Works of fiction bring to the attention of its audience the things they would otherwise have taken lightly without further thought. “Blood-Burning Moon” by Jean Toomer is such as a story that was written about the American slave history showing the relations between the black slaves and their white masters in the South America through the portrayal of a love triangle between three characters, one of which is white and the others two are black. “American Psycho” by Bret Easton Ellis is a story written in a different time in the American history, and in the modern-day New York City, where Patrick Bateman embodies the yuppie culture of success, fashion and style, and could well be the envy of every other young man, but deep inside he is a murderer who kills his own colleagues and acquaintances without cause. Gilles Deleuze in “Coldness and Cruelty” meanwhile gives a philosophical examination of the work of Leopold von Sacher-Masoch where he explores the relationship between sadism and masochism. The most common thing in these three works is the different manner of violence that is perpetrated by the characters. In all these works, danger hangs on the heads of their characters, as they are unable to recognize it and feel safe in places with people and in things they are in greater danger in or with. All this serves to challenge the way we define the safety and peril of our lives.
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The “Blood-Burning Moon”
In “Blood-Burning moon”, Tommer uses the non-human body of the moon to challenge the way we define safety and danger. The title itself of “Blood burning moon” gives a negative connotation of the moon portraying it as wicked, since it implies that the moon consumes blood or lusts for it is just the way a car runs on petrol. This is contrary to what we think of the moon, since we consider it harmless and maybe a companion during the night as it lights it. In addition, the full moon is seen as a great omen, as it softly lights the Negro shanties (Tommer 28). Just like us, the residents of these shanties possibly think of the moon as friendly and calming, as it softly lights the sky and the land giving us a false sense of security. However, as the night turns out, there is no safety, and danger looms Bob and Tom fight over Louisa. The things end with the mob burning Tom in the factory, while all the while Louisa’s neighbors stay in their houses thinking it is safe. Louisa sings just to draw their attention to the dangers that loom in the apparently safe night. Bob is an example of how we get intuitions of danger, but we ignore them and turn a blind eye to it and its causes. Thus, in doing so, we put ourselves right at the center of it. On his way to meet Louisa during the fateful night, Bob experiences stirrings in nature and trips, and then he sees a hound running out of his way (Tommer 30). He probably assures himself that the strings were caused by the hound, which is harmless, but he fails to see the danger that looms in the night, and perhaps this is a warning of his impending death. Tom and Louisa, on the other hand, are warned of the danger as their attention is drawn to the stirrings in nature. With the looming danger and the powerful presence of the moon as the cause of this danger, Toomer uses to portray black racism.
The use of the moon in this story also shows people’s inaction, which is evil when other people are in danger, hiding in the safety of ignorance, law or sovereignty of nations. The moon is said to shine at night, ever watchful, which is an inevitable thing and hiding behind a cloud of cloudbank, but doing nothing (Tommer 34). This was used by Toomer to portray the inaction of the good white Americans and the world that should have stood up against slavery and racism, but chose to do nothing. This is the case today as the world has watched in inaction when atrocities have been directed against innocent people in different parts around the world. The world watched as genocide was committed in Rwanda, in Southern Sudan, and now it is happening in Syria these being just but examples.
Ellis Easton uses Stash to challenge the way we define safety and peril. During the dinner that is prepared by Evelyn in her house, Stash is described as something “extraterrestrial” saying that he is sick of being the only person who saw this creature from the outside world (Ellis 25). He says this, because Stash seemed ill-at-ease with them and did not talk much, probably because he was different from them where he came from, and the way he was dressed, and where he went to school. Price feels threatened by Stash as he tells Evelyn not to invite her “artiste” friends to their gatherings. He fears more for things, and the people that are different from him, or what he has while he fails to recognize that the real danger comes from his best friend. Evelyn says on several occasions that Patrick should be left alone, that she is a boy next (Ellis 26). She is an example of how we construct danger and safety in our mind. She considers, or probably wants to think of Bateman as a charming and harmless person, while it seems that she senses something is wrong with him, and that is the reason as to why she hangs out with the artists who are different from them such as the Odeon artists' dinner (Ellis 48). She also asks him whether he is extraterrestrial (Ellis 65). Therefore, this could mean she senses some danger but does not want to believe it.
Another example of a challenge to how we define danger is shown by the beggars. While wandering around Central Park West, Bateman encounters a black beggar woman, whom he described as crazy, and when she asks the nicely dressed handsome white man for money, since she thinks he is a good person, he politely tries to lecture her into finding a job somewhere like Cinemaplex Odean (Ellis 128). At this time, Bateman feels like opening his briefcase and withdrawing a knife or a gun, but thinks that she is an easy target to bring any satisfaction (Ellis 129). In addition, a beggar is mentioned as price, noticing one as he alights from a cab saying it to be the thirtieth one (Ellis 5). Bateman continues to describe him as a filthy, badly dressed, confused and apparently intimidated by them. He shows them a coffee cup so that they could give him some money, but instead asks him whether he takes an American Express charge card. This shows another crop of generations of people who are not only selfish, but also rude and uncaring for the plight of the poor and something the world should really fear.
Coldness and Cruelty
In this essay, Deleuze discusses violence and sexuality as portrayed by Masoch, and in so doing challenges the ways we think of safety and peril. Masochism depicts education and persuasion in search of a woman victim, which is unbelievable. He says that this victim actually looks for a torturer through advertisement, where details of the contract are discussed, and then it is signed (Deleuze and Masoch 30). This strange consideration that if one is to enter into a contract that is negotiated and agreed upon careful attention to what is not good to you will be paramount, just people do nowadays in marriage. The sadists, however, derive satisfaction and enjoyment from somebody who is more or less a slave as consent or persuasion is not sought. In sadism, the torturer is interested in demonstrating possession and, actually, institutionalizing it by being the authority, and the woman a slave of some sort (Deleuze and Masoch 31). The torturer does what he pleases, or what he derives pleasure and enjoyment from, without the need of asking for it or persuading just like what an inanimate thing would be used. If whipping, bondage and other forms of humiliation is the desired weapon that is used (Deleuze and Masoch 35). The masochist, on the other hand, sticks to the contract or the pact made where the woman’s cooperation is essential. Though in his novels women are not completely sure, and fear still lingers, they do what they agreed to and actually, the fear comes from not being able to accomplish it (Deleuze and Masoch 35). One wonders whether it is this submission that is more dangerous, or the complete possession in sadism where at least one does not agree to anything.
Throughout these three works, the audience is challenged on what they think of safety and peril with instances of human or inhuman body displays. In “Blood-burning moon”, Toomer uses the moon as the body in different ways, the nature stirrings and the hound. In “American Psycho”, the use of extraterrestrial body to point to people that are considered harmful, the use of the boy and beggars to show harmlessness, describes various allusions to safety or danger. Finally, Deleuze and Masoch use descriptions of the works of Sade and Masochism in the essay “Coldness and Cruelty” to show violence that is meted out to women in the name of eroticism.
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