Monday, March 17, 2014

Ctrl "S"

            A common thread between Harriet and Irving Deer’s “Satire as Rhetorical Play” and Mary Rose O’Reilley’s “The Peaceable Classroom” is the idea of control; on the literary level and on the grassroots level. The former criticism states, “The major action of [Slaughterhouse Five] concerns Billy’s inability to control his own often contradictory fantasies. He drifts among making trips to Tralfamidore, being president of the Local Lion’s Club, being a prisoner of war, and trying to convert earthlings to a Tralfamidorian view of experience” (718). The word “drifts” connotes nonchalance and therefore, I would change that word to “flashes back and forth”. Doing so portrays the abrupt changes of time period. Deer and Deer continues to state that “Each of these fantasies is a role for Billy, a game he plays to avoid one of his other roles” (718). Another way to read this is that Billy is Kurt Vonnegut’s video game avatar. The Tralfamidorian view of experience is much like this video game character which suggests that one does not completely die from the face of the game world. Chances are, you just restart or begin from a point where you are still alive. Instead of an Xbox console, he has the book as the tangible medium. In video games, you can pause, save, quit, reboot, and start up a new level. The avatar has no control over what happens; the player does. In this case, is the author the player? Are readers just watching Vonnegut play?

            Control and order are natural inclinations. Without order, discomfort tends to ensue. O’Reilley states, “Recognizing that individuals may feel little control over the sources of power which determine our destiny and survival as a species, [John] Woolman urges us to begin by making peace within our small spheres of influence” (104). This idea relates to war and how the soldiers and citizens seem like merely pawns while players who make the moves are elitist leaders. The problem in this case is the distribution of power. Drawing from a book called Peace is Every Step by Thich Naht Hanh, in a chapter called “Healing the Wounds of War,” he states, “Every side is ‘our side’.” The two sides in opposition are actually humanity vs. uncertainty/imperfection. To expand on peacemaking in “our small spheres of influence,” O’Reilley states, “Every year that I teach English I am forced to explore my need to control, my own frustrations, self-doubts, and buried anger. Every year I learn anew to trust the group, the texts, and myself” (108). To me, this means that there are innumerable opportunities to emphasize mindfulness in the grassroots level, despite whatever military or political decisions are made in the political elite level. Harnessing the opportunities for peaceful moments and practicing empathy are essential to waging peace in a world that seems to be preoccupied with bellicose solutions.

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