Amazing Grace Today’s world is filled with both great tragedy and abundant joy. In a densely populated metropolis like New York City, on a quick walk down a street you encounter homeless people walking among the most prosperous. Unfortunately, nine times out of ten the prosperous person will trudge straight past the one in need without a second thought. A serious problem arises when this happens continually. The problem worsens when you enter a different neighborhood and the well-to-do are far from sight. Many neighborhoods are inhabited only by the most hopeless of poverty – ridden people while others downtown or across the park do not care, or are glad to be separated from them. Such is the problem in New York City today and in Mott Haven in Jonathan Kozol’s Amazing Grace.I have lived in New York City all my life and I had no idea that these problems were going on so close to home. If I live about three miles away from Mott Haven and I am not aware of the situation there, then who is? Chapter 1 of Amazing Grace opens with a startling fact. It tells the reader that when one boards the Number 6 train from Manhattan to the South Bronx on East 59th Street “you are in the seventh richest congressional district in the nation.” When you get off the train on Brook Avenue just eighteen minutes later “you are in the poorest.” Brook Avenue is in Mott Haven, which has a population of 48,000. They make up the neediest people in the South Bronx. The average household income is $7,600; thirty-five percent of the people who live there are children. The neighborhood’s focal point seems to be St. Ann’s Church. Considering that these people are the poorest of the poor they have an amazing abundance of faith. Crack-cocaine and heroin addiction run rampant, as does the incidence of AIDS and Pediatric AIDS. Childhood depression, accompanied by fear and anxiety, is prevalent. Their buildings and apartments are in despicable condition and even worse yet, nobody aside from those that live there seem to care. Chapters 2 and 3 continue with more depressing facts that chapter1 reveals. However, these are more detailed and more personal, and thereby more disturbing.Reading about these lives makes me think of people I see on the street everyday, of whom many are homeless. Being homeless used to seem like the worst existence imaginable, but after reading the first few chapters of Amazing Grace, living in Mott Haven sounds even worse to me. It is sad to think that a person without a home has more freedom than an entire community of people. Who decides that these people are expendable? Some may say that the politicians make that decision and that thereby our hands are clean. It is foolish to say that however, when we are the people who gave them that power. We do not want to admit that we often look away when we see someone in distress. Pretending nothing wrong is an easy way to go through life, regardless of how politically incorrect it may be. Ignoring the problems is simple if you are fortunate enough to be middle or upper class, but when you are poor there is nothing you can do to avoid them. People in need do not get to choose where they live. They live wherever they can afford to, or in some cases wherever they have been placed by government services. Many people in Mott Haven, the Washingtons for example, were indeed sent there by government services. The welfare hotel they had lived in previously was shut down. Instead of spreading these unfortunate people around the city or in surrounding borroughs that would give them a better chance of survival, they placed them all in Mott Haven. They had the nerve and the sense of cruelty to stick women and chidren in an area of the city already overrun by drugs and poverty. This is quite simply, or some would argue quite intricately, environmental racism. They had no choice.The big question is: whose responsibility is this? In a way I think it is everybody’s and in another way I think there are some of us who can not do anything about it. As of now I do not feel like there is anything I can do about the situation with the possible exception of raising awareness. Ignorance is the problem. Until the public speaks out and reacts to the despicable conditions in Mott Haven, nothing will be done. In order to speak out the public must be informed. Perhaps this can be accomplished by an outspoken member of the Mott Haven Community. Maybe even Mrs. Washington’s son or Cliffie’s mother.If they would contact one of the popular newsmagazines I am convinced that at least one of them would take interest. Until I started reading the book I was totally unaware of Mott Haven. I think the nation would be astonished to learn of the conditions there. If there is any compassion in the world at all I think the nation would force the government to act by speaking out. If Guiliani will not do anything maybe and hopefully some of the powerful players in Washington will. Not just city wide, but nationwide interest, must be raised. Then and only then do I think there is a possibility for improvement.
Shakespeare’s Othello – Iago and Othello
Iago and Othello
In Shakespeare’s Othello, the character Iago, Othello’s lieutenant, is the cause of all the tragedy which comes to pass as the play progresses. Iago is the antagonist of the play, but rather than being the direct opponent to the tragic hero, Iago is a manipulator, opposing Othello not directly but through other characters whom he tricks into acting for him. In the first scene of the play, Iago gives the audience warning that he is not all that he seems when he says, “I am not what I am.” (I,i,65) He is first seen in this scene appearing to help Roderigo, a suitor to Desdemona, who has run off with Othello, the Moorish general of the Venician army. Iago hates Othello for another reason. Instead of choosing him to be his lieutenant, Othello chose Cassio, another foreigner, and relegated Iago to the position of his ancient. When Roderigo asks why Iago continues to serve Othello, in spite of how the general has treated him, Iago replies, “I follow him to serve my turn upon him.” (I,i,42) He goes on to give an example of how he intends to serve him, by acting like the perfect servant, while secretly enriching himself, and later says, “In following him, I follow but myself.” (I,i,58) From this, one might think that he is still fairly straightforward in his plans, that he merely intends to betray Othello at some later date. However, in the third scene, he shows the audience his ability to manipulate people, when he convinces Roderigo to follow him to Cyprus and to bring all of his money, presumably to win back Desdemona. After Roderigo has left to do what Iago has suggested, Iago says, “Thus do I ever make my fool my purse.” (I,iii,37 y9) Later, in Act IV, we find that Roderigo has been giving jewels to Iago to give to Desdemona, which Iago, it is implied, has sold for his own uses. Thus, it is seen that Iago is merely using Roderigo to further his own ends, just as he said he was only serving Othello to serve himself. Also at the end of the third scene, Iago sets forth his plan to take Cassio’s position, by telling Othello that his lieutenant “. . . is too familiar with his wife.” (I,iii,402) It also comes out in this speech that he suspects Othello of committing adultery with his wife.