Thursday, May 8, 2014

Waiting for Fate

What are we waiting for? 

I have a problem.  Sometimes, I am very lazy and I lack motivation.  People ask me why I don't just do whatever I should probably be doing.  I should just answer, "I am waiting for Godot."  But who is Godot?  It sounds to me like he is fate.  And in Samuel Beckett's play, Waiting for Godot, Estragon and Vladimir seem to just be waiting for their fate, rather than doing anything about it.

Life would be pretty boring if it was fated; if we felt we could do nothing about it.  It is the lazy person's idea that we can just do nothing and end up where we are supposed to be.  I confess, I am that person sometimes.  But I don't have to be.  I can change my life if I want to.  All I have to do is stop waiting and start looking and doing.  

Wednesday, April 2, 2014


In Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut, a war veteran named Billy Pilgrim gains insight into the idea of the fourth dimension after being abducted by plunger-shaped aliens with a single hand for a head from the planet Tralfamadore.  To see in the fourth dimension is to see all time at once.  On page 27 of the novel, Billy explains that, "All moments, past, present, and future, always have existed, always will exist.  The Tralfamadorians...can see how permanent all the moments are, and they can look at any moment that it interests them.  It is just an illusion we have here on Earth that one moment follows another one, like beads on a string, and that once a moment is gone it is gone forever."  This way of looking at things presents the argument that humans have no control over the future and therefore their actions cannot affect their future.

Billy Pilgrim first became "unstuck" in time, serving as a chaplain's assistant in World War II.  He basically "time traveled" to another moment in time.  This happens frequently throughout the novel.  He travels to his college days, his optometrist days, his time on Tralfamadore, and even to his death.  Almost his whole life he knew what was to come and he claimed it was futile to try and change the future because, along with the past and present, the future has happened, is happening, and will continue to happen.  There was nothing he could do.  This idea spreads to the anti-war message of the book.  Earlier in the novel, Vonnegut writes about a man who says, trying to stop war is like trying to stop ice glaciers.  It's impossible.  No matter what you do, you can't change what is to come.  I don't think it's necessarily fate, but every moment is already determined, concrete, set in stone, always has, always is, and always will be.  

Tuesday, February 18, 2014


In Beloved by Toni Morrison, there doesn't seem to be a large presence of fate unless you consider how the past has shaped the current lives of the characters in the novel.  Then again, this idea proves that there is no fate but actions of the past that help define the future.

Sethe and Denver live in a house, haunted by the ghost of the daughter Sethe murdered in hopes to free her from the brutal life of a black person in the harsh times post slavery.  Denver is Sethe's remaining child, the others having run off in fear of this ghost, and the two live almost sheltered in the house drowned by the presence of the memory of the time Beloved was killed.

Personally, the ghost represents the past in slavery, oppression, and fear.  Sethe and Denver cling to it, unwilling to let it go.  However, Paul D arrives at the house as a presence of forgiveness for the past and begins to drive the ghost of Sethe's dead baby out.  But as Paul D re-opens old wounds that Sethe had lain dormant, the baby comes back stronger and, in fact, drives Paul D out.

It takes a strong desire to forgive and forget in order to reshape a life.  Perhaps that is what fate is--the unwillingness to change the present situation of things.  It is the belief that things cannot change when, in fact, it takes a strong risk of action to drive out this idea and define your own future.

Is forgiveness the action that defeats fate?  

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Invisible Man

In Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison, the main character repeatedly falls to the stereotypes defined by the white society for black men.  He finds himself getting seduced and sleeping with white women, fighting with violence, and attempting to appease the white man ignorantly like the sambo.  Is it the fate of the black man that governs him to fall to these stereotypes?  No.  And he proves that at the end when he takes on the invisibility and burns his past in stereotypes.  

Henry IV

In Henry IV, King Henry is fated for uprising because of his illegitimacy as ruler.  As the uprisings begin, Prince Hal decides that his fate is to meet Hotspur, his rival for his father's (The King) affection.  In effect, by falling to his fate and cutting down Hotspur in battle, Hal proves that fate does not apply to everything and the leadership eventually passes from his father to him.

Wuthering Heights

In Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte, the main character is a shady guy named Heathcliff.  Right from the start, there seems to be a strange fate about him.  He is picked up by a well-off man named Mr. Earnshaw.  As readers, we are not told where he came from or why he was picked up.  He is treated badly by a boy named Hindley for being a "low-class" boy simply because of the way he looks.  We are told that he is dark, but not necessarily that he is black.  He remains a very mysterious character in that sense.

His fate, it seems, is not to succeed in the high-class life.  However, it seems to be proved throughout the novel that he is not governed by this fate.  As he falls in love with Hindley's sister, Catherine, he strives to become that superior type of person.  Mysteriously, he becomes wealthy, he develops a strong, tall stature that people submit themselves to.  But as Lockwood, the tenant who rents a place to stay at Wuthering Heights now under the ownership of Heathcliff, says, he is only respectable in his "dress and manners."  Therefore, after all, Heathcliff fell to fate.  

Oedipus Rex

In Greek literature, fate plays an enormous role.  The Greeks undoubtedly believed in fate and, as seen in Oedipus Rex, that it could not be outrun.  But does this belief ring true for the modern world, in which we feel as though we have the freedom to make our own choices and shape our own futures?  No, fate does not control our existence.  We make decisions everyday that change the direction of our lives.

Regret is a big indicator that fate does not govern our futures.  It's not an exaggeration to say that all people have had those "what ifs" and "Shoulda, coulda, woulda" moments in their lives.  We know that if we do things differently, we would have a different outcome.  Life would be pretty pointless if every path we took led to the same destination.