The Power of Selflessness (2/2/17)

In class on Thursday, February 2nd, we started off class with a presentation on Alice in Wonderland. The presenters talked about how the film was criticized because of Alice’s lack of femininity and grace. In contrast to other Disney movies, where girl protagonists exude grace, poise, and class, Alice seems lost and confused in the film. However, the film still gained massive popularity because of its multiple characters and unique illustrations, both of which are very appealing to children.

We then discussed The Selfish Giant, a short story by Oscar Wilde. The main morals of the story we discussed were avoiding selfishness and that “sharing is caring”. At the beginning of the story, the Giant was selfish and was cursed by having winter never leave his playground. When he finally decided to share, the spring comes back. Soudabeh agreed with these thoughts and said that when you share with people, you become more concerned with the other person. We also talked about the transformation of the Giant as a character. The class seemed to agree that the moment when the Giant transformed as a person was when the little boy was trying to climb up on the tree. In this moment, the Giant’s heart melted, he made a comment about how selfish he had been, and decided to knock down the wall and let the children play in his playground. We also discussed the end of the story. When the boy tries to get back on to the tree, the Giant lifted him onto the tree. Then at the end, the boy was able to “lift” the giant up to heaven. Soudabeh said she saw this as a kinda of “redemption” at the end of the story. There is an emphasis of the relationship between the boy and the Giant, because they are able to help each other.

We then discussed The Happy Prince. Similarly to The Selfish Giant, the morals of the story we discussed were the power of selflessness and how helping others can make you truly happy. We began by talking about the deaths in the story. The deaths work to show that after you die, any material items you have can be forgotten and perish, but the good deeds and selflessness you show will forever be precious. When the councilmen are asking the angel for the most precious thing, instead of bringing them any jewels or gold, she brings them the leaden heart and the dead swallow. This shows that sacrifice is greater than fame. The things he gives away are what makes him beautiful and special to other people. However, both the swallow and the prince are eternally cherished for their good deeds. Both the bird and the prince keep on doing good deeds until they don’t have any more to give. We also discussed the relationship between the prince and the swallow. The two grow more and more fond of each other with all of the good deeds they do together.

We briefly discussed how the author of these stories, Oscar Wilde, was outcasted in his time because he was a homosexual. This caused other people to view his stories as twisted and sick rather than stories with deep moral sentiments. His stories were viewed negatively in that time because of the negative view people had of homosexuality. His stories are not viewed in a negative way now.

We then broke into groups and discussed what we thought what the challenge and the destiny of the girls in The Girl Who Trod on the Loaf, The Match Girl, and The Girl with the Red Shoes from last class were. We started our discussion with The Girl Who Trod on the Loaf. The main character is incredibly vain and thinks she is better than anyone else. Her challenge was to overcome her vanity. She fails her challenge by using the two loafs to cover the mud to prevent her shoes from getting muddy instead of taking them to her family like she was supposed to. Her destiny was that sacrifice has salvation. I found the girl in the story incredibly selfish, but her experience in hell was truly gruesome.

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