Samantha, just Samantha (samantilles) wrote,
Samantha, just Samantha

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Proof, Plagiarism, and an update on my sister...

This afternoon, I went to go see Proof with my mother. The movie was interesting, but it only got better as I pondered it in my head. As soon as I walked out of the theatre, I felt a little unsatisfied with the ending, but when you think about it, its not the ending, but the process of the story itself that was quite interesting. Long story short, its about the daughter of a genius mathematician who fights with her inner demons, struggling to find out whether she is indeed going crazy as her father did, and fights with herself to realize whether she did or did not write a ground breaking mathematical proof. She had never produced such a work before, and she doubted even herself if she had the genius of her father, despite not finishing her education, to accomplish such a feat. In the end, its largely A Beautiful Mind meets Possession. But the story brings up a central theme of plagiarism, as the daughter, played by Gweneth Paltrow, is indirectly accused of such. Did she write the proof? Or was she stealing the work of her genius father? It was the quest of her new love, played by Jake Gyllenhall, to determine that for himself, and possibly the mathematical community at large. But it makes me question the idea of plagiarism itself. Are we as a society so much tougher on the idea of plagiarism than in the past? Is it really beyond even a romantic love interest to doubt whether the work is original? We live in a society today where teachers throw kids out of classes because a cell phone sits on their desk during a quiz, and where professors require students to wear pants to exams because students can write outlines to their essays on their inner thigh. One of the running subplots of the film was, if you can't prove a positive, you might be able to disprove the negative. If you can't prove its yours, at least we can disprove that there was no other alternative for you to cheat, or maybe you have the skills afterall to write that essay, write that proof, pass that test, without cheating.
But, and this is my but, given so much information available in the world, can ideas actually be considered original anymore? I deal with this problem everyday in my writing. For NaNoWriMo, for instance, I had to disavow myself from writing a science-fiction or fantasy story, because I don't know where to draw the line from influence to plagiarism. How much influence from one author or ten constitutes rewritten material, or how little influence means its original work? So I settled on an historical fiction. Why? Because I don't read a lot of historical fiction. Most of what I do read is tied into fantasy anyways, with John Turtledove. So I have an outline for my NaNoWriMo novel, but still I ask myself, is this totally original?? How much of this can I trace back to this book I read or that book I read, and where is that line? At least I'm hopeful its a bit further back than if I attempted to write a fantasy novel. And that doesn't even go into the realm of how magnificent the story is. Can I ever live up to the greats? Probably not, and part of me doesn't want to try. I've seen some who have tried and failed. I've seen some of them on the New York Times Bestseller list. Take the Eragon series by Christopher Paolini. It has been critically acclaimed by many, and is definately a bestseller. but as I read through Eragon, I had to seriously question where that line was of the influence of Tolkien, and the rewriting of some of it. The story itself is more or less original, but the surrounding world around it is so much like a page out of Middle Earth. Some of the details, like the daughter of a noble king masking herself as a male to fight in a battle, and a magical king (insert Sauron) who rules ruthlessly over the land. Now don't get me wrong, I enjoyed the story very much, but I would not have been comfortable adding all those influences directly into the story. This month will be a struggle no doubt, enhancing my outline and enriching the details of the story, getting ready for November 1st. And that struggle will be to keep it as original as possible, a struggle which I am sure I make ten times more difficult because of my paranoia about plagiarism. But can it be that this toughening up on plagiarism, these constant bickerings in classrooms and some of the ridiculous things professors and teachers have to enforce to prevent plagiarism, lead to this paranoia? Why is it that I don't feel like I've written any totally original idea in my life? Apparently I have, or so my professors say. But I've never felt like that at all.

In other news, my sister finally broke up with the asshole. He went to Michigan last month for a wedding, and he brought back with him a female friend and her baby. Now, he swears there has never been anything between him and this woman, and even if there isn't, there are so many problems lying in wait for this relationship. My sister has always referred to him as asshole, or dickhead, and she's come home crying at times about his insensitivity and his apparent lack of regard for her. She's been in a pissy mood since he came home on Wednesday or Thursday with this woman, and she was not happy when she found out the news that a strange woman would be living with her boyfriend for a month. And then tonight, he tells her he might just move back to Michigan. So she broke it off. He's coming by tomorrow night *and spending then night* to drop off her things and I can only guess, have one last go around before she takes up temporary celebacy.
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