Sunday, November 28, 2010

Book 10 Part 1

The beginning of Book 10 marks Odysseus’ arrival to the home of Aeolus where he had been provided everything he needed for his journey home. After one month had passed, Odysseus alone was given a gift to help him on his way, which caused tension amongst the crew. Ten days later, the vessel is in close proximity to the shores of Ithaca and Odysseus—after being sent into a state of fatigue from the open seas—falls asleep. Meanwhile, his fellow crewmembers start to question why Odysseus has been given a special gift and they are there simply to be tugged along for the journey. Behind his back, they open the bag that contained winds. The huge gust sends the vessel back to the island of Aeolus. After the entire incident, Odysseus states, “our own reckless folly swept us on to ruin,” (31) which sparks the question, why does Odysseus include himself in his statements about why he and his crew didn’t make it home to Ithaca with the help of Aeolus’ gift?

Although blame at the simplest level can be placed on the crewmembers for sneaking into Odysseus’ belongings, Odysseus still feels that fault is partly his. He feels like a parent, having to take control of his “children” on board and try and keep them out of trouble. With the job of captain, Odysseus must carry the load of numerous responsibilities and duties. Instead of dozing off while approaching shore, he ought to have been maintaining order of his children. His action of taking the blame may show how unstable he is. After being swept back to the Aeolian island, he was faced with the dilemma of whether he should “leap over the side and drown at once or grit [his] teeth and bear it, stay among the living.” Because Odysseus is overwhelmed by the temptation of death, he is pulling himself deeper into a world of melancholy. The build-up of upsetting events in his life may innately lead Odysseus to place more burden on himself to sink lower. It may have been wrong of him to keep his secret inside. I was glad to find out that in book 12 he learned from his mistake and told the crew the information that Circe had provided him about their new route home. This begs two questions: is or is not Odysseus to blame for the ship’s delayed return? Is the crew’s action of opening the bag justified?

From Book Ten we are more familiarized with Odysseus’ comrades. As noted before with the bag of wind incident, the crew as a whole displays a less mature, inferior, inexperienced fa├žade upon comparison to Odysseus, which brings up the question whether or not he is a reliable narrator and what can be considered sufficient to understand the backbone of his story. There are two crewmembers mentioned in Book 10. Eurylochus, who is second in command, was given the special opportunity to lead half of the squadron to Circe's dwelling. Upon arrival, he was able to sense a possible trap, which sends him back to the base location in order to alert Odysseus. From the narrator’s standpoint, Odysseus looks like the more dominant figure, since it is he who builds the courage to go against Circe and her potions. In the meantime Eurylochus is portrayed as the scared, feeble student beckoning to Odysseus, “You will never return yourself, I swear, you’ll never bring back a single man alive,” and retreating to the black ship to eat and drink in safety. The other said comrade, Elpenor, is provided an even more humiliating reputation. Being the youngest member, he ironically dies at the end of Book 10 by walking off of a rooftop semi-conscious after waking up. Odysseus, like many other powerful figures at the time, may have perceived himself as honorable and heroic if death comes in a battle or as a result of a respectable hardship in his life. As a way of lowering the status of the crew around him, his condemns comrades such as Elpenor with a poor reason for death, probably as a way of taking out his anger for not having a heroic demise in the Trojan War. In terms of being a “good” storyteller, I personally think that Odysseus’ comments on the other characters are a nuisance, but as long as the appropriate historical events were laid out in the chapter, that may be considered sufficient.

As a narrator, is Odysseus reliable?

Book 10 Part 2

What I enjoy about this book in particular are the subtle hints of foreshadowing alluded by Homer in the text. Small, seemingly meaningless events, such as the way the ship came into the harbor of each island, render a much greater significance.

Upon first arriving in the Laestrygonian land, Odysseus “anchored [his] black ship outside, well clear of the harbor’s jaws” (104-5). There is a definite correlation to this quote and the fate of the crew when on the island. Because the natives turned out to be giants that wanted to eat them all, the crew ended up steering clear of their jaws as well.

During the arrival to Circe’s island, Odysseus notes that, “we brought our ship to port without a sound as a god eased her into a harbor safe and snug” (154-5). Once again, the crew’s fate is sealed not only as evidenced by this tiny hint of foreshadowing, but also since they are being lured in by the archetypical temptress. It takes one of the crewmembers to stand up, a year later, to break the strong bond of “snugness” that Circe had enveloped around them.

I also noted that the islands that had smoke rising in the background signified that the crew’s fate in the new land wouldn’t turn out well.

I spotted one example of situational irony during Odysseus’ attempted voyage back home after his departure from Aeolus’ island. It was rather ironic that the day the crew finally came close to reaching their homeland, Odysseus missed out on the opportunity to see his loved-ones because of his sudden fatigue, which seems odd since the book mentions how suddenly he is overcome: “We were so close we could see men tending fires. But now an enticing sleep came on me” (34-5). Not only that, but it was the same day that the crew had the brightest idea to let their greed come out and cause the ship to be pulled dramatically off-course. Without a doubt, Homer meant to plant this small seed of irony.

Book Ten’s focus of epic machinery was mainly on epithets and patronymics. My favorite epithet was Circe’s title for Odysseus when she realized that he was the one from Hermes’ prophecy that had come to betray her. She calls him “Odysseus, man of twists and turns” (366). What I enjoy is the connection to the text, the usage of alliteration, and the reference to a previous episode in The Odyssey. The epithet is reminiscent of the prophecy that Polyphemus in Book 9 had heard from Telemus about a great warrior’s arrival. I found it interesting how both Circe and Polyphemus underestimated the stature of their feared warrior and were surprised to see how they both had been tricked. I also enjoy the emphatic repetition Homer adds into the verses of many books of the epic.

One example of patronymics is when Odysseus reaches the Laestrigonian land and comes upon a girl. Odysseus addresses her as “Antiphates’ strapping daughter—king of the Laestrigonians” (117) and does not provide a name or any information about her. It isn’t that we don’t necessarily need to know, it just seems as though Odysseus looks down upon women and doesn’t give them a chance to provide useful information themselves. They are simply there to point the way to the “real” power: men.

If there is one topic from the introduction that shows its meaning in Book 10, it is the definition of an odyssey: a series of adventurous journeys usually marked by many changes of fortune. This plays out during Odysseus’ departure from and re-arrival to the Aeolian Island. He first leaves with a feeling of satisfaction for being looked up to for his experience in the Trojan War. He also feels respected, since he has been pampered for a month by the king and queen and has been provided with everything needed for his journey. His fortune completely reverses after his re-arrival. He’s looked down upon and cursed because the king and queen feel that the gods hate him, he isn’t provided with any gifts, and he feels depressed—on the verge of death, even. Odysseus’ odyssey tampered with fortune and rocked his world.

How do literary devices like epithets enhance literature?

Book 10 Part 3

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is a theory in psychology that was introduced by Abraham Maslow in his 1943 paper A Theory of Human Motivation. I first came across his theory in Health class during my sophomore year and was inspired to bring it up again to connect to The Odyssey. His ideas are presented in the form of a pyramid in which the most basic needs are represented at the bottom and the higher-priority the needs are, the closer to the top they are. What sets The Odyssey apart from other books is that it addresses all of the different needs at certain points. This chart can be used to explain why Odysseus relies on a series of hosts in order to reach his goal of returning home, why he and his crew fall for the many temptations, and why the theme of hosts has been repeated. Odysseus starts off at the bottom of the pyramid with his journey: fulfilling his physiological needs in order to survive by attending a number of feasts. He then works on making himself and his crew feel safe and secure by providing a place to stay for the night or other accommodations. As time goes on, the pyramid of needs continues to be ascended, up to a point where the host feels that the guest can continue on with their journey and chase their dreams. It would make sense that this hierarchy comes into play throughout the epic. Heroes in Greek culture are highly looked up to for guidance as they exemplify success, which is why a host wants to be the one to cultivate that hidden hero that arrives at their doorstep one day in need of assistance: in order to be placed in a position of honor along with them. For more information about the pyramid, click here.

Why might most basic needs be at the very bottom of the pyramid?

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Dessert: Meringues

At first bite, this delectable dessert simply melts in the mouth like a milk chocolate, its light flavor swirling around. Meringues are simple in their makeup and taste (as seen in number 1), yet they stand out from the rest with their unique nature. The faint sweetness from this treat can be related to the soft tone of Dr. Rank. Throughout the play, he has contributed by showing light but true and wholesome affection towards Nora. Unlike Torvald, Dr. Rank enjoys being around Nora for her actual personality instead of her facade of beauty and helplessness.

When first looking at meringues, they resemble a cloud from the way that the dollop of batter landed (in number 2). In A Doll's House, Dr. Rank acts as a cloud over the relationship between Nora and Torvald. It's stated that "his suffering and his loneliness seemed almost to provide a background of a dark cloud to the sunshine of our lives". Dr. Rank seemed to only serve the purpose of complaining about his own life, which set him in a bubble, devoid of major influence on any of the main characters. He just seemed to float across the stage, filling the room with negative vibes from his being. Probably if a person were to exist nowadays, they would be kept out of sight. Also with the meringue's makeup, there doesn't seem to be much support for its structure, since it acts like a spineless blob. In Dr. Rank's case, he hints that his spine is slowly collapsing, which shows that they both fail to support themselves.

Meringues are made by whipping egg whites and incorporating as much air as possible into the mixture. Just by looking at one, it doesn't take rocket science to spot that there are hundreds of holes and openings from air bubbles that formed during the cooking process (as marked by number 3). Biting into one, any consumer can sense the lightness and cloudiness of this dessert. The ghostly white adds even more to this unique characteristic. Dr. Rank, as well, is light and noneffective in his nature, only concerned about his upcoming death. He understands that nothing he says to others will matter in the future, since he isn't that notable of a specimen and has lost the love and affection of those who care about him.

Being a finger food (number 4), meringues don't necessarily need a plate or any utensils to be eaten. Just like these scrumptious treats, Dr. Rank does not ask for --or need-- much of any work or special treatment. Because he believes that he is close to death, he feels as if he may need time to contemplate the purpose of his own existence instead of getting caught up in other people's lives and giving them small tasks to do. Of course, with retirement the older generation generally wants to use their final moments on Earth for enjoyment, which sets the modern era apart from this play. It seems rather depressing that he is beside himself for all of A Doll's House and eventually lets his illness take him in the end.

This stormy cloud of a character followed his intended destiny and was eventually windswept and vaporized, leading to the termination of the four course meal.

Many thanks,
Chef Michael

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Entree: Horseradish and Garlic Prime Rib

From the title of head of the meal, it is suggested that the prime rib is the most dominant figure in this four course meal. The word "prime" is used to describe the highest quality of meat in terms of tenderness, juiciness and flavor. This represents Torvald because he is set above the rest in his household because of his socio-economic class and gender. He is the breadwinner of the family, supporting his wife and children through his labor at the bank. He is also the lawmaker: setting rules and restrictions on others in order to achieve his idea of a dream family. Strong titles may set a person above the rest, but that doesn't necessarily mean that they should be given special treatment. As a person he or she may lack soul, beliefs, and decent personal taste, which would set the person below the rest socially. Of course, this mindset was completely ignored by Torvald, and so he continues being a source of power throughout the play.

At the first bite, one experiences the tenderness and juiciness of the delicate meat represented by the number 1. After tasting the slightest bit of a delicious dish, one turns away from the possibility of there being a high number of calories or fat content and just focuses on the soothing feeling that erupts in the mouth. This same trick of the mind is used by Torvald to lure in Nora. This "no worries whatsoever" soft side is prevalent throughout the play. In Torvald's case, the tenderness has way of being condescending to others, like an overprotective mother making sure their child is safe. Torvald provides his wife with care and compassion. He calls her by loving nicknames and lets her be free to go out and spend money on necessities for the family and even make sure that they have time at the end of the day to snuggle together in bed. In the meantime, Nora is unaware that she is being used by her husband for her looks and status and how his sweet talk is actually making him more superior in their relationship.

This dominance is represented through the horseradish and garlic rub in number 2. By being on the outside of the meat, it shows that Torvald only intends to use his dominant side in the world of work in order to earn more money for the family. Of course, because the flavors blend throughout the entire meat, it represents the rise of his dominant behavior in the domestic realm of the household. The rub also represents a shield against others from getting past Torvald's personality-free surface. This shield is based off of his fear of losing his dominant status in marriage. Women today still have the stereotype of being the more emotional gender, and so by revealing his emotions, he may fear that he is putting himself at the same level as women. Just like any Gatsby, Torvald uses his riches as a disguise keeping others from determining his true character and emotions. He appears as a fake for not once mentioning once that he loves his wife. Their complete existence together has been based on a series of playful nudges to one another, which shows that Torvald hasn't revealed his true feelings once.

Alone, the prime rib lacks a proper sustenance needed to please others. So in order to raise its reputation in the eyes of onlookers, an array of flavors are added. The mushrooms in number 3 are the weaker, hidden flavors that make the prime rib so enjoyable. Torvald's mushrooms are represented by his wife and children: only meant to improve his status in society. As mushrooms, they consume off of Torvald and believe that survival without him would be dreadful. Even the placement of the fungi on the dish has meaning. The larger group placed above the meat and out in the open signifies Torvald's concern that his family appears successful and brilliant in front of others. The few placed below the meat signify that his wife and children are still lacking in dominance and are pushed back by restrictions.

The pool of red wine and juices in number 4 represent the extent of Torvald's affection of his loved ones. By having Torvald's "mushrooms" soak up his mask of compassion, they are becoming more need based and are mesmerized by him. Trying to fight off love can be difficult, which is why Nora has fallen for Torvald's tricks for years on end. It takes her sudden gain of independence in the final act of the play to become immune to this powerful liquid that he constantly expels and stick up for herself.

Many of Torvald's mind-reducing tricks are represented through this rather delicious dish. It makes a consumer truly think about exactly what the mouth is falling for with each forkload.

Next up is dessert!
Chef Michael

Friday, November 5, 2010

Salad: Lemony Broccoli with Anchovies

With any salad, one is left with a clean and natural aftertaste from the leafy greens involved in this composition of a dish. The broccoli salad comes to represent the flowing progression of Krogstad as a character in the eyes of those surrounding him.

At first taste, this salad hits a consumer with the strong, bitter flavor of lemon juice, salt, and anchovies (represented by the number 1). In massive quantities, these two ingredients are usually looked down upon in dishes because of the overwhelmingly upsetting flavor that it leaves in the mouth. In any case, these usually give off a malicious first impression, simply from hearing the title on a menu or in a recipe book, which may turn someone away from trying it. I wouldn't want to try a dish with such a name. Just as the salad may be avoided on first sight, Krogstad is given poor image from the start of the first act of A Doll's House. Some people, as they go out in the world, possess a unique charm that sets them above from the rest. Unfortunately, this wasn't Krogstad's case: his sour taste had driven love out of his life in the first act. As a fellow employee in the bank at which they work, Torvald finds it rather awkward and difficult to conduct business with him. Having been close friends with Krogstad since college, the two of them have grown further apart over the years, which makes it hard for him to work alongside such a sketchy and strange character.

Of course, how has such a negative character contributed to the conflict of A Doll's House? Well, this is represented by the red pepper flakes in number 2. Some ingredients in dishes have a slow, gradual increase in intensity as one continues to eat. Well, these measly granules of pepper truly pack a punch as soon as the mouth goes through the cycle of chewing several times. Some consumers, like me, can handle the power of this heat, while others may just want to stay out of the kitchen to avoid it. Either way, it happens: whether wanted or not. Handling this heat is pass or fail. In Nora and Torvald's case, this heat comes in the form of a gradual increase of tension in their marriage. The second that Krogstad has Nora forge her signature on a check, he ignites the flame on the trail of gunpowder leading up to the collapse of the two lovebirds' marriage. He pushes Nora to take a horrific guilt trip for not telling her husband about her burdensome secret. As soon as Nora couldn't handle the heat of her own red pepper flakes, she fights it. She takes her swig of cold water to ease the pain by fighting against Torvald discovering the forgery letter in the mail and dancing wildly to the tarantella as a distraction. Sadly, Nora wasn't able to handle the heat, leading to the shattering of their marriage and her escape from the confines of the home.

Krogstad isn't truly a bad person, per say. There is a sort of realism to him that many of the other characters fail to possess that he executes finely: and this is represented through the broccoli in number 3. After the first act of the play, Krogstad's character blossoms, which is exactly what happens to broccoli as it grows. After several months of maturation, the head of broccoli sprouts like a flower out of the head of a cabbage. This particular vegetable represents the hidden personality of Krogstad coming out of its tough shell. Although the flower that sprouts may not be the most captivating to gaze it, the natural essence of it is the property that sets it apart from the rest. When looking at a potential mate, there is nothing more reassuring than knowing that the person radiate their natural and truthful behavior in the presence of others. As a vegetable, the broccoli represents the raw truth. As Krogstad matures as a character, he starts to stick to his life goal of rising up in the workplace and building up a natural, honest love with Mrs. Linden, his former admirer. He pulls himself together and starts to understand that they both are two loveless souls in an empty world; through life experiences, they are meant to support one another for eternity.

The earthiness of the broccoli leaves the final impression for the consumer and eventually shadows over the other elements of this salad. This change in perspective from an onlooker shows how Krogstad has altered as the play progresses.

The main course is on its way!
Chef Michael

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Soup: French Onion

Nora Helmer represents the appetizer of A Doll's House: a french onion soup.

So what exactly is this type of soup? Well, simply from the way the dish was named, it ought to be something rather fancy: meant to be consumed only by those of higher status. Well, this fits true to Nora's relationship with her surroundings in the 19th century that she grew up in. The soup gives the impression that she is extravagant and leads a rich and prosperous life. In a way, Nora is only fit to be consumed by those of higher status. Torvald, Nora's rich husband takes in his wife by treating her like his doll. He has her dress up in the most extravagant of ballroom dresses, even in the confines of their home. Her prized figure is shown off by Torvald because of its youth and beauty, not by what is underneath. Of course, 200 years later the world focuses more on women for who they are, yet they are still exploited in magazines and on the internet for the pleasure of others.

Nora's facade is represented by the melted gruyere cheese layer on the top of the french onion soup in number 1. Gruyere is known as the finest cheese used in baking, and the generously topped layer on this soup represents how Torvald's action of dousing the body of his wife in riches depletes from the actual makeup of Nora. By having a mask of cheese that hides the actual soup content of the dish, it is a representation of how much her acquaintances are unaware of Nora's actual characteristics. Throughout the early parts of the play, Nora acts just like a pet in public, serving only to please her hard-working husband. She sucks up to Torvald by ridding herself of any other concerns and making sure the house is decorated perfectly for their Christmas together. I know that by keeping my own thoughts and ideas bottled up inside, it is heartbreaking to not be able to express my true identity in front of others. Her restraint may be a result of fear. For myself, the fear of people's reactions keeps me from going out on a limb and showing the world how I personally stand out. For Nora, this translates as a driving fear of going against the normal customs of her era.

Because Nora's mindset is only set domestically, she is caged from having independence of her thoughts and actions. The strong, firm bowl that retains the soup, marked by the number 2, represents all of the restrictions set in place by Torvald: even the smallest and most ridiculous. One wouldn't really imagine a husband forbidding his wife from divulging on some macaroons, yet Torvald reaches long distances and enforces such peculiar limits. In today's society it seems pretty strange for a mature adult to be dragged down by petty rules about eating sweets or going to bed early. Because Nora is constantly interrupted when attempting to voice her opinion to her husband, she is limited from adding her thoughts to their unbalanced marriage.

Under the torment of the harsh rules set in place by her husband, it wouldn't be a surprise if she were to eventually rebel and stick up for herself. The barely visible onions in number 3 represent Nora's hidden fight for independence. Although onions are most known for their ability to make people cry, they also have healing properties against conditions ranging from the common cold to heart disease, diabetes, osteoporosis, and other diseases. Onions effectively translate to Nora's situation because she has a harsh struggle standing up for herself. It is most definitely shown through her adamant nature when dancing the tarantella in front of her husband. She firmly continues, even after being told to stop by Torvald numerous times. She eventually succeeds at obtaining the freedom she has longed for, which shows that her intense labor finally paid off and helped her come closer to a seemingly unobtainable dream.

The dark and cloudy beef broth, represented by number 4, encapsulates everything beneath the bright, elegant surface of the dish. For Nora, this symbolizes the darkness that she hides her secrets in. When I think of darkness, I am reminded of the isolation in my own bedroom, where I can formulate my own ideas without being judged by others. Within this room of darkness, Nora hides a forgery scandal that she had committed from her husband. The hidden pool of darkness at the bottom of the soup also represents true identity, since broth is usually considered to be the basis of most soups. Her core beliefs and opinions are swirled around in this cauldron of liquid, hidden from the naked eye.

When I think of chaos, I'm reminded of events going against the normal routine of society, such as protests, earthquakes, violent fights, tornados, and anything that breaks down the accepted function of the world. Several elements of the soup show Nora's instability and inner-chaos. The cheese draping over the sides of the bowl in number 5 represents Nora's attempts at breaking free from her false image. The heat of the oven problably caused this unintentional overflow of the cheese, which came to represent the forces of nature acting upon not only the dish, but on Nora's conscience: pulling her awake from her repetitive routine of following the duties set in place by her husband. The steam building up from within and rising violently from interior of the bowl in number 6 represents the tension from deep within the bond of their false love for one another.

From the melted cheese to the mouthwatering onion broth, Nora demonstrates all layers of complexity of this delicious soup.

Stick around for the salad course!
Chef Michael