Letters and Sun

He was looking out the kitchen window. The dirty glass separating him from the garden. Outside it was sunny, the warm rays spread themselves across the glass. Light and warmth from outside seeped in. A small smile pulled at the left side of his lip. It was early spring, the perfect time to plant out the seeds he’d spent the winter growing on the window still.

He heard the letter box swing open and be stuffed with something, probably bills. There’s always bills. He turned and walked forward. Waddling like the old man he was. His hips aching and his knees battered by age. He constantly asked himself, when did he let himself become an old man? He wasn’t there yet, but his body was slipping ahead of him.

He bent down to pick up the letters that had scattered on the mat. Muttering to himself as he did. His rough fingers traced their way across the letters. It’s always bills. Until he looked at the last letter. It had a hand written address. It was addressed to him. He looked at the scrawl trying to see if he recognised it. The curled letters brought nothing to the front of his mind. He ripped open the letter, curiosity locking it’s jaw around his mind.

As he read the letter, his insides were slowly hollowed out like his guts were hacked with broad sweeping steps. The other letters and the torn envelope fluttered to the grown like a dying butterfly. His old hands shaking with small tremors.

I’m taking your lack of reply as a hint and this shall be my last letter.

He hadn’t seen any other letters. He didn’t know the full image, the letter only providing snippets of the story. It told him enough.

Footsteps ran down the stairs heavily. The slowed as they reached the bottom and approached him.

“What’s wrong?” She asked concerned. He turned to look at her. His eyes clouded with confusion and tight tears. Her eyes fluttered down to the letter. Her eyes flew wide with panic, followed by a wave of shame. She turned and walked towards the kitchen, flying like a bird from a cat. He looked at her for a second before following. The bills left littered on the floor.

“Do you know about this?” He asked putting the letter on the table in front of her. She turned to face the window as though the letter offended her. Her silence spoke loud.

“Is it true?” He asked.

“I don’t know everything-”

“What do you know?” He cut her off. She didn’t look at him. Instead her eyes jumped around the room, never looking at anything for more than a second.

Outside a blackbird jumped around the borders, pecking at weeds. It’s beady eyes scanning for food. It pecked at the bright green, spring growth. It could barely hear the rising voices inside the house.

“You knew about all of it?!” He spat in anger and shock. Her eyes darted away.

“I -”

“You knew!” He stated the confirmation. His tone left no argument.

“Why would you keep this from me?” His voice broke as the anger couldn’t carry it to the end of the sentence and sadness and hollowness took over.

“Why?”

“We thought it would be better for -”

“Don’t fucking lie!” He said his hand slamming into the wooden table. It shook on it’s old legs a little. The letter jumped away from his hand with the movement.

“You just wanted to fucking lie to me.” He said.

“I wanted to keep you -”

“Bloody lies!” He shouted. He wanted to hear the reasons, the cover-ups, the lies. He also couldn’t stand a single word she said. Every sound from her lips hurt and bruised deeper.

A thick silence settled and smothered them. A fog that swirled in and out of their lungs. Choking her with soot from the guilt fire that blazed in her heart. Drying his throat like a desert wind. Neither spoke. He let his head drop forward. His accusing gaze falling with it too. He was too old and tired to maintain it, but it was still there. They both knew it.

He left the room, marching out with curses muttered under his breath. He strolled into the garden. The grass gently stroking his shoes. The garden around him bathing in the sun, drinking in the light like honey. He sat down on the old garden chair. It sunk and sagged under his weight.

He looked around the garden. Looking at what he had built and nurtured into reality. Potential appearing and making more potential. What is potential other than something lost. Something he always lost. The seeds wouldn’t survive in the ground, the plants would die, the flowers would stop blooming. As though his eyes gave them damnation as he looked at them.

The grass was very green, the sky was extremely blue. And it disgusted him, because he knew the truth.

Aristotle’s Theory of Tragedy

Aristotle was a Greek philosopher and scientist. He was an influential public figure and a teacher at the Lyceum. Throughout his life (384 – 322 B.C), he turned his mind to a range of subjects varying from the problems of classification, psychology and logic before trying his hand at Tragedy, a genre of ancient Greek play.

Greek plays were either a comedy or tragedy. Whilst comedies were satirical, mocking leaders and men in power for their vanity or foolishness, tragedies were based on human suffering designed to invoke pity or fear from the audience. Tragedies portrayed the downfall of a good person through misjudgement, a moral weakness or a fatal error; the main character often suffers extreme sorrow or is brought to ruin by events started by their own actions controlled by their weakness.

Tragedy often focuses on themes of love, loss, pride, abuse of power and the relationship between men and their gods. The ancient Greek culture focused around these Gods, if a man moved against them, then, the Gods would react cruelly.

Aristotle published his theories on Tragedy in Poetics (Poetics in Greek is poiêtikê which translates as ‘productive’). Most of Poetics is devoted to his theories on tragedy, however rather than focusing on how to judge a tragedy as successful; Aristotle focuses on how to construct one, and be ‘productive’ in creating something that moves the human heart (the audience).

In Poetics, the discussion on tragedy starts from Aristotle’s definition;

Tragedy, then, is process of imitating an action which has serious implications, is complete, and possesses magnitude; by means of language which has been made sensuously attractive, with each of its varieties found separately in the parts; enacted by the person themselves and not presented through narrative; through a course of pity and fear completing the perfection of such emotions.

This definition is easy to understand when broken down into manageable sections. By calling a tragedy a ‘process of imitating an action’, it reflects Aristotle’s beliefs that a tragedy is designed to imitate and reflect life, in all its parts, of happiness and misery (whether desired or not), which when combined create a complete life, and ergo a tragedy. ‘Complete’ may refer to how tragedy is a complete replica of life or how to be a Tragedy the plot needs to be complete with a definite beginning, middle and end.                                                                                                              ‘By means of language’, Aristotle is referring to word choice and how that is important in the construction of a tragedy, as the word choice is what provokes emotion in the script or in the audience. Words have to be chosen to create an ambience and to portray the characters effectively. ‘Enacted by the person themselves and not presented through narrative’ refers to the format a tragedy should take, in this case a play which does not rely heavily on the narrative to portray the emotions and action of the plot and character.                                                       ‘Through a course of pity and fear completing the perfection of such emotions’ is relating to the emotional response the audience should have whilst witnessing the tragedy and downfall of a good person. Aristotle later in Poetics states “Pity is aroused by unmerited misfortune, fear by the misfortune of a man like ourselves”, this suggests that tragedies were also designed to deter people from making the same mistake as the hero, whether that is disobeying the gods or succumbing to greed and pride, for if someone similar to oneself being brought to ruin by a action not impossible for one to do could create fear and fuel the desire of self-preservation.

Aristotle believed tragedies were constructed of six main parts: plot, character, diction, thought, spectacle and song. Diction is the choice of words. Thought is the theme of the tragedy, in a plot there should only be a single central theme. Spectacle is a scenic effect, or play scenery; the setting of the play is important to the plot and play. If a plot was to include a meeting of the Gods, then the meeting would most likely take place in Olympus, rather than a stable. Song refers to the music or melody of the play, the chorus of such should contribute the unity of the play and help to link the six parts together to create something successful and whole. Tragedy is derived from Tragos, meaning Goat, and oide meaning song. In Ancient Greece, the He-Goat was the god of all things, referred to in Mythology as Pan. Pan was considered the principle of animal and plant life, he was also the son of Zeus, and considered the son of Jupiter (as Zeus’s planetary form was Jupiter). This could be a reference to how Gods and fate were important parts of tragedy.

According to Poetics, the plot must be complete, with a beginning, middle and end; but must also be long enough to show the different components of a story and how they link together clearly, without becoming too long and confusing. The plot must show the various stages of action followed by downfall, often in a chain of cause and effect.  An ideal plot would create pity and fear whilst portraying the events as beyond the hero’s control. The ancient Greeks believed in fate; definition states it is the will or determining cause by which things in general are believed to come to be as they are or events to happen as they do. It is often linked to destiny. The Greeks believed that their lives were prescribed for them by Gods, and they were sealed within their fates with no means of escaping their destiny or fate. Tragedies portray this belief as they highlight the power of fate when the hero is shown powerless to stop his destiny or their approaching doom.

The hero or main character of the tragedy must be carefully constructed. They must be admirable and good, but not completely so as to keep them human and relatable. They must have a flaw or weakness that is the key of their downfall. The audience must be able to connect with them in order to feel pity for them. If they are not likeable then the audience may not respond to the display of pain the hero suffers through. The hero should contribute to the action, whilst also being unable to stop the universal chain of cause and effect, as their demise must come as a result of a personal decision.

There are three key events that occur during a tragedy, Hamartia, Peripateia and Anagorisis. Hamartia is referred to as the tragic error, this where the hero (protagonist) makes a simple mistake which turns into a fatal error as it causes a chain of events that lead to the final catastrophe and the downfall of the hero. Harmatia is a term that comes from archery; it’s a metaphor for the shot that misses the bulls eye.                                                                                         Peripateia is known as the plot reversal. It is where the hero makes a crucial action that changes their situation from seemingly stable to one that is vulnerable, where they are possibly at risk of danger or downfall. Anagorisis means tragic recognition or insight, it refers the moment where the tragic hero gains understanding or ‘mystic insight’ as they release that they are entangled in the web of fate from which they cannot escape. This moment of clarity occurs just before their downfall when they are helpless to battle the fate the God’s have created for them.

These three events are designed to cause Catharsis (meaning transformation through transaction). It is the purge of emotions the audience feel during the tragedy. The audience’s views may be transformed slightly by the events they witness happening to the hero.

In summary, Aristotle believed that Tragedy was made of different aspects that are woven together to create an effective plot with human characters capable of moving the audience with the main emotions of pity and fear. The six main parts must be linked carefully to ensure that the play is whole. Catharsis is achieved through the plot which navigates through Anagorisis, Hamartia and Perpateia. Finally, Aristotle believed the ability to create a tragedy capable of an emotional reaction was productive both in production and performance, for the playwright creates and is productive and the play warns the audience of dangers related to fatal flaws and fate.

Mrs Corville

Mrs Corville lived at number 15 Denworth Street. She’d lived there for 15 years. It was the house she and her husband Michael had brought for their retirement. Leaving the big family house where they’d raised their four daughters behind for something smaller. She was now alone, having out lived her husband.

There was a primary school further up the road. Every day the children would come bumbling out and giggling as the raced around on the energy of youth. The noise was fine, the teachers were fine, the children were fine. It was the parents.

She didn’t know if all parents with small children forget how to park and basic road safety, but enough of them did. They double parked, went too fast, went when they didn’t have right of way. It was just dangerous.

They parked across her drive, whilst double parking. It was annoying, and dangerous, so she complained.

For years she complained, hoping to have some white lines or something to stop the reckless of the parents. Over the years their parking had gotten worse so she had complained more.

No white lines appeared.

Everyone on the road knew of her complaints and they agreed with her.

Still no white lines.

Mrs Corville had had a long life and that had caught up to her. She’d passed youth, and tragic death. She’d reached a die-able age, one where people have the comfort of a long and happy life to get through the mourning. All death is tragic, but some is fair and some are cruel. Old age is one of the nicer ways to die. Her heart was weak, which was ironic because her metaphorical heart was so strong.

Have the operation with a 20% survival rate or die? It’s not much of a choice. So she agreed to the operation. Whilst under she suffered a stroke, so they stopped the procedure. Mrs Corville didn’t have the 20% chance anymore. It’s funny how blunt death is.

Each daughter spent a day by her hospital bed saying their unprepared goodbyes. Full of the strong love of her weak heart. She passed away at the end of the week. It was a Friday, just after the children had been let out of school.

The house now stands empty, it will sell by the end of the month. Outside, just past the kerb on the old concrete road, they painted white lines on the road.

She’s not dead and gone yet.

March Reads

March is the time where the spring arrives but winter still holds on giving you a mix of rain and cold with sun.

The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy
Beautiful and vivid imagery accompanies a moving story. The almost dream like narrative shelters the reader from the bare brutality that  instead it is presented in sharp doses of reality along with the attractive dullness of failure that is interwoven into the story. This book feels as though your imagination is drowing in the overwhelming life and death that plagues the family but one that brings a mournful catharsis as the plot is resolved and the reader knows all that occurred by the river.

No one writes to the Colonel by Gabriel García Márquez
This short but tragic story of the Colonel, his wife and the cockrel trying to have enough food to survive is an engaging and entertaining one despite the constant backdrop of death and misery. A great story to read on a free afternoon.

The Maze Runner by James Dashner
My brother lent me this book saying it was a good read, and he wasn’t wrong. The narrative is simple to follow and descriptive but also engaging. The mystery behind the maze drives the plot forward with a collection of interesting characters including Thomas, Newt and Chuck. The ending sets up the next book brilliantly and leaves the reader wanting more. I can see why the book series has become popular even if I am a couple years late reading it to join the hype.

Amsterdam by Ian McEwan
The Booker Prize winner of 1998 is a short novel about the lovers of Molly; three former and her mourning husband. Clive and Vernon agree a deal but are driven away by their own aims and the memory of Molly. This story spins into the ending as the chaos of the world around them drives them both to Amsterdam.

Colour of Nothingness

Staring out into the blackness, they couldn’t help notice how black it looked. Nothingness is black.

All visible light is absorbed, tucked away or drifting without any surface to reflect off. Leaving the gaps just black.

A deep, consuming, thick and sticky black. There was nothing there. Nothing among the stars. Just gaps. Terrifying gaps that seemed to make the animal inside curl up and hiss through bared fangs that had both form and colour. They weren’t nothingness. Out there was.

There was science that could explain it all but in the obliviousness of their thoughts they couldnt help think of ideas that weren’t possible.

Could other creatures see nothingness? Humans can only see a small span of the light that fills the universe, and they can see an even smaller span with it. It’s a little torch in the big woods and its night.

Could something else look into the night sky and see something they couldn’t? Was there a creature like that on Earth? Would it be out there in the nothingness? Would it ever exist?

Nothingness was black to them. What if it was a different colour to the creature that could see it? Would they see two different skies, so far apart that the sky they saw now would be more similar to Van Gogh’s than the real thing?

Did nothingness have a different colour? And was it still as terrifying or was is warm and welcoming? Was the creature scared too?