Adam Johnson, The Jesuit Education, and The Complexity of Marriage
This week, I attended a reading by Adam Johnson, as part of Loyola’s Modern Masters Reading Series. This analysis will relate that presentation to “The Yellow Wallpaper”, by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, “The Birthmark”, by Nathaniel Hawthorne, and “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud”, by William Wordsworth. Adam Johnson chose to read a new and untitled story to the audience, and this story happens to relate well to the readings mentioned above. Each one of these stories touched me in a different way, and made me think back to different experiences in my life that relate to the Jesuit education. The complexity of marriage, the pursuit of happiness, and service are general themes of the stories and poems mentioned above.
In “The Yellow Wallpaper”, by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, one of the major themes revolves around the complexity of marriage. The husband is controlling and demeaning. He treats the wife as if she were an ignorant child, useless in deciding or doing anything on her own. She is treated as if she were a second-class citizen. Her mental state is lacking confidence and a purpose. This relates to the story that Adam Johnson presented. His story revolved around a woman who was paralyzed from the neck down. She was helpless on her own and relied on her husband to do almost everything for her. Her husband did not treat her as an insubordinate, as the husband in “The Yellow Wallpaper” did, but it still deals with the same theme of a complex marriage. Their marriage in Adam’s story was strained because of her illness. In the same way, their marriage is also strained because of her illness in Charlotte’s story. “The Yellow Wallpaper” has little to do with my own personal Jesuit experience. I have never been married, or dealt with a family members mental illness. But this story does teach me something. It teaches me that no matter what the health situation of my future wife will be, I will not treat her any differently. I would actually do everything in my power to help her get better and to protect her. Solidarity here is key to the overall Jesuit education.
In “The Birthmark”, by Nathaniel Hawthorne, there are two major prevailing themes. Similar to the last story, the complexity of marriage is a major theme, but also the theme of science vs. nature comes about. In relation to Adam’s story, a very similar pattern exists. In both stories, they want their wives to get better. In “The Birthmark”, the husband wants his wife to be beautiful and pure. In Adam’s story, he wants his wife to be healthy again and be able to walk around like a normal person. Hawthorne’s story goes to one extreme where the wife actually goes ahead with wanting the birthmark to come off, and yet she passes away from his potions. Adam’s story ends with the wife still not better, but the husband pledging to always be there for her no matter what. The differences in marriage here are evident, but the husbands have one common goal: to make their wives better. In relation to science vs. nature, Hawthorne’s story takes science too far, and in the end it proves that science is no match for nature. Nature is beautiful, and science cannot necessarily make nature’s beauty more beautiful. In Adam’s story, the husband uses science to create drones. These drones are to help his wife, and himself, talk things out and experience things that are unreal. At one point during the story, a drone was created for the wife and sent off to her old rose garden. The wife had not been able to tend to her roses in sometime because of her illness, but the drone allowed her to smell her roses for the first time in years, and allow her to experience the beauty of that nature. Again, the complexity of marriage does not relate to my Jesuit education because I am not married, but the solidarity and being there for your loved one is important. The wife in Adam’s story reminds me of a time when my aunt had cancer. It was horrible seeing my aunt the way that she was, but my uncle was there by her side until she got better. In relation to Adam’s story, the husband pledged to always be by her side, no matter what happened with her illness. The solidarity and loyalty there reminded me of the Jesuit education.
Finally, in “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud”, by Williams Wordsworth, a lot can be said in relation to the Jesuit ideals. First, in relation to Adam’s story, nature is part of what makes the narrator happy. In Adam’s story, the wife is finally happy when the drone allows her to be able to see and smell her roses again. These roses remind me of the daffodils in Wordsworth’s poem. The narrator in the poem is in heaven when he is around those daffodils and is truly happy. The memory of those daffodils also makes him happy; the same as the rose always make the wife happy in Adam’s story. The Jesuit education revolves around community, and getting out into the community and exploring places that are unfamiliar to you. These two stories tie in perfectly to a service trip that I went on last year. Last year, we went to a tulip garden in Baltimore and helped to pick the weeds and make the garden look beautiful. When we were finished, the garden was stunning and I will never forget the joy and happiness one feels around flowers. Flowers brighten people’s days, and this ties in perfectly to the two stories because the flowers in the stories result in happiness from both the characters.
Adam Johnson’s reading of his new, and untitled story, was an event definitely worth attending. The story was phenomenal and well versed. The themes from the story could not have tied better into this weeks reading. Besides the Adam’s reading, I got to learn more about his personal history and other works. He is a brilliant artist and writer and it definitely showed in his new story. His values relate to Jesuit education and the theme of solidarity.