Author Archives: vanords

About vanords

GVSU Junior. Legal Studies & English.

VanOrd, Analysis 6 — “With the Light”

Last week in class we had a pretty long introduction on this week’s reading of With the Light. Because this book is a “manga”, which many of us in the class were unfamiliar with, we required some background information to get going. I will admit by the end of the video and class discussion last week I was feeling very overwhelmed by the idea of reading this book. As I began to read it over Thanksgiving I was initially frustrated by reading from the right side of the page to the left and reading inside little circles, rectangles and squares. But, as I read on and became more used to reading in the midst of drawings I actually liked it.

This surprised me due to my lack of knowledge on manga and Japanese culture, but I really did. I definitely agree with what the professor said, and what other students have attested to in their blog posts, that this book was the most accurate portrayal of autism we’ve come across thus far. I found this manga to be very moving as it told the less-pleasant side of what autism may be like for families, especially in even less aware or accepting cultures.

Up until this book I believe we’ve only looked at autistic characters that live in either the United States or that live in England. I really enjoyed seeing how Japanese culture was shown to respond to an autistic child and the family.

For my research this week I was curious why Japanese society is portrayed less accepting than American society of people with disabilities or who are neurodivergent. My first thought was that maybe they had a lower rate of autism in their society, therefore they are less surrounded by it and less familiar with it. This turned out to be false. In fact, Japan has the highest rates of autism in children (161 out of 10,000 children) and the U.S. is the fifth highest (147 out of 10,000 children) with Denmark, Sweden and the United Kingdom having higher rates than the U.S. as well.

So, since it must not be a lack of prevalent autism in their society, I began thinking it must be their culture that highly regards obedience, respect and success that make the society as a whole seem less accepting than other cultures. The stigma of autism is hard for anyone in any culture to maneuver around. I can imagine that in Japan where control is important, a child that is seemingly out of control would be hard for the public eye to give the benefit of the doubt to.

This is not only Japan but all people everywhere: when something is new it can be scary and frustrating; then as a response people generally avoid things that scare and/or frustrate them; then the lack of understanding or willingness to learn about this new, scary thing only further propels the misconceptions people have of autism and the behaviors and differences that those with ASD possess. Even though in Japan autism is common throughout the society, basically 2 people in 125 have autism, the mere stigma of being different, uncontrolled, disobedient, disrespectful or even unpromising for success, prevents people from feeling comfortable educating themselves on the topic. This lessens awareness and spreading awareness is a huge first step in understanding.

I’m unsure how this could change in Japanese society, but as I read the book it certainly gave me hope for not only traditional Japanese families who don’t want to believe their child is neurodivergent, but also for all families in general who struggle with this new and intimidating task of figuring out autism. I appreciated the struggle between the parents, Masato and Sachiko that took place in the beginning of the story. It showed the day to day miscommunication, frustration an exhaustion that can come from learning about your autistic child. It also showed that if all members of the family are willing to learn and try hard as a family than they can overcome the hurdles that can come along with ASD.

http://www.worldatlas.com/articles/countries-with-the-highest-rates-of-autism.html

https://iancommunity.org/ssc/autism-stigma

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VanOrd, Analysis Four — “Martian Time Slip”

Even though it is impressive the way author of “Martian Time Slip”, Phillip K. Dick, was able to incorporate multiple point of views into the novel, I didn’t enjoy it. I found that swapping to a different POV every few pages was a bit tiring. To me Si-fi novels are totally hit or miss. This one came off as if the story line was trying too hard to be artistic in its leading up to a grand point. While incorporating many different themes, ideas, opinions, point of views, I felt that the unique style of writing was certainly unique but never made me clear on its big statement.

Since I found the story to be odd and irritating I likely didn’t read it in an open-minded perspective or thoroughly for that matter. I often struggled with attention and found myself rereading pages which made it more difficult to find the will to continue reading. I wasn’t into it. But, what I can say I like is the “mentally dysfunctional” character Manfred Steiner as well as the gifted yet mistreated Bleekmen.

The biggest part of the novel that stood out to me is when the United Nations, who controls Mars, plans to go into the B-G Camp and destroy any and all “anomalous children”. This reminds me of basic genocide of a particular type of human being. In this case abnormal children who in the eyes of a small human population are polluting their race. Norbert Steiner, the father of 10 year-old Manfred Steiner, is appallingly okay with his son being destroyed based on the belief that Manfred is deranged in time. There is an interesting comparison with this belief to the ignorance that often plagues our modern society. When people are unable to fully understand something that is unfamiliar, like neruodivergent individuals, they become judgmental and are unable to make informed decisions. Norbert didn’t want Manfred to come home to live with the family nor did he really want Manfred to be destroyed/killed (even if it was in a “scientific, painless, instantaneous way”). Unsure of what to make of his son, Norbert ultimately commits suicide due to the unnerving pressure. This was a poor and irrational choice to make and one that left his wife alone with four daughters and a still living neurodivergent son. I relate this fear and inability to accept Manfred to the way our society sometimes behaves today. We often do not know how to handle what is considered different and as a result we don’t usually react well.

Overall I didn’t like this novel but I guess you could say I appreciate parts of it. Mainly Manfred. Throughout the novel as his parents reject him and Arnie attempts to use him, Manfred is a character I often feel bad for. Luckily, in the end  Manfred finds a home with the Bleekmen and it is revealed that he lived a happy life which leaves me with a semi-positive view of this story.

http://quovadisfuture.blogspot.com/2012/04/cracks-in-reality-of-martian-time-slip.html

VanOrd, Analysis Three — “Cuckoo’s Nest”

Although One Who Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest is a very well-known book, taught often in high schools and at universities, this was my first time reading it. Overall I enjoyed it. It was interesting reading a book from the perspective of a neurodivergent narrator, Chief Bromden. Even though Chief is diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic and widely believed by the other characters to be dead and dumb, I do believe him as a narrator. Regardless of the hallucinations, when Chief is mentally present he does a very good job at observing the staff and other patients around him. The way no one suspects anything from Chief is almost like an advantage. Besides the orderlies making him sweep a lot, until McMurphy shows up, Chief does a good job of staying hidden and quiet. He specifies that he prefers this over being noticed. This passive quietness helps chief to kind of be like a fly on the wall and stay as safe as possible in a place that constantly threatens to fry your brain under the guise of treatment. Rather than risk special attention from Ratched and the orderlies, Chief avoids going to the Disturbed Ward, the Shock Shop, and having a lobotomy performed.

Even though Chief talks about fog a lot, I don’t think this undermines him as a reliable narrator. Chief latched onto describing the asylum and his time there often as being engulfed in fog. This turns out to be a fantastic metaphor that helps the reader to understand the setting and the feel that is going throughout the asylum. It brings us closer to understanding the “haze”, as well as the other patients, are in. This addresses the intense regime Ratched has the patients in. She drugs them to keep them in check and governs them with fear for extra “treatment”.

I liked how this book could bring awareness to some of the mistreatment and cruelty that has filled asylums and mental hospitals. Even though this asylum is stated to be better than the “old hospital”, it is clearly still corrupt with the treatment of the patients by the staff. Most of the patients there think this is being of Nurse Ratched’s wickedness but Chief and McMurphy think it’s just the how the corrupt system works. Chief even calls it “the Combine”.

What I didn’t like about the book though is how sexually aware it made the reader of the characters. Of course everyone, including neurodivergent people, have sexual capacities but for patients mentally unsound it somehow felt inappropriate to refer to their sexuality. Almost in comparison to children – like how we wouldn’t find it acceptable to talk about a kid’s sexual potential. Maybe this is my own personal hurdle to overcome with neurodovergence, but this was an odd downside for me in the book. I can recognize this made the characters more “normal” and breaks through the neruodiveregent stereotypes that mentally ill people just aren’t sexual people at all, that they’re too innocent, unaware and incapable, but I still didn’t like it.

Overall, I found Cuckoo’s Nest interesting, captivating, and Chief to be very likable. Through looking up more information on Chief, I found the Sparknotes website particularly interesting. The analysis on Chief there was very similar to the thoughts I had but also mentioned more specifically that Chief experienced a lot of dehumanization and that is likely that made him “insane” while he was in the asylum.

VanOrd, Analysis: Baskervilles

After focusing on the different characters and their traits during our last class meeting I decided to look more into the author of this week’s reading, Arthur Conan Doyle. I was intrigued to find his inspiration for the character Sherlock Holmes as well as to piece together how his inspiration influenced the portrayal of Sherlock Holmes in our reading of “The Hound of the Baskervilles” (“Baskervilles”).

I found that when Doyle was a young man in college he had a professor, Dr. Joseph Bell, who apparently enjoyed guessing the profession of students using deductive reasoning. Bell’s methods, as well as his cold, unattached personality, became staples in Doyle’s depiction of Sherlock Holmes. Bell’s stressed teachings to his students on the “importance of observation, using all the senses to obtain an accurate diagnosis” I imagine added to the imagine Doyle cooked up in his mind of Sherlock Holmes.

In our reading of “Baskervilles,” Doyle continued to stress Holmes ways of order, logic, and science to assess situations in order to solve the mystery. An example of Holmes commitment to logical reasoning and science is when Mortimer is presenting his letter him and Watson. As Mortimer reads the gripping tale of the curse of the Baskervilles, Holmes appears to almost be bored and uninterested. When Mortimer is finished reading, Holmes states that he doesn’t believe in superstitions or the supernatural. Basically, Sherlock Holmes doesn’t buy the idea of the curse for one moment and continues on deducting the mystery with logical reasoning. Regardless of his true beliefs though, Holmes baits Stapleton by pretending to find no other explanation for the strange happenings other than the curse and therefore be absent while Watson works on the case. It is clear that Holmes only pretended to back off the case to lure Stapleton into a false sense of safety, knowing that he would slip up if he thought Holmes wasn’t around to watch him. Later on in the story we find out that Holmes has been stalking the case the entire time, keeping a watchful eye on the suspects and situation in general.

I think it takes someone with a great deal of commitment to the individual traits of their characters to be able to relentlessly portray them in a certain light. Doyle has undoubtedly portrayed Holmes in the light of science and logic in this story very well, keeping up with the characteristics he displayed of Holmes in the reading from last week, “A Study in Scarlet”.  I think Doyle was likely able to portray Holmes so well and consistently partially because he had a real person to base Holmes off of that served as a lasting inspiration to feed from.

 

Citations:

“The Author.” Discovering Arthur Conan Doyle. Stanford University, 2006. Web. 01 Oct. 2016.

http://sherlockholmes.stanford.edu/biography4.html

VanOrd, Analysis One

“Herman Melville was a truly great American writer. His Asperger’s syndrome helped him to be a great observer and to focus obsessively on his work. He had a highly fertile imagination; contrary to received wisdom, persons with Asperger’s syndrome are capable of this”.

Throughout Melville’s life, he displayed many common behaviors of people with Asperger’s Syndrome. Mainly he was obsessive over his writing and over keeping his routines. He also was hyperactive, helping him be able to write for hours on end. It was discussed in Fitzgerald’s book that Melville’s daily routine often consisted of him shutting himself into his office in order to write the entire day, usually not emerging until late afternoon for his first meal. Melville didn’t always work so intensely but was insistent on having things done the way he liked. He would become enraged when his wife or staff didn’t do things the way he imagined them to be done. This was likely because he had trouble empathizing with others and imagining other’s thought processes. I was surprised that his lack of emotional connection with others stretched far enough to make him appear detached when his own son committed suicide. Melville’s social awkwardness and lack of emotional awareness is apparent enough that he was described as being a misogynistic bully towards his family and staff.

I think it’s interesting to see an unkind personality being represented in someone on the Autism Spectrum. Like we’ve talked about in class, when someone with ASD is being portrayed they are usually put in a light of innocence or thought of as being angelic. I think it’s refreshing that it is known that Melville wasn’t an innocent type of person and that people don’t really need to feel pity for. I further find it interesting that Melville writes about his autistic character, Bartleby, as if he is a charity case for the lawyer. Melville has Asperger’s himself yet portrays Bartleby with different behaviors from his own. This makes me think he doesn’t see himself in Bartleby or vice versa. As if he is denying a connection between himself and other people on the spectrum. This implores me to disagree with one of Brown’s statement: “[Bartleby] reveals how it’s author understood his own neurological difference and its impact on his work like and family life”. I completely disagree with this statement. From the descriptions of Melville, it doesn’t sound to me like he understood how his behaviors affected his relationships with people at all. I just don’t see how Melville addressed his own struggles through the character of Bartleby specifically…

However, I do see small similarities shared between Melville and each of the characters. The lawyer and Melville both have keen observational skills; Bartleby and Melville both refuse to do what is normal in additional to both being unapologetically particular people; Turkey and Melville both indulge in heavy, frequent drinking; and Nippers and Melville have unrepentant ambition. I don’t know if these traits were intentional by Melville but I think it’s cool to see how the different personalities mix. Almost like a glimpse of how Melville feels internally with these characteristics being juggled.

 

Citations:

Brown, Julie. (2010). “Herman Melville.” Writers on the Spectrum: How Autism and Asperger Syndrome Have Influenced Literary Writing. Philadelphia: Jessica Kingsley Publishers. pp.81-94.

http://site.ebrary.com.ezproxy.gvsu.edu/lib/gvsu/reader.action?docID=10415808

Desmarais, Jane (2001). “Preferring not to: The Paradox of Passive Resistance in Herman Melville’s ‘Bartleby’”. Journal of the Short Story in English. London: Presses universitaires d’Angers.

http://jsse.revues.org/575#quotation

Fitzgerald, Michael. (2005). “Herman Melville (1819-91) (Chapter 3).” The Genesis of Artistic Creativity: Asperger’s Syndrome and the Arts. Philadelphia, PA: Jessica Kingsley Publishers. pp.50-55.

https://gvsu.ares.atlas-sys.com/ares/ares.dll?Action=10&Type=10&Value=133075

Melville, Herman. (1963). “Bartleby.” Works of Herman Melville. New York, NY: Russel & Russel Inc.. pp.19-65.

https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=mdp.39076006242866;view=2up;seq=60;size=200