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Short story : The Protector

I opened my eyes and saw my teacher was standing in front of me with a red face. There was no one except me and him in class. Everybody had been left the class.
He took a deep breath and asked me with a sharp tone, “Did you have a good dream, Freya?”
I patted my cheek several times and answered “I’m sorry, sir.”
“Well, I hoped you enjoy your good dream and next time tried not to sleep during the class!” He walked out from the class.
I leaned on my chair and looked at the ceiling’s class. Thinking about what he asked. Good dream? I closed my eyes and smiled. Did I really have a good dream before? It would be good if I could have a dream, a good one or even a bad one. I looked around the class, it was really nice when there was no one around. I could be myself without trying hard to be someone else.
I stood up and walked out from the class. The hall was already empty. I passed by the locker without having to take my bag as usual and walked into the toilet on the corner hall. I saw someone on the mirror and recognized it as me. I washed my face then I went out. I identified some students who walk on the hall; one of them was waving at me, Nancy my classmate. She approached me and asked me to go home together. It was unusual.
“It’s okay. I’m used to go home alone.”
I wanted to walk away but she grabbed my arm “Oh, come on. I have something to tell you.
“Well, you can say it to me tomorrow.”
She held my hand tight and glared at me “No, you can’t go home alone today. You have to go home with me.”
“Why? Well, if what you want to say to me is really important, you can talk to me now.” I tried to let go from her grip.
She shook her head “I can’t”
“Then see you tomorrow.” She gave up and said “Okay, but please, try not to walking around of the street that you don’t really know.”
I nodded fast and walked away. Actually, I didn’t really understand why she said that, because usually we weren’t in a good term to talk. Even in this school there was no student that ever tried to talk to me. Then suddenly she talked to me and asked me to go home together.
When I was in front of the school’s gate, I saw someone standing. From the form, I could sure enough if it was a guy. His body was sturdy. He crossed his arm and leaned his back on the gate. He was wearing black sweater with hoody and jeans. He was facing me but I couldn’t see his face because of the hoody. It seemed he didn’t look at me because he bowed his head. I didn’t want to think about him. I just wanted to go home as soon as possible and slept right away.
I walked pass him by and kept walking. I almost fell asleep until I kicked a rock. I patted my cheek over and over so that I could keep awake. I looked around and realized that I couldn’t recognize the street. Did I lost? I didn’t know where I was. I tried to find people around but I couldn’t see anyone. I only saw buildings. There were old buildings everywhere. The building wasn’t like a normal building. All of the buildings were having black paint with some kind of white tattoo on it. Each building has different pattern. I felt like I knew this place. I was sure that I have seen those building before, especially the tattoos. It felt familiar. On different buildings there were only 4 doors, with different color blue, red, yellow, and gray. Those doors didn’t have any mark but the buildings were so full of it. What makes it weird was each door on the building have same handle form with different color. However, I didn’t feel like to open those doors, because I didn’t know why, but it seemed I knew what behind those doors. My heart recognized this place, but not my mind. I wanted to turn around but my eyes caught something. It was a door. The door was standing with a solid foundation on top of ruins. The ruins were at the end of the road. I noticed one door. That door was very full of color. There were many colors on that door, red, blue, yellow, pink, green, orange and purple. It was like a rainbow. The handle was round and black. I stepped closer to the ruins until someone patted my back.
“You can’t be here, Freya”
I jumped a little and turned around. I saw Nancy was standing behind me “Oh, God. Nancy. What are you doing in here?”
She didn’t talk. Her eyes stared at me “That was what I have suppose to ask you. What the hell are you doing here? Didn’t I tell you not to walking around on the street that you don’t know?”
“Yeah, you did. But this place is familiar for me, except that one. I want to see what behind it.” I pointed on the door.
She screamed. “No! You can’t do that Freya. There is nothing in here that familiar to you. We have to go now.”
I could feel a pressure on her. She really wanted me to go with her. She dragged me and made me follow her. I turned my head to the door and saw someone was standing in front of it. He was the guy that I saw before on the school gate. I couldn’t see his face again, he still wore that hoody. But I could see his lips. It moved, he said something. I couldn’t hear it or saw what he said. Suddenly, the wind blew and brought his voice to me.
The wind whispered in my ear “Come again. You will surely come again and soom we will meet again, Freya.”
I was frozen and so Nancy. She turned around and said. “Don’t, Freya. Never come here, ever again.” Could she hear that too?
I arrived at home and Nancy went as soon as I was home. She didn’t say anything and I didn’t even bother to ask her what have happened. I was thinking about the buildings, the door and him. What was the meaning of that? For the first time in life, I felt curious. My guts told me if there was something in taht place that was meant to me. I definitely have to see that place again. I sat on my bed and lied down. I closed my eyes and everytime I did this, I hoped that I could dream those buildings and the door, although I knew I couldn’t dream.
I opened my eyes and saw those buildings again. I looked around and I was sure it was the street that I saw before. But if I was not wrong, I already left this street with Nancy and I was at my room right now. Did I have a dream? I was still in my clothes that I wore before. I didn’t take more time to think if it was a dream or not because it must be a dream. I ran to the ruins. When I reached the ruins, I stepped through. I could feel some rock under my shoes. I was walking and looking around, searching the guy that I saw before. I didn’t see anyone so I reached the door. I took a step closer to that door and I feel my heart was going mad. It beat faster, —- faster, and —- faster. I slowly reached the door’s handle. The handle was so fragile. I thought if the handle was made from iron but it was not. The handle was made from wood.
I opened the door and entered. I could’t see anything for a while because it was so bright. My eyes adjusted the light little by little, then I smiled. This place was wonderful. If I was dreaming I was never know if a dream could be so beautiful like this. I saw a waterfall with a big rock in the bottom and a vast red rose garden. The waterfall was filling up the small lake with clear water. At the end of the waterfall, there was a rainbow. I bet the water was really fresh. I got closer and the water from waterfall splashed on my face and I realized the water made me feel excited. I saw some mosses in a side of the rock. There was no dent, even a scratch on that rock. I smelled the roses and the scent was filling in the air. When the wind blew and brought the haze of the waterfall, the scent of the roses with the mosses became stronger. I was lying on smooth green grass in front of the rose garden. The grass felt like feathers that caressed my body. With smile on my face, I closed my eyes to feel more. Then I heard someone laughing, his laugh was like a bell ringing. After that I heard a sound. It came from behind the rock and I caought a glimpse of a shadow behide it. I saw someone threw a rock to the water. I stood up and stepped closer. When I got in the water and reached the rock, I didn’t see anyone but I saw something on the rock.
There were some words on the rock.
It said “Welcome, Stranger. Try to stay out of the water if you want to stay alive.”
It seemed like a threat for me. I ignored the warning. I wanted to swim on this lake. I took off all of my clothes and swam. The water was so fresh. I explored the lake. I climbed the top of the waterfall and saw everything, the lake, the rose garden, even the rock was like a tiny rock from up here. Finally, I jumpped and made a big splash. Although the water was so cold, I didn’t feel it because the weather. It was so nice to swim in the hot weather like this. I did some jumps form the rock until I decided to go to the bottom of the waterfall. I washed my body. I closed my eyes to feel the water.
Suddenly, I heard something enter the water. I opened my eyes and saw a guy was sitting in the edge of the lake. I startled and hide behind the rock.
He giggled “It’s useless; I know you’re there.”
I brave myself and took a peek. He was a guy with short wavy hair and have a piercing in his left ear. He was wearing short jeans and blue t-shirt with a weird pattern on it. I couldn’t see his face because he was blocking the sun.
“Are you someone that throws a rock before?” I asked.
“Hmm, throw a rock? May be, but I guess you’re not obeying the warning”, he pointed at the words on the rock with his hand.
I cleared my throat “Oh really? Why I have to obey it? I can do whatever I want and I don’t care with that stupid words. It’s my dream.”
He giggled, “Well, I guess you’re very ecstatic about you finally have your first dream. But did you know? Those stupid words can save your life. I just try to warn you, but you said you don’t care. So, I guess I don’t have to waste my time to save you. Wait, did I want to save you.” He rubbed his chin, pretending like he’s thinking. He’s rude.
I still couldn’t see his face, “How did you know if it is my first dream? What do you mean? Why I have to stay out from the water?”
He stood up on and smirked I think,“Well, one question in time. I’m just guessing. You have to get out of the water now, because this is the sacred lake. If there is any stranger swim on this lake, he or she will die.”
“What? How can there’s be such a scary lake. You try to warn me but you wrote the warning in this stone. There is no other way to know what yo write if I don’t enter the water. Are you stupid or something?”
He laughed “If I do it smartly, I can’t see something interesting when I see you die.” He aas sure not a good guy.
“She won’t die.” There was another voice.
There. He was standing beside that rude guy. He was the guy that I saw on school and the ruins. I couldn’t see his face though, only his lips.
“You! You were the guy from before right?”
He smirked “I told you that we will meet again. Can you get out of the water now?”
I blushed “I can’t.”
“See, she actually wants to die. Just let her, I want to see her die.” The rude guy grinned.
“If you’re not comfortable because you’re naked you can wear that robe.” The hoody guy pointed at a tree near the lake.
I saw the tree and the robe. It’s blue, dark blue. I was counting the distance between me and the tree. It’s not really that far. Actually, it was preety close than my clothes that lying not far from their feet. But, that robe was hanging on a branch of the tree so if I took it I needed to come out of the water and my body would be seen by that two guys over there. It’s better to stay in the lake.
The rude guy laughed “So that’s why you dont want to come out of the lake because you ashamed of being naked. Relax, your body isn’t that good.”
That guy was really really rude. The hoody guy wanted to laugh too, I can see that. “Wow, both of you are really a gentleman. It is so obvious that makes me can’t see it.”
That rude guy stopped laughing. And the hoody guy came closer to the lake. “Well, if you like, we can turn around so you can come out.”
“Yeah. Sure, Princess.” The rude guy grinned, again.
I wanted both of them get out of my dream. They couldn’t tell me what to do. I walked away from the rock and came out of the lake, reached the robe and put it on without even trying to look at them. Now what, say that again. I dare you. I got closer to them and grabbed my clothes.
The rude guy gave me a little bag, “Well, I take back what I said. You’re not that bad. You can put your clothes in this bag. By the way, my name is Glenn.”
I took the bag the bag while the hoody guy took down his hoody. “And my name is Ethan.”
Finally, I saw them. They’re preety good-looking actually. Ethan had blue icy eyes with a cold smile as his eyes and Glenn had deep green eyes with a mysterious smile.
I put my clothes in the bag, may be I could wear this when I found some place to change.
“Follow us, Freya.” Ethan turned around and walked.
I followed them, didn’t sure it’s the right thing to do though. But I have so many question. “Why did you know my name?”
Glenn walked faster to face Ethan “Oh, Ethan. Why did you say she doesn’t have to die?”
Ethan answered “Because she is the protector.”
I stopped. “The what?”
Glenn stroked his chin, “Ahh, really. So that’s the reason why she doesn’t turn into something else and die when she entered the water. Hmmm, honestly I expect she will turn into something then die horribly. It’s been a long time to see someone die at that lake.” He giggled.
There had to be something’s wrong in these guys. How could you laugh about dying. It’s definitely not thing you could laugh at. Then the other guy, Ethan whatever his name was, wanted me to follow them. I stopped following them and waited, “What is the protector? And how did you know my name?”
Ethan stopped and answered without looking at me. “It is not something that I deserve to tell you. The holders will tell you.”
I didn’t understand what he’s talking about. “What did you mean with the protector? Who are the holders? Where do you want to take me?”
“Sweetheart, you seems like a quiet type but, you always ask many questions in the same time. Why don’t you start walking, follow us and you will find the answers.” Glenn giggled.
I couldn’t believe it. “No! Why do I need to follow you. I dont take orders from anyone. I demand the answers now, because this is my dream. I definitely have to know what has been going on in my dream.”
Finally, Ethan turned around and stepped closer to me. His eyes were piercing my eyes. His eyes looked cold as ice and he whispered on my ear “Did you really think, if right now, you are dreaming, Freya?”

To be continued….


Short story: We Miss Those Days

Someone said, looking at the past could make you can’t see the future. Well, I disagree with that. Because sometimes, the past could make you remember what happen in your life, make you laugh and make you remember who you are.

The weather was so hot; as expected from the city that famous with the friendly cool weather. It would be very nice, if I could swim in the cold water. It kind of reminded me something about what I always did when the weather was hot like these days and I really missed those days. Because at that time, I always found a way to have fun. Fourteen years ago when I was 6 years old, I lived in Banten. That city always has such a hot weather every day. Even, when the wind blew, it couldn’t reduce the hotness. I always felt exhausted when I went home from school, because sometimes I should walk home on foot. You could imagine the weather when the sun was up on your head. It felt like your head, hair and body were burn. Suddenly, a great idea popped out in my head.

At that time, I really looked forward to go home. Although, I had to go through the hot weather, I had something that could make me cooling down. At my home, I had a special and lovely large container. This large container was covered with blue ceramic and a faucet in the middle. I have two, sometimes three, broom fishes in the large container and I liked to play with it.
As soon as I was home, there was no one at home beside my little brother; we were just a year apart. My father always wasted his time in grandma’s home while my mother worked. My older sister and brother had not home yet. Therefore, I had quality time to pleasure myself. I was very close with my brother, we played and studied together. Although he was a guy, he liked to play dolls, cook and pretend to be a hair designer. However, between some games that we liked, we have one special game. It was nose-diving on the large container. At that moment, perhaps we thought it was fun. In such hot weather, we were swimming in it. The large container was enough for 3 children, so there was some space for us. We play with the broom fishes. We took it out from the water, pretended it was a plane, and made it crush each other. As a consequence, the broom fishes died every time we had played. It was really cruel, but it was really fun back then. Even though, many times our back or head have accidentally bump into the faucet, we never stopped to play in it. However, the ‘strange’ thing was, when we wanted to pee, we out from the large container and after we finished we entered it again. We always played in the large container when our parents not home, but when they home while we were diving; we were hurrying to get off, wearing our clothes and pretending open the book to study. Thus, when our parents, especially our mom came, she looked at us with smile on face. She said, “Wow, my children are so nice, already took a bath and now, studying.”
She doesn’t know if we have swam in our large container. After that, she would take a bath and the water was already we used to play. Now, every time I remember those days, I always felt regret but also having fun. Regret, because I did something bad to my parents, they have to use the water that I used before. Fun, because it was the funniest game that I ever did with my little brother. Nowadays, I couldn’t play like that with my little brother again. Sometimes, we talked about it and laughed of it. Yeah, both of us miss those days.


Existentialism of the Story of King Arthur

The story of King Arthur is one of the folklores for children that many people suspected as a history of British Empire, because the story of King Arthur was folklore so there wasn’t an author for the story. However, the story of King Arthur has been published by retold from some authors and the story of King Arthur that I would discuss was The Story of King Arthur and His Knights retold from Howard Pyle original by Tania Zamorsky. In this story, I see there is a process to prove self, to make the existence, to define what they are. As Sartre said, “Man is nothing else but what he makes of himself (pg.445).” and “If man, as the existentialist conceives him, is indefinable, it is because at first he is nothing. Only afterward will he be something, and be himself will have made what he will be (pg. 445).”
When a man born he was nothing until he chose to be something and made his existence. It is what I wanted to discuss, in the story of King Arthur, there are some characters that show their existence to prove themselves and to make their existence be known. Every character in this story has a process to define and to make existence of their life, but I will focus on one character, King Arthur tough I will also analyze some characters that text show if he or she has existence issue. As I see from Sartre’s opinion if at first man is nothing but after he go through his live then he can create the value of his live by doing something to make every men aware of his existence. At first Arthur born, his life was in great danger because of battle of power, so Merlin, a wizard told Arthur’s father, Uther Pendragon, to let Merlin hide his son for Arthur’s safety. When Arthur born he was nothing, but his father was someone with a great existence. Uther Pendragon was a king of Britain, so his father could make Arthur existence because of what he chose. He chose to hide him, although it would make everyone didn’t know Arthur but Arthur still exist. Just like Sartre claimed, “We do not only mean that he is responsible for his own individuality, but that he is responsible for all men (pg.445).” Uther was responsible for his own life’s child and Merlin who told Uther about Arthur also have responsible for that. Then Merlin demanded Sir Ector to take care of Arthur as his own child. Sir Ector has one son, Sir Kay and Arthur became his brother. When Sir Kay made an existence of his life, went to many battles, tournaments, while Arthur was just a serving boy, Kay’s esquire-at-arms, very much like a knight’s assistant. However, after young Arthur appeared at a scene that set up by Merlin and he knew who he was, he started to make a value of his live as a new king of Britain. Merlin brought Arthur to pull out the sword from the anvil to prove that he was the rightful King of Britain. “Man exists, turns up, appears on the scene, and, only afterward, defines himself (pg. 445).” It was what Sartre revealed on his essay. When a man exists and shows himself, he will start to define himself. It happened to Arthur when he became a King of Britain. After he became King, he won many battles, tournaments, and duels. One day King Arthur fought with King Pellinore because of he wanted to get revenge of his wounded knights, Sir Myles and Sir Griflet. As I see on the text, King Arthur went to the Sable Knight to have a duel with him because he thought that his knights’ dignity and his pride were hurt by that, the Sable Knight hung his knights’ shield on tree. So that, he wanted to recover it but he almost lost, luckily he was safe by Merlin. “Existentialism’s first move is to make every man aware of what he is and to make the full responsibility of his existence rest on him (pg. 445).” To continue of proving Arthur’s existence, the text shows that he tried to make his existence continue by fighting again with Sable Knight, King Pellinore. He willed to be a great King that could defend his pride and his knights. Beside the people of his country that he wanted to show, King Arthur also wanted to make himself sure about his being, “Not only is man what he conceives himself to be, but he is also only what he wills himself to be after this thrust toward existence (pg. 445).” One day, King Arthur fell in love with Lady Guinevere when she had come upon him like an angel while he lay wounded in the forest. He heard that Lady Guinevere was in disadvantage so he came to help but he disguised himself to secretly watch her. Merlin gave him a magical cap that would make him like a different person. King Arthur worked as a gardener boy in the Lady Guinevere garden. For a while King Arthur became somebody else, stopped his existence as a King of Britain and made new existence as a gardener boy. However, what I see from the text is that a gardener boy is not a new existence of King Arthur, it is King Arthur existence. Because when he decided to be someone else to protect Lady Guinevere he just did something to remain his existence, he fell in love so to carry on his Lady, a woman that he wanted to be his future, he created something possible to make it happened, “We shall confine ourselves to reckoning only with what depends upon our will, or on the ensemble of probabilities which make our action possible (pg. 449).” To make Lady Guinevere his wife, he fought Duke Mordaunt, the man that threated Lady Guinevere’s land and demanded her to be his wife. After wounded Duke Mordaunt for first round, he went to forest and met his knights, Sir Geraint, Sir Gawaine, Sir Ewaine, and Sir Pellias. Four of them asked to have a duel with him, and then King Arthur had overthrown and sent four of them to serve Lady Guinevere for seven days while they didn’t know who the knight that beat them was. Lady Guinevere amused for the knights that White Champion sent to her but she was thinking that it was very strange that when the White Champion was around the gardener boy was not and vice versa. The other action the text said that King Arthur did for Lady Guinevere; he revealed his existence as King of Britain to make his knights went to second round battle with Duke Mordaunt and his knights. He was a King of Britain and realized that he have big responsibilities for his own people’s future and for beating Duke Mordaunt and his knights to prevent him marry Lady Guinevere and take the land, he chose to take his knights to and fought Duke Mordaunt. King Arthur became a law-maker for everyone because he realized that it was his responsibility, just like Sartre explained, “The man who involves himself and who realizes that he is not only the person he chooses to be, but also a law-maker who is, at the same time, choosing all mankind as well as himself, cannot help escape the feeling of his total and deep responsibility (pg. 446).” After beat King Arthur and his four Knights beat Duke Mordaunt and his knights, King Arthur and Lady Guinevere were married on a beautiful fall day in a ceremony of great splendor.
King Arthur was a great king; he defended his country, his knights, and his being with sincerity, full of responsibilities that were why his knights and people were really respect and willing to sacrifice to protect King and Britain that they loved. When King Arthur was in danger because of his sister Morgana le Fay, his knights and Merlin have protected him, also while King Arthur went to the battle, his knights were faithfully, loyally to serve King Arthur to win the battle. However, how powerful and loyal his knights were, King Arthur’s knights were a mere human, sometimes to prove their King existence, his knights also have to prove their existence, even if it could danger their life. Sometimes they have to make their own decision, save their life or defend their King’s pride but in the text for some knights whatever choice they chose it never could not make both of things that they preserve can be secure. They just could have one side. As Sartre said, “Subjectivism means, on the one hand, that an individual chooses and makes himself; and, on the other, that it is impossible for man to transcend human subjectivity (pg. 445). However, some of them could defend both of it, their King’s pride and their life while they transcend human nature. Just like Sir Pellias, he was became spirit of the land of fairy. All of the man in the text has been showed that all of them made their existence just like what they have planned and they did, not what they would want to be, “Man will be what he will have planned to be. Not what he will want to be (pg. 445).”

Sartre, Jean-Paul. 1985. Existentialism and Human Emoticons. Philosophical Library and Carol Publishing Co.
Zamorsky, Tania. 2006. The Story of King Arthur and His Knights / retold from the original story by Howard Pyle. New York. Sterling Publishing Co.


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Beauty and Body Image in Two Novels by Joyce Carol Oates

In this paper, I’d like to discuss an issue for my future research with a title Body and Beauty Image in Two Novels by Joyce Carol Oates. The novels are Big Mouth & Ugly Girl and Freaky Green Eyes. I find several problems related to the issue of body and beauty image in these novels. They are how the protagonists in these novels describe their bodies; how they accept their bodies; how their bodies affect their life; and what they feel about their bodies. Furthermore, before the discussion I’d like to tell you the summary of the novels.
Big Mouth & Ugly Girl is a young-adult novel by Oates which is released in 2003. The story is about a teenage girl, Ursula Riggs who doesn’t care what other people think about her. Ursula likes to confront people, especially when she knows she’s right and she is going to win the fight. That is Ugly Girl’s way. She calls herself Ugly Girl. Sometimes being Ugly Girl makes her has more power, she can do anything and be anything. She turns her lack becomes her excess. However, Ursula feels that her father and mother always seem to be more interesting in her sister than her. Her sister is beautiful and skinny, while Ursula Riggs is taller and bigger than most of the girls, some boys, even teachers. Somehow, people around her feel nervous or disturb by her attitude or her physical. And yes, she almost has no friend. One day, her classmate, Matt Donaghy, is going to be arrested because there is an accusation that he will blow up the school. Ursula doesn’t believe it and tries to free Matt from the false charge. Matt is free because of her. She is the only one who trusts in him while everybody avoids him. However, they don’t become friend because Ursula keeps avoiding Matt. Until, she accidently sees him when Matt is going to suicide. She stops it. Then, they become really close so people start to talk about them. Ugly Girl and Big Mouth are dating. Ursula feels different; while she’s with Matt she doesn’t have to use Ugly Girl. Then, it seems everything is much better in Ursula’s life.
Freaky Green Eyes is a young-adult novel by Oates which is released in 2003. The story starts with an alteration of a girl’s life. Francesca Pierson or Franky is a normal teenage girl, until one day everything changes. Freaky comes to her life. Freaky Green Eyes she calls her and it seems no one knows that she exists. Freaky comes to her at that night, when she is about to be raped and Freaky saves her life. She says, “Freaky Green Eyes, he called me. FREAKY GREEN EYES SAVED MY LIFE.” After that, Freaky always seems to know what has happened in Franky’s family while, Franky doesn’t want to know (accept) it. When Franky’s mom disappears, she blames her for leaving their family. Everyone is talking about it; police and reporter are investigating her father. Franky, her brother Todd, and her little sister Samantha swear if their dad is innocent and their mom is leaving of her own decision. Freaky always tries to tell her to convince her that Franky herself already knows the truth, but she doesn’t listen. Until, she has a dream and knows that it is a sign. Freaky tells her to follow the sign because if she follows it, she will find her mother at the end. However, what she finds is different from what she expects.
Having finished describing the story of the novels, I’d like to show you some of works related to the issues I find in the novels. They are:
1. A thesis for the degree of Scholar of Literature with a title Konstruksi Tubuh & Tehnik Espitolari Tiga Novel Gotik Abad ke-19 by Yolanda Priska Sari 2011 Universitas Padjadjaran,
2. A thesis for the degree of Master of Nursing with a title Young Women’s Voices on Body Image: The Beauty Myth, by Nadine P. Johnson November 1994 Dalhousie University,
3. A thesis with a title Grotesque Physicality: Female Excess in Angela Carter’s “Nights at the Circus by Helga Valborg Steinarsdóttir September 2009 Universitis Islandiae Sigillum,
4. A dissertation for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Literature (Feminist Studies) with a title Girl Avengers: Revising Feminist Approaches to Sexuality, Violence, and Power in Representation, by Katie M. Kanagawa December 2009 University of California.
1. The thesis by Yolanda Priska sari. This thesis analyzes body construction (grotesque body) in three gothic novels. It identifies that grotesque body is an abnormal body image just like there is a physical defect in that body. This thesis discusses a body that is supposed to be non-human body, for example like Frankenstein’s body. However, the main idea of this thesis can be related to the issue of body image. This research focuses on the concept of normal and abnormal bodies in society and how society and the character perceive it. The problem of the body is because there is a problem on what people (society) think about it. “Penggambaran tubuh normal disini merupakan penggambaran tubuh manusia pada umumnya yang sempurna, mempunyai anggota badan yang lengkap dan tinggi yang masih dalam batas normal. Penggambaran tubuh grotesk merupakan penggambaran tubuh tidak normal, seperti adanya kecacatan dalam tubuh tersebut.” (Sari, 2011).
According to Sari, the body image can be perceived in the protagonist, Ursula Riggs (Big Mouth & Ugly Girl). In Ursula’s perspective, she has an [un]usual body because she’s taller than any girls, some boys even some of her teachers. “I’d grown taller than my mom by the time I was thirteen, and I really liked that. …….. It felt good, too, to be almost as tall as my dad (who was six feet three, weighed over two hundred pounds), so he’d have to treat me more like an equal than just a child. …….. Most of all it felt good to be as tall as, in some cases taller than my teachers. Not one of the Rocky River female teachers was Ugly Girl’s height, and I always made sure I stood straight, like a West Point cadet, when I spoke with them.” (Oates, 2002). Furthermore in the reference, Ursula mentions that she likes being taller than anyone. It seems that Ursula takes some pleasures and advantages from her [un]usual body to become, somehow, more powerful. Thus, I will discuss that issue in other paragraphs. The same as the first novel, the second novel too, shows the body image of Franky (the protagonist of Freaky Green Eyes). She is viewed to have [ab]normal body. In Franky’s case it is her eyes, those are green, which some people think the eyes are creepy.
In Sari’s thesis, she quotes Kristeva’s Power of Horror that an image of a body which inappropriate, according to society agreement, will be looked as an ‘eyesore’ for the agreement. For example, some people in Ursula’s life feel disturb by her height. It is revealed when Grandma Riggs asks her, “Ursula, dear, when are you going to stop growing?” (Oates, 2002). It indicates that Ursula’s height fittingly disturbs her grandma because ‘girl’ supposes to have that kind of height in her age. Evidently, that [un]usual height of Ursula has upset the social construction of a female body which has supposed to be shorter than male[s] and people around her seem to be disrupted by her tallness.
Ursula’s body somehow annoys people, however Ursula too, thinks like that. For example, she uses to be on a swimming team at junior high school but she feels that she doesn’t fit in the ‘system’ — , because of her body doesn’t have the ideal shape of a female body like all of her friends when they are wearing swimsuit. At that time, she realizes that is how her body should look like because it is constructed by people, culture, and society. The development of Ursula’s body is faster than any girl at her age. Then, she quits and changes to other sports that she considers proper for her body. As the result, because of her body image doesn’t fit in what people defines as a normal body for a female, it makes Ursula calls herself as Ugly Girl, with big U and G. This state is also reviewed in the thesis; I quote “Jika tubuhnya dipandang menjijikan maka citra dirinya pun akan mengikuti seiring citra tubuh.” (Sari, 2011). Since her body is looked as an abnormal body by people, consequently Ursula too looks it that way. Then, Ursula embraces the fact that she is different and she is not one of the beautiful girls, who has normal height, by calling herself as Ugly Girl, even though no one has ever calls her Ugly Girl. People in school know and call her as Big Girl or Big Ursula, but they do think that she is weird, “Wow! Big Ursula”….. “Ursula Riggs! She’s weird”…… (Oates, 2002), and it seems that a girl like her did not proper to be liked by a guy. “They’re just friends, obviously. No normal guy would be attracted to Big Ursula” (Oates, 2002). They believe a big girl like Ursula will never find a guy who likes her because she is a weird girl who has big body. However, I think people consider Ursula as a weird girl because she too thinks she needs no friends, then she doesn’t socialize much and always gives them kind of ‘I don’t need you’ impression. Of course, people will avoid her.
Conversely, it will be a little bit different for Franky. Freaky Green Eyes comes to her because of a guy, Cameron, who tries to rape her but she fights back and then he says, “He’s staring at me saying, ‘You f-freak! You should see your eyes! Freaky Green Eyes! You’re crazy!’” (Oates, 2003). After that incident she takes Freaky Green Eyes as a part of her life because like she says, “FREAKY GREEN EYES came to me. FREAKY GREEN EYES saved my life.”(Oates, 2003). Ursula accepts the idea of Ugly Girl without any urge to suppress her, while Franky has resentment to suppress Freaky, “In the bathroom mirror Freaky Green Eyes glares at me. I feel a crazy urge to claw at those eyes.” (Oates, 2003). I think it is a little bit different for Franky. Freaky doesn’t come to her life because social construction of a normal female body and/or her felling about having unusual body, but because there is a person who calls her like that. That is the result of her struggle to fight the oppressor [which is Cameron who almost rapes her] which in this case saves her life. So in my opinion she feels like she owes Freaky her life and doesn’t have much option than let her to stay, but in other way she doesn’t really like the fact that someone thinks her as a freak. I believe that’s why Franky doesn’t embrace Freaky as fast as Ursula embraces Ugly Girl.
2. The thesis by Johnson. This thesis I find useful to my research because it uses literature theory about body and beauty image and discusses the process of self-critique which I recognize it happens in both novels, for example “There are four themes or patterns identified, within the domain of the self-critique process. The four themes are comparing, valuing, desiring and striving.” (Johnson, 1994). However, I notice the step for these protagonists is a little different. They are comparing, valuing, desiring and accepting.
Johnson states the first step is comparing. “The first step was comparing was intertwined with what they perceived that others thought of them. This formed what they thought of themselves…”(Johnson, 1994). The assessment of Ursula and Franky body approach them to see what people and/or social construction think. At first, none of them realizes that their bodies are different from the others until someone tells them. They see and hear what other people say and show if their bodies are [un]usual. Afterward, they will actually compare their bodies with others and find out that they don’t have an ideal image of a female body, “Through comparison, the participants developed a vision, an idealized image and a belief about how they should have looked.” (Johnson, 1994).
The second step is valuing, through valuing they seek recognition from other people to prove if they have benefit for society. In this step, they need to have approval from other people. Ursula and Franky, they feel the need to be admired and good at something. I think the reason behind this is because they think they are already lack of something, so they have to prove to people that they still have value. However if they fail, it will make them depress, upset and confuse. It happens at Ursula when she fails at Basket competition. I see that Ursula and Franky are somehow still confuse about themselves, and both of them picture themselves as what people say, as Johnson says if people especially women discover their true-self over other people’s eye. That is why both of them believe what other people judge about their bodies become what they really are.
The third and fourth steps from Johnson’s thesis are desiring and striving. From what I notice from the novels, it has different step from what this thesis states. Because the thesis is from nursing department, it states that the problems of desiring and striving make them have eating disorder, anorexic and other sickness result from dieting. However, both of the protagonists in these novels don’t do striving which is diet or make an effort to change themselves into the body they admire. Even though, they still have desiring other bodies. They have an ideal body image of how the body should look. The body Ursula admire is her little sister, “My kid sister’s eyes were so beautiful, warm and dark and fine-lashed like a doll’s eyes, that sometimes it was hard for Ugly Girl to be jealous of her.”(Oates, 2002). As same as Franky, her sister, “She was a dreamy ten-year-old with a sweet, shy disposition and beautiful dark eyes no one would ever call freaky.”(Oates, 2003).
As I see for these protagonists, the last step is accepting. Yet, they don’t make changes or in this case dieting to have an ideal body image which is constructed by society. They learn to accept their physical bodies and they use it to gain something than normal bodies can have. They want to be free from patriarchy culture. Then, I find Johnson writes, “Young women realize that beauty lends them limited power although beauty and youth provide only temporary acceptance and attention. The Cult of beauty is a survival strategy that allows women to maneuver safely around rather than threaten men’s privilege and power.” (Johnson, 1994). However, this condition doesn’t happen in Ursula. She chooses to make her body becomes taller and muscular to threaten male’s privilege and power so she can be free from that. Because if she chooses to become pretty, she has to bow to male’s power while what she wants is to exceed them.
3. Thesis by Helga Valborg Steinarsdóttir. This thesis discusses a grotesque body; however it is different with the first thesis. It focuses on the effect of the female who has grotesque body and people around her. This thesis argues that if a female embraces the physicality of her bodies, it will be a premise for female empowerment and can help reorder the social construction of the female bodies. And it explains the acceptance of grotesque physicality can be a weapon to defend itself against the perceived threat of it.
Steinarsdóttir claims that a female with a normal and ‘controllable’ body can easily expose and bent down to male’s hierarchy, which means if a female with an abnormal and uncontrollable body cannot be like. That is way this matter (abnormal and uncontrollable body) really helps Ursula because she realizes by embracing her body, she does not have to be afraid to confront people especially guy when she has to. It is like she has some kind of ‘privilege’ to behave like that. “Unlike other girls, I didn’t shrink away like a balloon deflating if guys teased me or said crude things meant to embarrass. … As if Ugly Girl would go down for any guy, or any human being, ever!” (Oates, 2002). Then, they seem to be intimidated by her because Ursula embraces Ugly Girl and people seem to avoid for making a contact with her even when they have to. Ugly girl gives Ursula more strength and power, and when she becomes Ugly Girl, it makes her doesn’t afraid of anything. Ugly Girl gives the chilly feel.
For Franky, that quote, actually, happens for a while. Franky obeys her father even though she knows if Freaky knows that he lies about her mom. Freaky doesn’t have much use for Freaky because when she uses Freaky to oppose people, she always gets punishment. She can’t antagonize the authority of man. It is like, people around her especially her father tries to make her behaves like a ‘proper’ girl, and when she doesn’t she gets punishment by her dad. She is being hits, slaps, shake until she gets traumatize to try to confront him again. This is another reason why Franky needs time to accept the whole Freaky. Even when she finally decides to oppose his father, she is still afraid of the idea of his anger. This situation constructs that a girl should behave precisely like what their parent/culture tell her and when the girl rebels them, she will get penalty. When she accepted a whole Freaky Green Eyes, Freaky had Franky to see the truth, to be brave and to release herself from her father’s authority.
In her thesis, Steinarsdóttir argues that when there is someone who sees them without think if their grotesque bodies are beauty rather than disgusting, that only happens to people who can accept something with unusual appealing, it will be the time they will see a beauty in themselves. It is exactly what happens to Ursula after Matt, the Big Mouth, tells her, “You’re beautiful, Ursula. Most like other girls but – in your own way. Special.” (Oates, 2002). And to Franky when she accepts that her eyes are beautiful green like her mom’s. I realize that Ugly Girl and Freaky Green Eyes, both of them are layers or suits for the protagonists. The suits will fit for some of the events but not all of it because there is time when both of them don’t have to put their ‘special suits’ to interact, to see, or to hear people.
4. The last work I’d like to review is a thesis by Katie M. Kanagawa. Kanagawa analyzes adolescent girl who behaves violence toward people as a result of their oppressions. This thesis identifies that this behavior can occur because there is oppression in the girl that emerges aggressive behavior. This thesis is useful to my research because the behavior presents in both novels. They act ‘violence’ and intimidate people who oppress them, and they gain power and pleasure upon people anxiety.
The thesis explains that “These narratives’ textual ambivalence and their feminist potential by exploring the dialectical processes of female sexual victimization and empowerment that they consistently produce.” (Kanagawa, 2009). What I conclude form that sentence is they intentionally built power and their confidence to produce such a behavior, it especially shows in Ursula. She constantly makes her body even more muscular. She even becomes vegetarian to make sure that whatever she eats doesn’t contain fat. According to Kanagawa’s statement, Ursula does all of that in order to maintain her body shape (an unlike women body shape) in order to maintain her position as a girl avenger by keeping her body like that.
Kanagawa helps me to recognize violence act of the protagonists. According to Kanagawa’s opinion in the thesis the oppression behavior doesn’t always happen in the protagonist’s everyday life. For example, when Ursula is with Matt or when she feels that her parents don’t annoy her, or when she is in happy mood. Ursula doesn’t have to be Ugly Girl, “It was strange about Ugly Girl. She was like a uniform, or a skin, I could slip into, but she wasn’t right for all occasion.”(Oates, 2002). This kind of behavior will not show if there is nothing that trigger the behavior in the first place because this matter only happens when Ursula feels threaten, disturb, and need to intimidate people. Ursula acts rude and sarcastic to make people respects and scares of her by using her [un]usual body as a tool to terrorize people. And when she does she takes pleasure and excitement from people’s anxiousness.
It is different for Franky; she doesn’t consistently produce Freaky because her [un]usual body is her eyes. I think it because her eyes are something that she can’t generate. You can’t make your eyes to be more muscular and beside Franky’s green eyes don’t really make people feel intimidate or disturb, even some people think they are pretty. Freaky comes to Franky because the almost-rape accident, her braveness to attack and reject Cameron makes him embarrass and breaks his pride as man. The man authority, in this case Cameron desire to rape Franky, which she ‘must’ follow and maybe Cameron isn’t expecting if Franky will disobey him, makes him says about Franky’s eyes to gain his pride again. So, her eyes only seem annoying for Cameron. Thus, I see that Franky knows she cannot use Freaky as a suit [as much as Ursula did] because Freaky Green Eyes is only a voice inside her head that can see and know what Franky can’t accept, for example the fact that her father is the one who kills her mom.
Furthermore, it is what Ugly Girl does as a suit for Ursula. Kanagawa observes if the uses of an aggressive act such as confronting, assaulting, and attacking her is in order for achieving her object. It happens to Ursula when she realizes who the informers which reports Matt to the principal with ‘fake’ information are and the one who kidnaps Pumpkin (Matt’s dog). Ursula confronts, forces, and threats them to admit and confess what they have done.
Kanagawa declares, “Girl avenger narratives feature adolescent girl subjects who engage in acts of violence to avenge their own (or other girls’ or women’s) sexual subjugation….. Rather than reiterating the paradigm of woman-as-agent versus woman-as-victim, these narratives posit dialectical relations between experiences of resistance and domination….. Girl avenger narratives posit domination as a key context for resistance, closing the distance between seemingly contradictory experiences.” (Kanagawa, 2009). Kanagawa improves me to understand why those two protagonists do confront, strike, and force people to achieve their aims. It is because they have experienced the resistance from people’s domination that oppresses their will and their freedom.
As I have discussed my issue and the four related works, I can conclude that the protagonists in these two novels consider their bodies as grotesque body or the abnormal body. Their bodies have been constructed by people/culture and society to be abnormal body because it is different than the other. And as society constructs, they believe and take it as a way to see their own bodies. They have to through some process so they can accept their bodies. They have been comparing their bodies with other bodies, valuing themselves by getting acknowledged from people, desiring the perfect ideal body image in their minds, and the last step is accepting their bodies. By accepting their grotesque bodies, somehow they can transgress themselves from what patriarchy constructs. They can their own pleasures and their will and nothing can block them because if there is something/someone who tries to oppress, to dominate, and to oppose them, they can show them a violence behavior which other girls can’t do. The issue, the problems, and the interpretation of my future research of body and beauty image in these novels which I have already discussed, I hope my paper can support and enrich other works relating to this issue.

Work Cited

Johnson, N. P. (1994). Young Women’s Voices On Body Image: The Beauty Myth. Dalhousie University, Nova Scotia.
Kanagawa, K. M. (2009). Girl Avengers: Revising Feminist Approaches to Sexuality, Violence, and Power in Representation. University of California, Santa Cruz.
Oates, J. C. (2002). Big Mouth & Ugly Girl. New York: HarperCollins.
Oates, J. C. (2003). Freaky Green Eyes. New York: HarperCollins.
Sari, Y. P. (2011). Konstruksi Tubuh & Tehnik Epistolari dalam Tiga Novel Gotik Abad ke-19. Universitas Padjadjaran.