Understanding Literature- Blog
October 17, 2012
Connection to the Jesuit Tradition
This week, I attended the event called “Rethinking Service” by Dr. Wells, who was originally a priest in London. Dr. Wells is not only a much respected priest, but also a writer and speaker. He has also published seven academic titles, many articles in academic journals and six other popular works.
During his speech, Dr. Well’s pointed out that everything in our culture urges us to find an answer or solution to a certain question. The questions that Dr. Well’s proposed to us listeners today were, “Are you ready for a problem that doesn’t have an answer?” and “What is our essential problem of human existence?” His hypothesis, he told us, is that mortality is our essential problem. Life is limited, and therefore that is our problem.
Dr. Well’s gave an example of a problem where you have to interact with the most difficult member in your family; in this case it’s your dad. It is around Christmas time and you have to buy your family presents. You can’t seem to find a present for your father, so you buy him something ridiculously expensive to try to compensate for the lack of a relationship. When he opens the present, you see the fake and forced smile, even though he exclaims that he loves it. People are constantly trying to do better for the world or do better for others, usually to make themselves feel better. Most of the time, that is not the answer to the question, because how far can that really get you?
In the poem “Formula” by Langston Hughes, Hughes expresses his love for poetry and what poetry should offer to someone. “Treats of lofy things” is talking about how you can reach new heights when you compose poetry. However, Hughes is also stating that poetry should not follow a “formula”, but fly like “birds with wings”.
In “Old Walt” by Langston Hughes, Hughes describes one of his greater influences, Walt Whitman. Hughes uses repetition of “finding and seeking” throughout the short poem. The repetition explains how Whitman, and ultimately Hughes, writes his poetry, and how it doesn’t just come to him, but he is always finding and seeking.
Lastly, in “Frankenstein” by Mary Shelley, Victor, the main character, wants to create a monster after his mother passes away. He crafts this eight foot giant in order to force that something can come back to life. Although, Victor gets caught up in his work and forgets how important he is to the people who care about him.
“Frankenstein”, “Old Walt”, “Formula” and “Rethinking Service” do not necessarily all relate to each other, however they can all relate to the Jesuit tradition in that all characters are trying their hardest in order to please either themselves or others. The theme of “Frankenstein” is mostly revenge, but also could be family and his love for his family. The theme of “Old Walt” could be admiration of Walt Whitman from Hughes perspective, or not giving up, and to keep persevering. The theme of “Formula” could be imperfection and how poetry does not have a certain formula, exactly what the title suggests. Along with the event, all of these poems and readings can be closely tied to the Jesuit tradition.