Haroun and the Sea of Stories: Final Project on Hero’s Journey

     Group Members: Jeremy Kohn, Stephanie Land, Matt Tremba, and Connor Roop


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The Pre-Process

     From the beginning of this project, our group was very certain in what we wanted to do. We felt that a game board would best represent how the Hero’s journey works: hitting all the steps, going on adventures along the way, and eventually restarting. Not only was it a way to clearly explain the Hero’s journey, but we could be creative with it as well. We designed it after Candyland (pictured below), with different blocks to land on and different adventures in each section, as well as game cards that tell you things like “you’re doubting your adventure, move back 4 spaces” or “you met your mentor, take another turn!” We also decorated the board with aspects of Haroun, which I’ll get into later. 

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Symbolism & Drawings

            My group member Jeremy and I decided to split the board between the “ordinary world” (left) and “fantasy world” (right), just like the Hero’s Journey is split up. I wanted to include symbolism and characters on my side of the board. So, I split the middle of my side of the board between the happy-go-lucky land of Gup and the dark, depressing land of Chup. The sides of the board also correlate with the steps: Haroun crosses over onto the land of Gup, meets his allies and enemies in both gup and Chup, and goes through an ordeal and seizes the sword in Chup, and so on. On the tests, allies, and enemies section, I drew Mudra the shadow warrior, as he is first thought to be an enemy but ends up being a crucial ally. For the approach, I drew Iff, Butt, and Haroun staring into the distance at the dark ship, deciding on whether or not they should risk their lives and go there. For the ordeal, I drew two hands sword fighting to symbolize the war. Finally, for seizing the sword, I drew two things: one, Kahani turning again, and two, the two sides of the moon combining again. Apart from specific parts, I also put Haroun and Iff peeking out from the top of the board. However, my favorite part of the board was the sea of stories. I drew the different “strands” of stories in the sea as colored strings intertwining, and at the bottom, I drew the “pollution” coming from the land of Chup and combining with the stories. In the corner, I drew a book with the pages flying away, and each page is losing more and more words, until the entire page is just blank. This was symbolic for Khattam-Shud and how he wanted to get rid of all the stories on Kahani.

 

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The early stages of the product. 

Self-Assessment

          The product overall was very satisfactory. Throughout our research, we learned about the different stages and the different versions of the Hero’s journey that exist, as well as the stories that apply to it. Once we learned about the Hero’s journey, it really opened up my eyes- I can now spot the Hero’s journey in most fiction books I read, even biographies. And the best part was that we created a tangible product to show what we’ve learned. Learning feels much more satisfactory when you can hold the knowledge in your hand than when it’s crammed into the back of your brain.

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If I had to rate us on the designs specs rubric, I think we most definitely hit the requirements for “make it beautiful, poignant, relevant, and unique,” and the “Surfer on the Sea of Stories.” We worked to make our project as unique and creative as possible while still describing the process of the Hero’s Journey as it related to Haroun, and I believe we were successful. The other groups also did a great job at relaying their information back to the class- I especially liked how the different skill sets of each group resulted in many unique projects. 

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While the Hero’s journey might be a lot more simple and “clear” than, say, allusion or allegory, it provided a lot of insight into the book itself, especially towards the question of “what’s the use of stories that aren’t even true?” The Hero’s Journey showed how Haroun progressed and grew as a character through meeting his mentor, deciding to go on an adventure, being tested by man and nature, failing, and eventually coming through in the end. Once a character goes through the Hero’s Journey, they gain knowledge and experience that fundamentally changes who they are as a person. So, the Hero’s Journey answers Haroun’s question: once he embarked on this fantastical adventure through the land of Chup and Gup and literally living his fathers stories, he learned the importance of friendship, family, perseverance, and yes, stories.

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If you haven’t already, head over here to view all of the posts I made on Haroun and the Sea of Stories!

-T.M.

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Haroun and the Sea of Stories: Khattam Shud (Final Post)

Final Thoughts

             As Haroun and the Sea of Stories comes to a close, we say goodbye to all the colorful characters and dramatic plot. The novel ends on a quick, harsh note, after the war. This was actually a shocking aspect of the ending for me: the entire novel had been building up towards a war between the Guppees and Chupwalas, the war itself was very abrupt and more like an impromptu comedy skit than a war. I assume it is because Rushdie didn’t want to glorify war, and show that no matter what side of the war one is on, they will always look foolish in the end– this is just one of the many ways throughout the book that he slyly makes fun of the Western World.

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Happiness is a Social Construct

            Well… not really, but it’s true to a certain extent. The main point that the ending of the book revolved around was the true meaning of a “happy ending.” Haroun wishes for a happy ending for his city, and while he notices that they are happy now, nothing has truly changed- the happiness is only superficial. The following quote by the Walrus expands on this point:

“Happy endings must come at the end of something… If they happen in the middle of a story, or an adventure, or the like, all they do is cheer things up for a while” (202)

           Rushdie uses this point to show that there is really no such thing as a happy ending for a story. Haroun’s father got his storytelling abilities back, Haroun’s mother came back, their city is happy again, and the Guppees won the war. Despite all of this, the book leaves you feeling empty and melancholic at the end. But this is not truly the ending to Haroun or Kahani’s story: happiness, in the end, is short lived, just like sadness is. No one’s story will ever end.  

We also discussed this for most of our group’s Socratic seminar: we eventually came to the conclusion that happiness cannot be given, but it must come from within. This is why Haroun was genuinely happy when his mother came back, because it was what his adventure was driven by, but his city was only “fake” happy- they might have been laughing and dancing in the rain, but nothing changed at it’s core.

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So… What’s the Use In Telling Stories that Aren’t Even True?

            In my opinion, Haroun’s journey to Kahani is a metaphor for stories in the real world. I broke it down into two main points:

  1. As said above, Haroun’s wish doesn’t solve the deep-seated issues of his town or magically erase all the heartbreak him and his father have endured since his mother left. Instead, it provided everyone with a superficial happiness. While it might not last forever, it still counts for something. This is part of the reason we read stories: to make us feel. Obviously reading a journey about saving the princess won’t make you a hero, but you can live vicariously and experience the pain, love, heartbreak, and fear right along with the narrator.
  2. Before Haroun embarked on his journey, he never imagined something like this happening. Overnight, he saw fantasy lands, creatures, magic, and overall experienced things that otherwise would not be possible in the “real world.” But does this mean his journey is all for nothing? Of course not. What really matters is what he went through and the stories he learned. He learned of the importance of friends and family, perseverance, and the beauty of both silence and speech. These values, not the magic creatures, are what will stick with him until he grows old. The same holds true for stories: It doesn’t matter if stories are made up or 500 years old, because they contain “eternal” truths, which end up enhancing and guiding one through their understanding of their own life. Morals are the most valuable things a reader can take away from a book.

Hero’s Journey

                 I was assigned to read the novel through the lens of the Hero’s Journey, the path that most heroes follow within a novel. The Hero’s Journey is very sequential and concrete, which gives readers little to analyze through this lens. The end of the book saw Haroun hitting a few crucial steps, including “Reward/Seizing the Sword” (when The Walrus gives Haroun a wish, and he wishes to make his city happy again), “Master of Two Worlds” (when Haroun makes Kahani start spinning again and restores peace), and finally, the “Return With Elixir” (when Haroun and his father return from Kahani. The Elixir can either be thought of as happiness, his father’s storytelling abilities, or his mother).

 


Overall, while it was extremely confusing and a little tedious to read at times, Haroun and the Sea of Stories was a fun and sweet book to read. The values that Rushdie managed to convey through a children’s story definitely made an impact on me and how I perceive storytelling. I would definitely recommend it! 6.5/10

-T.M.

Haroun and the Sea of Stories #2

Note: if you haven’t yet read my first post on Haroun and the Sea of Stories, click here.

Since the last few chapters, Haroun is already well on his journey to the magical storytelling moon of Kahani. In terms of the Hero’s Journey, he already received his call to adventure and supernatural aid and has crossed the threshold into the unknown with his mentor, Iff. So far, the book is getting more and more complicated with an abundance of complex characters. In fact, there are, in my opinion, way too many named characters- despite already reading the book, I found myself going back and trying to track who’s who, which made reading a very tedious process.

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Once I learned that Rushdie wrote this book during the time he had a fatwa placed on him by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, I saw the political allegories he made deepen even further. To be honest, this ruined the book for me, because one of the reasons I was excited to just read a children’s chapter book was because they aren’t convoluted and they don’t have anything to do with a ~~deeper political meaning~~ (and, let’s be real, politics ruins most good things). Unfortunately, Haroun no longer fits into either of those categories.

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Apart from that, in the actual plot, Haroun, along with Iff and Butt, arrive in the Sea of Stories. In terms of the Hero’s Journey, Haroun is currently on what is known as the “Road of Trials,” which, according to Joseph Campbell, is when “…the hero moves in a dream landscape of curiously fluid, ambiguous forms, where he must survive a succession of trials. […] The hero is covertly aided by the advice, amulets, and secret agents of the supernatural helper whom he met before his entrance into this region. Or it may be that he here discovers for the first time that there is a benign power everywhere supporting him in his superhuman passage.”

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Overall, in the Road of Trials, the hero (Haroun) must face multiple trials, most of which he will fail. When Haroun drinks the wish water in hopes that his father’s storytelling abilities would come back, but ultimately fails, this is one of the many examples of a Trial he must face. The Road of Trials is often not a singular step within the Hero’s Journey but rather a long process that overlaps across the many other steps in the cycle.


Haroun also goes through “Atonement with the Father,” a step in which the hero must confront his father-figure. This happens when the Land of Gup captures his father for venturing into the Land of Chup, which will eventually lead into the war. This plays itself out when Haroun and his father have a talk about the reality of the Sea of Stories, but also the imminent danger they are both in.

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While it is obvious that Gup and Chup are respectively “good” and “bad” in Haroun, Rushdie makes sure that they do not fall on the extreme ends of the spectrum, which is something I found interesting (and also discussed during the Socratic Seminar). Iff says the following about Khattam-Shud:

“[he is] the Arch-Enemy of all Stories, even of Language itself. He is the Prince of Silence and the Foe of Speech” (79). Even though it might seem like the land of Gup is all about the freedom of speech, all that the Gup characters say is essentially nonsense or gibberish. Their constant talk is eventually their downfall, which can especially be seen when they are going to war with Chup and constantly arguing about their plans. Their constant gossip makes their army fall apart from the inside. And while of course Chup is made to seem like the “dark side,” Haroun finds a beauty in the way they communicate, especially the Shadow Warrior they encounter named Mudra. While he might not verbally talk, he uses a gesture language, and the words he does communicate are all purposeful and careful. Rushdie did this on purpose to show the irony in that not all speech is inherently good, and sometimes silence must exist in order to bring meaning to speech.

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In my opinion, all of this relates back to the question Haroun posed in the beginning: “What’s the point of telling stories that aren’t even true?” The greatest books in history like the Mahabharata or Gilgamesh, or works from authors like Shakespeare, Tolstoy, or Dickens, are all fiction. These authors are not speaking whatever nonsense comes to their minds like the Gups, nor are they depleting the world of storytelling like the Chups. However, the careful and considerate words they’ve chosen have shaped the world we live in today. While they might be fiction, the amazing thing about these stories is that they are always going to be true. Their lessons and characters are eternal and will always apply to society, which signifies the importance of characters like Rashid who keep spreading and telling stories.

First Impressions: Haroun and the Sea of Stories

Originally, I was excited to learn that we were assigned a Salman Rushdie book for summer reading. The first time I read a Rushdie book was in third grade: Luka and the Fire of Life (which I learned is actually a sequel to Haroun… oops.). My first impressions of this book were quite similar to with Luka. The writing style is very off-putting at first, and the eccentric fantasy plot is hard to follow at times and can become convoluted– however, Rushdie never fails to create colorful, intricate characters that really come to life on the pages. I really enjoyed reading a fun, short children’s book as a sort of break from all the textbook reading we had to do. And the great thing about Salman Rushdie is he can’t just write a children’s book and leave it at that- there’s always deeper meaning that you’ll only understand when you’re older. Of course, I’ll go more into that in later posts.

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Throughout the book, I’ll be analyzing Haroun (which, by the way, you can buy here) through the lens of the monomyth, otherwise known as the Hero’s Journey. The Hero’s Journey is used to describe a common narrative pattern in a book’s plot. Below is the cycle:

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And a cute comic that also describes the process:

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For now, I am only analyzing chapters one through three, so of course, the Hero’s Journey plot isn’t very far along. However, one thing my group and I found interesting was the matriarchial role Haroun’s mother, Soraya, played in the novel. She acted as a tipping point for the plot: all was well and fine in Perfectville until Haroun’s mother abandoned them. This is what leads to Rashid losing his storytelling abilities, which leads to Haroun going on a mission to get his abilities back, and so on. This leads us to the question: what really is Haroun’s call to adventure? Is it when he realizes everything went wrong after his mother left? Is it when he realizes on the train that everything is his fault, and he must set out to fix it? Or is it when he sees the Water Genie? We couldn’t decide on an exact answer, but we agreed that it was a combination of Everything Going Wrong that culminated in his call to adventure.

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The role of parents in Haroun brought me upon an interesting line:

“This is an affair of the heart.” (pg. 43)

This simple, sweet line struck me for a few reasons. Once I thought about it, this novel isn’t only a silly fantasy: it’s a love story. But not the Hollywood boy-saves-girl love story: it’s one about the love between a son and his father, and the father’s love for his wife. While there are high-paced adventure scenes, the princess in her castle scenes, and stories about the importance of friendship, above all, it’s about how the son loves his father so much that he’s willing to risk his life just to make him happy again, which is one of the most striking things about Haroun.

Signing out,

T

Note: follow my “Haroun and the Sea of Stories” tag to follow my updates throughout the book. 

The Darkest Minds Review

“Did you know…you make me so happy that sometimes I actually forget to breathe? I’ll be looking at you, and my chest will get so tight…and it’s like, the only thought in my head is how much I want to reach over and kiss you.”

-Alexandra Bracken, The Darkest Minds

I promised myself I would stop reading YA Dystopian books, as I was starting to lose my faith in them, but when everyone kept telling me to read Alexandra Bracken’s The Darkest Minds, I decided to give it a try. This dystopian thriller book is about a girl, Ruby, who mysteriously gains powers on her tenth birthday due to a strange illness that has killed most of America. This leads her parents to lock her in the garage and send her to a detainment camp, where she spent most of her childhood. She is labeled “dangerous” and escapes the camp with a few of her fellow detainees. She then falls in love with the boy who saved her, works through internal issues, saves the world… blah blah blah.

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While my hopes were high for this book, it really only solidified how much I can’t stand YA Dystopia. And it’s a shame, because that’s basically the only YA genre anymore (except for horrible sappy romance). Almost every single author likes to jump on the YA dystopian craze, from “The 5th Wave,” “The Mortal Instruments,” and “Divergent.” It’s like all of these people just tried to recreate The Hunger Games but they obviously couldn’t. And really, check the Goodreads synopses for these books by clicking on the links I provided because they are painfully similar (here’s the one for The Darkest Minds as well).

The whole plot of the book is annoying and blander than grits on top of untoasted white bread. The “dangerous” teens get locked up in a government camp after getting sick. I mean, really? The ONLY teens who survived a plague get locked up? Trust me, I know our government can be stupid but… really? Every single YA book has to contain some crazy oppressive government. Every. One. It must be a lot of weight on the main character Ruby’s shoulders to be the only teenager who recognizes the problems with an authoritarian government. Not only that, but they just put up with the government’s abuse… they ALL have powers, and they all have the ability to make all the government guards at the camp just… walk away. But they never do that because they are poor little helpless kids waiting for their savior.

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Speaking of YA stereotypes, every novel contains these “class separations.” For example, “districts” in the Hunger Games, “factions” in Divergent, etc etc. In The Darkest Minds, it’s…colors. Based on the type of power that you have. And there are government-issued labels that shows everyone what color you are, eerily similar to Nazi concentration camp badges. And of course, our lovely protagonist is ~the most dangerous color~. But she hates that fact and continues to whine about it for literally the entire book. Even though she could use it to break everyone out of the prison. Does she have any characteristics other than being annoying? Not really. 

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Then they try to make a strong female character, but the issue is, there’s so many of these same characters that it just gets awful to see another one. Read my new book, where ANOTHER quirky teenage white girl with ~special powers~ and unique eyes saves the world! And she’s the only one who can do so! Yes, really! I will then be hailed as the ultimate feminist on my countless Goodreads reviews.

 

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Can you tell the difference? I can’t.

 

I know there is one question on your mind: seriously? Can a girl really save the world? Well, don’t worry, there is a guy who has to save HER first. In this case, Ruby falls in love with him on a road trip away from the camp (note: the road trip is literally the entire book. But don’t worry, there are also 18 car crashes because the plot has to contain SOMETHING, right?). Thank god there is a strong, level-headed male character to help our female protagonist along!!!!

 

But wait… what’s this? That’s right, it’s ANOTHER hot guy! How will our protagonist decide??? How will she remember that she has to save the world if she’s so distracted trying to choose between two macho men with amazing jawlines?????? Flip the page for a mandatory bonding session in which the female protagonist gently wraps the man’s wounds as he winces (maybe an even inappropriately timed kissing session if you’re lucky). If I could summarize this book’s romance in a sentence, I would use Avril Lavigne’s legendary song Sk8er Boi: “He was a boy, she was a girl, can I make it any more obvious?”

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The only thing that made me give it two stars is because the first 20 pages were good. I mean… that’s enough, right?? But this book reminded me of everything that is wrong with YA fiction and just… the world. The ENTIRE book was a boring road trip. It didn’t beat out Divergent in terms of YA stereotypes, but it was pretty close. Please enjoy these twitter accounts that personify horrible YAs.

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“Typical YA Heroine”: https://twitter.com/typicalyahero?lang=en

“Dystopian YA Novel”: https://twitter.com/dystopianya

 

Edit: I just found out that they are releasing this book as a movie in 2018. I literally cannot escape Hollywood’s death grip.

The Wrath and the Dawn Review

“She was a dangerous, dangerous girl. A plague. A Mountain of Adamant who tore the iron from ships, sinking them to their watery graves without a second thought. With a mere smile and a wrinkle of her nose.”

-Renee Ahdieh, The Wrath and the Dawn

I came to read The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh after a few people recommended it to me, and after it was on the New York Times Bestsellers list. While it has fantasy and thriller-like elements, it is primarily a romance based on A Thousand and One Nights. This ancient folktale is about a wife who realizes that her husband will murder her by morning, so to try and delay it, she tells him stories for 1,001 nights.  While this story has been retold hundreds of times, I thought that The Wrath and the Dawn gave a fresh new take on it that I enjoyed.

In short, The Wrath and the Dawn is about Khalid, a young king, who brings a woman home every night only to kill her at sunrise. When Khalid kills the main character Shahrzad’s friend and cousin, she decides to take revenge on him and volunteers to marry him. When night comes, Shahrzard tells Khalid a story and says that the only way he can hear the end of the story is if he lets her live until the next day. In a sort of Stockholm Syndrome case, the two slowly fall in love as the book progresses.

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The prominent themes throughout the book deal with love, and redemption, which are all closely related. Love, of course, because the two characters go from wanting to murder each other to falling in love, and redemption because of how much the characters change. Throughout the whole book, Khalid seems mysterious and has a “secret” he won’t tell anyone, and he finally opens up to Shahrzad and begins his character arc. And even though Khalid kills Shahrzard’s friend, he still goes through a “redemption” in her eyes.

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In conclusion, I thought it was a relatively good book and it kept me captivated from beginning to end. The way the author wrote the dialogue between Khalid and Shahrzard as well as the general descriptions were very thoughtful and detailed. All of the side characters really add a uniqueness to the plot. Of course, there were some problems with it. For example, she came to avenge the death of her friend, but ends up falling in love with her murderer after a few nights which is just…strange. But I guess love stories are just like that. All in all, I would give it 7/10 stars! I’d recommend this to anyone who likes to read new takes on traditional folk tales or someone who just likes a good love story.

*note: the book also has a sequel, The Rose and the Dagger (which I plan on reading sometime).

Romeo And Juliet Final Post

At the end of Romeo and Juliet, this is the question that’s invariably on everyone’s minds. Did the play really have to end like that? Were Romeo and Juliet being rash, and was suicide really worth it just because they couldn’t be with the one they loved?

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Overall, I would give the whole book a solid 7/10 stars. I really enjoyed the beginning of it, (up until act 3-middle of act 4), but after that, the whole thing seemed a little rushed. Like Shakespeare just wanted to get it over with (relatable). Now, I knew that R & J’s relationship was hasty, but for some reason, the whole time I was expecting their relationship to be a little more… developed. But no, they see each other a few times and then die in each other’s arms. To me, that made the “I love you so much I’m going to die for you” seem a bit fake and not genuine. But I guess some of it is probably not being able to see into a character’s mind, as it is a play.  

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So, was their love really worth dying for? This is like trying to explain the meaning of life in one word, but I’ll try to make it concise:

  1. A common motif is that love leads to death. Juliet says, “Than death prorogued wanting of thy love” Mercutio died because Romeo loved Juliet, and in turn Tybalt. Tybalt died because Romeo loved Mercutio and wanted vengeance. Paris died because he loved Juliet. Lady Montague died because she loved Romeo. And of course, Romeo and Juliet died because they loved each other.
  2. When Romeo finds Juliet dead, he expresses suicide as an act of love. “I still will stay with thee/ And never from this palace of dim night/ Depart again.” So, love and death is one and the same here.
  3. They (including Friar Lawrence) believed that love can conquer all, especially the family feud. So, if there is no more love, can you conquer anything? Or is death now the only option?

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This is at least how Shakespeare presented it. In my opinion, it’s very circumstantial. If you had a kid that was dying and for some reason, the only way they could live is for you to die, it’s worth it.

But committing suicide for a man you’ve met a few days prior? Absolutely not. Maybe you’d feel like you wanted to die, but life is so much more than romance. If anything, you have to stay alive because I doubt that loved one would want you dead.

 

Who’s to blame?

 

In a way, every character somehow contributed to Romeo and Juliet’s death. But I’m still standing behind my theory that Romeo is to blame for all of this. I’ll sort it out into a list again:

 

  1. Like Helen Fisher said, the feelings of love are more intense when you just got dumped. And he meets Juliet right after Rosaline ditched him, so it’s more of lust at first sight than love.
  2. And when Romeo is whining to his friends about his love life, Mercutio basically says “sleep with someone, you’ll feel better.” Aaaand he meets Juliet…
  3. Juliet loves him because he’s attractive, and Romeo takes advantage of that to just manipulate Juliet because he’s heartbroken.
  4. Read my last post for more on this, but Romeo is the reason why Mercutio and Tybalt died.      
  5. And of course, when Tybalt died, Juliet’s feeling that teenage rebellion (after her father threatens to disown her) and decides to not care that the love of her life killed her cousin, but that he’s banished. Really, Juliet?! And when the Nurse asks her, “Will you speak well of him that killed your cousin?” She responds, “Shall I speak ill of him that is my husband?” as if the two cancel out (pg 137).
  6. Maybe Paris isn’t the bad guy we all thought he was- Capulet tells Paris in scene two that he needs to “take things slow” with Juliet and win her over first: “But woo her, gentle Paris, get her heart,/ My will to her consent is but a part…” So, Paris actually loves Juliet… unlike Romeo, who seems to just be manipulating her.
  7. Romeo is banished, which according to him is worse than death. And then Juliet dies… so he decides to commit suicide because he’s basically screwed (and it’s better than being banished, so hey!). And all this drives Juliet to kill herself too, because that one hot guy who her parents didn’t like and acted like he loved her is now dead. Oh, Romeo!

Those are all of my thoughts, overall, I liked the play much better than I thought I would. I linked a short video from Thug Notes summarizing Romeo and Juliet, enjoy…

Romeo and Juliet Act 2 & 3

Check out my last few posts on Romeo and Juliet before you read this one

We are finally finished with Romeo and Juliet up until Act Three. Or, as I’m calling it, The Act Where Everything Goes Wrong. In Act 2 and 3, R & J finally begin to realize that love is not a save-all, heal-all force, and maybe, just maybe, love can actually pull others apart. But, our favorite star-crossed lovers clearly don’t see this, because they’re too infatuated with each other’s beauty that they don’t realize actions have consequences.

RIP: Mercutio and Tybalt

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To be honest, I was a bit upset that Mercutio and Tybalt died. Romeo and Juliet were starting to annoy me with all this “love at first sight” crap, but the side characters (not you, Paris…), especially Mercutio, were a breath of fresh air. However, I think this is exactly why Shakespeare decided to kill them off. I read that Shakespeare said “if I don’t kill Mercutio, Mercutio is going to kill me!” (maybe not his exact words, but still). Romeo and Juliet is not a love story- it’s a tragedy. Shakespeare didn’t write love stories. So, he had to progress the play somehow, because we all know how it ends. And I think getting rid of the two “main” side characters, especially Mercutio, the funnyman, launched the play into a much darker alley.

In the scene, Tybalt challenges Romeo to a fight, but Romeo decides that he does not want to fight. Tybalt provokes Mercutio by saying “you consortest with Romeo,” (you… hangout with Romeo?), so they fight and both end up dying. Classic.

“A plague on both your houses!”

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Now, don’t get me wrong. Mercutio would be willing to die for Romeo if the need be. They’re best friends, and their bond goes far back… definitely further than the night before. But, the thing about Mercutio’s death is that there was no need. This event that triggers the death of 6 more characters was wholly preventable, if it wasn’t for loverboy Romeo. Romeo was supposed to be there for Mercutio but all he said was “oh no my love for Juliet has made me effeminate and suddenly I won’t hurt a fly!” Really, man? Even though Tybalt might have physically killed Mercutio, Romeo is to blame for his friend’s death. One of the cardinal rules of friendship is to never let other romantic relationships to get in the way. Mercutio was there for Romeo when he needed him, but Romeo was too busy looking at the whole situation through his post-marriage rose-colored glasses to mind. He was ignorant. Mercutio even said: “Why the devil came you between us? I was hurt under your arm” (pg. 121). Clearly, love didn’t solve anything in this situation. Could it have? Maybe, maybe not. If Romeo explained why he said he loved Tybalt, he would definitely die a lot sooner than he had! Perhaps love is the peaceful solution in Romeo’s mind, but not everything has a peaceful solution.

The Blame Game

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R & J clearly believe that they have an unbreakable bond. But if this is the case, then how do they fall to their demise so quickly? Who is to blame (other than Shakespeare 😉  )?
There are a few people to point fingers at.

Friar Lawrence

Friar Lawrence is the easy one to blame for Romeo and Juliet. If Romeo and Juliet were tried in court for murder, their lawyers would probably argue that they were delusional, or perhaps intoxicated, and didn’t know what they were doing. However, Friar Lawrence was supposed to be the trusted adult, but he was just blinded by his ignorance. He thought that a decades long family feud could just be solved by marrying a Capulet and a Montague- but you could argue that he’s just stupid and blinded by love like half the people in this play.

Capulet

Capulet is the strange dad that sounds like he’s having a stroke every time he talks, but there’s no doubt that he’s the most mean-spirited character of the play. Because he pressured Juliet into marrying Paris, Juliet felt that sense of teenage rebellion when she fell in love with and married Romeo. Not to mention, he threatened to disown her unless she immediately married Paris. And according to neurologists, when you love something you can’t have, the love is much more intense. So, that worked out. 

Romeo, Thou Art A Villain!

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These two characters are often blamed for the way Romeo and Juliet ends, and it’s true in one part. However, there is one character that is more to blame than anyone else: Romeo.

Let’s explore:

In class, we talked a lot about how Romeo instantly falling in love with Juliet at the party was basically his rebound from getting rejected by Rosaline. He was still so intensely in love with Rosaline, but since he couldn’t have her, he acted that much more reckless. He saw Juliet, a pretty looking girl, and married her the next day. Convenient, isn’t it Romeo?

There’s also the fact that Juliet is 13. Of course, society 500 years ago was much different, but if Juliet sees a hot 17-23 year old lusting after her, she’s bound to be happy about it- Romeo is her first love! So, was Romeo taking advantage of Juliet? Did he really love her? Or was it just a spur of the moment fling?

Now the character deaths. As I mentioned above, Romeo is really the one to blame for Mercutio’s death. His friend needed him and he wasn’t there- even worse, he used his love for Juliet as an excuse to not fight Tybalt. And when Mercutio dies, he gets mad at Tybalt and kills him… when it’s really his own ignorance that killed Mercutio.

Back to Juliet: her “love” that she’s known for a few days killed her cousin! She takes some time to weep, but then focuses her energy and anger to being mad that Romeo is “banishéd.” If she wasn’t so blinded by love, she would have seen Romeo’s ulterior motive. So… maybe love is not blind, but love is blinding. The girl’s thirteen and got threatened to get disowned by her parents, of course she’s going to do everything to rebel!

The blame on Romeo goes on into the play, but since we are only on act 3, I won’t get too into it. In conclusion: Romeo is a hotheaded mess.

Keeping Up With The Capulets

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If love was a hole, Juliet fell down it and then started digging. In Act 2, she handed her heart over to Romeo on the balcony after a whole 2 hours (hey, at least it’s something). She was ready to give up her soul, her life, even her identity as a Capulet just to be with Romeo. On page 73, she says: “…a rose/ by any other word would smell as sweet/ so Romeo would/ were he not Romeo called.” Juliet does not care that her only love is from her rival house: the only thing that matters is that they are in love. Cute, right?

No. She’s going to die. But, of course, she doesn’t know that- so she gets married. And then things get interesting.

Tybalt

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She spends a stanza or two crying about how her cousin is dead, but worry not- it doesn’t last for long! Because when she finds out that Romeo is banishéd, it’s suddenly the end of the world. On page 137, she says: “Romeo is banishéd./ To speak that word is father, mother, Tybalt, Romeo, Juliet, all slain, all dead.” You don’t possibly think you’re being a bit dramatic, right? Just a little? In front of her mother, she convinces her mother that she hates Romeo- not that her mother was suspicious of her in the first place, anyways. “I shall never be satisfied/ with Romeo till I behold him -dead-”

Which is interesting, because, you know, I guess that makes her satisfied at the end of the play? Hm.

Paris

In Act 3, Lady Capulet confronts Juliet about marrying Paris. She defiantly says no, playing into a little bit of dramatic irony when she says: “When I do marry,/ it shall be Romeo; who you know I hate,/ rather than Paris.” Right, Juliet. You hate him so much. But when she says no to her father, he practically loses it. He threatens that if she does not marry Paris by the upcoming Thursday, he’ll disown her. She begs for her father’s understanding, but it’s apparent that he doesn’t really care much about how she feels. And to make things worse, the Nurse, who was supposed to be on her side, also wants her to marry Paris. Ouch! Tough times.

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I am honestly not sure whether or not I am looking forward to the rest of the play. While I’ll miss it’s lightheartedness, I’m also looking forward to the darker parts. But, overall, it’s much better than I thought it’d be so far!

 

Romeo and Juliet Act 1: Dear Romeo

Mercutio spitting straight wisdom about love to Romeo in a letter (I translated it to Shakespearean language using Shmoop’s translator, but I had to improvise in some places. Like when I said “I love you” and it spat out an entire poem. But, apparently, you just have to add a bunch of “eth”s at the end of words in order for it to sound Shakespearean!)

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From what I understand, Mercutio doesn’t really care much about love. Every time Romeo complains about how lovesick he is, Mercutio dismisses him and makes a crude comment (ie, “prick love for pricking, and you beat love down” (Act 1 Scene 4). Smooth, Mercutio. Smooth.) Like all best friends, he relentlessly teases Romeo about falling in love and, being the comic relief, makes numerous jokes about it. I tried to fit that aspect of Mercutio into this letter as well. But, to be honest, Mercutio would probably rather just start beef with the Capulets than listen to stories about his best friend falling in love with one.

So, enjoy this heart to heart, bro to bro letter.

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If love be rough with you, be rough with love. 

-Mercutio, Act 1, Scene 4

 

Romeo! Sirrah! Thee in earnest needeth to be collected. Thou has’t flown so close to the sun and now thee art burning.  Thee knoweth whither ashes end up? The trash, Romeo, the trash! In mine most humble opinion, love is fake. Thou art telling me that thee see some wench and thee falleth in love with that lady right hence? Lest I calling talk’st of nothing. One moment thee art in love with Rosaline, now thee forgot about that lady. Thee gravely just saw Juliet and hath said love looks with the heart, not with the mind, and therefore, Cupid is blind? That is a gross amount to sayeth to a lady on thy first date. Thee cannot even fit that on a friendship bracelet, cousin.

Doth I mean nothing to thee, Romeo? Am I just dirt? Don’t  tryeth mine with this love horror, Romeo. I’ll murder thee.  Thee art too valorous for this! And a Capulet of all people! Doth not thee knoweth anything, Romeo? I consume Capulets for dinner, utter fool. If ‘t be true thee bethink thee art very much in love with Juliet, thee needeth to receiveth thy headeth checked. Unless thee art an insolent clotpole, thee would has’t hath heard me at which hour toldeth thee how to fix a broken heart. And that didst not includeth falling in love with some Capulet!

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Now, I can telleth that thou art going to cometh crying to me for love advice. There’s few or none will entertain it. I could not care less, Romeo. I wilt probably stab thee with mine sword. Receiveth ov’r t, Romeo. You’ll at each moment beest mine sirrah, but thee can beest gravely obnoxious at times. Jokes aside,  if ‘t be true thee art truly in love with Juliet, I wilt supporteth thy endeavors. Just doth not forget who thee art during this whole time. Doth not alloweth love consume thee, but rather consume love.

Love thee,
Mercutio <333

 

 

 

Romeo & Juliet Act 1: Love at First Sight

First Impressions

As we all know, Romeo and Juliet is a classic. And when books are classics, you hear a LOT about them in daily life prior to reading it- it’s almost part of our culture. So, to be honest, when I actually began to read it, it was not at all what I was expecting.

I was pleasantly surprised when I finished Act 1. After 15 years of hearing about Romeo and Juliet, I was ready to descend into the depths of hell reading this story. However, while the way Shakespeare crafts his sonnets is at some times confusing, once I got over the language barrier, I liked it. I’ve never really read an entire play before and this is my first time really getting into Shakespeare, and it feels like a breath of fresh air from the usual novels we read in class.

However, the one issue I’ve found with Romeo and Juliet (and this is probably because I’ve never read a play before) is that it’s very difficult to imagine what’s going on in my head. Plays are nothing but dialogue, so combine that with strange language and no descriptors whatsoever, and it’s really hard to imagine the scene in your head.

Juliet Capulet

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(I am analyzing Juliet throughout the book).

While Juliet only appeared for a short time, I found her character interesting. The first time we meet her is when her mother praises the man who wishes to marry her, Paris. Getting married is a huge step in a person’s life, yet she seems quite apathetic. On page 39, Act 1 Scene 3, Juliet refers to marriage as “an honor that I dream not of.” She then goes on to say that if her parents truly want her to marry, then she will. This was probably common for the time period, though. 

When we meet Juliet again, it is at the masquerade. Romeo approaches her and flirts with her. She immediately spits out metaphors about saints and pilgrims, and how holy saints do not kiss with their lips. Romeo snarkily responds, “Have not saints lips?” (pg. 57 Act 1 Scene 5).

And Juliet, like the good religious girl she is, basically says “you nasty, use those lips for prayer!”

Just from this exchange, the Montagues and Capulets seem very different. The Montagues, judging from Benvolio and Romeo, are more like carefree “bad boys,” while the Capulets seem like religious, put together, and uptight. So, considering Romeo and Juliet are already madly in love after 0.0001 seconds, it should be interesting to see how they interact later on.

Love at First Sight: Is it Shallow?

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This was a question I had about love at first sight for years. It is love at first SIGHT, no? So are you falling in love with the way that they look, and is that shallow? In my opinion, love should be much more than just thinking a person is hot. Take this stanza from when Romeo first sees Juliet:

“O, she doth teach the torches to burn bright!

The measure done, I’ll watch her place of stand

And, touching hers, make blessed my rude hand.

Did my heart love till now? Forswear it, sight,

For I ne’er saw true beauty till this night (pg. 53, Act 1 Scene 5)

When Romeo sees Juliet from across the room, he knows nothing of her personality, status, hobbies, or anything. All he sees is how hot she is, and suddenly he’s in love. For some reason, I thought that they got to know each other more before pledging their life to the other, but I guess I was wrong. Doesn’t this make love at first sight (at least in this case), rather shallow?

Overall, I like Romeo and Juliet so far and I’m interested to see how to love story plays out, as we all know what happens in the end!