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Area of Study – The Outsider Essay

How have the texts encountered in your studies enriched your understanding of The Outsider? “You don’t get to 500 million friends without making a few enemies. ” An outsider is interpreted as someone who separates themselves from the rest of the society, intentionally or unintentionally. Sometimes, it is this outsider’s insecurities or physical appearance that contributes to this factor of their ‘isolation’.

The play Othello by William Shakespeare and the 2010 film The Social Network directed by David Fincher are conclusive in portraying and analysing a significant outsider or group of outsiders through literary and cinematic devices, which enrich my understanding of this concept, later used to my benefit, demonstrated through my visual representation.

Written by the famous English playwright William Shakespeare circa 1603, Othello explores the idea of ‘The Outsider’ through the two significant notions that enriched my understanding – insecurities and physical appearances, both of which are used to advantage and disadvantage the characters in the play. Othello is immediately introduced as the titular black general and the Moor of Venice, who has overcome racial prejudice to hold a renowned position in society and a marriage to a beautiful young woman, Desdemona, the senator’s daughter.

The metaphor in the line, “… an old black ram is tupping at your white ewe… ” indicates a sense of hostility that the other members of society have against Othello, using physical appearance and racist slurs to downplay the general, the majority of these comments being made by Iago, Othello’s advisor. Iago could be seen as an outsider in the play, but uses this characteristic to his advantage, being desperate for power and authority; he raises Othello’s suspicions about his wife’s fidelity.

Iago is also known for foreshadowing events, as seen in the personification used in the line, “O beware, my lord, of jealousy; it is the green-eyed monster which doth mock the meat it feeds on… ” indicative of Othello’s future actions in the play. Othello, oblivious to Iago’s exploitations, undermines himself- an insecurity- seen in the pitiful tone, “Haply for I am black, and have not those soft parts of conversation that chamberers have… ” evident of his lack of self worth and vulnerability to issues relevant to his colour or race, enhancing my comprehension of The Outsider.

The 2010 American film The Social Network- written by Aaron Sorkin and directed by David Fincher, strongly delves into the concept and deepens my understanding of the Outsider from the beginning. The protagonist, Mark Zuckerberg, like Othello, is instantly presented as a character who does not wish to interact with society directly and uses social networking to express his opinions, thereby the invention of Facebook. The lighting throughout the movie is an example of the many cinematic devices that are effective in demonstrating the different societal groups.

As an individual, the dim lighting on Mark, in contrast to the bright lighting on the others in his group is indicative of Mark being an outsider, even within his own group. Also, the repetition of the word ‘asshole’ in several situations in the film is suggestive of how similar Mark’s character is to Othello’s – he allows himself to be looked down on. Erica Albright, Mark’s ex- girlfriend says at the start of the film, “…It’ll be because you’re an asshole,” and this is contrasted when Marilyn Derpy, the psychiatric nurse has her final statement at the end of the film, “You’re not an asshole, Mark.

You’re just trying so hard to be. ” Albright’s vindictive tone is representative of how an outsider can be portrayed when he or she is put down by others, further supported by Derpy’s somewhat sympathetic yet wary tone. Mark’s tolerance of being exploited further enhances my knowledge of the concept of the Outsider, especially through the characters that manipulate him the most – the biggest of these being Sean Parker, the founder of Napster and the first president of Facebook.

Sean’s character is much similar to Iago’s, as he is as much as an outsider as he is an insider. The repetition of ‘cool’ as Sean defiantly says to Mark, “A million dollars isn’t cool. You know what’s cool? A billion dollars,” shows how using such simple socially acceptable terms can influence a person’s decisions, especially characters like Mark, whose insecurities play a massive role in creating the atmosphere of ‘The Outsider’.

My visual representation is an amalgamation of the perceptions of the Outsider that I derived from analysis of Othello and The Social Network. Using the same template as the given image, I drew the figure and his surroundings on the inside of the room in black and white, also giving prominence to the central figure, outlining ‘him’ in a darker colour in contrast to the chair he is sitting on. The personage is looking outside, into a colourful world, of which I have used many different colours to show the difference between the inside world and the outside world.

As in Othello, colour plays a major role in distinguishing between outsiders and insiders. Using colour, I represented the character to be the salient black and white figure in a black and white environment, but this is merely the ‘inside world’. I have chosen the persona’s gaze to lead the viewer to focus on the colourful outside world, demonstrating the differences between the inside world and the outside world. The individual is recognised as an outsider, not only in his own micro world, but in his larger macro world.

Therefore, the conceptualisation of ‘The Outsider’ has been enforced through cinematic and literary devices used in the texts Othello by William Shakespeare, through the notions of colour and physical appearances and The Social Network directed by David Fincher, which reiterates how manipulation and downplay of colour and physical appearances can lead to being in a solitary state as an individual. My visual representation incorporates these ideas into a single ideology, evidence of how these texts have enriched my understanding of ‘The Outsider’.


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