The Rubble Staff
During the Upper School awards ceremony on May 19, 2014, the English department awarded four prizes to students. This is a new award given to the best critical and creative pieces written by juniors and seniors in English electives during the 2013-14 academic year. This year, four students received “Papers of Distinction” awards. They are:
David Hobbs, ’14 for a critical essay written in “The Four Horsemen: Literature of the Apocalypse.” This essay analyzed Dick’s novel “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?”
Vanna Ramirez, ’14 for a critical essay written in “The Literature of the Sea.” This essay analyzed Johnson’s novel “Middle Passage” and Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness.”
Derek Dubner, ’15 for a creative piece, a poem, written in “Modern American Poetry.” The poem was written after the style of Matthew Dickman in his book “The All-American Poem.”
Kelly Kollias, ’15 for a creative piece, a short story, written in “Russian Novel.” The story was written as a satire exposing the oppressive context surrounding female characters in classical Russian literature.
Please join us in congratulating these students on their achievement. We hope you enjoy reading their prize-winning work.
Modern American Poetry
Poem written in style of Matthew Dickman
*This poem does not represent a Confessional poem; the poetic speaker’s perspective of character and relationships does not necessarily reflect that of the poet himself. Explicit language has been redacted.
I am not my father. This is not his hat. Well, I thought
I wasn’t going to be my father when I grew up
but now that I’m older I’m not really sure.
Thinking makes me tired,
tired like when my father used to talk slowly at me from the other room,
then snore out all the booze.
The same booze which kept me awake at night
later when I’d look out my room at the sky.
I never understood constellations.
Where others observed the big dipper I saw a wine glass and Annie.
I saw Annie lying on the red leather couch with that glass of wine
inviting me into her bedroom with a smile.
With a smile like that I’d rather be invited into her mouth.
We could sit on her teeth and talk about slam poetry and theater.
Or make love on her tongue with quiet music echoing from the back
and slip under it and sleep.
You can go from one mouth to another and still not know what love tastes like.
But everyone knows what love looks like.
To me it looks like tears.
Some people have so many tears that they’re practically swimming in them.
That night, we stripped down to swim until we were in our birthday suits
and then some more,
down to our before-birthday suits,
until we could pull out our hearts and give them to each other.
But I put my clothes back on because I liked the way the scars felt on my back and knees.
And the one on my knuckle when I accidentally punched a concrete wall, I missed that one the most.
And there were the ones on sides where I used to scratch myself in my sleep.
I’ll think I’ll keep them.
I think they remind me that there’s more to life than having enough money to be “successful”.
That’s a lesson that few learn around here.
I want to be poor, to know what it feels like to have a schizophrenic roommate living with me in a shitty one bedroom apartment whose screams keep me awake at night because the walls drive him bonkers.
But happy and successful.
Because success doesn’t have to mean having a steady income or a wife and children who all love you and look up to you.
Because the man who lives just outside the flower shop on the corner of thirteenth street isn’t a bum, he’s an urban outdoorsman, and he likes to smoke pot and drink and go for walks in the park just like the rest of us and he’s fine with being homeless, f**k, he’s not homeless, he’s an urban outdoorsman he can do whatever the f**k he wants and he does it with pride because he was a Henderson, still is, and he’s got his father’s hat to prove it even if it’s a little ripped now and the letters are faded and he has to skip lunch, have sleep for dinner and bourbon for breakfast.
He is not his father, but that’s his hat and he doesn’t think.
He just enjoys life.
Literature of the Sea
Homo est quo dammodo omnia: Examining the Power of Man
Charles Johnson’s Middle Passage and Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness examine the power of man—the capability of thought that makes us human. While Calhoun endeavors aboard a chaotic slave ship where “a ship is a society” and the mind of man is responsible for all truths, Marlow struggles to survive not only the South African wilderness, but also the sick realities of those men in the hunt for ivory—minds corrupted by material wealth and prestige (Johnson, 175). Both Calhoun and Marlow struggle to find truth amidst surrounding turmoil and isolation from normal society. During their endeavors, both recognize that truth depends on man building realities. Ultimately, both Conrad and Johnson suggest that “man is everything;” we make our own weaknesses—responsible for our own truths—whether realized or not. Thus, with the power over truth, we must strive to use this ability in the pursuit of happiness.
Calhoun struggles to maintain a sense of truth aboard the chaotic Republic, where trust is unreliable and rare friendships are preserved. Calhoun realizes that attempting to recreate the stable life of the land out at sea would be futile, because, “on the water, leagues from culture or civilization, [he] saw no point in our perpetuating the lunacies of life on land. Just for a spell the sea had swept some of that away”(106). The disorder on the ship displaces any sense of stability that Calhoun can grasp, since, “in waters strange as these, where any allegiance looked misplaced, [he] could no longer find [his] loyalties. All bonds, landside or on ships, between masters and mates, women and men, it struck [him], were a lie forged briefly in the name of convenience and just as quickly broken when they no longer served one’s interests” (92). Just as the sea constantly breaks and forms, so do the relationships aboard the vessel, where trust is formed like waves—unreliable as it divides and reforms itself among the crew and captain. Calhoun struggles to survive on the ship as he is torn between his loyalty to Falcon and his loyalty to the crew members against the captain. Yet, “I’m not on anybody’s side!,” he exclaims, “I’m just trying to keep us alive! I don’t know who’s right or wrong on this ship anymore, and I don’t much care! All I want is to go home!” (137). As a result of the ship’s disarray, the only solid idea Calhoun can grasp is that of home, where solid ground is underfoot and the dependable Isadora is there. Yet “home” is not even dependable as he discovers the expanse of control and power that Papa owns, which even has control over the Republic’s voyage. He recognizes the extent of society’s corruption, noting that “the ship felt insubstantial: a pawn in a larger game of property so vast it trivialized our strugglers on board” (150). At various moments aboard the ship, Calhoun experiences this “insubstantiality,” a dizzying effect, signifying the turmoil as a result of the desire for power and material wealth—all illusions that corrupt the mind. Amidst his endeavors against such lies, only Squibb and Baleka remain his true friends to the end. However, Johnson suggests that this chaos is a problem that man creates, for “man is the problem… Not just gents, but women as well, anythin’ capable of thought” (96, 97). Truth exists only in the minds of man—“the reason–the irrefragable truth is each person in his heart believes his beliefs is best…We believe what we believe” (97). Johnson also questions, “Is truth floatin’ round out there in space separate from persons?,” suggesting that truth cannot separate itself from persons (97). In the end, Calhoun realizes this point of man’s responsibility for truth, because “nothing in my sight could sustain itself without me, how I was responsible for all of it, the beauty and ugliness… ‘I see the windmill before me; I blink my eyes, it goes away,’ and so did the cabin, and so did the world;” our memories are perceived individually, and so we are responsible for our own truths (181). Ultimately, Johnson suggests that man has the power over truth, which controls our reality.
Marlow toils under the weight of insubstantial illusions of men in search of material wealth and prestige, “choosing the nightmare” he is forced to endure by supporting Kurtz and his illusioned greatness. In the beginning, Marlow has a foothold of “truth” he can grasp, “a world of straightforward facts; but the feeling would not last long,” as he encounters men in the business of ivory (11). As he observed the men in charge of the slaves, he “asked [himself] sometimes what it all meant. They wandered here and there with their absurd long staves in their hands, like a lot of faithless pilgrims bewitched inside a rotten fence. The word ‘ivory’…they were praying to it” (20). To Marlow, this obsession over the hunt for ivory seems overdone, where the desire for material wealth controls the minds of the men, throwing their lives away to an insubstantial reality, because “when you have to attend to things of that sort, to the mere incidents of the surface, the reality―the reality, I tell you―fades. The inner truth is hidden―luckily, luckily” (30). The whole expedition “was as unreal as everything else―as the philanthropic pretense of the whole concern, as their talk, as their government, as their show of work. The only real feeling was a desire to get appointed to a trading post where ivory was to be had, so that they could earn percentages” (21). These men of the trade are investing their lives in only the unreal. As Marlow meets more men of the business, he encounters even more fake persons, and always talk of Kurtz, who is always described as a great figure, “an emissary of pity, and science, and progress, and devil knows what else” (22). However, for Marlow, Kurtz is only a “voice”―a legend through story―his true self only existing in the words of those who speak of him. Conrad, thereby, supports the idea that truth exists only in the minds of men, because over time, whether truth or not, the belief and one’s memory are what remain. Conrad uses the environment, “this land, this river, this jungle, the very arch of this blazing sky,” to represent the corruption in society, that “appear to me so hopeless and so dark, so impenetrable to human thought, so pitiless to human weakness” (51).
Yet we are responsible for our own weaknesses, and our own enemies, simply because of what we believe. Similarly at the end of the novel, Marlow, instead of telling the truth about Kurtz’s last words, he lies instead as to make Kurtz’s grieving lover satisfied. This lie, with the intention of making another happier, as a result, becomes the woman’s truth, which further proves man’s control over reality as a result of our responsibility over truth. Ultimately, Conrad suggests that although man, capable of creating his own weaknesses and obstacles, still has the power over truth.
Ultimately, Johnson and Conrad examine the power of man, with the ability to create truths that build the foundations of our reality, no matter how unstable. Both Calhoun and Marlow attempt to find some truth in their expeditions, yet to little avail. This instability of their realities affects their journey back into normal society, where a common problem seems ridiculous. In their readjustment to normal life, they must choose their own truths in the pursuit of a happier life. Thus, Johnson and Conrad suggest that with the power over truth that builds our realities, we must strive to use this ability in the pursuit of happiness.
13 December 2013
Princess Pitty could not help but marvel at the sight below her. She stood at the top of the marble stairway, overlooking the grand ballroom. The bird’s eye view offered her a marvelous view of the dance floor, where the annual Yuletide Ball was taking place. The Princess was very excited to have been invited to such a prestigious ball; it was the first year that not only men, stray cats, and stray dogs could attend the famous event, but women.
She trembled as she reminisced in the pleasure of opening the invitation just a few weeks earlier: she had never imagined her first ball would be this grand! Her mother had been even more excited than she, dancing around Pitty’s bedroom squealing, “Oh yes! She will find a husband! Good riddance! We’ll be rich! Rich! Rich!”
She had immediately ordered that a new dress be tailored a size smaller than Pitty’s usual and that Pitty begin stuffing herself with sweets and other fatty foods. Pitty’s stomach churned as she recalled her mother force feeding cake into her dainty little mouth, screaming, “Now now, just a little more! Remember, men pick their women as they do their chickens: they go for the fattest one!”
Pitty had protested, confused as to how any of this would ever help and how she would ever fit into her new gown; yet now, standing here with her gut hanging out, her lungs about to collapse, and her hair transformed into something resembling a bird’s nest, Pitty had never felt more beautiful and prepared to meet a man.
Pitty loved the ball; her eyes roamed the grand hall in awe, and her heart could not help but race as handsome men with their wives rushed by her on the way down to the dance floor followed by the husband’s significant other and the significant other’s significant other; how wonderful it all was! She smiled at the old men, who carried their pipes in the left hand and two leashes in their right: one for their dog and another for their wife. She blushed at the thought of meeting her future husband here tonight… if she met a man with even half the respect that these men had for their wives, she would feel so blessed.
Feeling as though it were too soon to rush down and greet everyone, Kitty began to pick out from among the guests those she knew. There in the corner stood the newly un-baptized atheist priest Devin, his whiskers twitching in excitement as he explained to Princess Pesty the content of his newest novel, Wheat and Me. Her mother was aiding in painting “Adulteress” across the lovers’ faces in order to distinguish them from the wives and women of high society… meanwhile her sister was having difficulty distinguishing the adulteresses from the wives and therefore could not bring them to her mother to have their faces painted. And there, in the center of it all, stood the fattest, most beautiful woman of them all, Hanna Marinara.
Pitty gasped in adulation: she had heard the lady’s rumors, the children’s fears, and the men’s boasts about her, but never had she laid eyes on the lovely creature. Their lengthy descriptions, snarky criticisms, and rants of jealousy fit her perfectly: Pitty loved and hated her all at once. She envied the thick rolls of fat that resembled bread rolls and the way her curls were piled high on her head like a rat’s nest. She loved the tight black dress paired with the edgy golden necklace, which sat perfectly under her third chin and spelled out “ADULTERESS” in diamonds. Pitty admired her eyes, which rolled to the back of her head each time she took a swig of her red wine and indiscreetly popped a small pill down her throat. Pitty was starstruck: she had never felt so ashamed and aroused at the same time. She wanted to hit this woman just as much as she wanted to hug her; more than anything, she wished she could be her.
“Pitty!” A high-pitched squeal diverted her eyes away from the people mingling below. Behind her stood the handsome Count Brawn-sky, the most sought-after-yet-clearly-unavailable-but-they-called-him-a-bachelor-anyway bachelor in all of Russia. Pitty had first met Brawn-sky after he came back from a war he had never actually fought in; she had had a crush on him ever since and had hoped he would one day ask her to marry him. But knowing that love was not part of true matrimony, she had silenced her feelings in the hopes of him one day noticing her.
Perhaps today is the day, she thought ecstatically as he approached, flexing his toned muscles and smiling his winner I-know-you-want-me-so-I’m-just-going-to-pretend-I-want-you smile.
“The dance is starting!” he exclaimed, clearly not interested in conversing with her. He quickly turned her attention back to the main hall, where the wives were washing down their last shots of vodka by the bar before retreating to the dance floor to watch their husbands dance with their lovers. “Pitty…” He grabbed her pale hands and looked at her questioningly, a twinkle in his eyes. “Would you do me the honor… and watch me dance with another woman while planting thoughts into your head about a wonderful future with me?”
Pitty’s heart swelled in joy at the thought of joining all the other wives and participating in their humiliation. She beamed at Count Brawn-sky and offered him her most flattering smile, her eyes swelling with tears of joy. She gave him two nods, and Brawn-sky giggled in delight before leading her down the stairs to the ballroom and pulling her into the crowd gathered below. Pitty could not tell if she felt enslaved or liberated: she was too blinded by Brawn-sky’s smile and the thought of wedding bells to tell the difference between the two.
Pitty was seated right in the center of the whole thing so she would have no difficulty in watching Brawn-sky dance. She gazed adoringly at him as he sought the only lover left without a partner, Hanna Marinara, and they took to the dance floor to perform the waltz for her. As the music began and husband and lover danced, she could not help but close her eyes, smile, and sway to the rhythm herself. She could not wait to be married.
The Four Horsemen
11 March 2014
What Makes Us Truly Human:
An Analysis of Humanity in Do Android Dream of Electric Sheep?
In Phillip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, characters learn about their own humanity through interactions with, ironically, artificial intelligence. Rick Deckard begins the novel as a cold bounty hunter, but after discovering the many similarities between human and androids, Deckard finds himself questioning not only the humanity of androids, but also his own. Just as Mercerism relies on humans to create meaning in an environment that may or may not be “real”, Deckard and other humans project their own emotions onto the androids and create new meaning; whether the androids truly feel as humans do becomes irrelevant because, regardless, they capably invoke emotions in the human characters. Dick ultimately portrays Rick Deckard as the absurd hero archetype in his quest to terminate the Nexus-6 Androids. As the lines between “andys” and humans begins to blur, Deckard is forced to become cold, distant, and merciless towards the androids—effectively turning him into the very creature he is trying to destroy. In contrast, John Isidore practices acceptance towards all beings, ultimately bringing him closer to the essence of humanity. Phillip Dick suggests that in order for man to destroy the evil androids of the world, they must ultimately become the cold monster they seek to destroy.
The Nexus-6 androids force Rick Deckard to reconsider his own preconceived notions about androids and ultimately question his own humanity. Throughout the novel, Deckard relies on using empathy tests to distinguish between human and androids but, ironically, refuses to show empathy when dealing with androids. By denying andys their own humanity, Deckard effectively “protect[s] [himself] by thinking of them as ‘it’” (Dick 125). Objectifying the androids allows Rick to cope with the pain of eliminating seemingly human targets, but denying empathy, consequently, causes him to lose a part of his own humanity. Rick experiences moments of existential crisis when he realizes the absurd nature of his mission. In an encounter with the android Luba Luft, Rick realizes the absurdity of showing empathy towards “something that only pretends to be alive,” yet he cannot help but feel that “Luba Luft had seemedgenuinely alive” and “had not worn the aspect of simulation” (Dick 141). Rick attempts to subdue the human tendency to find meaning in others by objectifying the androids; however on numerous occasions, he recognizes the absurdity in dehumanizing a being indiscriminant from himself and realizes that, through his destruction, “[he’s] become a part of the form-destroying process of entropy” (Dick 98). In the end, Deckard accepts his role as the villain—the absurd hero “required to do wrong” (Dick 226). Comparable to Sisyphus, the mortal forced to roll his stone up the mountain for eternity, Deckard embraces the absurdity of life and comes to understand that an absurd life with purpose is better than a life without purpose at all. After eliminating the Batys and completing his mission, Deckard finds that “suddenly [he] didn’t have anything to do. And that—That part was worse” (Dick 242). Rick Deckard’s occupation of eliminating android imposters ultimately turns to the absurd when the lines between the real and artificial become so skewed that he is unable to tell cold, “ant-like” robots– incapable of empathy– from himself.
John Isidore sharply contrasts to Rick Deckard in his relations with androids; while Deckard is focused on his absurd mission to differentiate and eliminate the andys, Isidore humanely practices acceptance. Being a “chicken-head”, John often experiences the denial of his own humanity, and through television propaganda that “informed him in countless procession of ways that he, a special, wasn’t wanted” John becomes labeled as the unwanted minority (Dick 21). In his own loneliness and through the teachings of Mercerism, John grows to appreciate life and human interactions without being hindered by society’s discrimination of androids. When Roy Baty accidently exposes his identity as an android, he expects John to begin treating the fugitives as inferior beings, “but [John] didn’t care; it made no difference to him” (Dick 163). Ironically, John Isidore—the chicken head rejected by society—demonstrates the greatest amount of empathy towards all creatures, which symbolizes his strong essence of humanity. He even finds spiritual significance in the spider at the end of the novel. Isidore projects empathy and love towards his new arachnid companion, but after drowning the spider in empathetic euthanasia, “his mind, his hopes, drowned too” (Dick 210). Through his enduring empathy and acceptance of all beings, John escapes the absurd, cold fate of Rick Deckard and ultimately emulates true humanity.
In Phillip Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Rick Deckard’s cold manner of eliminating androids causes the bounty hunter to lose a part of his own humanity, while John Isidore’s unconditional empathy allows him to accept all beings and exude true humanity. By juxtaposing Deckard and Isidore, Dick exposes a fundamental struggle of humanity: society often maligns the minorities that pose a threat, but, often, the existing society determined to destroy the minority—the androids in this case—ultimately becomes the very monster it is trying to destroy. While Deckard represents this fundamental flaw of humanity, Isidore symbolizes humanity’s ability to accept. Ironically, despite his empathetic heart, Isidore remains labeled as an inferior “chicken head,” while society reveres Deckard as a successful bounty hunter. Dick exposes the fundamental flaw in human society as quickly labeling others based on preconceived notions without truly analyzing the contents of one’s heart.