Identity and Sexuality in Benjamin Saenz’s Novel
The novel depicts two acts of anti-gay discrimination. The first act of discrimination was Ophelia, Aristotle’s aunt is introduced as the only lesbian in the family. She is shunned by her family expect for Aristotle’s parents because they discovered that she was living with her female partner. The second act of discrimination was against Dante, he was beginning to have a relationship with Daniel.
In an alley, Dante and Daniel were seen kissing by thugs and they beat up Dante for standing up against himself. The novel takes place in the 1980s in El Paso Texas, which experienced a lot of hate crimes against the LGBTQ community. The most notable was the case of Tommy Lee Trimble and John Lloyd Griffin, two gay men, were harassed and shot by Richard Lee in Dallas Texas. In the 1980s, it was hard to be a gay man and not be harassed by other men. In the 1988 there was also an AIDS epidemic occurring nationwide. Although it is not mentioned in the novel, it dominated the media and it shaped public opinion regarding homosexuals and homosexuality. The author mentions how it was difficult to be gay without having to endure any repercussions. After the incident occurred, Dante was afraid to come out to his family. He was afraid that he was going to be shunned by his family because they are traditional.
While experiencing external forms of homophobia from family members, peers, and society at large, Aristotle and Dante also experience internalized homophobia or their own feelings of shame about being homosexual. In one of the letters that Dante writes to Aristotle while he is living in Chicago, he imagines coming out to his parents and how they might react to this news. His musings on the subject are filled with self-loathing: “I hate that I’m going to disappoint them, Ari. I know I’ve disappointed you, too”. Dante closes his letter with remarks that suggest an even lower sense of self-worth because of his homosexuality. “Look, I just want you to know that I don’t want you to feel like you have to be my friend when I get back. I’m not exactly best friend material, am I?,” he writes . Not only does Dante think that he has failed as a son because he is homosexual, but he also believes that his sexual orientation renders him undesirable as a friend.
Aristotle also struggles with powerful feelings of internalized homophobia. In the closing pages of the novel, when the narrator-protagonist’s parents have a talk with him about his feelings for Dante, in which his feelings for Dante are vividly apparent. Mr. Mendoza rightly remarks “I think you love him more than you can bear” and Aristotle responds “What am I going to do? I’m so ashamed” . When his mother tries to dissuade him, he reiterates: “I’m a guy. He’s a guy. It’s not the way things are supposed to be. I hate myself.”
Anna’s Exploitation in Voyage in the Dark
In the novel Voyage in the Dark by Jean Rhys, we eventually see the character of young Anna Morgan shift from a naive chorus girl to a hardened woman who endures an unending cycle of pain and suffering. At first glance it seems that Anna is exploited by all the men she encounters in England, but a more careful reading shows that women also use and exploit Anna for their own personal gain. Without anyone to look up to or close friends to trust, Anna begins a mental decline through alcohol abuse and cheap sex, which finally brings her to rock bottom with a botched abortion that nearly kills her. It is through Anna’s eyes we can see the gritty truth of the demimonde in England and a life from which, though we would wish otherwise, she will not escape. After the death of her father, Anna is sent as a young girl from the warm, colourful West Indies where she grew up to cold and bleak England, at the demands of her stepmother Hester. Hester doesn’t so much exploit Anna but she leaves the young girl without any opportunity or options. She was Anna’s only connection to childhood and family, but the lack of financial and emotional support has caused Anna to look elsewhere: “You won’t have to give me any more money. I can get all the money I want and so that’s all right. Is everybody happy? Yes, everybody’s happy” (p. 57 and class notes Tolley). Hester virtually abandons Anna after a suspect explanation as to why no more money can be given, even when Anna tries to keep in contact with this woman she has grown up with, Hester cuts the ties; “I wrote once to Hester but she only sent me a postcard in reply, after that I didn’t write again. And she didn’t either.” (p. 63). Consequently Anna begins without much money and takes a modest job as a chorus girl, and this is when she meets Walter, nearly 20 years her senior. Right away she realises that Walter will give her money if she gives him what he wants, but the author includes subtle clues to show that although this may not be the most prudent thing to do Anna accepts this way of being in the world because of the money. One clue can be suggested by the words of Anna’s landlady, “I don’t hold with the way you go on… Crawling up the stairs at three o’clock in the morning. And then today dressed up to the nines… I don’t want no tarts in my house, so now you know.” (p. 26) Even Anna’s fellow chorus girls can recognise the men with the money and subconsciously teaching Anna; “You’ve only got to learn how to swank a bit, then you’re all right, she would say” (p. 9). Walter gives Anna money in amounts she never before had, and she begins to feel secure with it, “It was as if I always had it.” (p. 24), and she had mentioned before that she would do anything for good clothes. Seemingly all she has to do for Walter is love him back, only she doesn’t realise until it’s too late, Walter is only after one kind of love. This is how Anna begins the cycle of exploitation, she likes Walter, he gives her money and makes her feel safe, however she is still too naive and even with other girls counselling her she falls for Walter in a much more romantic sense. She loses her virginity to him as well, which likely lends to the fact of why she is so unmindfully attached to this man. Walter eventually leaves Anna after a weekend in the country likely at the advice of his shady friend Vincent, and this absolutely devastates Anna as she explains; “There was a man I was crazy about. He got sick of me and chucked me. I wish I were dead.” (p. 99) She had relied on Walter not only for financial support but also for emotional support and companionship; he was the only person in England she had felt that she could trust, even though he was using her. After he leaves her Anna feels lost and doesn’t have anyone or anywhere to turn to, as indicated by “I walked straight ahead. I thought, ‘Anywhere will do, so long as it’s somewhere nobody knows” (p. 86). At this point in her life Anna has really experienced her first encounter with men, and she begins the downward spiral in mental and physical health (by over-drinking), the breakup caused a blow to her already fragile self esteem. At this point Anna goes out with a girl called Laurie, whom she believes is her friend, and with two men. Laurie starts to use Anna as someone to help pick up men and Anna goes along because she thinks they are friends. Rhys demonstrates that Laurie is just using Anna when Laurie “dismisses Anna as a child,” throughout pages 106 and 107 (class notes Dale) and does not treat her as an equal friend, she never really cares about Anna’s needs. Realistically Laurie could be a role model, but she only shows Anna that in order to ‘get on’ in the world one has to do what the men want without getting attached, a lesson Anna is already learning. The men they go out with are just as bad. Anna is already emotionally unstable because she has still not recovered from her break up with Walter. Therefore, when she meets Carl from America she is vulnerable and goes along with anything he wants, even after she finds out he is a married man; “Are you married?’ ‘Yes,’ he said. He looked vexed…. ‘Have you got any kids?’ ‘Yes,’ he said after a while. ‘A little girl” (p. 135). Also Carl gives Anna significantly less money than Walter did, tells her he will be leaving London in a few weeks (p. 135), yet she still continues giving him sexual favours. This illustrates that Anna must be suffering not only emotionally but also from low self esteem. All the while Anna has been going out with Laurie she has been living with the equally unstable Ethel, who exploits Anna for her personal gain of her business. Ethel seems to constantly fluctuate between moods. There are some positive moods where she is affable to Anna such as when they first become roommates; “I’ll bring you something to eat,’ she said… She sat by my side while I ate and began to tell me how respectable she was.” (p. 115). Then there are other times which become more and more common where Ethel’s mood is jaundiced and she is envious of Anna, “You went out with your pals and enjoyed yourself and you didn’t even ask me. Wasn’t I good enough to come?’ ‘But it’s always the same thing. You didn’t even ask me,’ she said. ‘And oh God, what a life I’ve had. Trying to keep up and everybody else trying to push you down and everybody lying and pretending and you knowing it” (p. 125). Ethel is conscious of her own personal failures in life and while she sets up a new business it’s really a massage salon under a false pretence and uses the young unwitting Anna to draw in male customers. Although the text never explicitly states that Ethel’s business is a sort of “glorified brothel” (class notes Seifert), the reader can infer this by a conversation between Laurie and Anna; “One of them did ask me to take him upstairs, but when I said no he went off like a shot’… Laurie laughed. She said, ‘I bet the old girl wasn’t pleased. I bet you that wasn’t her idea at all.” (p. 121). Ethel also continually makes reference that Anna should ‘be nice’ to the clients, it is in this way that assumptions can be made as to the true nature of Ethel’s business. Anna is continually exploited by the parlour business, the clients and even through emotional abuse by the deeply inconsistent character of Ethel. It appears at first that Ethel to could serve as a role model or as an adult Anna could at least trust, however Rhys makes it implicit that Ethel exploits Anna almost more than the men do. The men, especially Walter, at least looked after Anna in that they gave her money and made sure she had clothes, whereas it is the opposite with Ethel, she only takes from Anna. Once it becomes clear that Anna really has become darkly depressed, she seems to be exploited by many faceless men. After manicuring them she would take them upstairs where she is treated like a prostitute. Anna finally hits rock bottom when she realises that she is pregnant, and nothing she tries on her own will change the state she is in. She even laughs when Ethel asks her who the father is, “… won’t he help you out- she said I do not know who he is and started laughing quite brazen…” (p. 142). Anna has a hard life adjusting to London. Being cut off from her family and childhood home was the first thing she had to overcome. After that, there were many people trying to exploit her; without true role models she couldn’t learn how to avoid this and start fresh. She continued in the cycle of exploitation until depression became the norm and she was reduced to a constant feeling of numbness. It’s only at the very end of the novel that Jean Rhys shows the reader a glimmer of hope in Anna’s life; the last lines offer an uplifting sense, “And about starting all over again, all over again…” (p. 159). Works Cited 1. Rhys, Jean. Voyage in the Dark. Penguin Modern Classics, London England. 1934 2. Tolley, Sarah Voyage in the Dark Online posting. 19 January 2010. Accessed February 7th 2010. https://online.ufv.ca/webct/urw/lc2107152105001.tp3012913619001/newMessageThread.dowebct?discussionaction=viewMessage&messageid=3374713655001&topicid=3369538800001&refreshPage=false&sourcePage=3. Dale, Chelsey Voyage in the Dark. Online posting. 18 January 2010. Accessed February 7th 2010. https://online.ufv.ca/webct/urw/lc2107152105001.tp3012913619001/newMessageThread.dowebct?discussionaction=viewMessage&messageid=3374576954001&topicid=3369538800001&refreshPage=false&sourcePage= 4. Seifert, Nadia Voyage in the Dark. Online Posting. 19 January 2010. Accessed February 7th 2010. https://online.ufv.ca/webct/urw/lc2107152105001.tp3012913619001/newMessageThread.dowebct?discussionaction=viewMessage&messageid=3374720894001&topicid=3369538800001&refreshPage=false&sourcePage=
Communication in The Dew Breaker
Many people in today’s world have trouble when it comes to communicating. In literature many authors use communication as a way to either create relationships or to create barriers in one. In the novel The Dew Breaker, by Edwidge Danticat, many characters struggle when it comes to communicating about their past, while others thrive at accepting it. This is shown throughout the entire novel however, three stories that show this in particular are, “Seven”, “Night Talkers”, and “Monkey Tails”. Danticat uses communication to represent a theme that the more people communicate about their past and secrets the easier it is for them to accept them.
In the second story from the novel, “Seven”, a man his wife are introduced. They have not seen each other in seven years. After this long of a separation the formation of a barrier starts to occur. They know they’ve missed each other and that they love each other but they don’t really know how to act around eachother. The situation is almost awkward. The husband is even scared of how to tell his wife he loves her. He thinks about it first and says, “It’s too bad, that in Creole the word for love, renmen, is also the word for like” (Danticat 43), so instead of just saying I love you he would have to use it in a sentence to explain how much he loved her. Due to the separation of seven years he didn’t know what to add to it so instead he said nothing at all. This plus affairs neither share with the other all add to the barrier. There is also a language barrier between them. The husband having been living in America seven years prior to his wife’s arrival has become accustomed to his life. While the wife finds it very difficult because not only is she unfamiliar with the city but can not speak english creating another communication barrier between her and the world around her. The longer that they go though not communicating about their past seven years the larger the barrier between them becomes. Danticat uses this barrier due to lack of communication to support the theme that the more you hide your past the harder it will be to move forward.
The next story that represent the theme of communication is, “Night Talkers”. Night Talkers are, “people who wet their beds, not with urine but with words” (98). This chapter is given this title because many characters in it have this characteristic. The first night talker we encounter is both Estina and Dany. Dany is a young man living in New York City who returns home to Haiti to tell his aunt Estina about discovering the man who killed his parents years ago. Estina does not care to think about this past terror that her and Dany experienced instead she embraces her past and is not ashamed of it. This is not Dany’s case though he is set on living in the past and discussing it with Estina. One of Dany’s more “chatty nights” he dreams about finishing his conversation with his aunt about the man who had killed his parents, when his own voice jolts him up. When he wakes up he finds his aunt is also awake. Once she falls asleep he hears her mumble words in her sleep as well, eventually becoming the last words he ever heard from her. The last night talker we meet is Claude. Danticat portrays Claude as luckier of night talker because instead of just speaking his nightmares out loud to himself, he is able to speak his nightmares to others as well. However he can’t always do this because of his english language barrier. This chapter relates to the theme of communication present in all chapters. Dany does not get the chance to tell his aunt what he had wanted to about the barber, but the communication seems to have taken place. As night talkers there is an intangible connection between the two creating a form of unconscious communication.
Lastly the theme of communication is present in, “Monkey Tails”. The main character in this chapter is Michel. Michel is from Haiti and like most has a complicated past. However, unlike most of the other characters in the novel Michel is not afraid to communicate his past. Michel is so set on making sure he doesn’t keep his past hidden like his mother did to him he creates a memoir to give to his son. Meaning the whole chapter represents a form of communication. He wants to share his childhood past and his present as a father with his son so that he doesn’t face the chance of a relationship barrier between them, like Ka and Mr. Bienaime. Michel communicates his past of not growing up with a father, only to find out he lived across the street the whole time making it easy for him to accept. Danticat creates michel to contrast him to other characters such as Mr. Bienaime, Dany, and the man and wife in seven to show that the only way to move forward is to accept the past and communicate it.
Throughout the novel Danticat has used the theme of communication to represent many different things. In, “Seven”, to show how not communicating for that long of a time can affect a relationship. In, “Night Talkers”, to show that being aware of a fear is one thing but being able to communicate it is something completely different. Lastly in, “Monkey Tails” Danticat shows that communicating the past leads to a better relationship between two people. However the overall theme of communication present in all chapters is the more people communicate their past and secrets the easier it is for them to accept them and move on. This is a problem that is still evident in today’s world. Many people still don’t know how to communicate their past or they are scared to.
The experience of being a woman
The Buddha of Suburbia is a novel written by Hanif Kureishi in 1990, which tells the story of a young man, named Karim Amir. Karim was born in England, as he describes himself in the book, “I am an Englishman born and bred, almost.” He is the son of an Indian father and an English mother. This book has an extremely accurate timeline, it is set in the 1970’s, and narrates the English cultural changes together along with the characters’ experiences, as the transition from the peaceful 1960’s to the revolted 1970’s, from the end of the hippie era to the start of the glamorous era, and the birth of the punk movement.
However, one of the remarking things this novel shows are the diverse characters’ personalities. Kureishi managed to create unique and very distinctive characters, each one of them representing their culture. In my opinion, the most interesting of all, are women. Luckily, in this novel, we are able to see many female characters, and all of them are very different from one another. Their experiences as women are diverse and from very different perspectives. For instance, Eva Kay and Margaret Amir are two women like chalk and cheese, but they have one thing in common: they have the same love interest.
Eva Kay is a middle-aged woman who was born in England, but has the lifestyle of an Indian one. When she had breast cancer, one of her breasts had to be removed and she lost her willingness to live. Her husband often beat her and the two of them were sexually inactive, so, when she meets Karim’s father, Haroon, in a “writing for pleasure” class, she finds a true friend who helps her win her desire to live back. Eva convinces Haroon to leave his job and start giving Buddhist meditation and yoga classes, providing him clients. Eva finds out that she enjoys spending her time with Indian people, so she organizes meditation classes at her own house. The first one she organizes, she invites Haroon to teach, and they end up having sexual relations.
Their relationship starts as an affair, although both are in love with each other. Moreover, Haroon is so attracted by her and the fact that they share the same interest in Eastern Philosophy that he decides to break up his marriage with Margaret and leave his family to live with Eva. She wins Karim’s heart, and he starts seeing her as a mother. She helps him to get into college and afterwards encourages him to try the acting career. She is extremely supportive towards him and, in my opinion, Eva looks more after Karim than she does after her own son, Charlie. Nevertheless, she is very supportive of her son too, wanting him to be successful at all cost because she feels he deserves it truly.
She has a very exciting life, combining mysticism, alcohol, sexual promise, clever people and drugs. Haroon falls in love with her due to her personality and enthusiasm. Eva also desires social mobility as does Haroon, mostly through his associations with Eva; Haroon’s own social goals are slightly more ambiguous, but he and Eva function socially as a unit and she directs them upward. Eva seems to be a bit of a social climber. She represents, in a sense, enlightenment as she lives her very exciting life, luring artists and intellectuals into her circle.
Her personality seems to engender many changes in her life, and one was, for instance, to move from the suburbs to London. She felt like she needed an upgrade on her living situation, since she wanted to obtain success. Once they arrive, they move to an area where many important people live, and she decides to invite several of them and make her seem like an influential woman. Furthermore, after redecorating and improving the look of their flat, she begins working as an interior designer for other people, and that makes her integrate in higher classes, which was her first aim once they moved to London.
Eva’s character represents changing social mores, as she is not the conventional English woman society would expect in the 1970’s. She is extroverted, mysterious, attractive, very imaginative, and has no shame of herself. She also exceeds the limits of what is normal, she is a very modern woman to her era, caring about prestige and enjoying life, as well as the falling away of boundaries between parent and child demonstrated in her way of being a completely open-minded parent with Charlie as well as with Karim. Eva is a woman with many ideas of how to spend life and how to help other people, but she is also interested in some more superficial aspects of life as it is social status and reputation.
On the other hand, there is a completely different character, named Margaret Amir. She is Karim’s mother, and Haroon’s wife. She is a very shy, hard-working and compliant person. As Kureishi describes her, “a plump and unphysical woman with a pale round face and kind brown eyes” (Kureishi, 1991). Although she was born in England, she took over the Indian traditions because of her marriage with Haroon. She is a very submissive and compliant woman. She would put her family first always, and she is the one in charge of keeping her family together. A proof of this is her job in a shoe shop to finance Allie’s school, who wants to become a ballet dancer.
Although she is aware of her husband’s extra-marital affair with Eva, she makes no mention of it whatsoever. However, she expresses her pain and deepest feelings by drawing pictures and writing a personal diary. When Haroon leaves her, she utterly comes undone. The reason it is so devastating to her when Haroon leaves is because her sole identity was as a wife and mother, even if she was unhappy in the role. She stays with Ted and Jean and withdraws from daily life, which means that she fails at trying to cope with her problems. She spends several days without getting up from her bed nor eating any food after the separation, assuming her life was over. She not only felt that she lost Haroon, but Karim too, as he was aware of the affair and betrayed her by not telling her. Also, Karim grew a lot closer to Eva, and in a way replaced Margaret with her.
Fortuitously for her, in the end, she is able to deal with her past and the previous events. She learns to be happy again and she even starts a new life with her boyfriend Jimmy, which makes Haroon regret or at least doubt the decision of leaving her for Eva, especially after finding out that he is an Englishman and has not the same traditions and interests that he has.
We can define Margaret as a sympathetic character stuck in an unhappy marriage. She has a weak personality, but starts to become more confident after she recovers from the painful divorce. She also re-casts herself after she is abandoned by Haroon, both in her appearance and in her attitude to life. Ultimately, the divorce proves to be an advantage, as she is able, once she recovers from the devastation of the failed marriage, to find happiness as an individual, and love herself the way she is.
Still, Margaret is, in fact, what we can define as a typical English woman of that period. Even though the 1970’s were an era of many changes and positive improvements for the feminine gender, several women were used to do things in a certain old-fashioned way, like being the ones who took care of the house, raising their children with conservative values, not talking about sex, alcohol, or drugs with them (something Eva was keen on doing regularly), having a regular job, and accepting that their major success in life would be to get married and have children, and after that, they would be their only duty. That is exactly how, in my point of view, Margaret is and intends herself to be. She is a conservative and serious woman, who does not believe in her own happiness above her family’s. Fortunately, she learned to give more credit to herself and accept herself in the way she is, and be happy again.
To sum up, these two women are the perfect depictions of two completely different women living in the same era. In the one hand, there is Eva, whose goals and achievements are to make herself an excellent reputation and win prestige, even if that means leaving the quiet life in the suburbs and move to a more noisy London. And, on the other hand, there is Margaret, whose goal in life is to get married and have children, and never think of having to leave the suburbs, because life is simple the way it is there. They are also different in several other things, for instance, their way of loving. While Margaret is a typical wife who shows her love by her daily actions, Eva is a much more passionate and sexual individual. Moreover, as it was previously mentioned, their way of parenting is completely different, and while Margaret is closed-minded, Eva is the complete opposite. Last but not least, differences are also found in the purpose of their job; Eva started working to make a name for herself while Margaret started working in order to pay her son’s education. Hanif Kureishi succeeded in describing two types of women (along with many more in the book) who coexisted in the same era despite their differences, and helped to show a more unique and varied society.
Hieronimo’s Transformation in The Spanish Tragedy
By the thirteenth scene of Act III in Thomas Kyd’s The Spanish Tragedy, the character Hieronimo has finally emerged as a major character and transformed significantly. He has gone from a commendable subordinate of the King, to a grieving father, to a man on the verge of losing his wits. Yet it isn’t till Act III, scene XIII that his ultimate, determined character emerges. Until this soliloquy, it is unclear who will be doing the avenging in a play that was framed from the opening scene as being about revenge for the unsettled ghost of Don Andrea. But by the end of the speech, and despite the ensuing delays that occur before the conclusion of the play, it is certain that Hieronimo will become the agent of revenge. This scene can be variously seen as Hieronimo’s transformation from by-standing victim to protagonist, from Knight Marshall of the King to incarnate scythe of God’s judgment, or even from hero to villain. What is unambiguous is that from Act III, scene XIII forward Hieronimo’s mind is determined, his role is active, and revenge is inevitable.Hieronimo begins his soliloquy with the Vulgate phrase, “Vindicta mihi!” (3.13.1), meaning, “Vengeance is mine,” quoting the passage from the book of Romans that continues: “‘I will repay,’ says the Lord.” This is his essential problem since Hieronimo is aware of this explicit New Testament decree against personal revenge, as would have been the Elizabethan audience for which this play was written. It was understood that God would avenge all wrongs, either directly or through his representative on earth, which was believed to be the King. However, it is interesting to note that he chooses to quote a phrase that is supposed to be in God’s voice, possibly hinting at his ultimate, personal appropriation of the role of final Judge in the play.Yet, with this understanding that he may “come by justice to the heavens” (3.6.6) since “they [Lorenzo and Balthazar] did what Heaven unpunished would not leave” (3.7.56) Hieronimo has attempted to inform his “Lord the King/And cry aloud for justice through the Court” (3.7.69-70). Nevertheless, he has been repeatedly denied access to the king by Act II, scene XIII. So the first five lines of the soliloquy in scene XIII, which consist of Hieronimo claiming to “attend [the] will” (3.13.4) of Heaven, lack the connotation of the monarch standing in for God and, in fact, literally mean that he must wait for the Heavens to carry out revenge.The idea of waiting on the Heavens is only toyed with though and by line 6 Hieronimo has pulled his head out of the clouds and into the pagan or Old Testament world of personal vengeance and action. This change is indicated by the fact that line 6, like line 1, is delivered in Latin, but this time does not quote the New Testament. Instead he references a line from the book that he holds in his hand containing the plays of Seneca. The quote, loosely translated two lines later as “For evils unto ills conductors be” (3.13.8), are spoken by Clytemnestra in the play Agamemnon as she plans to preempt the violence she expects from her husband. Based on this context, it would seem as though Hieronimo expects more violence from the murderers of his son (which is not unreasonable given his knowledge of the Pedringano execution) and may even fear his own life. So it is out of necessity of preemption, or preempting his enemies’ preemption, that he abandons the will of the Heavens in order to prevent further ills and guarantee revenge. Nevertheless, while Hieronimo has abandoned the idea of waiting on Heavens’ will, there is some indication that he feels that he will be carrying that will out. His second Seneca quote is again loosely translated into English in the following lines as “If destiny thy miseries do ease,/Then hast thou health, and happy shalt thou be;/If destiny deny thee life, Hieronimo,/Yet shall thou be assured of a tomb” (3.13.14-17). This essentially means that if everything works out in seeking revenge, then perfect, and if it leads to “the worst of resolution” (9) (ie his death), then he shall be righteously entombed. Finally, he concludes in lines 19-20 that even if he dies and doesn’t receive the proper burial rites, he indicates that he will still be accepted into heaven. The succession of these lines gives the firm impression that Hieronimo sees the mode of action and revenge as just. Thus Hieronimo abandons his role as vassal to the King for his newly perceived role as answering directly to and carrying out the will of a higher Lord.It is at this point in the soliloquy that Hieronimo drops all pretense and concludes that he “will revenge his [Horatio’s] death” (3.13.20). From this point on, Hieronimo’s soliloquy introduces a darker, Machiavellian side that seems to emulate the thoughts and actions of his enemy, Lorenzo. He thus decides to employ “secret” (23), “cloaked” (24), and “dissembling” (30) means to achieve his end. This decision contrasts with the heroic nobility and sincerity with which he has conducted himself up to this point and replaces it with conniving villainy and deceit.By the conclusion of this vengeance soliloquy, Hieronimo has developed fully into that character who will bring about the blood-soaked conclusion of the play. He incrementally convinces himself of the righteousness of vengeance in such “extremes” (3.13.27). He simultaneously abandons waiting on the will of God in favor of action, convinces himself that God will view his resolve to action as just, and adopts the underhanded tactics of his enemies to the detriment of his character. What emerges from this admixture is an understanding of Hieronimo as a newly resolved man of action, and while his proposed means are morally questionable, their announcement thankfully heralds the long delayed raison d’etre of the play.
Femininity in Aphra Behn’s The Fair Jilt
Aphra Behn, as the first woman to earn her living by being a writer in English, known for her daring and controversial treatment of the subjects of sexuality and desire in her works, plays an important female narrative voice in the literary history. In The Fair Jilt, Behn creates a feminine imagery contrary to that of the society she is familiar with. In Behn’s imaginative world, femininity takes over the role of masculinity, shifting from being the object of male desire to becoming the subject that desires; femininity also becomes ambitious and triumphant, wielding power through its sexuality.
In The Fair Jilt, the gender roles between femininity and masculinity are presented as often reversed. This novella tells the story of Miranda – a conniving and ruthless woman born with fatal beauty who takes pleasure in conquering men. Unlike the usual case in which women are deemed as objects to male sexual desire, Miranda instead adopts the role of a desiring subject: she becomes the one who is sexually aggressive, seducing men into falling in love with her and taking the initiative in courtships. Her adoption of the male role as a sexual aggressor is the most pronounced in her obsessive love for Father Francisco.
“… he appear’d all that is adorable to the fair sex, nor that cou’d the mis-shapen Habit hide from her the lovely Shape it endeavour’d to cover… She gaz’d upon him, while he bow’d before her, and waited for her Charity, till she perceiv’d the lovely Friar to blush, and cast his Eyes to the Ground.”
Through the reversal of the male gaze, here Miranda lusts over Father Francisco with her female gaze, shrinking him into a sexually desirable object in her eyes, until he blushes and looks down on the ground. It thus becomes the male, instead of the female, who displays signs of shyness and passivity.
Miranda goes on trying to seduce Father Francisco to succumb to her beauty and to break his vow of chastity using every mean possible, but all of them fail. Out of anger and desperation, she threatens to “ruin” and attempts to rape him. As Toni Bowers suggests, “in Miranda’s upside-down rape of the priest, Behn is laughing at the expense of the patriarchal love-as-rape scenarios… that invariably represented men as lustful brutes and women as sexual prey”. Here nevertheless Miranda adopts the male role as the “lustful brute” and applies the verb “ruin”, a word that is normally used upon women referring to their loss of virginity or purity, onto Father Francisco, rendering him her “sexual prey”. As Jorge Figueroa Dorrego interprets that Miranda has “an unconventional approach to sexuality challenging established notions of feminine passivity and chastity”, through the characters of Miranda and the men that she seduces, by exchanging the gender roles between femininity and masculinity, Behn challenges and mocks the established gender roles in her society.
Femininity is also presented as ambitious and powerful. As opposed to how women’s desires are “unspeakable” in Behn’s world, according to Ruth Salvaggio, Behn’s creative world is a fantasy of female power and triumphant desires. Miranda is well aware of the power of her sexuality and gender role, therefore she knows how to exploit her charms and beauty, in order to manipulate men and to get what she wants. Her attempts to seduce Father Francisco are futile, but she succeeds in taking revenge by leading the authorities to believe that she is the victim, taking advantage of not only her beauty, but also the general belief of women tending to be sexually passive and innocent. She then moves on to her second amour, Prince Tarquin, whom she succeeds in bewitching, with her calculated blushes and glances, her feigned shyness. Afterwards, she manipulates both her devoted admirer and Prince Tarquin into trying to murder her younger sister. Throughout the whole story, Miranda’s desires are triumphant. Even when her immoral deeds are exposed, she goes unpunished, only shamed. It is always the males who seem to suffer for the consequence. Miranda is even rewarded a peaceful and prosperous life at the end.
Ruth Salvaggio suggests that the way femininity is powerful in the novella is influenced by Behn’s personal relationship with her lover John Hoyle. She points out that such a powerful female character like Miranda is inspired by Hoyle’s dominating role in the relationship, therefore she becomes “a desiring subject by adopting positions of coldness, distance, and power”. It is also noted that Miranda’s relationship with Father Francisco is related to Behn’s relationship with Hoyle, as the way Hoyle’s homosexual preferences render him unreachable for Behn is similar to how the father’s vow of chastity render him unreachable for Miranda. Salvaggio thus concludes that through giving femininity power and victory, and through casting only the men as victims in The Fair Jilt, Behn is able to transfer her angst and frustration for her inability to direct her own desires, as well as to seek revenge.
In The Fair Jilt, femininity is given a new rendition, one that differs from the reality of Behn’s world. It exchanges roles with masculinity, rising from being sexually objectified to becoming the desiring subject, the sexual aggressor, as Behn tries to destabilise the social gender roles. It also has a taste of power and victory, in the way that reflects Behn’s fantasy of how she could act like in her personal life.
Bibliography: Behn, Aphra (2013) The Fair Jilt; Or, the Amours of Prince Tarquin and Miranda. Hamburg: Tredition Classics, p.9Richetti, John J. (ed.) (1994) The Columbia History of the British Novel. New York: Columbia University Press. New York: Columbia University Press, p.57Rubik, Margarete (ed.) (2011) Aphra Behn and Her Female Successors. London: LIT Verlag, p.105Hutner, Heidi (ed.) (1993) Rereading Aphra Behn: History, Theory, and Criticism. London: University Press of Virginia, p.260
Lancelot: The Psychoanalysis
“The cradle rocks above an abyss, and common sense tells us that our existence is but a brief crack of light between two eternities of darkness.” Vladimir Nabakov often told stories of men and women destroyed by unknowing forces and desires driving them to madness. The character often gives into their deepest, darkest desires and allows those desires to control their actions. The characters downfalls are love, hate, lust, distrust, and innocence. As he wrote these, Nabokov would often discover parts of himself he did not know existed. Much like Nabakov, T.H. White wrote The Once and Future King during World War II. He saw the world falling to pieces around him and could not figure out why. His characters desperately sought for answers, starting with the purest intentions and falling from grace. While writing, White discovered that he himself had given into his basic desires. It is because his mind has told him to give in to his utmost passions. Lancelot struggles to refrain from his desires and eventually gets too caught up in them to realize his world is in shambles. In T.H. White’s The Once and Future King, because Lancelot struggles to understand his underlying motives throughout his relationships with Arthur and Guenever, the relationships and Lancelot’s psyche are destroyed.
Lancelot’s love for Arthur and his need for his approval is the driving force to his mind’s destruction of itself. Lancelot idolizes Arthur from their first meeting. After Lancelot meets Arthur as a child, he becomes infatuated with the idea of being exactly like Arthur and serving as one of his knights. White even describes Lancelot as a child watching Arthur and being, “in love with him” (White 311). His admiration for Arthur drives him to become the renowned knight he is. Arthur is additionally a god-like figure to Lancelot. Layaman compares Arthur to Christ arguing when Arthur lives in the human world he atones for others sins and brings a community of saintly people together. Lancelot always feels the need to atone for his beastly appearance comprehending, “he [is] as a ugly as a [monster] in the King’s menagerie” (White 313). The dynamic of their relationship switches when Lancelot comes to court and sees Arthur as more of a father. Being with Arthur in France and being in his righteous presence provides Lancelot with the epitome of what he wishes to become. When Arthur sees Lancelot again for the first time in years, “he… knighted [him] the first day.”(White 326). When Arthur accepts Lancelot and solidifies their father-son relationship, their relationship changes into a psychological war in Lancelot’s mind between what is right and what Lancelot knows he should not do.
As Lancelot and Arthur become closer, an oedipal complex destroys it. The first person to realize, “Lancelot and Guenever were falling in love with each other…[was] King Arthur himself”’ (White 331). As the oedipal complex states, the child fears his love for the mother will be met by emasculation from the father (Sayer 5). After this occurs, Lancelot and Arthur’s friendship comes to a halt as fear of Arthur as the father, penetrates their relationship. This causes a rift in what Lancelot feels is right to do for his friend and his actual desires, or a war between his id and superego. When this struggle becomes more prominent, what his ego should do, becomes clouded. Layaman describes Arthur as a pure and uncorrupted individual and as Lancelot sees this he becomes even more lost. He is unable to compare himself or connect to Arthur anymore. Lancelot acts either upon his basic desires or what society tells him to, not what is a healthy balance between them.
Lancelot’s love for Guenever, or his mother, was met through anger and the desire for castration of Lancelot by Arthur. Without Arthur’s presence Lancelot succumbs to the pressure of his id and his affection for Guenever and his love of bloodshed start to define him (Sayers 6). Lancelot and Arthur’s hostility towards one another comes to an overextension when Arthur is forced by law to pursue Lancelot for his transgressions; but as Lancelot fights Arthur, Lancelot fears for himself and the blood spilled of his comrades through a battle that he does not want to fight. Lancelot even goes as far to murder his supporter and voice of reason at court, Gareth, in a fit of passion. Lancelot continues to decline in morals and is eventually consumed by cruelty. Arthur is too consumed with his battle against his best friend to realize what has happened back in England. Arthur, possessing a withdrawn id and a prominent ego, takes his troops and continues home. Thereafter Arthur dies, murdered by Mordred in battle (412 Malory Modern Library Edition). Lancelot’s fear of emasculation ceases and he realizes his affection for Guenever has killed his best friend. Lancelot realizes “That [his] grief would be incalculable at the passing of Arthur” (Layamon 126). Lancelot quickly attempts to suppress his feelings and his id. Much like Oedipus in mythology, he believes he committed, “…murder [and looks] up. [He sees] the fates circling. They [had] found [him]. [He was convinced] soon their shadows [would] rush cool across [his] shoulders” (McLaughlin 353). He cut out his id completely, absolving and discontinued the path of destruction he had begun. He dedicated the rest of his life to religion and God, siding on the extreme of the superego (443 Malory Modern Library Edition). Lancelot and Arthur’s interwoven paths and love for each other caused them both great pain and eventually cost them both their lives.
Lancelot’s relationship with Guenever causes an inner struggle in Lancelot’s mind and drives him to madness. As he falls in love with her, he struggles with the idea of not being able to work a miracle. Lancelot even “[prays] to God that he would let [him] work a miracle” (White 372). When Lancelot is tricked into sleeping with Elaine, he believes he can no longer work any miracles. His dream is shattered when Lancelot’s superego’s way of suppressing his secret desires to be with Guenever. With this destroyed, his id takes control and he gives into his desire to pursue a relationship with her. With the revelation of succumbing to his desires and his disappointment in not being pure anymore, he seeks comfort in Guenever. At first she, “[confronts the] problem with which [he is] intimately and passionately concerned” (White 375). Lancelot and Guenever’s love grows so strong that they ignore that Guenever is married to Arthur because they are consumed in their passion. Guenever soon after becomes jealous of Lancelot’s past lover Elaine as she has a son which ties her to Lancelot forever. She becomes bitter and vindictive towards Lancelot and his family. Guenever even tells Lancelot, “[she] will have her killed” (White 382). Lancelot’s dreams about his relationship with Guenever and his life purpose of working miracles is destroyed. With Lancelot’s loss of his id and superego’s desires, his ego is lost. His mind ceases to exist completely. Instead of providing Lancelot with the comfort he seeks, she abuses his affection and causes him to retreat to the woods away from court out of madness.
Guenever’s first time isolating Lancelot and his mind driving him to madness is unsuccessful, and Lancelot turns to Elaine and Galahad for help. Lancelot’s subconscious has a period of reorientation and soon he returns to court, leaving his son and Elaine to come back to Guenever. This represents his undying devotion to Guenever even as she abuses his love. Guenever is Lancelot’s “female master” (Walters 49). This means that Lancelot is compliant to Guenever’s wishes. This makes Guenever first to him, and the court and even his own family second. Lancelot’s desires for Guenever have replaced his higher judgement and his higher judgement, so his id has overpowered his ego (Walters 50). Guenever soon realizes that their love is tainted, “[by] seeds of hatred and fear and confusion” (White 384). After, Arthur sends Lancelot away to quest for the grail, religion takes over Lancelot’s superego and he is more resistant than he was before to Guenever. He attempts to discontinue the relationship after he returns to court. After being around her again though he succumbs to her charms and thus his id seizes control of his ego once more. Lancelot’s morals begin to deteriorate once again.
Lancelot’s infatuation with Guenever gives him supernatural gifts more than Christianity can describe. After Lancelot’s love for Guenever grows and consumes him, Lancelot does better in battle, acquiring a wide spread reputation. His bloodlust and love for Guenever control him and his id soon takes over. Although Lancelot tries to maintain the appearance that his superego is intact, his id is controlling his actions. As Lancelot ventures with his son Galahad, he cannot enter the church in which they receive the Holy Grail. In the final battle against Gawain, “The terror coursed through [him] again… [He’s] lived under its shadow so long [that he] grew used to it, could almost forget it. But [he feels] it once again, darkness hovering” (McLaughlin 306). Lancelot always knew that his gift of strength was bad for humanity because all his strength did was kill. In the final battle against Gawain, he gives into his gift and allows himself to kill a man he was once friends with. Gawain is known to have superhuman strength because a fairy put a spell on him when he was young. Gawain’s battle skills are supernatural and provides him with the strength to beat even the most difficult and unlikely opponents. Lancelot beats Gawain without much difficulty and bestows upon Gawain a fatal blow, proving that Lancelot has supernatural powers. Lancelot in killing Gawain satisfies his id’s need for blood. After the battle is won and Lancelot and Guenever face the death they caused, Lancelot decides to retreat back to the church (445 Malory Modern Library Edition). This symbolizes Lancelot wanting to cleanse himself of the supernatural gifts and reinstate his superego. Lancelot is driven, still confused, to the church to help his subconscious come back to a balanced state.
Lancelot eventually fails in his attempt to understand his mind and failing leads to his destruction. Lancelot constantly gives into his basic desires, disregarding the consequences. He manipulates the people around him to believe that he is right. Although he believes what he is doing is the justified, he is misguided by his subconscious. He fails in finding a balance between what is right and what he wants. He refuses to learn from the past and those events are filed into his subconscious, shaping his behavior for the future. From Lancelot, humanity can learn to evaluate their psyche everyday, with intention. Humanity must strive to discern how their id and superego come into play in their day to day lives. They must find a balance between the id and the superego and seek to maintain that balance everyday. Rationalizing and ignoring the problems can lead to an impaired and unhealthy psyche. The impaired psyche can perpetuate problems and repeat the same mistakes. If humans continue to look at their past events and analyze the underlying motives of the action, then they can hope for a better tomorrow. If they fail, they will hurt themselves and the community around them ultimately leading to confusion and ruin.
How and Why Bob Fosse Transforms Key Elements of “Goodbye to Berlin” in “Cabaret”
Transformation allows for a re-interpretation of a text from a different perspective. The relationship between the composer, responder, text and context are integral in this metamorphosis. Christopher Isherwood’s novella Goodbye to Berlin (1939) and Bob Fosse’s film Cabaret (1972) demonstrates this, Fosse transforming Goodbye to Berlin’s key ideas about the rise of Nazism and the corrupting nature of money into his own artwork, Cabaret. Christopher Isherwood Isherwood’s semi-autobiographical novel Goodbye to Berlin portrays the rise of Nazism, focusing on the brainwashing of children and the anti-Semitic attitudes of many Germans at the time.
The indoctrination of children had a significant role in the rise of Nazism, illustrated when Christopher sights a young “child of about five… marching along all by himself with a swastika flag over his shoulder and singing ‘Deutschland uber alles’.” This literally refers to the Nazi Youth and other right wing organisations that were having increased influence at the time. Whilst Isherwood’s tone is objective, he gives the reader insight into the easy manipulation of the young. The rise of Nazism is also conveyed through the anti-Semitic attitudes, seen in the “Landauers” chapter. The intense hatred and discrimination towards them is evident in Frl. Mayr’s conspicuous detestation of the Jews: “This town is sick with Jews. Turn over any stone, and a couple of them will crawl out. Filthy thieving Jews”. This metaphorical exclamatory language clearly conveys her loathing with the powerful adjectives conveying a common German attitude as a result of the constant Nazi propaganda. Bob Fosse’s film Cabaret similarly portrays the rise of Nazism, and the indoctrination of both youth and the general public. This is particularly evident in the Beer garden scene and the final scene. Fosse transforms Isherwood’s portrayal of the rise of Nazism to reflect the post-World War II context in which the film was created; the beer garden scene demonstrates the role of children and national pride in the rise of Nazism.
Isherwood’s portrayal of the role of children in the Nazi movement is transformed by Fosse in his later, retrospective context to also include national pride as a key reason for the Nazis success with the German people. Thus, he transforms the idea to make it more comprehensively relevant to what happened. Fosse’s decision to shoot this scene in the country represents how the Nazi party spread beyond the main cities, as no one tried to stop them. This musical scene opens with a close up on the face of the young Aryan boy sweetly singing, ‘Tomorrow belongs to me’. The slow panning of the camera shows the audience that he is a member of the Hitler Youth. The use of this young boy highlights how naive and innocent children are, and how easily susceptible they are to brainwashing. This patriotic song lulls the diegetic audience into a false sense of security as the music becomes strident and they get caught up in euphoria. The diegetic audience, now standing and singing in full voice represents the many people who stood by as the Nazi party grew. The gradual change from a pastoral sounding song to a nationalistic one clearly portrays how the Nazis used propaganda about national pride to gain popular support. The song’s climatic words “The morning will come when the world is mine, tomorrow belongs to me” is accompanied by a medium shot of the uniformed Hitler Youth boy, his right hand saluting, as he becomes the salient image.
The final scene of Cabaret also focuses on the rise of Nazism. Isherwood’s belief that increasing anti-Semitic views accompany the rise of Nazism is transformed to include hatred of all outsiders. This transformation stems from the novella and film being created in different context. Because of this Fosse is aware of how many non-Germans and even Germans who were different were persecuted. This is particularly evident in the final scene of Cabaret which focuses on the Nazi party’s growth, and its ability to get rid of whoever they disliked. In contrast to the beginning where there are no overt Nazis present in the audience, the film closes with the distorted reflections of the diegetic audience, many of whom are Nazis. This highlights their growth and how they ended up taking over the Cabaret. The denouement is somber. The mc (Joel Grey) interacts with his audience: “Where are your troubles now?” The rhetorical question with the close-up on his face forces responders to empathise with the plight of all Germans. The mc does not say “goodbye” in English, as he had done in his introduction, but simply, “Auf Wiedersehen, a bientôt”, then bows, thus saying goodbye to the good times in Germany, which is symbolic of his death and that of the others too.
Isherwood’s Goodbye to Berlin portrays how all aspects of society are corrupted by the power of money. Money is extremely powerful, as it can control many people; whom will willingly change and act a certain way in return for it. The Troika is a decedent cabaret, which is desperate for clientele, and by extension, the money they bring. It is ever changing its façade, which is evident when a customer finally arrives: “In an instant, the Troika was transformed”. Initially, the girls who worked at the Troika “were tired and bored”. Their behavior suddenly changes once ‘money’ arrives, as they “turned on their stools smiling a not-too-direct invitation”. The imagery and alliteration emphasise how easily people can be bought as well as the duplicitous nature of the cabaret and thus the society it represents. Thus, Goodbye to Berlin emphasises moneys ability make people willing to change in return for it. Fosse’s Cabaret emphasises the corrupting nature of money, particularly during the song “money makes the world go round”, which is a light-hearted testament to the fact that people will do almost anything for money. Money has a corrupting value; people will adhere to obscene ideas and values if dependent enough. Fosse transforms Isherwood’s value of the power of money. It is transformed into a musical piece as a result of the 1970s context, and the love for musicals during this era, as well as the cabaret being a microcosm of the society and Fosses wanting to emphasise the corruption of money in Berlin. The medium shot as the mc and Sally Bowles (Liza Minnelli) sing “If you haven’t any coal in the stove and you freeze in the winter” portrays why it was so easy to be bought by others. The repetition of “money” throughout the song highlights its importance in everyday living, because without it “you look thirty pounds underweight”. Cabaret obviously illustrates the corrupting power of money in distorting ideas and behaviors.
Isherwood, in 1939, demonstrates his awareness of the massive power of the Nazi nationalistic movement and its potential danger; he attributes its success to national pride and indoctrination. He cannot, in 1939, know the horrors that bellowed in the subsequent six years of World War II. Fosse, in 1972, with the benefit of hindsight and the full knowledge of the events of those six years, is able to be much more comprehensively analytical of the period and the extraordinary growth of Nazi strength and popularity. Fosse’s filmic transformation of the earlier written text coveys Isherwood’s ideas and values powerfully to a more modern audience through memorable visual images and music. The transformation from the novella to film allows the responder to gain insight into the society ruled by the Nazis as well as the power of money and its corrupting nature.
The Right Kind of Hope: Lady Philosophy and Her Importance to Beothius
In The Consolation of Philosophy, the main character and author of the work, Boethius, faces the hardest time in his life when he is imprisoned and sentenced to death. Boethius is mourning the loss of his privileges, influence, and freedom, and seeks consolation from Lady Philosophy, whom he envisions he is having a philosophical discussion with. Lady Philosophy attempts to help Boethius remember his higher purpose in life by encouraging him to lead with reason and logic rather than his passions. Throughout the novel Boethius utilizes Lady Philosophy’s presence as an opportunity to ask existential and moral questions to help him grasp the role of higher powers such as Fortune, Providence, and God in human life. By the end of his conversation with Lady Philosophy, Boethius recognizes that leading with his passions rather than with reason is the root to his personal suffering and is what has prevented him from understanding why Divine foreknowledge and human freedom’s coexistence is needed in human life.
At the beginning of the text, Boethius thinks that Divine foreknowledge and free will are contradictory and he does not think both can exist at the same time. In Book V, Boethius explains his confusion about these two concepts to Lady Philosophy, “…either future events be seen by God or that things foreseen happen as foreseen, and this alone is enough to remove freedom of the will” (120-21). Boethius suggests that all events that occur on Earth happen because they occur in God’s mind. From a human’s perspective, his reasoning initially makes sense, because if all things originate in God’s mind, then humans have no way of changing this and thus must not have free will. However, what Boethius struggles to understand and does not account for in his reasoning is that God does not experience time in the (linear) way humans do. Boethius assumes humans can view the past, present and the future the way God does. What Lady Philosophy explains to Boethius is that for God, the past, present and future have already happened; God has seen our entire lives and the lives after ours and those before ours, all at once. Lady Philosophy brings this to Boethius’ attention, proving his initial ideas faulty, because Boethius’ perspective is clouded by his emotions– or his “passions.” Embittered by his imprisonment, Boethius shapes his idea of human’s lack of free will based on his bitterness. Lady Philosophy reminds him that passion is preventing him from clearly and logically evaluating human freedom in relation to Divine foreknowledge.
One of Boethius’ thoughts about God’s relationship to human freedom is that things only happen because it is necessary that they happen. However, his thinking that God sees only one possibility to be the “future” is proven false by Lady Philosophy, when she explains, “God sees those future events which happen of free will as present events” (135-36). Although God does not experience time at the same rate or moment that we do, he recognizes that the present moment is, for humans, the present because this is how he allows humans to have and use their free will. God is able to see all possibilities of the future; people are allowed to change their minds and decisions, which can lead them to various destinations in life, but doing so does not mean they have escaped divine foreknowledge because God accepts the present moment that humans have chosen. God’s foreseeing of humans using their free will does not constrain the freedoms humans have nor does it devalue or discredit humans in the moments that they are using their free will. Lady Philosophy says that this is because God’s relationship to the event and the event by itself are separate entities, and though they are intertwined because of God’s foreseeing of it, when looked at separately, the way in which one uses his/her free will is his/her decision alone and has no direct influence from God. With help from Lady Philosophy, Boethius comes to understand that free will and fortune are in God’s power and are not used to aid the evil, but are for the good.
Lady Philosophy believes that though Fortune is random, whatever fortune people get plays a purposeful role in their lives based on whether they themselves are good or evil. This is because of Fortune’s very fickle, unpredictable and unreliable nature. If a person is going to embrace Fortune, they need to be grateful for the good and the bad fortune that they are given. If they grieve the good that leaves them and the bad that comes to them, they are enslaved to Fortune. Lady Philosophy says that this speaks to the person’s character, not to their circumstances,“When [the wicked] suffer, no one is surprised, because everyone considers they deserve ill…and when they prosper, it is a powerful argument to good men about the kind of judgement they should make of such happiness as they often see wait upon the wicked” (108). Lady Philosophy tells Boethius this to reveal to him that evil people receiving good fortune is not God merely letting them get away with evil. Lady Philosophy assures Boethius that evil people’s souls will be held accountable for their actions when they die. Without evil bringing “destruction on the good”, the wicked would not be able to punish themselves by going through the cycle of constantly chasing the desire/happiness that they will never attain. Free will is needed in order for people to be held accountable for their sins. Only through goodness can people find true happiness, which is why evil people will never reach this true happiness. Boethius struggles to come to this realization, and says that philosophically he understands what Lady Philosophy is trying to teach him, but through a human’s perspective, it is easier said than done. Boethius, the author, gives Lady Philosophy the final words of the account.
Throughout Boethius’s writing, Lady Philosophy guides Boethius to discover the answers to his own questions rather than her telling him directly, so her words ending their conversation seems contradictory. However, Lady Philosophy’s closing words are, once again, advice to Boethius to “lift up your mind to the right kind of hope” (137). She encourages him to connect with God, and take this time of despair and hopelessness to turn toward the highest power of good in the universe and handle himself logically and reasonably to find consolation. Ending the novel with Lady Philosophy’s words tells the reader that this message is not something humans can ponder: it just is.
Redefining the Relationship Between Colonial Margin and Metropolitan Center in ‘The Buddha of Suburbia’
Societies are formed by a mixture of several cultures and people from different countries, as well as cultural backgrounds. But in some cases, the unity of society gives way to culturally hybrid societies that causes identity problem and creates ambivalence and in-betweenness in the inner and social life of individuals. This hybridity discusses the rising of new transcultural forms occurred by the impact of colonization and can even be associates with the work of Homi K. Bhabha, who states that ambivalence gives a description of the complex structure of attraction and repulsion. Therefore, the relationship between colonizer and colonized is characterized by the concept of hybridity. Moreover, it is defined as ambivalent since the colonized subject can never completely resist to the colonizer.
As multiculturalism is not a new phenomenon in European history, neither are its literary and artistic manifestations, where the suburban and metropolitan novel The Buddha of Suburbia by Hanif Kureishi, lies in escaping the limitations of postcolonial ethnicity dictated by the immigrant condition. In this novel, ambivalence and in-betweenness of the hybrid identities in multicultural Britain is represented through the main character Karim where his cultural mixture in terms of social, ethnic and even national identity seems to be mistreated and even swallowed by his pride to find somewhere he can belong to. Thus, in what ways has Hanif Kureishi sought to redefine the relationship between the colonial margin and the metropolitan center?
Firstly, what makes the novel so valuable is Karim portrayed as a middle-class Indian-Pakistani boy who cuts into the ambivalent experience of Britain’s South Asian community. From the beginning, Karim does not give the impression to be particularly interested in his own heritage, but shows a strong desire to escape the shabbiness of the suburbs, where “people rarely dreamed of striking out for happiness” (Kureishi 1999, p.8) The novel is presented from a raced perspective through Karim’s consciousness, while being the son a British woman called Margaret and an Indian father called Haroon. He is not only together with his father’s Indian friends, Anwar, Jeeta and their daughter Jamila, Karim’s best friend and sexual partner but also with his unhappy and alcoholic British relatives Jean and Ted. In addition, it is important to mention that it is full of humorous depictions of racial identity confused or in some way multiple (Indians who want to be more English and English people who find satisfaction in the rejection of their ethno-centric British inheritance).
From the beginning of the novel we can depict Karim’s hybrid identity that causes ambivalence in his attitudes towards life and people, when he introduces himself at the very beginning of the novel: “My name is Karim Amir, and I am an Englishman born and bred, almost. I am often considered to be a funny kind of Englishman, a new breed as it were, having emerged from two old histories.” (p.1) Through this statement he gives the first clue to the reader: his sense of incompleteness that escorts him through the whole story. Karim’s subversive actions are undefined and completely unsystematic. In fact, according to Glabazňa (2010, p.68), this is a fact that may not be the bet ground for anti-colonial politics and resistance, but is fully legitimate in a postcolonial world where any kind of subversive activity must necessarily dismiss all essentials as illusions, and “utilize instead its own fragmentation, ambivalence and indeterminism”.
Regarding his life in Britain, we can distinguish two opposite parts as center and margin: metropolitan and suburban together with multiple conceptions of England. Therefore, the image of the immigrant first trying to assimilate and fulfil the expectations of the host country and then rejecting this role to look for his origins is, according to Karim, the problem of “The immigrant condition” (p.64) and the creation of identity on the margins of society. As his world is full of class and racial tension, he is caught in a society that either patronizes or accepts the other, provided that the other responds to mainstream assumptions and to commercial notions of exoticism. For Karim the multicultural freedom offered by life in the city is based on the possibility of undoing stereotypes; however, it involves the humiliation of being labelled as “ethnic” or the minority. Nevertheless, over the course of the novel Karim learns to suffer and tolerate any indignity that might help him succeed and escape suburbia. For instance, as an actor he states that he wanted the part, whatever part it was. (p.139) On the contrary of what it may seem, Karim does not want to conform but to be different, because he craves adventure and cannot wait to be elsewhere.
When he left his suburban world, he became aware of the dangers of entering a strange territory, especially after meeting Eleanor, he decided to move up the social ladder by losing not his Indian accent, like his father did, but his suburban one. (Zas Rey 2004, p.99) Lured by the fantasy of glamorous, bohemian metropolitan world, Karim – as well as his suburban friends – are desperate to escape to the city in search of the posh artists’ world of central London, at all costs.
As a matter of fact, he exhibited how difficult it is for a person of color to elude the prejudice imposed on himself, when Shadwell (the theater director) with his cultural racism sees Karim as the perfect actor to portray Mowgli in The Jungle Book theater production. As a consequence, Karim is appalled by the idea and tempted to come back to the suburbs where he belongs, yet the offensive implications of playing such undignifies role disappeared soon. This role is a clear attempt for Karim to appear ‘more Indian’ on the stage with his accent and covered “in the brown muck” (p.146) even asking him to hiss like the snake who saves Mowgli’s life. In this way, Kureishi reflects the cultural racism of white society. The director himself claims the he has been casted for authenticity not for experience (p.147). Both Shadwell’s caricature of an Indian accent and his choice to stage such a product of colonialism as Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book, as well as the misconception of Asians as caricatured, “exploited immigrants constitute ordeals which Karim has to undergo in order to leave the suburbs and improve his career and life”. (Zas Rey 2004, p.100) But there is another interesting aspect behind this: Karim was the one who chose the artistic career to avoid the destiny of half-cast in England (Kureishi 1999, p. 141). Notwithstanding, it is quite ironic that Karim gains respect and a new identity through being an actor of Asian stereotypes in the metropolis.
Following Kureishi’s line of thought where he plays with this notion of representation, Pyke (another theater director) asked the group of actors – which Karim belonged to – to “’concentrate on the way [they] think [their] position in society has been fixed” (pp. 168-169) In this way, Pyke shows us how he understands the world: divided into binary groups (oppressors-oppressed, master-slave, colonised-coloniser).
On the other hand, Karim and his father enjoy the benefits of being different, because Haroon managed to achieve success by selling exotic ideas of the spirituality and wisdom of the East to the “disenchanted British middle-class”. (Zas rey 2004, p.74) Consequently, even Karim is surprised when Haroon hisses his s’s and exaggerated his Indian accent, that he tried to suppress for so long, “trying to be more of an Englishman, to be less risibly conspicuous” (Kureishi 1999, p.21) In this way, Karim and his father utilize different forms of orientalist stereotypes and server them to the British public in exchange for cash, at first, but putting into a subversive play this whole history of British colonialism. Hence, Graham Huggan’s opinion regarding this issue becomes quite relevant: “Minorities are encouraged, in some cases obliged, to stage their racial/ethnic identities in keeping with white stereotypical perceptions of an exotic cultural other” (Oĝuz 2013, p.1177)
Moreover, the novel is full of other examples where the characters play with this in-betweenness. To mention some: when Haroon suggested that his English wife should wear a sari to be less English and ‘more acceptable’; when Ted anglicized Haroon by naming him ‘Harry’; when Karim or ‘Creamy’ renamed Jean and Ted to ‘gin and tonic’ (the typical and well-known British colonial drink).
Briefly, as Kureishi makes clear, the characters decide to fraudulently – or not, in some cases – exploit the obsolete oriental colonial conceptions of the East by adopting a false identity (as the Buddha of the suburbs), and these performances can be seen on one level as parodies of white expectations and, on another, as demonstrations of the performative basis of all identity formation and process.
Finally, when Karim decides to return from New York – where he experienced the true actor’s life and fame, as well as a sense of belonging because of Manhattan’s open space liberates the individual from his imposed artificial background – there is a very specific moment where he refers to his next role in a soap opera that “would tangle the latest contemporary issues: […] racist attacks, the stuff that people lived through but never got on TV” (p.259) Thus, it is quite intriguing that even after he managed to become more famous and recognized by his previous roles as an actor, he still had to perform as an Indian shopkeeper that would go through these ‘contemporary issues’.
After four years of questioning where he belongs, Karim manages to locate himself in relation to ‘here’ and ‘there’ by turning his own created ethnic identity to his advantage. His quest for self-identity manages to fuse the two sides (English and Indian, city and suburbs) which together constitute his essence. But the notions of whiteness as “holly and blackness [as] satanic” (Oĝuz 2013, p.1282) is the pure result of hybrid identities – biologically and culturally – that turned out to show in this story the permeability of class divisions and the new possibilities of social mobility in postwar Britain.
Kureishi managed to redefine the relationship between the colonial margin and the metropolitan center in this novel because not only it traces the tenacity and power of class distinctions, as the main character is constantly confronted with the differences between his roots; but also, it presents the possibility of undoing stereotypes – for instance, in New York – to conform an ambiguity which stresses the value of identity and location.
GLABAZŇA, R. (2010). THEATER OF IDENTITY: THE BUDDHA OF SUBURBIA. Silesian University in Opava. Moravian Journal of Literature and Film 2, no. 1, pp.65–77.
KUREISHI, H. (1999). THE BUDDHA OF SUBURBIA. London: Faber and Faber Editions
OĞUZ, A. (2013). AMBIVALENCE AND IN-BETWEENNESS IN HANIF KUREISHI’S THE BUDDHA OF SUBURBIA AND DORIS LESSING’S VICTORIA AND THE STAVENEYS. The Journal of Academic Social Science Studies, Volume 6 Issue 3(6), pp.1175-1183.
ZAS REY, S. (2004). PICARESQUE AND ROMANCE IN GOLDEN AGE SPAIN AND POSTCOLONIAL BRITAIN: A COMPARATIVE STUDY. The University of Hull.