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Let's Get Political

"Writing that engages the realities of its world--that thinks about human problems, including those in the social and political realm, that addresses the rights of persons and the wrongs of those in power--can be not only interesting but hugely compelling."
How to Read Literature Like a Professor

I chose this sentence to focus on because it and the chapter it is a part of particularly relates to Machinal, I think. Maybe it's because it is written to be a direct expression of how one marginalized person views the world, but I feel that this play is pretty darn political. The world order of the 1920's was pretty much ruled by men, and this play challenges the quality of this world by portraying it as a cold unfeeling machine that leaves no room for women to find their own individuality and personal happiness. Even the courtroom proceedings appear to be faulty in their judgment of Helen without considering her unhappiness and inability to understand why she couldn't divorce her husband--they laugh when she says she didn't want to hurt him. Everything is presented very much from one person's point of view, so your sympathy resides with that person and not with the society that condemns her. Had the play been more objective in its storytelling and attempted to realistically portray the world in which Helen functions, she may have come off as an unstable insane person who has illogical ways of dealing with the world. However, because we are allowed to see her inner life and the way she perceives the world, we are able to see how ill-equipped this world is to contain someone who doesn't fit into the preconceived machinelike patterns it imposes on people. While objectivity can help provide a complex view of things and help you consider issues from all sides, the more subjective a work of art is, the more potential for inciting political debate it may have. If you portray things from a very singular viewpoint, more people will be likely to disagree with you, and that's where you can get really passionate reactions. And that, to me, is what's really fun about great art.

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on February 12, 2009 10:41 PM.

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