Note how this writer divided the conflict of appearance/reality into two subtopics (with emotion and without emotion) and discussed two works under each division. (EV)
ENGL 121 sec 26
May 1, 2012
Appearance vs. Reality
1 Art in its many forms is not considered a product as say a car. It is not something that is used or consumed but something that is used for teaching and enjoyment. Literature is the most effective art form to explore the many aspects of the human existence. Authors can do this by merely being historians or reporters or they can create their own scenarios or they can explore and define the human existence using the conflict of appearance and reality. Since the human brain gathers information through the senses of touch, smell, sight and sound, appearance is the first image retained. Only through the individual’s experiences of conflicts are these images filtered and processed to what the individual considers reality.
2 One method of using the conflict of appearance and reality includes human emotion. In “Roman Fever” by Edith Wharton and A Doll’s House by Henrik Ibsen there is a façade or appearance of human existence that will be tested by an old truth. The façade in A Doll’s House is one of a happy and loving family, one that you would find on a Hallmark postcard. It reads like a complete fantasy world. Every character in the “house” has a façade to maintain, not just Nora. The house is like a set of closets where the “skeletons” must be kept to maintain the appearance of happiness and a good life. Any crack in the façade like acne on a face, will just bring public disgrace. Ibsen in the course of the play exposes these skeletons to show the absurdity of this fantasy life and put the characters in full view of the reality of their world. Emotions run wild as it appears that lives are being destroyed when in reality everyone is starting a new life with eyes wide open.
3 The façade in “Roman Fever” is one of a lifelong friendship that seems like it will go on until death. The two women are of different social classes which in itself puts some emotional distance between them. Add to this the competition being expressed on who has the more impressive daughter, and the situation gets very emotional. The reality of betrayal and deception because of the competition of the one man each woman desired comes to light. Emotions don’t go wild as in A Doll’s House but go into the sadness of what has happened over the lifetime of their friendship.
4 Another method of using the conflict of appearance and reality is in the study of systems or patterns of life that do not involve human emotions. Looking Backwards by Edward Bellamy and “Design” by Robert Frost use this method to present scenarios that have evolved over time without the need for emotions yet can explain the human existence. “Design” presents the simplicity of the world by exploring the world around a flower. Everything is white; the flower, the moth, and the spider. Symbolically white is for purity, safety, and innocence. The three objects of the poem are also in “harmony” with each other. The action of the poem suggests a reality that each object has its own destiny in this system. For example, the flower feeds the moth that is in turn the food for the spider. The color of the silk bag holding the moth is white, as is a burial wrap. The spider web, even though it is white and a thing of beauty is representative of traps that lurk everywhere in the world.
5 Looking Backwards presents the Utopian feeling of Socialism and the idea of the common good over that of the individual. This Utopian Socialism has the appearance of perfection. Everyone is treated with equality from birth through to death. There is free education, healthcare, social welfare and a really flexible system of universal employment. Equality of property and income rids the world of envy and competition. The real time conflict with reality is what Bellamy was experiencing in the late 1800s with Capitalism. There were classes of rich and poor, unequal distribution of incomes, dangerous working conditions, and substandard living conditions for large numbers of people. Since Socialism had not been fully experienced, some of the ideas in the story presented a conflict with reality to the reader of the time. Individual freedoms and rights have to be given up for the common good. Products and services, and presumably healthcare, are rationed. Motivation to do great work when minimal effort gets the same income is a problem. Getting everyone to be transformed in spirit to support the common good is a big mystery. A reader in 2012 would have different thoughts about Looking Backwards than a reader even 50 years ago because there is now a history associated with Socialism. Surprisingly history has shown that the same conflicts of the readers in the early 1900s come up again.
6 Art in its many forms tries to explain the complexities and sometimes absurdity of human existence. Authors, as artists, use literature to create mental images through the use of conflict to help us explore for the answers to these question. What we think and feel about objects, people and situations is all based on what we sense and filter with our individual experiences. Often times, reality is in conflict with what appears to be. The age-old cliché of “don’t judge a book by its cover” is really pretty wise.
1 I. Intro/thesisAuthors explore and present different scenarios about the conflict of appearance and reality
2 II. Conflict of appearance and reality involving emotions (Roman Fever and A Doll House expose conflicts of human emotions)
A A Doll’s House looks at family life as a façade for public scrutiny