The Importance of Feminism in Literature

A few weeks ago in my English class, a student asked, “Why are all the books we’re reading this year written by women?”

I thought to myself that this question wouldn’t be asked if we were reading books written by men, like we usually do.

The representation of women in the media is important and influential. Women in literature are especially important, whether they are characters or authors. Women are grossly underrepresented in the media and it’s time we changed that.

harry_potter_coverAn example of why feminism is needed in the media, especially in the literary world, is that J.K. Rowling, the author of the Harry Potter series, was told by her publicist to use the pen name J.K. Rowling because if she were to use her full name, Joanne Rowling, she would not sell as many books because women do not sell as many books as men as a result of society’s prejudices against their gender. Women are still not equal to men in this day but equality can be achieved step by step if we take the necessary steps.

Young girls and boys need female characters that they can look up to. Young girls as well as young boys need to know that female characters can achieve just as much as male characters can. It is important for children as well as adults to see the potential of female characters.

The majority of main characters in books are male. Female characters are usually used as minor characters or love interests. When female characters are love interests, they are reduced to just that. They become surface-level characters, who exist solely to be a love interest.

catching_fire_posterOn the occasion that female characters are well developed or portrayed as strong, they are detached, unemotional, and cold. If women are to be strong, they are not allowed to have any emotions because they are considered to be a sign of weakness. An example of this is Katniss Everdeen, from The Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins She is a strong female character yet she shows little to no emotion. If she was head over heels in love with Peeta or Gale, would she still be considered to be a “strong female character?”

Joss Whedon, the director of The Avengers was asked, “So, why do you write these strong female characters? to which, he replied “Because you’re still asking me that question.”

Feminism is still relevant today– issues of equality still exist and will continue to exist unless we do something about it. People in the media such as authors and directors have the power to create complex characters who can defy gender and social norms and to break the barrier of inequality.

-Sarah B., 12th grade

Neville Longbottom: The Boy Who Could Have Been

Neville Longbottom and Harry Potter as portrayed by Matthew Lewis and Daniel Radcliffe in the Warner Bros. Harry Potter films.

Neville Longbottom and Harry Potter as portrayed by Matthew Lewis and Daniel Radcliffe in the Warner Bros. Harry Potter films.

Neville Longbottom is one of my favorite fictional characters of all time. He is my favorite character in the Harry Potter series, next to Hermione Granger. I chose to write about Neville because his character had so many possibilities. He was the boy who could have been. When the prophecy of the “chosen one” was revealed to Lord Voldemort, he chose Harry Potter which in turn made him the chosen one. The prophecy was that only a child born in July of 1980 would be the one with the power to overthrow Voldemort. Both Harry and Neville were born in July of 1980 and were both therefore eligible to be the chosen one. Harry was only the chosen one because Voldemort actively sought him out. Neville was born before Harry and therefore had more cause to be the chosen one.

Read on for more analysis (with spoilers)!

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Movie Review: The Hobbit Part 2: The Desolation of Smaug

hobbit_smaug_posterLast month, The Hobbit Part 2: The Desolation of Smaug was released into theaters. The movie was a continuation of An Unexpected Journey and set the stage for the next and final installment of The Hobbit trilogy. Since The Hobbit was such a short book but the film was split into a trilogy, much was added into the film that was not a part of the book.

—Spoilers below!!!—

The movie begins with Thorin sitting in a pub and two bounty hunters attempting to kill him. They are however stopped by the presence of Gandalf. Gandalf convinces Thorin that he can reclaim the mountain but Thorin claims that the only way he can unite his company of dwarves is by regaining the Arkenstone which is guarded amongst others treasures by Smaug, the dragon under the mountain. Thorin and company journey to the mountain, however Gandalf leaves them to attend to more pressing matters. He senses a darkness that he discovers to be the Necromancer. He also finds that Necromancer has been leading the orcs.

Meanwhile, Thorin and company make their way through the Mirkwood forest, where they are captured by giant spiders and later freed by Bilbo. The company is soon captured by elves. Legolas was added to the plot as well as a new elf, Tauriel. Tauriel is a “non-canon” character that is captain of the guard for the palace of Thranduil. It is revealed by Thranduil that Legolas has feelings for Tauriel but he forbids his son to marry someone of her status so he tells her to discourage his feelings for her. It is also revealed that Kili, the dwarf, falls for Tauriel.

Bilbo avoids capture with aid of the ring and frees Thorin and company. They escape the palace in barrels but Kili is shot in the leg by an orc and is badly injured for the rest of the movie. Legolas and Tauriel leave the place to pursue the orcs. Once out of the palace grounds, Thorin and company seek assistance from Bard, another “non-canon” character who is a resident from Laketown and a descendent to the bowman that tried to take down Smaug long ago. Bard takes them to Laketown to get weapons and restore themselves in order to continue their journey. The dwarves promise to share the riches of the mountain with the residents of Laketown and they leave to get them. Kili is left behind because his injury is too deliberating and Fili and Bofur stay behind as well.

Tauriel and Legolas reach Laketown just in time to save the town from orcs but Tauriel stays behind to heal Kili. Thorin and company finally reach the mountain and Bilbo is sent to reclaim the Arkenstone. Biblo retrieves the Arkenstone but does not tell Thorin out of fear of his corruption. They try and kill Smaug by drowning him in melted gold but he escapes and the movie ends with Smaug going to seek revenge on Laketown.

Disney’s Frozen vs. Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen

frozen_movie_posterDisney has remade many classics fairy tales into movies. Their latest animated feature is based on Hans Christian Andersen’s story, “The Snow Queen.” Disney spun this tale into their newest movie, Frozen.

WARNING: SPOILERS BELOW!

In Andersen’s version, the story focuses on the relationships between two childhood friends, Kay and Gerda. In the story, trolls send an evil mirror down to Earth and it breaks into pieces and a piece of it lands in Kay’s heart which will turn his heart into a lump of ice. A piece also lands in his eye, making him aware of all of the world’s imperfections. A few nights later when it is snowing he sees the Snow Queen but she quickly fades away. The next day the Snow Queen steals him away and Gerda goes on a search to find him. The Snow Queen is made out to be the villain and Gerda, the hero. She finds Kay blue as ice and dying. Gerda’s cries and her hot tears melt the ice in his heart and Kay begins to cry, too, and the mirror comes out of his eye. The story ends when they go home and summer begins.

Disney’s adaptation, Frozen, is a much more emotional tale. It is a story of sisters, Anna and Elsa of Arendelle. The girls were best friends as children but Elsa had a secret: she had ice powers that she could not control. Once, when playing with Anna, she accidentally struck ice into her head. Their parents rushed her to the trolls and they wiped her memory of her sister’s powers and that saved her life. Elsa was from then on, forced to keep her distance from Anna to protect her. The two became estranged and enclosed. Their parents closed the gate to their castle to shelter their children. They soon after passed away, leaving Elsa to the throne. The castle is reopened for the first time in years for Elsa’s coronation. Elsa becomes nervous and accidentally reveals her powers in front of the kingdom and sets off an eternal winter. She runs away and Anna goes to find her. She tries to convince her sister to come home and bring summer back. They begin to argue and Elsa accidentally strikes Anna in the heart with ice and only an action of true love can save her.

I personally preferred Disney’s rendition of “The Snow Queen.” The movie was heart warming and magical. It brought so much emotion into the story and gave it a depth that the original story lacked. It quickly became one of my favorite Disney movies. The animation and the soundtrack to the movie were phenomenal. The cast was flawless and the film was absolutely fantastic! I’d recommend everyone to see it!

-Sarah B., 12th grade

The Fantasy Genre: Helpful or Not?

harry_potter_kazu_kibuishi

Cover art by Kazu Kibuishi for the 15th anniversary edition of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

In an article published last month in The Telegraph, author Joanna Trollope declares the fantasy genre to be less “helpful” than the classics. I disagree with her assertion but I understand why she finds the fantasy genre to be less helpful than classic novels. A quote by another author, Neil Gaiman, summarizes what I learned from the article:

“Well-meaning adults can easily destroy a child’s love of reading: stop them reading what they enjoy, or give them worthy-but-dull books that you like, the 21st-century equivalents of Victorian “improving” literature. You’ll wind up with a generation convinced that reading is uncool and worse, unpleasant.”

This quote reveals the possible consequences of dragging children away from the fantasy genre. I believe that Trollope means well by wanting children to challenge themselves with classic novels, but forcing children away from the fantasy genre will only hurt them. Readers of all ages, especially children need the fantasy genre to show them that there is so much more to our world than it appears. However, regardless of what children choose to read, is important to encourage them to continue to read.

Yet, I believe that the fantasy genre can facilitate much more imagination and intelligence than classic novels are able to. I believe that the fantasy genre is, in fact, more helpful than the classics. While I love both classic novels and fantasy novels, I find that fantasy novels are much more helpful to me than classics are. To me, they are more relatable and frankly much more interesting.

A fantasy title that has helped me grow and learn is the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling. These novels have left such a profound impression upon me and they have become a part of me. They offered me an entire universe to explore and escape to. They have shown me love, hope, and even death. They have done more for me than any other novel of any other genres have.

The fantasy genre is quite commonly dismissed like the way we see in this article, but those who read the genre know that it is so much more than escapism. It allows the reader to see the world in a different way. A quote that exemplifies this is:

“Fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten” – G.K. Chesterton

This quote is important because it emphasizes the very essence of fairy tales and the fantasy genre as a whole. They inspire and give hope to the reader. They make them believe in not only magic or monsters but in themselves. The fantasy genre provides a whole new world for readers of all ages. Through fantastical lands and creatures, they are exposed to new points of view and experiences that they are not able to gain from any other genre. The fantasy genre is essential for readers because it shows them that there is more to life than their own life.

-Sarah B., 12th grade

Transitioning from Young Adult Novels to the Classics

bookstack2The transition from young adult novels to classic novels can be difficult. I started reading classic novels when I was in eighth grade. However, I still read young adult novels. I love both genres!

The key to transitioning from reading young adult novels to reading classic novels lies in the plot. Many young adult novels are affiliated with the supernatural, be it vampires, werewolves, zombies, or magic. The common factor is an element of fantasy. Most teens dismiss classic literature as boring but what they might not know is that classic novels were catalysts for contemporary young adult novels. Examples include Dracula by, Bram Stoker and Frankenstein by, Mary Shelley. Dracula and Frankenstein are two of the oldest fantasy novels. Frankenstein is considered by some to be the first science-fiction novel and Dracula, of course, was the first novel to debut vampires. They are also two of the most famous classic novels– cult classics, even.

dracula_coverDracula was written in 1897 and Frankenstein was written in 1818. Dracula is the story of a vampire who moves from England to Romania. Jonathan Harker is in charge of Dracula’s move but after spending time in his castle, he starts to suspect that Dracula is a vampire. Once he comes to this realization, he also realizes that he’s trapped in the castle and barely escapes with his life. He makes his way back home but little does he know that Dracula is now terrorizing his fiancee Mina and her friend Lucy by drinking their blood. Lucy begins to become very sick and Mina calls Dr. Van Helsing for help and he realizes what is happening to her but does not reveal it. Mina then becomes sick herself and it is then when Van Helsing and others try and put a stop to Dracula and they follow him back to Transylvania for a final battle.

frankenstein_coverFrankenstein is the story of a mad scientist named Victor Frankenstein who creates a creature. Frankenstein is commonly mistaken as the monster when in fact, Frankenstein is the creator of the monster. Victor has been passionate about science since he was a child and gets the idea of reanimation from watching lighting strike a tree. He reanimates a creature with expectations of beauty and is disappointed with how the creature turns out and rejects him, so the creature flees. Victor sees his creature again framed for his brother’s death. The creature explains his innocence and says that if Victor would make him a female companion, he would leave him alone forever. Victor agrees and makes him a companion but kills her out of fear of them breeding and creating a race. The creature sees Victor kill his companion-to-be and the two fight for the last time.

While it is true that classic novels start off slow, it is worth it to read them until the end. It is easier to ease into classic literature with novels that include aspects of what you’re already used to reading. The familiarity is essential in transitioning!

-Sarah B., 12th grade

Teen Read Week: Seek the Unknown with Paranormal Stories

TRW_logo_Teen Read Week is from October 13th to the 19th and the theme is “Seek the Unknown.” Right in time for Halloween and the spooky season of autumn, I’m focusing specifically on the genre of the paranormal.

Paranormal is defined as anything beyond normal explanation. The genre of the paranormal involves creatures, ideas, and other horrors unexplainable by science or reason. It also addresses themes such as supernatural phenomena and superstition. Paranormal stories leave you with a sense of unease and endless questions of “what if.”

My favorite literary works from the paranormal genre are actually short stories and poems. I feel that short stories and poems capture the essence of the paranormal better than novels because they are as short lived as the paranormal experiences themselves. The poems and short stories of Edgar Allan Poe are among my favorites in the paranormal genre.

Aubrey_Beardsley_-_Edgar_Poe_2

illustration by Aubrey Beardsley

“The Black Cat” by Edgar Allan Poe is my favorite paranormal story.

Edgar Allan Poe is by far one of my most beloved poets. His dark themes and imagery make for the ideal paranormal story. In my opinion, “The Black Cat” is the most frightening piece I have ever read by Poe. The short story is centered around an unnamed narrator. The narrator has been fond of animals all his life. He and his wife own several pets, including a large black cat named Pluto. The narrator and Pluto get along amicably and they are very fond of one another. Everything is going well until the narrator becomes an alcoholic, and in a fit of rage and confusion, he gouges the eyes of his beloved pet. Pluto then becomes afraid of the narrator and in another fit of rage, the narrator hangs the cat from a tree. In the middle of the night, the narrator’s house burns down and he comes back the next day to collect his belongings, only to find a depiction of Pluto in a noose on the wall. He disregards this and moves on with his life. He later finds a cat like Pluto in a tavern, they are identical in every way but one: this cat has a white patch on his black fur. The narrator soon begins to resent the animal and also begins to notice that at times the white patch on the cat resembles the gallows. The cat and the narrator’s relationship goes from unpleasant to unmatched. The cat attempts to trip the narrator so he would fall down stairs so, the narrator attempts to kill the cat and the story only progresses even more paranormally from there!

-Sarah B., 12th grade