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Humanities 202 FINAL EXAM
Emilia: the wife of Iago. She provides the handkerchief for her husband, unwittingly facilitating Iago's orchestrated revenge upon Othello. However, she sympathizes with Desdemona, regarding all men as savages. She represents the ugly side of Iago's view of women, as there are hints Iago has abused her and he openly treats her cruelly when she irritates him -- eventually he kills her when she reveals his scheme.
Roderigo: a commoner who foolishly and hopelessly loves Desdemona, and stupidly trusts Iago. Like Othello, he also is desperate to advance in society and subject to the green-eyed monster of jealousy over a woman. Like Iago he is also jealous of those of more military advancement than himself.
Cassio: Michael Cassio is the man who Othello promotes to lieutenant rather than Iago at the beginning of the play. He is handsome and dashing, even though he is less experienced than Iago. He is innocent of adultery, even though he represents all Othello wishes he were for Desdemona -- fair, young, and beloved by society.
Nwoye: Okonkwo's oldest son, who represents all Okonkwo fears becoming. Nwoye is regarded as like his father's father, but ultimately he disrupts his father's life by becoming allied with colonialists.
Obierika: is Okonkwo's close friend, who, despite his fondness for the main protagonist, is not nearly as rigid as the leader of the Ibo. Obierika represents a kind of middle ground between Okonkwo's vigilant resistances to any kind of compromise, as he is both a good friend to the leader yet kinder and more yielding in his relations with his family, particularly women, and others.
COMPARE AND CONTRAST
Othello and Okonkwo: Both feel shame about their lineage. Othello was born a slave and rose to military greatness. Okonkwo feels shame about his weak father. Othello attempts to overcompensate for his race through military greatness and becoming part of Venetian society -- even to the point of marrying a White woman. Okonkwo attempts to challenge White colonialism by encouraging his son Nwoye to rebel against colonial rule. Othello's self-hatred proves ineffective, as Iago turns it against him. However, Okonkwo's self-hatred is also turned against him as his own son comes to despise his controlling and cold father, as Okonkwo despised his weak father. Only his son's dislike manifests itself in his son coming over into white ways in life, in contrast to his father's wishes.
Desdemona and Ekwefi: Desdemona leaves her father's house, flaunting the laws of Venetian society, to marry Othello, as Ekwefi leaves her first husband to marry Okonkwo. These women are strong in defense of those men whom they love, and in their beliefs in these men's influence. Yet even after being cut off from her father Desdemona defends Cassio when she feels that this man's demotion for drunkenness was in error. She is willing to stand up to Othello. Ekwefi is less bold in her defiance than Desdemona, because she is a mother as well as a wife and hopes that her son and daughter will be protected from her husband's frequent bouts of coldness and jealousy.
The world of Okonkwo, Achebe's depiction of traditional Nigerian Ibo society in Umuofia, and the world of Othello, Shakespeare's representation of 16th century Venetian society: Both of these worlds are multiracial and stratified societies. They are rife with fraught and frustrating class tensions, racial tensions, and sexual tensions. Both are beset from outsiders, as Othello's marriage to Desdemona is almost immediately punctuated by an invasion from outsiders. White colonialists are attempting to destroy traditional Nigerian religion and power structures. Yet despite this fact, Okonkwo begins the tale relatively secure in his power, although he feels insecure. In contrast, Othello's apparent security as a general is disrupted when he attempts to marry into a society that rewards his military victories but spurns his color. Venetian society's intolerance is unmasked, to Othello's surprise, while Okonkwo is not surprised when the Ibo are challenged, as he is fearful of the instability of his power
ESSAY Choose 1, min. 800 words
Would you agree that both OTHELLO and THINGS FALL APART portray outwardly patriarchal societies -- men are the leaders, warriors, and decision makers, yet several female characters in each work have some power. Who are these women and what position do they hold in their families and communities, and what influence do they have on the world around them?
Othello seems on its surface a story all about men. Yet it begins with a radical act of social defiance, committed by a woman. Desdemona marries Othello against her father's wishes. Othello is great general but he is also a Moor, and her father is highly placed in Venetian society. In doing so, she leaves her father's house and his sphere of power. She takes on the apparently powerful status of a great military leader's wife, but is cast off from her family as a result. She ties her fate with Othello, rather than with her father's sphere of more staid, older Venetian social influence and power. Likewise, Okonkwo's wife leaves her first husband and ties her fate with a man in defiance of Ibo social customs that limit a woman's sexual free expression. Women can exercise sexual and martial choice, if they are willing to take a risk in both Venice and in Nigeria.
Yet Desdemona soon discovers that her free choice and her supposed premarital sexual and familial transgressions ultimately weakens her, socially, in the eyes of Venice and even in the eyes of her husband. When her husband grows to mistrust her chastity she has no one to turn to -- other than Iago and his wife. Iago even uses this fact of Desdemona's loss of her original family influence against her character. He tells Othello that this is a testimony to her lack of loyalty, to men telling Othello that as Desdemona cheated on her father, so she will cheat on her husband.
Desdemona's plight shows that a woman in Venetian society is powerful only in terms of her father or her husband's influence and her ability to sway and become a part of that influence. This is perhaps best highlighted in her early relationship with Emilia -- although Emilia grows fond of Desdemona, because of Iago's lower status, she must serve Desdemona.
When a woman has a good relationship with a strong man, she can exert influence. For instance, when Desdemona has a good relationship with her husband she feels confident in her ability to sway Othello, when importuning him to accept Cassio's appeal for clemency. When Othello tries to 'play' with her when she first makes her appeal for Cassio, she refuses to engage in such foolishness, and demands that her opinion be heard. Thus, in Venice, women have power in their ability to exercise sexual influence and control -- but this can be easily taken away from them, when their chastity is in question, and when their sexual desirability becomes tainted with accusations of jealousy.
The unhappy Emilia is evidence of how women, once they cease to be desirable to their husbands, have to work very hard behind the bedroom doors, engaging in full and deceitful obedience to brutal husbands, to ensure that they are not cast off into the streets. Emilia is bitter, and says jealousy to men is justified because of the way men treat women, an idea Desdemona rejects as immoral and coarse. Yet both of these women, the woman who hates men and the woman who gave up everything for a man both die. Emilia at least dies by her mistress, telling the truth, and because of her willingness to do so, Desdemona is cleared of her accusation, Othello is shamed, and Iago is silenced.
Women have the power to tell the truth, Shakespeare…[continue]
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