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OK, guys, go easy on this stuff, it’s all in Beta stage! Read the commentary afterwards for this to actually make sense and see what I was on about!

Freedom from Paradise

 

‘I can’t be found writing this, but I feel as though I must. It is important that in years to come, when this oppressive regime has come to an end, when people can love as they please, when people can love who they please, that you can read my struggle. That you can read my pioneering for the quest of equality within sexuality. And if this letter is found and the laws stand as they are, well, I hope that my words might convince some of you. Reach into the hearts of those of you who are curious of what the love of the opposite sex could be like and allow you to see in these words that I write, that it is natural. You are not an abnormality.’

 

Adam got to his feet and crossed the room to check outside of his front door for anyone that could be looking in through his window. The streets of London seemed as they had done since he had checked ten minutes earlier. The sun had set ten minutes lower into the Thames casting its deep viridian glow through the skyline that sat upon the water, making the cobbles along Whitechapel high street appear like individual emeralds littering the lane. Emeralds covered in the excrement of humans and animals. A well dressed man appeared to be vomiting into his hands across the street as his equally intoxicated partner seemed to be kneeling to an appropriate level for an attempt at receiving fellatio, whilst another watched them in shadow from a coach of opulent splendour.

 

As Adam took in the street’s happenings and the stench that flooded his house, he felt his moral superiority soar inside him. It pleased him to see these sights, to reaffirm him of his purpose to enlighten and inspire. He heard a noise a few feet away from that made him start, but realised it was just the couple who lived next door to him; two middle-aged women returning from work, the setting sun’s ray making them appear as two indistinct reptiles.

 

He closed his front door with a snap and walked back to his desk in the corner of his room reaching for the decanter of whiskey he kept in the drawer; it was empty. With a pang of annoyance at himself he remembered he had not picked up any alcohol tokens from the Hall of Benevolence, but quickly rid himself of embarrassment as he displaced it upon the government. This spurred him to sit and continue writing.

 

“This society I live in, the depths of its malevolence cannot be fathomed. Just at this moment I desired a drink whilst I wrote, but alas, we are permitted but a measured amount of alcohol a week. If we are partial to alcohol, tobacco, opium, chocolate or anything similar, we must first collect tokens from the Hall of Benevolence. The society I live in, that what I put into my own body must be mediated and surveyed, and that is not all. Reader, I bury this noble account of one man’s struggle against tyranny to perhaps help hundreds in the future, and will tell you of the society of today.

 

After the War of Unity, heterosexuality came into being. Now not for a minute am I suggesting that it did not exist before, it did, it happened, it just didn’t have a name. It was not particularly widely discussed, but it happened, I know it happened as there were many men and women who made a decent wage selling themselves to its cause. The Greeks were known to do it, the Romans too, and until the outbreak of war that brought all nations together, I did it too. It existed, it just was not placed upon a podium, labelled, dissected, analysed and then forbidden.

 

Before, to love someone of the opposite sex, whether it be emotionally, physically or an amalgamation of the two was certainly not exactly a condoned act. It was always seen as strange, unholy (when there was a church) and for the lower classes (when there was a class system) but not illegal. That was until the war.

 

In 1879, there was the outbreak of what is now called ‘The War of Unity’. It is named as such because after the revolutionaries overthrew the monarchy, they did away with nearly every facet of what was Britain and united all citizens. Religion, Monarchy and a class system were the first things to go; anything that they felt could spark a threat to their rule or could cause innate human emotion to boil over was eradicated. The Negros were liberated and have become our equals as a result of the liquidation of the hierarchy. Substances and sensations previously banned were made accessible and Hedonism was encouraged, as long as, that was, it was in the form of which they approved. Adultery was eradicated due to marriage also being a thing of the past. Individuals were precisely that, and were able to be with how many partners they wished, on the condition of them being ‘normal’. Education too was altered, no longer was academia pursued or appreciated. To be seen reading Shakespeare, Swift or Virgil on the streets of London in 1880 was to be frowned upon. Now, eight years later, it is to be arrested and interrogated. They do not trust the educated, the deep thinkers, the free thinkers; we are the threat.

 

It has been common knowledge since the days of old that the differences between the sexes ran beyond looks, and that unities lead to more anger, jealously and distraught than conventional same sex relationships. People partook in it for procreation, it was merely for those purposes.

 

It was through medicine that they rationalised it. Through investigation and research: the heterosexual was born. After a prominent figure within society, who was far more open with his preferences than the rest of us, caused particular offence to the new regime, they introduced a further paragraph into their ‘Criminal Amendments Act’. From then on, any man or woman caught engaging in ‘gross indecency’ was liable to prosecution and medical attention. After calling it an ‘inversion’ of sexual preferences, the ‘affected’ would be admitted for treatment and, the majority of the time, never seen again.”

 

As Adam finished this sentence there was a knock at his door. He froze, his fountain pen poised between his fingers and thumb as he turned to stare at his door. The heavy rapping sounded again. Fear pumped in waves through Adam, as if it were in his very heart being expelled around his body. Had he forgotten the schedule of the advisors? He couldn’t have, he had been so sure. The rapping did not sound again, and Adam slowly and quietly got to his feet, and crept towards his window. He saw the familiar backs of two men, Charles and Nathaniel, walking down the high street, their hands held. This caused a prickle of jealous anger through Adam. They were acquaintances of his, Nathaniel was perhaps more, and he worked with them at the Halls of Justice, although he had not known that they were now lovers. They disappeared into the now nearing dark of the evening and Adam felt relief surge through him like the antidote to the panic that had so recently swept over him. He knew no one would call for him now, the streets of London were not for citizens at night. Once the sun sets like an apple hiding behind its leaf, the street’s allegiance changes from the people to the animals, and the Ripper, one and the same some would argue.

“Freedom: that was what we have been informed we have been given. Emancipation from the tyranny and oppression of the monarchy and the church. We are now, apparently, free to do as we please and live out our dreams, just as long as we do everything they tell us. This includes weekly inspections of our homes by lifestyle advisors, the heavy handed enforcers of the new regime, who ensure our freedom from any comprising contraband or evidence of conflicting ideals. Weekly visits to the Halls of Gratification are also expected, to pay the percentage of our earnings to the upkeep of our nation. A monthly visit to the Halls of Preservation to donate your sperm into containers if you are male or to chance conception from said containers if you are not. The Halls of Education are also a monthly treat, here you are taught of the goodness of the society, new and innovative ways to achieve happiness, newer and simpler literature (if you could call it such) and the evil and crime against Britain that is the heterosexual. The Halls of Benevolence are a chance to receive your allowance of tokens for your drugs of recreation and your allowance depends on your donation to the Halls of Gratification and Preservation. Finally there are the Halls of Records; here one is expected to visit monthly to sit and record into your file, the activities of your week. This is said to encourage reflection, organisation and productivity. What really is encouraged is to include your sexual exploits and partner’s names, literature read or music listened to, hours worked and suggestions for the regime. I feel this last encouragement to be an aesthetic only.

 

There were some who resisted once, places one could go. Those that did so went to underground clubs, met with those of their choosing, listened to Beethoven, read Shakespeare, and were themselves. But the officers of the regime found them, and suppressed them.

 

This is the society I live in: one of surveillance and mind control, all projected as beneficial and consumed willingly by the masses. But the masses is not a term for the entire population, there are some of us, a brave few, who resist. Because it is not natural what has been force fed to us and, before the new regime, heterosexuals were not uncommon and were so by birthright. I am one these.

 

In 1872, when I was 12 years old, before the hypocrisy and the control, my family and I went on holiday to Brighton. The Bank Holiday Act had been introduced the previous year and I found myself excited to be on a train for the first time to see the beaches, sea and attractions that it was so rapidly taking me to. Whilst staying at the hotel, my fathers happened to meet by coincidence acquaintances of theirs from work, two ladies by the name of Pyne whom also had brought their daughter, Annabel. I remember a tirade of feelings washing over me instantaneously the moment she smiled at me in greeting: confusion, attraction, apprehension, arousal and additional confusion.

 

My parents had told me there were people in the world that were attracted to members of the opposite sex but it had been a mere mention, they had not gone into detail and I had assumed it was something rare and that would never affect me. But I was wrong, not only had I found the first person in my life that I felt both emotionally and physically attracted to, but I found that she reciprocated in this admiration.

 

The week that I spent there was one I will never forget, as it verified to myself who I was. The experimentation of our feelings for each other, and the varying feelings we could impart upon each other, resonates with me to this day, and since then I have been committed to staying true to myself.

 

I suppose,”

Adam paused and looked up from his desk. He wasn’t sure how he could say it without compromising his image. He wanted more than anything for you to believe him and not think him weak willed, confused or indeed that the society he lived in might indeed be the right one after all.

Moments past as Adam thought upon what he could write; he got to his feet and washed the plates that he had used earlier and lit a fire in the stove before returning to his desk and staring blankly at his paper. From the high street, the sound of wolves howling could be heard against the noise of the city. This seemed to rouse Adam from his inactivity and procrastination, and he dipped his fountain pen back into the ink and continued.

 

“I suppose I have had doubts. I have had relationships with men, all of them failed however, and I would like that point stressed. There were boys at school, men at work, most of whom I was approached by and, I suppose, I got confused. It is easy to forget yourself in the constant overload of ideology that is washed over one. Reader, you must believe me, I am true to myself.

 

My only hope is that one day someone may dig this up. My labour, my oppression and my struggle may be read by you; perhaps one day people may use this to know just how severe it was to live in this society. Perhaps one day you’ll know what it was like to be me.”

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Companion

The writing of my creative piece, ‘Freedom from Paradise’ had certain key intentions behind it. Firstly, I aimed to create a short story that was postmodern in its style, and attempted to include numerous elements commonly associated within postmodern literature. I adopted many of these from Angela Carter’s The Passion of New Eve and Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov, the intertextuality of which aided me in the formulating of the postmodern style. Secondly, I wished to explore the theories of essentialism verses social constructivism within gender and sexuality. I focussed principally on the sexuality element of this, and drew influence from the homosexual and lesbian short stories studied on the module such as: ‘Martha’s Lady’ by Sarah Orne Jewett, ‘Miss Ogilvy Finds Herself’ by Radcyffe Hall and ‘Arthur Snatchfold’ by E. M. Forster. Using these texts and much of the theory that surrounds them, I lastly intended to explore the attitudes towards homosexuality within the late Victorian era. In this companion I intend to explore my intentions within regards to the context of the module and my primary texts, whilst drawing on secondary research that had helped shape my understanding of these elements. Due to the restricted length of this companion however, I will only comment briefly upon the ones I feel most integral.

 

Perhaps one of the most difficult challenges I was faced with when writing my piece was to attempt to create a short story that was postmodern in its style. This is largely due to the facets of postmodern literature being ones that are largely debated between critics, unfixed and difficult to distinguish from modernism. It is therefore a highly difficult style to accurately distinguish and imitate. Bennett and Royle state that ‘there is perhaps something maddening the ‘postmodern’. Indeed, the postmodern appears to welcome and embrace a thinking of itself in terms of multiplicity.’ (Bennett & Royle 279) It is chiefly due this that I feel my piece embodies elements of both modernism and postmodernism, for example, the piece is largely melancholic towards the dystopian society it is set in, alike to much modernistic literature, as opposed to the postmodern. However, I learnt from the module and my secondary research that many of modernism’s traits are often found within postmodernism which allowed me more freedom.

 

Bennett and Royle suggest that ‘The word ‘postmodern’ itself seems odd, paradoxically evoking what is after (‘post’) the contemporary (‘modern’).’ (Bennett & Royle 279) which, when applied to considering texts that can conceived as postmodern and set in a dystopian society, Carter’s The Passion of New Eve for example, I presented with the possibility that if I was to combine these two elements, setting my piece in the future would be vital. This presented a problem to me due to so much of my piece wanting to reflect much of the Victorian attitudes towards homosexuality. However, after considering other elements of postmodernism, I realised that its reoccurring alliance with literary devices such as magic realism, left me free to do as I had originally planned. Time is often something that is played with in postmodern literature and, as Bennett and Royle go on to say:

…strictly speaking, the postmodern should not be thought of as a term of periodization: the postmodern challenges our thinking about time, challenges us to see the present in the past, the future in the present, the present in a kind of no-time. (Bennett & Royle 279)

 

Postmodernist literature, some critics have agreed upon, share some reoccurring traits which I have attempted to introduce into my creative piece. One that I have previously mentioned is magic realism. Wechsler suggests that ‘Magic realism does not invent a new order of things; it simply reorders reality to make it seem alien.’ (Wechsler 293)  The plot itself to a certain degree is an application of this technique, and additionally, the application of the sun’s colour and the indication of animals that roam the streets at night all combine to create this effect. I found this difficult to introduce without it becoming more alike to surrealism, however, they are all described in a very matter of fact manner, with anchoring to realistic elements. For example:

 

…the sun had set ten minutes lower into the Thames casting its deep viridian glow through the skyline that sat upon the water, making the cobbles along Whitechapel high street appear like individual emeralds littering the lane. (Beatson 1)

 

Carter’s text influenced me greatly in the writing of the city due to her description of the New York in The Passion of New Eve. ‘The skies were of strange, bright, artificial colours . . . from those unnatural skies fell rains of gelatinous matter, reeking of decay’ (Carter 12) The indication of the colour of the sun fits perfectly in with a surrealistic style but by having no further exploration into it and positioning alongside real life places and scenarios kept it within the boundaries of magical realism. By including these elements of magical realism, I was able to create ‘the loss of the real’ (Barry 86) that postmodernism creates.

 

Further techniques that I have attempted to adopt that are archetypal to the postmodern style are those of pastiche and the challenging of high and low culture, the breaking down of boundaries such as the ethnocentric, metafiction and intertextuality. Examples of these are the names that I have chosen, such as Annabel Pyne, the first name being synonymous with Humbert’s sweetheart in Lolita and the surname being a reference to Harriet Pyne, the lady that evokes Martha’s essentialist love in ‘Martha’s Lady’.

 

‘Approaches to metafiction have appeared whenever storytellers within a fiction result in an inner frame,’ (Wood 1) Within my creative piece is my attempt to consistently draw the reader’s attention to the fact that it is a piece of fiction, similarly to Lolita. I have also imitated, to a certain extent, Nabokov’s application of the unstable narrator. Despite Adam’s self-proclaimed superiority and noble intentions to his diary and claims of his innate sexuality, he still becomes doubtful and unsure of himself, and the use of the intrusive third person narrator shows his hidden feelings to the reader.

 

 

I attempted to place my story within the time period of my choosing effectively, therefore researching the historical context around my piece was essential. I attempted to recreate the homophobic society of Victorian England and therefore I used certain details collected from my study on the module and from secondary research.

 

‘After the War of Unity, heterosexuality came into being. Now not for a minute am I suggesting that it did not exist before, it did, it happened, it just didn’t have a name.’ (Beatson 1) I have attempted add liberal amounts of references such as this one to Foucault’s theory that homosexuality was created through discourse. McNay states in his critical introduction on Foucault that:

 

far from a discursive paucity and even silence on that topic, a ‘veritable discursive explosion’ is in fact revealed.  The Victorian era represents the culminating moment of an obsessive interest, first emerging in the early eighteenth century, with sex as a political and social problem. (McNay 75)

 

I attempt to demonstrate this within my short story combined with Foucault’s theory of taking power through social control, which is precisely the way the government works within my piece. Furthermore, by mentioning that heterosexuality became a medical issue and an ‘‘inversion’ of sexual preferences,’ (Beatson 2) I include reference to the works of Kraft-Ebbing and Havelock Ellis.

 

The Criminal Amendments Act of 1885, a short time period before my story’s setting, made any acts of homosexuality, privately or publically punishable by law. Women were not included in this clause due to them being far more non-sexualised. In the society within my story all sexes are the same, therefore all sexes are punishable. Additionally, this is another element of postmodernism; the breaking down of the phallocentric patriarchy.

 

I decided to introduce the story to be set against the killings in Whitechapel in 1888 by the serial killer Jack the Ripper, this was mainly to anchor the story more firmly to historical events, whilst displaying that despite the regime attempts to regulate citizen’s emotions and behaviour, some inhibitions cannot be controlled, strengthening the argument for essentialism.

 

The aim of the new regime and governing body within my short story is to control people’s emotions by completely prohibiting heterosexuality, claiming that it is an illness and that due to conflicting hormones, less strife will be found within the country. The protagonist is arguing that he is born heterosexual, and cannot help the way he feels, whilst at times, he is witnessed to have had or still become confused with his feelings for other men. The story is an exploration into the argument between essentialism and social constructivism. There is evidence to support both within my creative piece deliberately challenging and blurring the two and, therefore making the piece slightly more obscure and chaotic. The evidence that there are others similar to Adam, and those that resist the social constraints are evidence of essentialism, yet Adam’s occasionally drift towards homosexual desire and those around him present the argument that it is your surroundings that can shape your sexuality. I had strong influences from near to all of my primary texts in this stage of my creative piece. In particular, The Passion of New Eve, which demonstrates more of an argument for social constructivism and the short stories of Jewett and Hall, which supports an essentialist point of view. The method of Adam’s continual and uncertain switch between sexualities is an attempt to highlight both sides of the argument, as well as providing a further style of postmodernist literature. As Barry states:

 

we show that elemental categories as heterosexual and homosexual do not designate fixed essences at all…we construct instead an anti-essentialist, postmodernist concept of identity…a kind of amalgam of everything which is provisional, contingent and improvisatory. (Barry 14)

 

 

 

Bibliography

  • Barry, Peter. Beginning Theory: An Introduction to Literature and Cultural Theory. Manchester: Manchester University Press (2009) 132-149
  • Bennett, Andrew & Nicholas Royle. An Introduction to Literature and Criticism and Theory. Harlow: Pearson Education (2009) 279-288
  • Carter, Angela. The Passion of New Eve. London: Virago Press (1982)
  • Forster, E. M. ‘Arthur Snatchfold’ Gender, Sexuality and Writing Module Reader. (Bristol: Department of English, Writing and Drama, UWE, 2011) 22-37
  • Foucault, Michael. The Will To Knowledge. The History of Sexuality: Volume One. London: Penguin (1998)
  • Hall, Radcliffe. ‘Miss Ogilvy Finds Herself’. Gender, Sexuality and Writing Module Reader. (Bristol: Department of English, Writing and Drama, UWE, 2011) 11-20
  • Jewett, Sarah Orne. ‘Martha’s Lady’. Gender, Sexuality and Writing Module Reader. (Bristol: Department of English, Writing and Drama, UWE, 2011) 1-8.
  • Koertge, Noretta. ‘’New Age’ Philosophies of Science: Constructivism, Feminism and Postmodernism.’ The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 51 Oxford: Oxford University Press (2000) 667-683. Web. 30th April 2012
  • McNay, Lois. ‘Power and Repression.’ Gender, Sexuality and Writing Module Reader. (Bristol: Department of English, Writing and Drama, UWE, 2011) 75-78.
  • Nabokov, Vladimir. Lolita. London: Penguin (2000)
  • Orwell, George. Nighteen-Eighty Four. London: Penguin (2004)
  • Wechsler, Jeffrey. “Magic Realism: Defining the Indefinite.” Art Journal 45.4, The Visionary Impulse: An American Tendency. College Art Association (1985) 293-298. Web. 6th May 2012.
  • Wood, Barry. “Malcolm Lowry’s Metafiction: The Biography of a Genre.” Contemporary Literature. University of Wisconsin Press. 19.1 (1978) 1-25. Web. 6th May 2012

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