Monday, September 26, 2016

Man v. Nature

I have spent a great deal of time in New York City to take photos and I have always preferred taking pictures of my friends or strangers in the city because I love the contrast between nature (people) and manmade things (the buildings, streets, etc.) in my photos. Even though I have always loved the city, I have never been able to stay there for too long. Maybe it’s the fast pace, or maybe it’s the fact that I am constantly surrounded by skyscrapers, but a day-trip per month has always been enough for me. Although I do love spending time in the city, I prefer to spend my time in a less built-up area.
I have always questioned why so many people enjoy living in the heart of a city. I love going to school in Baltimore – having access to a city is wonderful, but I’m just glad I don’t have to walk to class on a city street every day. The idea of cities has always puzzled me. Maybe New York City prior to being flooded with tall buildings was really beautiful, and now there’s no way of replacing all of the skyscrapers with trees and fields. The city is beautiful, but everything in it is man-made. Humankind has an obsession with constantly adding more. When we as humans can possibly have something or make something “better”, it can ruin what was once natural and beautiful.
I can’t help but draw a connection to William Wordsworth’s I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud. The speaker talks about how he once loved being in the field of daffodils. It was simple yet beautiful. He sees more and more beautiful things, like the shining stars and the waves. He says, “I gazed – and gazed – but little thought what wealth the show to me had brought” (Wordsworth). After seeing more and becoming ‘wealthy’ and accustomed to more beautiful things, he wishes for solitude and to dance again in the daffodils, yearning for nature and thinking back to a simpler time.
Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper” is narrated by a woman who appears to have anxiety. Her case does not seem to be too serious, but she definitely could benefit from speaking to a psychologist or someone else who could help her. Anxiety is a natural feeling, but the woman’s husband seems to believe that she is mentally unstable. He locks her up in a big house, against her will, and makes her spend most of her time during the day asleep. She begs him to let her leave, and knowing she is unhappy he doesn’t allow her to visit her friends or move out of the house. Because she sleeps during the majority of the day, she spends the rest of her time trying to decipher the pattern of hideous yellow wallpaper on the old wall of the house. She describes the wallpaper as having a color that “is repellent, almost revolting; a smoldering unclean yellow, strangely faded by the slow turning sunlight. It is a dull yet lurid orange in some places, a sickly sulpher tint in others” (389). She seems to go mad spending so much of her time trying to figure out whether or not there is a woman behind the man-made wallpaper “creeping” around the property. It is her husband’s belief that she is ill and needs to be locked up that causes her to go crazy. His involvement in her situation, which once was more natural and human, has caused her to live in an unnatural indoor state, both mentally and physically. Like the involvement of man in the building of a city, the husband in “The Yellow Wallpaper” gets involved and makes changes that are unfixable.

In Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “The Birthmark”, similarly to “The Yellow Wallpaper”, a wife is seen as imperfect, so the husband feels the need to step in and alter her life. Georgiana was born with a small birthmark on her cheek in the shape of a tiny hand. Her husband, Aylmer, a scientist, finds the birthmark revolting and feels the need to get rid of it. Despite Georgiana’s natural beauty, Aylmer finds that the birthmark draws away from what could be perfection. Unhappy with how her husband now sees her, Georgiana takes him up on his offer to remove the mark, aware of the possible consequences. She tells him to, “‘Remove it, remove it, whatever be the cost, or we shall both go mad!’” (475). Pleased by his wife’s willingness to go under the knife in order to make him happy, he ends up giving her a potion to remove the mark, but kills her as a result. Near death, Georgiana tells her husband, “‘Do not repent that with so high and pure a feeling, you have rejected the best the earth could offer’” (477). Aylmer, unable to be content with the natural beauty of his wife, felt he had to adjust her beauty and in turn did something irreparable. Just as men feel the need to turn stunning valleys into cities, Aylmer had to turn his beautiful wife into a science experiment.

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