If you step back and look at our society today as a whole, it is not hard to see what power can do to people. Famous people avoid punishment because of their social status, big corporations are paying people to keep quiet about important issues and it all just goes to show that our entire society is full of corrupt people with too much power. It is simple really, people who have a lot of power believe they can pretty much do and get anything that they desire. A recent example of this is the college admissions scandal that is circulating right now. Famous and powerful people, Like Lori Laughlin and her husband, paid money to get their children into the school that they wanted all because of the funds they have access to, and the power associated with their names. But this is not the point of this essay, just a jumping off point as we take a deeper look into the way power controls and corrupts people throughout various short stories and how it is a reoccurring theme throughout both society and these short stories.
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Starting with Tim O’Briens “The Things They Carried”, we follow a platoon amid war. As you began to get a feel for the development of the characters the person speaking describes to you the things that they carry with them through these times. Thus, helping to give the reader a sense of who these characters were and an idea of what they might have been going through to need some of the things that they did. Like how “Ted Lavender carried 6 or 7 ounces of premium dope, which for him was a necessity.” (O’Brien 565) Or how “Ray Kiley carried comic books.” (O’Brien 565). All of this is a form of character development used by the author to convey to readers the state of mind that the characters are in.
Dealing with the power side of things, we are introduced to the leader of the Platoon, also known as Lieutenant Jimmy Cross, who is essentially the person who holds the power. Now to say that he was corrupted by the power probably doesn’t make much sense, but after losing one of the members of his platoon while fantasizing over a young woman he decides he needs to step up as a leader and take responsibility because to him, “Ted Lavender was dead because he loved her so much and could not stop thinking about her.” (O’Brien 567). In a way you could say that he was corrupted so to speak in that he allowed his own dreams and fantasies to keep him from leading the way that he should have to keep his team safe and alive. It isn’t until after this incident that Cross finally steps completely up to the plate and assumes his position as leader with a clear mind thus demonstrating how his own delusions had initially corrupted him.
Now we move on to the cnext story, “Oedipus the King” which leaves so many themes to interpret throughout it. Beginning with the father of Oedipus, Laius, who is told a prophecy that he will be killed by his son who will then replace him and bed his wife. With the ever-helpful push from Creon, Laius decides that he can’t have this happen and sends his son off to be left for dead. This is the first example from this story of how power can corrupt people. Laius the previous King of Thebes’ position in the world was threatened to be taken away by this boy and without hesitation he sent his own son off to die all because of an oracle that he heard. He will obviously would have gone to great lengths to keep his position as ruler and leader of Thebes which therefore showcases how he was corrupted by the power he had gained in his time.
Then if we turn around and look at the character known as Creon. It can be argued that he is the most corrupted by power throughout the entire story. Creon appears as a trusted friend to Oedipus along with a trusted friend to the late King Laius. Although he seems like the friendly, trusting guy that just wants to help Oedipus as King it is possible that he is the puppeteer pulling all the strings. It is with his help that Oedipus was sent away causing the ultimate downfall of King Laius as he is killed by Oedipus without him having any knowledge of who he killed. Leaving Creon to take over until he eventually gives the throne over to Oedipus where he then serves as his friend and trusted advisor and confidant. Later it is partly through Creon that Oedipus learns of his true father and his murder causing the downward spiral resulting in Oedipus leaving Thebes all together.
On a different note, in analyzing the song “Handlebars” alongside these short stories we are again presented with a theme of power and corruption in society. The song explains the way that power is controlling our society instead of morale. Throughout the song he goes on about the many things that he can do and all the power that he can have over people like when he says, “I can hand out a million vaccinations, or let ‘em all die in exasperation” which could be referring to how people find all these solutions to diseases and all these cures but instead of giving them out they choose to profit and gain more power over the sick people of the world. They are dangling the power that a cure gives them in front of people who are desperate to be cured. This further outlines the corruption that comes along with power in society.
Finally, going back to the short story,” Harrison Bergeron” from earlier in the semester we can again see a theme of power and corruption sprinkled throughout it. Harrison Bergeron lived in a society where you were forced to be handicapped so that everyone was seen as equal, so for every quality that you had that was superior to that of other you were forced to compensate for that in some way whether that be through wearing an ugly mask for good looks, or by carrying weight for being stronger. He is imprisoned, but after breaking out he declares himself Emperor in front of everyone on TV because he is no longer handicapped and deems himself as superior to everyone else. This can be seen as a corruption of power as he uses his strengths to try and overthrow the government whether that be for a good cause or not. This newfound power abruptly results in his death and his actions are forgotten along with him.
It is through our careful analysis that we can begin to learn about analyzing literature and applying our critical thinking, to make the connections between so many short stories. These authors use their platform and form of expression to showcase the many issues that our problematic society faces in ways that are unique to them. As a student it is vital for me to realize the power that can lie in perspective. Every single person who has read or who is going to read the stories that I read, are reading the stories from a different point of view from me. If I truly want to gain the knowledge from literature and to educate myself better as a student and as a member of society, I need to see that hearing and empathizing with other people’s own perspectives and theories is the key to unlocking the power that lies within literary analysis.
In conclusion, the authors of all of the short stories mentioned throughout this essay, such as, “The Things They Carried” and “Oedipus the King” , along with the song “Handlebars” and the short story “ Harrison Bergeron”, we carefully construct these pieces of literature to portray their character’s in different lights while simultaneously connecting them on the theme of power and corruption. It is with the use of careful analysis and a lot of critical thinking, that one can begin to piece together the trail of bread crumbs that is left behind by the author’s in their short stories and by the singer in their song. They are not only trying to display issues and problems that they have seen and witnessed in their own lifetimes but are also trying to do it in a way that forces readers to dig deep and really think hard in order to understand the true meaning of the work that they are providing. Without author’s like these we as a public would not be as successful or as intelligent as we are today, and we would be lacking in the amount of knowledge and power that literary analysis has provided us.
Famous People Avoid Punishment Because of Their Social Status. (2021, Mar 23).
Retrieved January 30, 2023 , from
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