In poems “Theology” by Paul Laurence Dunbar, “Tableau” by Countee Cullen, and novel Frankenstein by Mary Shelly, disharmony and a separation in a society is exposed between two people or groups. In “Theology”, Heaven and Hell is talked about, showing one can believe in both, Heaven and Hell. In “Tableau”, there is an image portayed of a white boy and black boy holding hands, creating an ideal vision of how society should function without racism. In Frankenstein, there is a disconnect between Victor Frankenstein, and the monster he created, through the use of science and technology. In this weeks Zen Meditation, when we were discussing any points of stress or discontent in our lives at the end of the session, we were indirectly attempting to bridge the gap of disconnect between those who weekly attend the Meditation; and grow stronger as smaller community within Loyola. These three texts, along with my Zen Meditation illuminate how cultural differences are inevitably followed by social disconnect.
“Theology” is a short poem brining together those who believe in Heaven, and those who believe in Hell. This is a six-line poem, a sestet, with rhyme scheme A-B-C-A-B-C. In this poem Dunbar talks about how the speaker believes in Heaven, “There is a heaven… / my soul doth tell me so” (Dunbar 1-3). He then goes on to say, “There is a hell, I’m quite as sure” (4). During the time period this poem was written, 1896, there was segregation throughout society and a disconnect between religious views. Dunbar expressing in this poem that he is able to confidently believe in both Heaven and Hell was a bold statement. Doing this he exemplified how religious differences should not drive a divide within society, but unfortunately do. Having the poem come full circle with the rhyme scheme and having each rhyming sound have a pair has a profound impact on the poem. It demonstrates how society should be able to come together peacefully and not allow religious differences to create a cultural segregation.
In “Tableau”, a similar message is portrayed, one that envisions a society where racism is not present. In this society two children, “Locked arm in arm they cross they way, / The black boy and the white” (Cullen 1-2). Here Cullen is envisioning a society where all people can get along together. He is criticizing the society around him, in 1925, where there is rampant segregation saying there is no reason whites and blacks cannot peacefully coexist. He illustrates how racial segregation leads to a divide within society. Cullen uses a rhyme scheme of four quatrains, where each rhyme completes itself, illustrating how if there were a peaceful society, everything would flow and function more smoothly, as the rhymes do throughout the poem.
In Frankenstein, after creating the monster, Victor is not pleased with his creation, and chooses to not care about the creature he has just brought into this world, and is happy when he goes missing. Victor says, “I had gazed on him while unfinished; he was ugly then, but when those muscled and joins were rendered capable of motion, it became a thing such as even Dante could not have conceived” (Shelley 36). This quote is important in understanding the immediate disconnect between Victor and the monster he had created. Dante is the man who wrote Inferno, about the burning fires of hell. Victor said that not even he, Dante, could fathom what Victor had created. This shows that Victor felt the monster was that bad, not even those with the imaginations that wrote about hell could understand what he had just done. This quote exemplifies the divide between the two characters in the novel. Victor and the monster are very different in society and this leads to a separation between them; and this separation soon leads to chaos.
In the end of our Zen meditation this week, we opened up at the end of the session to talk about any problems we may be having in our lives, or any points of stress. Here, we are attempting to become closer and get to know each other better. We are attempting to understand our differences and accept them, thus, becoming closer as a community; something the characters in the texts are unable to do. The Zen Meditation motto and ideals parallel the ideas of the writers of the texts, which all strive for a stronger more peaceful connection between groups of people.
Societal norms and cultural differences lead to social disconnect. In “Theology” this is shown by attempting to bring those who believe in Heaven, and those who believe in Hell, together. In “Tableau” this is demonstrated through racism in the 1900’s. In Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, this is shown through the creation of the monster and Victor Frankenstein. It is very hard to forget about the cultural differences that lead to disconnect, however this is part of what we try to do in Zen Meditation. These texts along with the Zen Meditation illuminate the universal message of how humans are defined by their culture and this leads to a societal disconnect.