La belle dame sans merci

In the poem La Belle Dame sans Merci, a knight tells the story of how he becomes obsessed with, and then gets abandoned by, a spirit known as “The Beautiful Lady Without Mercy.” Though seemingly aware she’s an illusion, the knight lingers in his memory of the Lady, and it’s implied he will do so until he dies. In this relationship, the knight’s love turns from enchantment into an obsession.

 

Through his example, the poem expresses two linked warnings about the dangers of intense romantic love which may transform into an obsession. When the object of obsession disappears, the lover left behind undergoes a spiritual death, losing the ability to appreciate the beauty in anything but the memory of what is lost. These warnings suggest that love, though wonderful, can quickly shift into a kind of metaphorical death if it becomes obsessive. The knight first describes falling in love with the Lady as a kind of enchantment that consumes him completely. The Lady he finds in the meadow is “Full beautiful, a faery’s child.” The Lady’s perfect beauty captures the knight’s attention. By describing her as the child of a magical creature, he emphasizes that her ability to charm him is a supernatural force. Enchanted further by the mysterious wildness in her eyes, the knight begins serving the Lady and devoting all his emotional energy to her. He weaves the Lady “bracelets” and “a garland,” and in reward receives her “love” and “sweet moan.”

 

However, the line between enchantment and obsession is dangerously thin. The Lady soon becomes the knight’s single focus, seemingly his single source of life. Besides the Lady, the knight sees “nothing else … all day.” This may sound like hyperbole, but the knight means it: the Lady creates a private world for herself and the knight.

 

Soon, the knight sees her in everything as he is obsessed. The flowers transform into suitable material for the Lady to wear. The hillside cave, a feature of the natural landscape, becomes the Lady’s “Elfin grot.” As the knight’s obsession deepens, he grows to depend on the Lady even for basic nutrition. The Lady feeds the knight “roots of relish sweet, / And honey wild, and manna-dew.”

 

Having devoted so much emotional energy to the Lady and put himself completely under her control, the knight undergoes a spiritual death when she disappears. In his dream the knight sees the Lady’s former victims: “pale kings,” “princes,” and “warriors”—”death-pale were they all.” In their faces, he sees the man he will become: someone deathly, starved, and captivated by memories of the Lady to the point of enslavement. Like them, he will wake up “death-pale,” or, as the speaker first describes him, “Alone and palely loitering”—physically alive, yet condemned to replay his memory of an obsessive love for the rest of his days. The Lady is finally revealed to be La Belle Dame sans Merci—literally, The Beautiful Lady Without Mercy.

Strangely, the Lady’s merciless behaviour actually consists of the love and joy she provides; her sudden disappearance is what makes the knight’s experience so painful exactly because she was previously so kind. The shape of the Lady’s cruelty suggests that anything one falls in love with or obsesses over can cause such pain since anything can disappear in an instant. The poem thus cautions against such intense, obsessive love, arguing that it’s ultimately not worth the agony it can cause.

 

The Great Gatsby Motifs and Symbols

Time and Obsession: F. Scott Fitzgerald uses the symbolism of relationships frequently to elaborate on how love, desire and sex are major motives for almost every character in The Great Gatsby. However, all the relationships mentioned are never depicted as healthy or stable. Focusing specifically on the relationship between Gatsby and Daisy, it is evident in the very first chapter that Daisy (without Gatsby’s character being revealed to the audience) perks up at the sound of his name, noticeably remembering him after many years. However, when the pair reunite in Chapter 5,  “We haven’t met for many years,” said Daisy, her voice as matter-of-fact as it could ever be. “Five years next November.”(Gatsby) (5.69-70) it is apparent that Daisy’s memories of Gatsby are more abstract and clouded, while Gatsby has been so infatuated with her that he knows the exact month they parted and has clearly been counting down the days until their reunion. There is another moment in the scene when Nick returns after the initial awkward re-introduction, he comes back to find them talking emotionally. However, Gatsby has transformed, as he is radiant and glowing, “He literally glowed; without a word or a gesture” (5.87). In contrast, Daisy is not so thoroughly transformed, except for her overflowing tears. Although the narrator, Nick pays closer attention to Gatsby than Daisy, it is apparent that Gatsby is more intensely engaged in the relationship. Their relationship also reflects the idea of change as much as Gatsby wants to repeat the past, he can’t. In the present, Daisy has moved on and he can never return to that beautiful, perfect moment when he kissed her for the first time and wedded all her hopes and dreams to her. Thus proving that over time, Gatsby’s affection for Daisy has transformed into obsession while Daisy has learned to move past and maintains her relationship with Tom, her husband. 

 

Manipulation and Materialism: The characters in The Great Gatsby are enraptured by materialism and manipulate their surroundings to satiate their needs and maintain their social status. This elaborates the hollowness of the upper class which is one of the most important and more explored themes in the novel. It emphasizes the sociology of wealth and specifically how the characters manipulate their position in society to move up the social ladder. In The Great Gatsby, the West Egg represents the newly rich (such as Gatsby) whereas the East Egg represents the old aristocrats (The Buchanan Family). The significance of these two ends represents the difference in lifestyle and consumerism. The author portrays those in West Egg to be vulgar, pretentious, gaudy and lacking in social grace and constantly. This is evident in the novel as Gatsby himself lives in a monstrously adorned mansion, hosts extravagant parties every weekend, drives expensive cars and intentionally rejects invitations from upper-class families just to appear to have more important engagements. “And I like large parties. They’re so intimate. At small parties, there isn’t any privacy.” (Jordan, Chapter 3) Gatsby throws his parties in honour of Daisy, they also represent the life the pair could have had together, in a big house with lots of money and friends and luxuries. By inviting all the wealthy people from the area, Gatsby aims to manipulate Daisy into leaving her wealthy husband Tom and start a new life with him. He even makes a point of inviting some of Daisy’s best friends, but due to her aristocratical lifestyle, Daisy never comes. Gatsby’s rapid consumerism and manipulating tendencies eventually lead him to his demise in the last chapter where George Wilson shoots him as he believes that Gatsby killed his wife Myrtle. Gatsby in his willingness to manipulate every situation to his own benefit took the blame for Myrtle’s death so that Daisy was not held responsible.

 

Weather: The author also utilizes the weather as an affective backdrop in The Great Gatsby to match the emotional narrative tone of the story. Gatsby and Daisy’s genuine relationship starts in the pouring rain, proving the awkwardness of their refound affection. Their love reawakens just as the sun beings to come out and Nick returns to the scene. To contrast, Gatsby’s climactic confrontation with Tom occurs on the hottest day of the summer, under a scorching sun, “The next day was broiling, almost the last, certainly the warmest day of the summer” (pg 114). Daisy exclaims, “But it’s so hot,”, on the verge of tears, “And everything’s so confused. Let’s all go to town!” as an excuse for them to make their ill-fated journey into the city. Here, the heat operates and oppresses on both a literal and a symbolic level. It causes irritability and fractiousness in the characters. The weather also symbolizes Daisy and Gatsby’s relationship. It is when the weather is at it’s hottest that Gatsby’s and Daisy’s relationship reaches a climax where Daisy decides to chose Tom (who has a better social status) over Gatsby. What started on a rainy day with a great promise of romance comes to an end on this hot day on an abrupt note.

 

English Reflection Great Gatsby Unseen

Today in English, we had the first page of our new text The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald as an unseen practice paper. It was difficult to adjust to the sudden change, as we had to analyse the text academically (as we would have to in the exam). My mind felt fragmented as I was able to explain my points verbally to my classmate, but was unable to write the ideas down in a (proper) paragraph form. My point was that the use of point of view has a large impact on the audience’s understanding of the story. As The Great Gatsby is written in the third person, it is in the perspective of Nick, who (although portrayed to be as the protagonist) is simply a bystander in the story which is actually about Gatsby and Daisy. The perspective of Nick (the narrator) is essentially flawed, as it exposes his personal opinions, thoughts and experiences to the reader, which influences their perception of the conflict (However, the same could have been said for all of the characters assuming the that book was written from the other characters’ perspectives as well). For example, in this text, Nick mentions something his father said, “Whenever you feel like criticizing any one,” he told me, “just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had.” – this line makes the reader self-conscious about the way they perceive people. This also conveys that Nick is going to maintain an impartial stance in his narration of the story. Yet, as the passage progresses, this perspective changes as Nick first claims “I’m inclined to reserve all judgments” but later says, “I come to the admission that it has a limit”. This change in opinion as the narrator is unsettling as the audiences’ opinion changes in accordance with Nick’s. The use of point of view has a large impact on audiences as, if there is only one point of view, the audience is forced to follow the narrator’s thoughts and look through a single lens. Whereas, if there are multiple perspectives, the audience is allowed to witness the same scene through various standpoints. Hence to improve my writing skills in structured timed essay forms, I will have to practice more regularly with the texts I have now. 

CAS Reflection: Activities

Today, I just wanted to write an update on how much I have been exercising throughout the holiday. I’ve been cycling every day, in the evening, to the beach and back. I have also been exercising on my terrace every day with a routine I found from an online trainer. Over the holiday, I felt as though it was really important that I keep my physical health in shape, especially considering that over the last couple of months because of quarantine we have been forced to stay at home. My goal over this holiday was to maintain my health and to build-up stamina. At some points, it was a little difficult for me to do so because I had summer school and there was a lot of work from school. However, I made it a point to find time every day and I hope that I can do this when school opens as well.

 

 

A Rainy Day (Journal Writing)

Today felt like the longest day of my life. I figured it would be because I’ve had my Global Politics orals marked in my calendar for months which just so happens to be on my birthday, and with everything that happened with Ryan last week, I didn’t really have the guts to look at him in the face. You would think that most people hurt you unintentionally, but clearly Ryan had no regard for my emotions. Sometimes when you expect something bad to happen, you can kind of list it off so it doesn’t seem so awful and I guess that how I thought it would be today. 

 

I usually eat lunch in the canteen with my friends but today I’d really rather not see anyone considering all of Ryan’s friends have been watching my every move, finding more reasons to make snide comments, so I thought I’d just buy a bunch of food and hideout in the library and revise for my upcoming Spanish quiz. I had just sat down and taken my notes out when Amanda walked in. I suppose you could say she’s the reason why Ryan and I aren’t talking in the first place. (That’s not the first time I’ve blamed her for something and I’m trying awfully hard to not write an entire essay as to why she’s a menace.) Of course, I was looking up mid-chicken-noodle-slurp when she walked in and she looked right at me. I felt this surge of rage in my body, but she didn’t seem to notice my glaring eyes at all. She walked up to me grinning, and if there was a way to make me feel even angrier about the whole thing, that was it. She clutched her sandwich in hand and stared apologizing for ruining my relationship, while I stared at my notes for another 15 minutes not reading anything at all. 

 

I suppose it’s immature of me to blame absolutely everything that happened in the past month on her (Perhaps I could thank her from saving me from a sinking ship), but from the second I saw her I knew it would be a bad day. I was trying ridiculously hard to memorise the tenses for the exam and I was hung up on the simplest of vocabulary, one of those moments where you know the word in English but my brain completely shut off. My mother always said to write everything down so the ideas aren’t jumbled in my head but I really only had 10 minutes left of lunch and I had just finished the first side of my notes. 

 

I didn’t have time to freak out, I was supposed to finish my lunch, memorising and restraining myself from hurling my chair at Amanda’s face, but I was panicking anyways. I ran straight to class without batting an eye-lid at Amanda. Staring at the first question for at least 15 minutes before realising what I was looking at, and then realising that I had no idea what I was supposed to do. We were supposed to translate the sentences and write a short descriptive about our opinion but I couldn’t even tell what topic the question was based on. Miss Huntley eventually said that we had 20 minutes left and I had only managed to finish translating the lines into Spanish. 

 

I came out of the test after 3 pm and I slumped down to the closest bus stop. It had just rained and the wind was strong enough that some of smaller trees had fallen, with leaves swimming in puddles even though the sun was shining bright and hard. I didn’t know whether I should be holding a grudge against both Amanda and Ryan, but it, in the end, it never matters what I decide. There’s always going to be rainy days, but I suppose what really matters is how often the sun shines. 

 

EA Learning Journal #3 – Ranjit Saha

An interview with lawyer Ranjit Saha was very helpful in seeing the legal aspects of the migrant workers  Crisis. Although not much was discussed in the interview, it could be safe to conclude that in his opinion, NGOs such as TWC2 and HOME have not played a large role in supporting the migrant workers and the government has done more than possible to provide the workers  with safe and healthy lives. Although the NGOs help in diminishing the social barriers and encourage locals to interact with migrant workers through funds, NGO’s are unable to make a proper change in the migrant workers’ lives through legal means. From what I was able to understand from this interview, the government seems to be playing a larger role than we think they do. Although it seems like it is just now after COVID that they are creating new dormitories with more facilities, it turns out that the government has been trying to support the migrant workers through several means. According to Mr Saha, the main problems that the migrant workers face are, not receiving their salary on time, health insurance, employment disputes and workplace injuries. The lawyer, Mr Saha confirmed that there are several cases of migrant workers who do not receive their salary on time, or are not given the correct amount, refused to be given health insurance or are not taken care of by the employer. However, these cases are handled by the MOM (Ministry of Manpower) and in most of these cases, the employers, labour brokers and facilities are fined and the migrant workers receive compensation. Therefore, the only mistreatment or problems that the workers are facing at the moment under the pandemic is unemployment and health safety. However, for these issues as well, the government has created an alternative position where migrant workers are still paid a basic amount of money (Basic Salary) for basic necessities and are provided shelter and health checkups in Singapore hospitals.

EA Learning Journal #2 – Interview with a doctor!

An interview with Dr Ramatullah (Hamid Razak Rahmatullah), an Associate Consultant and ex-Chief Resident in the specialty of Orthopaedic Surgery with the Singapore Health Services (SingHealth) was very important as it helped in enlarging my understanding the depths behind the treatment of the migrant workers s. While all of his answers were in great detail, especially regarding the health benefits and drawbacks of the migrant workers s, a point that stood out was his opinion on the government working for the migrant workers s: 

 

“[Dr Rahmatullah]: Policy-wise, there’s definitely differences how a foreign workers  is treated versus a citizen, for example, and I think at a policy level, at a national level, you must understand that this is not just peculiar to Singapore but it is the same in many other countries as well. So as dogma we cannot be hypocritical, and call out our government for treating our foreign workers differently.”

 

Dr Rahmatullah has a very contrasting opinion to Braema. Where Braema feels the government is not doing enough for the migrant workers, Dr Rahmatullah feels they are doing as much as they can. He makes it clear that the Singaporean government has been taking measures to provide the migrant workers with sufficient protection and that it is to the best of their ability, considering their status in society. His point of view in my opinion, makes as much sense as Braema’s perspective, as a community we should not have such a high-myopic view or harbour such high standards and expectations. His statement on the role of the government led to the next questions, “Are we paying them too low a wage for the work that they do? If we are paying a low wage how are we then helping them with other aspects of their living conditions?” The feedback from Braema and Dr Rahmatullah did not really go against my opinion but it gave me a new pathway to think about – is the government doing enough for the migrant workers and is providing basic necessities enough to make them feel accepted?

 

From this interview, I feel like I understood that being treated differently is a given,  and it is really a global phenomenon where a government is expected to treat their citizens well first and then think about the rest of the population. It is unjust to expect a country to treat everyone equally as there is no country that is so generous. 

EA Learning Journal #1 – Contacting Braema Mathi

For my EA, I conducted my first interview with Braema Mathi  who is the former President of the human rights group MARUAH to obtain background knowledge on the migrant workers here in Singapore. Braema is currently greatly involved with the present migrant workers  crisis during the COVID-19 pandemic so I felt this would be a fantastic opportunity to understand the perspective of an activist who has been working with migrant workers for a long time. The workers  crisis in Singapore is about the migrant workers who during the COVID-19 pandemic have faced multiple hardships. With the factories and workplaces shut down due to the lockdown imposed in the country, the migrant workers have had to deal with loss of income, food shortages and uncertainty about their future. Thus, Braema has been working with MARUAH to specifically point out the poor living conditions at foreign workers dormitories. Post-COVID she felt that the recent media coverage of the new COVID-19 clusters in foreign workers dormitories have exposed the bad conditions of these living spaces which are unclean, cramped, and have poor hygiene standards. Through MARUAH, Braema and her team have been trying to promote and raise awareness, knowledge and understanding of human rights and  related issues in Singapore. 

 

I had the opportunity to interview Braema (through zoom) which I believe allowed me to obtain a broader understanding of the perspective of the migrant workers who have been residing in such unfair living conditions. In the interview, Braema initially explained the history of how Singapore first brought in its migrant workers and how important these workers are today. One of the comments that Braema made was that social class was prevalent in Singapore ever since the country accepted migrant workers. My questions were mostly based on social class in Singapore and cultural bias against migrant workers, and how they were and still are being segregated from our larger community.  In Braema’s opinion, the segregation could only be diminished when the workers received their basic necessities from the government. 

 

The pandemic has essentially revealed how more than the Singaporean government, it is the Singaporean society which is culturally biased and refuses to accept these migrant workers into their communities. What was most interesting for me during this interview is how far back the cultural bias dates in segregating our Singaporean societies from migrant workers. Additionally it was unsettling to realize the amount of migrant workers in Singapore who are treated as though they are expendable and are expected to only work on site and not live their lives as residents. This interview was definitely eye-opening as it was exposing both the Singaporean society and government for not playing its role as viable employers. 

EA Journal Post

The Global Politics External Assessment requires a hands-on experience to help us grasp a deeper understanding of our projects. For my External Assessment, I want to evaluate the cultural bias in Singapore against the Bangladesh migrant workers preceding and in the aftermath of the COVID virus. I also want to focus on the Singaporean government which has only recently decided to take action towards the protection of the migrant workers through proper shelter (new dormitories) and health security (basic funds which cover daily meals, basic necessities and health insurance). In Singapore, the migrant workers are one of the most marginalised groups, the sub-community expected to work behind the scenes, and disappear from our society after they are done. Although Singapore is extremely multicultural, the population is still segregated through cultural bias. The migrant workers s, unfortunately falling into one of these more excluded and socially judged or scrutinised groups. During this period of pandemic, NGOs have been uncovering the treatment of the migrant workers and now have been working together to provide the workers with more rights. These NGOs are working towards providing the migrant workers s health and economic stability. However, what I want to find out is what more we can do to provide our migrant workers more protection and security. While I was initially introduced to the mistreatment of the migrant workers through the multiple public interviews on sites such as EmancipAsia, I was not surprised to hear that employers and facilities sometimes do not provide money and benefits on time. I was also surprised to know that Singapore’s society in general to a large extent refuses to accept them as a part of the community. This is what led me to become really interested in this political issue due to its links to human rights and justice. I wanted to explore the Singaporean society as I have lived here for most of my life and I would like to further engage my passion towards my Engagement Activity.

CAS Reflection: Origami

At the end of year CAS reflection for Grade 11 I had written that I would want to make an origami presentation of an aquarium of sea animals as a part of the Art and Creativity. During the summer holidays, while I juggled my Extended Essay, Summer School Course at SciencesPo, EA preparation and Global Politics Hl script, it was actually therapeutic to be able to sit down in the afternoon and make these beautiful origami pieces. The greatest challenge for me was to find time. Nevertheless, I am proud of what I have accomplished and I think it looks beautiful. I give here four pictures of my aquarium clicked at various stages of development from beginning to end.