Kafka’s “The Sudden Stroll”: A Visual Representation

Pictured above is my representation of Kafka’s short story, “The Sudden Stroll”. In this vague graphic, I wanted to portray both the literal and figurative aspects that the short story expressed. In the literal sense, I depicted the individual from a distance on a long winding path, similar to the endless stream of thought within the first paragraph/sentence of the story. To represent the same structure of the story, I chose to repeatedly use the word “when” to establish different points of realisation for the central figure. Speaking of central figure, I allude to the last few lines of the short story that refer to the persona as a “sharply-defined silhouette”. Thus, I chose to depict my central figure at the end of the winding road as a silhouette of a figure. Regarding the choice to blur both the early moments of the road and background figures, this is reference to the blur of early life mentioned in the first lines of the short story. As the global issue presented in this short story is about identity and their role in society, I wanted to show that each figure goes through their own strolls throughout life, as well as realising their own self-worth and purpose.

The Innocence of Children in “Woman at Point Zero” and “The Glass Castle”

For far too long have young girls experienced oppression before they could even fathom the concept of equality. Whether it be United States or the Middle East, these girls enter a culture of a dominating patriarchy, and are subject to it whether they like it or not. In the most extreme cases, young women are sexually abused by men and must carry that burden with them throughout the rest of their life. In El Saadawi’s “Woman at Point Zero” and Wall’s “The Glass Castle,” both authors narrate the journey as a young girl as they are confronted with such of a patriarchal society.
In El Saadawi’s “Woman at Point Zero,” readers learn about the responsibility and concepts that young Firdaus was exposed to as a young child. When discussing about Islam and the men’s prayer, Firdaus also mentions that her “breasts were not yet rounded” (21). The juxtaposition of these sexualised body parts shows that Firdaus, in all her innocence, associates such religion with sexual acts, seeing no issue or vulgar connotation. It is the patriarchy that sets these standards within Firdaus’ society that young children learn to stay quiet about such oppression of women. This ‘predatory’ nature of men is further expressed  in Firdaus’ description of the men in prayer, depicting them with “doubting, stealthy eyes, eyes ready to pounce, full of an aggressiveness that seemed strangely servile” (21) as if they were a hunter stalking its prey. The fact that Firdaus is able to understand the malicious intent of these men with indifferent commentary shows that, again, despite being confronted with these horrible concepts of sexual abuse, her child-like innocence allows her to accept them and conform towards the patriarchal society.
In Wall’s “The Glass Castle,” Jeanette expresses a more violent, yet also equally as shocking experience as a young girl that shows that even women are subject to the patriarchy in the developed western countries. In a brief confrontation with a young boy, Jeanette reveals that she was molested by him and that she had accidentally “touched it… even though [she] had never touched one before” (54). Looking at Jeanette’s choice of diction, it is quite obvious that she chooses to not mention any word representing a ‘penis’. From this, readers can assume that Jeanette is not mature enough to discuss such topics without being flustered, emphasising her innocence. Even when Billy, the young boy, declares that he raped her, she responds with “Big deal” (55), as she was still too young to understand the true weight of what rape or molestation was. Looking at the concept of Billy being proud of his molestation of Jeanette, readers can also see another side of the spectrum, where young boys and men grow up to see rape and molestation as acceptable within society.
In conclusion, El Saadawi and Walls express their stories as a statement and representation of young women grappling with the harrowing reality of a patriarchal society. Perhaps by expressing these issues and exposing the horrific issues that young girls must face, both authors declare that change must be present worldwide in order to reach true equality between genders.

 

 

Woman at Point Zero: Post-colonialist Novel?

To what extent can Woman at Point Zero be considered a post-colonial novel?

In Nawal El Saadawi’s creative non-fiction novel Woman at Point Zero, readers follow a retelling of the life story of Firdaus, a female inmate on her last days on death row, as she develops into a young woman under an oppressive patriarchal society. Despite having the entire novel take place within a Middle-Eastern region, this novel should not be considered as post-colonial due to the background of the author herself, as well as sentence and story structure.

Although Nawal El Saadawi has experienced sexism and other countless injustices against her own gender within her childhood and career in Egypt, it’s her refuge in Western countries that influenced her perspectives and thus prevents Woman at Point Zero to be a true post-colonial novel. As El Saadawi’s social views in terms of feminism parallels that of Western ideals, it can be said that she tends to apply Western bias towards Middle-Eastern actions. An example of this would be “He was already over sixty, whereas I had not yet turned nineteen” (46). In western culture, this massive age difference may seem very weird, unusual, as well as predatory; however, Woman at Point Zero fails to argue the perspective of the Islamic culture, and how it’s quite common and accepted within society.

Regarding sentence and story structure, we can see that the range of sentences, as well as pacing, allows for western readers to be more comfortable with their reading. This would fall under the Adapt stage of Post-colonial literature, where El Saadawi takes traditional western literature form and adapts it to fit the story of Firdaus in an Islamic Egyptian society. This connects back with the first point as readers are then left with half of the story: is this a problem within Islamic culture, or is it a humanitarian crisis?

Despite these points, some may view Woman at Point Zero to be post-colonial in the sense that it does indeed point towards cultural differences between the West and the Middle-East. Looking in pages 20-21, we can see that “…they invoked Allah’s name and called upon His blessings…,” as well as “they cut off a piece of flesh from between my thighs,” which are prevalent within Islamic culture. Thus, Western readers are introduced to foreign cultural practices (Islamic prayer, female genital mutilation). However, this different perspective fails to consider the message of the novel, which details about the oppression of the patriarchy within Middle-Eastern culture. This critical perspective thus urges the reader to judge actions taking place in the Middle-East with Western ideals. This creates an unbalanced view, as mentioned earlier, that does not properly portray the cultural differences (from the Middle Eastern perspective).

As powerful as it is, Nawal El Saadawi’s Woman at Point Zero should not be considered as post-colonialist as it fails to balance the perspective of Middle-Eastern culture, but rather subjects it to Western ideals and critique through author bias and tailored story structure, no longer “comparing” cultural differences.

‘Woman at Point Zero’: Feminist Novel?

As a precursor to my analysis, I should mention that ‘Woman at Point Zero’ by Nawal El Saadawi is about a woman’s story as she adapts towards an oppressive society in Egypt, eventually being put in prison where she tells her story towards an interviewer. Many have stated that ‘Woman at Point Zero’ is considered a feminist novel, but why?

Looking at the ‘Beginning Theory’ extract on feminism and how it can be utilised to critique literature, I’ve applied said knowledge to define ‘Woman at Point Zero’ by Nawal El Saadawi as a feminist novel. One portion of the extract states that “…a female phase (1920 onwards) looked particularly at female writing and female experience” (Barry). This most definitely applies towards the perspective of the book, which is more specifically a first-person perspective of both the interviewer, as well as Firdaus, the main protagonist of the novel. As the readers follow the bildungsroman format, they are subject towards the experience that Firdaus had undergone as she was a child transitioning into adulthood. The female experience is further emphasised by the “female writing” that the secondary first-person perspective achieves. The concept that a woman is rediscovering and sharing another woman’s life story shows an element of sisterhood that allows for women to be supportive of each other and generate a positive message in terms of femininity.

Secondly, another portion of ‘Beginning Theory’ states that feminist critics should analyse text for “[examining] power relations which obtain in texts and in life, with a view to breaking them down, seeing reading as a political act, and showing the extent of patriarchy,” as well as “[raising] the question of whether men and women are ‘essentially’ different because of biology, or are socially constructed as different (Barry). These two points, out of 12, are most important in terms of critiquing ‘Woman at Point Zero’ as Saadawi does use the book to explore such dynamics in contemporary society. In the modern that we live in today, Saadawi exposes such experiences that some women still have to undergo in societies that do support (to an extent) woman’s rights through law, yet still oppresses them through daily interactions. Changing the mentality is quite the challenge, even as Saadawi mentions the equality and hardships that woman face are equal, if not even more, sacrificing than men. In Saadawi’s novel, Firdaus had to subject herself towards degrading work, even if it gave her the false sense of security or power. Despite this, Firdaus was not acknowledged as an honest worker by men, and thus was rejected as a women, highlighting the stubbornness of social constructs by men against women.

English Lit HL IO Performance 2 Reflection

After ‘performing’ my second Lit IO (and my first live performance) to my english teacher, I can confidently say that I came out more satisfied than my first performance without even knowing my scores. I felt that the actual guidance and preparation resources that Mr. Dalton provided us really gave me a good idea of what a good IO should be like, and thus gave me a solid foundation for what my IO was going to be like.

I was most happy/satisfied with my development of ideas, and how I kept linking it back towards my global issues. At some times, I felt like I repeated the GI way too many times, but looking back I realise that perhaps saying it that many times allowed for the teacher to connect my points with my main idea easier. Also generally, one thing that I was both surprised and happy with was how natural the whole process flowed over 10 minutes. Before, I didn’t have much actual practice, just looking at the bullet points and imagining what my points were going to be fleshed out. I did do one full practice IO the day before, which did help me include one or two points that I was missing.

I guess not only more full process practices are needed for me, but also the analysis of the actual text and its context and literary elements. After the presentation, I learned that the format of the IO is very similar to how a paper works, and therefore I’ve concluded that next time I should adhere towards said parameters. One thing would be to signpoint what and when I was going to address regarding the work or text, and the other would be to explore more of the literary elements, and see how they reflect the global issue. Overall, however, I am very satisfied with this IO round and I really do want to continue improving my performances as the year progresses.

“Oranges are not the Only Fruit”: ‘Genesis’ Chapter Analysis

In Jeanette Winterson’s “Oranges are not the Only Fruit”, we are put into the first-person perspective of the author’s semi-autobiographical narrator, a reflection of Winterson’s own past. Much like the Bible’s actual chapter, ‘Genesis’ in Winterson’s novel is the first chapter which not only establishes the characters within the novel, but also gives a religious background towards the story that is to follow.

Early on within the chapter, us as readers are given a couple of lists that determine the foundations of Jeanette’s childhood and life. In the Bible, we have a list, or rather, a series of days in which God himself supposedly created the universe, another list that created the foundation of the world. This also goes further one more step, with the establishment on the first page of “Oranges” being the definite list of what is good and bad. In Genesis of the Bible, the establishment of good and bad is shown through the Devil (snake) and God in the Garden of Eden.

Having said this, the book, and especially the chapter, lends itself to establish the contrast between Jeanette’s self/beliefs and the biblical scripture. Thus, by taking the title of the chapter of the Bible and creating a parallel structure of Jeanette’s discovery of individualism against Christianity as opposed towards the Bible’s goal of self-discovery through religion, Winterson utilises her chapter Genesis as an introduction of how “Oranges” is quite the opposite of religious devotion. Instead, her dismissal of the Bible and religion in the chapter establish motifs of how she tries to integrate her contrasting personal life with the religion bestowed upon her.

“Green Rice” & “Journey’s End”: Global Issues

People should not celebrate the idea of war and heroic actions itself, instead celebrate the brave soldiers. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/nov/12/i-thought-remembrance-was-a-celebration-of-war-i-was-wrong

The article writer, Susanne Moore, initially talked about her mindset of her wilful ignorance of war remembrances, which was understandable. She believed that these remembrances were celebrating the war itself, but after discovering the stories of her neighbourhood’s background, she understood that these celebrations were not for the war, but rather for the brave soldiers that fought within. Both Green Rice and Journey’s End, two war-influenced works of text establish the message of not only the atrocities of war, but how heroic people rose above the tragedy. Green Rice shares the stories of women during the Vietnam War, and how they sacrificed and fought a separate–yet similar–war alongside the Vietnamese men. As for Journey’s End, Sherriff focuses the play on the sacrifices made by the soldiers, and how they suffered both physically and mentally as a result, highlighting their selflessness.

The true nature of war is inhuman and unforgiving to not only the soldiers, but also their families back home. https://www.huffpost.com/entry/lets-stop-glorifying-war_b_2742511

This article discusses the different aspects of war that the media fail to portray, which are the emotional impacts and detriments that combat has on the average soldier. The article author even provides letters from soldiers training in WWII combat camps, where the conditions are so intense, soldiers even suffer mental breakdowns from the wartime drill simulations. Green Rice relates towards this global issue somewhat in the sense that the Vietnam was claiming the lives of many innocent civilians, collateral damage in the name of war. Although Green Rice does not focus on the mental toll that war has on its victims, it still does provide commentary on the civilian victims that war leaves behind. Journey’s End focuses on this issue more so by looking directly on the mental consequences that the soldiers face rather than the actual conflict of war itself. The majority of the play’s runtime is placed within the confines of the barracks, which allows for the viewers to see the direct effects of wartime combat. Sherriff also shows this message through the dialogue between the soldiers, and how they discuss what lies back at home for them if they return, emphasising the loss that families had to face during wartime.

“Calm Before the Storm” (Journey’s End Act 2 Scene 2) – A Reflection

Going through the interpretation process was both exciting and frustrating in terms of execution–at least that’s what I thought. After some discussion, we picked the section we did due to the interesting dialogue between Stanhope and both the Sergeant-Major and the Colonel. Then, as we practised those couple times, we realised that the script is hard to execute in terms pacing and emotion (as mentioned by Petra and May’s comments). Having said that, we did the best that we could. Surely though, our interpretation upon the text lacks in detail that the “naturalistic” play does. Being the residents of Shunyi, the life experience that we have lessens that emotional punch that residents of 1920s Britain felt at the time. In 1926, Britain had crawled out of the First World War with just over 900,000 fatalities, a horrific loss for both the government and its people. Thus, the interpretation within the 1926 play holds more true to the horrific content that soldiers faced, as well as impacting its audience more seriously and effectively. Still, however, one message remains clear for both audiences in 1926 and today: we should cherish and praise the heroic soldiers rather than their heroic actions, as war is horrific and conflict should never be celebrated.

The above message relates to the global issue of politics, but I believe that another main issue is present within the play: power. I mentioned this in a comment on DX, but I said that Sherriff depicts an issue of how power often falls upon those who are unable to aid those they are responsible for. Tying this in with the other statement about politics, the public shouldn’t celebrate the army and its military generals and whatnot, but rather look at the soldiers and how they’re just regular people making sacrifices. These people are what won the war; they were brave and fought on despite the circumstances.

Overall, this experience with interpreting the play through execution really did let me reflect on how Sherriff wanted the play to be shown. Unlike reading the text, I felt like I really was experiencing (to an extent) what Sherriff had undergone and felt during his time during war: the hesitance, the respect, the fear. I had to express these emotions through facial features, actions, and through my words, something that requires reflection. And through that, I’m able to understand Sherriff’s message and appreciate the sacrifices that the soldiers had made, and fight for a future that doesn’t repeat itself.

‘The Public and The Private’: An Analysis

After looking at ‘The Public and The Private’, a short essay by Marian Cox and Robert Swan on Carol Ann Duffy’s works, I’ve noted that in our later in-class readings and analyses on ‘The World’s Wife’, we should focus more on the theme of maturity (the “journey from childhood to adulthood”), choice of persona, as well as the subversion of gender stereotypes.

One of the first things that the essay mentions is theme of maturity across Duffy’s overall works. In the case of ‘The World’s Wife”, this is expressed through the personas of each poem, with the first poem beginning in young adulthood and last ending in motherhood. This is significant towards our reading as it allows for us, as readers, to view the poems as a whole, which together tell an overall story about the role of a woman and the potentials they have in modern society. If we weren’t able to consider this, the overall message of the ‘The World’s Wife’ collection would then be lost.

The second, being the choice of persona, is important in the sense that we are able to understand Duffy’s intent on writing this collection of poems. In ‘The World’s Wife’, the voices of 30 women, either the female counterpart, wife, or gender-swap discuss modern-day issues of the female identity through the context of the persona’s historical relevance. For one, this is quite interesting as this carries on the first point mentioned by the essay: the role of women is constantly changing, very much like the role of a woman as she progresses through each stage of life.

Going through the later sections of the essay, it was quite difficult choosing another interesting point that allowed, but I then learned that a ‘recurring feature’ of subversion of gender stereotypes is another element that should be focused more on. Similar to the previously mentioned roles of womanhood, Duffy is utlising these poems to challenge the viewpoint of roles of woman in modern-day society. This is quite interesting as these two points seem to contradict each other: Duffy wants us to recognise the roles that women have in society, but at the same time to realise that they are not constrained to the day-to-day house labours. Perhaps this isn’t a contraction, but rather a suggestion that women have all the opportunities available to them just like all men do, signaling true equality in terms of genders and their expectations.