relationship, and in the end they fail as a couple but its supposed to be that way. I love this book.

Romeo/Juliet
(Romeo & Juliet)

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I don’t think a romance fails list can exist without them. Its literally the biggest romance fail ever – they died, stupidly.


5 Romance Fails in TV

Rachel/Joey
(Friends)

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I HATED this ENTIRE plot line.

Barry/Linda
(The Flash)

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This was always set up to crash and burn.

Nate/Serena
(Gossip Girl)

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Nate is probably the most good-hearted character. I love him. He and Serena are a mess as a couple, but great as friends.

Betty/Jughead
(Riverdale)

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They’re cute enough in the show, but Jughead IS SUPPOSED TO BE ASEXUAL AND I HATE THE ERASURE.

Katherine/Damon
(The Vampire Diaries)

Series Code: VD112c

They are such a mess. Poor Damon.

Biannual Bibliothon – Write A Synopsis From The Villain’s Perspective

 Biannual Bibliothon – Day Two Challenge: Write A Synopsis From The Villains Perspective


This was forever ago and I didn’t participate really but this was in my drafts so enjoy!


Day 3 of the blog challenges is hosted by Dominique @ Pirates and Pixie Dust. Her prompt is to write a synopsis from the villain’s point of view. Basically:

  1. Choose a favorite book.
  2. Create a blog post sharing your villain’s short synopsis.
  3. Visit Dominique’s original post and share your link in the comments.

I wrote a poem from The Evil Queen’s perspective from Snow White.

Read it here: Poem: The “Evil” Queen

Queens may not cackle
They must be fair
But they may poison apples
To kill an unworthy heir
Snow White falls
At the hands of The Queen
Yet home, Snow crawls
The how, yet to be seen
The winter princess with stars in her eyes
Just as well has blood staining her teeth
And though they cannot see her lies
The Queen sees the girl underneath
She just wished her stepdaughter knew
She was once the princess, too


I hope you guys enjoyed this!

Is anyone participating in Biannual Bibliothon?
Did anyone else write a villain synopsis?
Did you like this?

Let me know!