The Grasshopper Essay Radha Chopra

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The Grasshopper Essay

Radha Chopra

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The found photo has the setup of a bright bedroom, illuminated by sunlight. In the backdrop of the photo is a sizable window through which sun-lit trees are displayed. The bedroom is fairly empty, but in the center I am standing in a sky blue school uniform with an ID card hanging off my neck. I have a wide smile on my face, with my arms on my waist. The uniform has parting words scribbled all over it in black.
This photo was taken when I was at 14 years of age, on the last day of school. I had made a major life changing decision of leaving my previous school in order to join a different institution. The confidence of making the correct choice is radiating through my face. In actuality, this is very uncharacteristic of me because I have not been able to make pivotal decisions on my own with ease, in a short period of time. I cannot relate to the feeling of such boldness and assertiveness. I do not have great faith in my discerning qualities as portrayed in the photo.
The staged photo has a reddish hue, with a faded green fence running along it. Towards the left side of the frame, there is a long post with a yellow sign above it which portrays a black arrow pointing both directions, left and right. In a white shirt and black shorts holding the post with one hand, I am turned away and looking into the distance.
Indecisiveness is a prominent personality characteristic of mine. By nature, I find myself torn between two or more choices while taking major life decisions. This is probably reinforced due to my versatile identity. The arrows on the yellow sign represent what goes on in my mind, and how I’m split between possibilities. In simpler words- I could go either way.

W.D Howell provides us with a fictional situation in which a critic discovers a young artist trying to describe a real grasshopper through his work. Following that, the critic tries to brainwash the artist into creating the clichéd idealistic grasshopper based on his notion of what is ideal. And his notion of “ideal” is an artificial grasshopper which is “ made up of wire and cardboard, very prettily painted on a conventional tint” and “perfectly indestructible”. The critic claims that it is nicer than the real grasshopper which is natural and can be found in the grass. The critic believed that his grasshopper was superior and unquestionable. It was the ideal representation because of the critic’s approval and long lived acceptance among the people. This analogy metaphorically explains the plight of artists in Howell’s time and how they were constricted and confined by “ideals” professed by the critics.

The broad concept of Howell’s essay dwells around the idea of humanity one day having the courage to reject what has been imposed to be ideal. It also deals in part with the role of critics and traditional artists. This story fits into the larger context of Howell’s essay because it provides readers with a fictional situation which accurately sums ups the main point of the essay. Young artists like the one described in the story, weren’t free enough to paint their ideas based on what they see; what is real. But this real grasshopper was largely unknown to the common people, as they too were victim to the ideal grasshopper. The advice that Howell is trying to deliver is that young artists should break free from the shackles of the ideal by rejecting it and copying other artists. They should have the intrepidity to make art the way they think is real. Eventually people who learn from the natural, honest and simple will take over.

It can be now inferred that Howell lived in an era where artists could not freely express their worldview through art because of the concept of ideals. Art, in all its realms, be it literature or science had not yet emerged in such a way that it could be practiced independently without interventions and influences of expounders. This differs from my context because I live in a time where artists can create work without being encumbered. The concept of ideals has died out and resultantly there is more liberty in this practice as artists have greater freedom of expression and everyone has their own personal intellectual sets of ideals.

If I were a common person in Howells’ day and age, I would in all likelihood question his idea of learning from the natural and honest as I, too, would be victim of the ideal. Consequently, my agreeability with his visualization would have perhaps been lower. However, I live in a time in which there is greater freedom of expression and artists have the power to create work that is original and honest. Since I am reading Howells’ essay in today’s date, I probably have a higher agreeability with Howells’ idea of young artists rejecting the ideal than he expected me to have.

My reaction to Howells’ story falls in tandem with the themes and connectivity in my found and created photos. My found photo radiates the qualities of confidence and boldness which may be ideal traits for the masses. At an impressionable age I, too, ‘learnt’ that they are desirable. Contrary to this, the photo that I created is based on the representation of my real self rather than my ‘ideal’ self. It exhibits my indecisive nature and versatile personality. These traits may not be ideal but they provide an honest description of my self, which according to Howells, is the most appropriate way to create art.
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