Exploring Global Issues in Kafka’s Short Stories

The Sudden Stroll

 

GI: How one’s true identity is shaped and concealed by their family

 

Kafka uses a series of high uncertainty words to reveal the lack of choices and control the protagonist possesses at the “house”, thus indicating the limited ways that the protagonist represents himself. Where, in line 1, the author writes “seem to have fully made up your mind” (1) in describing the character’s decision of staying at home, the phrase “seem to have” gives this choice a high uncertainty and reflects that the protagonist lacks the confidence to make such decision at home. Secondly, the “instantly appear” (13) used to describe the action of going out strengthens the idea of the protagonist lacking choice and control. When he is finally on the streets, Kafka includes the description of “limbs” (18) that reflects the protagonist’s unrealistic feeling of being outside, that he only knows where he is based on the physical feeling, but not cognitively.

Achieving the same effect, Kafka also uses words of passive voice to achieve similar effect. In line 5, Kafka uses the word “habitually” to describe the action of “going to bed” the protagonist carries out, indicating the routine-like behavior that the protagonist follows very often. Moreover, the use of “causing…a matter of course” (6) and “unexpected freedom” (19) are other places where passive voice indicate the protagonist’s lack of power.

Finally, towards the end of the story, Kafka directly addresses the issue by stating that the protagonist has “withdrawn from [his] family” and became a “sharply defined black silhouette” (26). This implies that in order to find his true place and comfort zone, the protagonist had to escape his family. Moreover, on the line after, Kafka explicitly includes the words “true stature” to clearly address this issue.

Analysis of Persepolis Page 51-52

Context: Siama, Laly’s father, was just released from prison, and Siama is telling Marjane his experience in jail.

The clearer version of the picture is in the link here.

These two pages outline the inhuman punishments performed on the prisoners and the effect of these punishments on young Marjane through the use of boarder-less panel, specific content, and the protagonist’s monologue.

Satrapi uses a boarder-less panel depicting the brutal punishments performed on Ahmadi, a guerilla who was arrested before he could use the cyanide to suicide. The fact that Ahmadi was unable to even perform the action of suicide highlights the danger and possible threats that might fall upon the Iranian people at that time, further explaining reasons behind Marjane’s frightening, disturbing reaction to the war in Iran. The boarder-less panel signals the many different ways the victim could be punished, expanding the reader’s thoughts beyond the three types of punishments listed in the drawing, suggesting the amount of suffer war brings to the soldiers.

On the top right panel, Satrapi includes a picture of Ahmadi cut into pieces to compare the cruel truth brought by war that the innocent Marjane is facing at this young age. The innocence of the narrator could be seen through the form in which the victim is presented, cut with sharp edges but remains a concrete human shape, suggesting the inability of Marjane to visualize a more brutal way of cutting people. This reflects the dramatic effect of war on Marjane as she is exposed to the violence of war in her childhood. Additionally, the victim is drawn hollow and boneless, symbolizing the severe aftereffects of the inhuman punishments that is a result of war in Iran, addressing the effect of the 1979 Iran revolution.

The effect of war on Marjane is more distinctly presented through the use of Marjane’s monologue. In the bottom panel on the left of the page, Satrapi records Marjane’s thoughts using emotional expressions such as “never imagined” and “appliance for torture”, signaling the huge amount of shock brought to the protagonist and revealing how Marjane is forced to accept the violent image of using an iron for punishment. The juxtaposition of “appliance” and “torture” enhances the ironical feeling in the passage, communicating Satrapi’s criticism towards the punishments used in the revolution, and, more importantly, the existence of the revolution itself. Furthermore, in the bottom right panel, Satrapi exposes the effect of war on Marjane through an actual example of her leaving the house and walking on the street. The coordination conjunction “so” indicates the cause and effect relationship between the tasks “father was not a hero, mother wanted to kill people” and the action of the protagonist going outside. These seemingly unrelated events indicates the confusion of Marjane and her attempt to escape the reality, suggesting the amount of trauma exposure to the story of punishments have on her.

Second IO Reflection

We have just finished the IO recording and got our feedback from the teacher, here’s a short reflection on how I did and a plan for what to do next.

Things that went well:
– Planning and structure was a lot better than last time
– I spoke without a script (yes last time I had one) and managed to fit most of the content into the 12 minute range
– The analysis was more in depth than last time
– I had better knowledge of what the examiner will be looking for and how to deliver them

My biggest surprise was the fact that analysis are not as hard as I thought, I scored higher than I thought I would. All I did was connecting the specific lines and words of the text to the global issue, and some of them are obvious so they aren’t that hard.

Having said that, the thing that I definitely need to work on is the presentation, I need to make my recording more fluent and pace myself so I’m not too worried about time (it was quite tight this time). Moreover, based on the feedback, I need to work on balancing the sections and analysis between the text, I did too much with the original English one and sort of omitted the translated text. So my main goal for next time would be to plan more analysis for both text and practice more of my presentation.

Genesis Reflection

Finishing up on The World’s Wife with an IO practice, we have just began the study of the novel Oranges are not the only fruit by Jeanette Winterson. Our English teacher pointed out that each chapter of the book is named after an Old Testament from the bible books, and we were then asked to explore the links between each chapter. I will try to explain my interpretation of the first chapter “Genesis” in this blog as well as other features of the novel.
“Genesis”, being the first chapter of the entire novel, introduces the settings and backgrounds of the novel and provides the reader with some basic information of the protagonist, Jeanette, and the life around her. Starting the novel with a talking style “Like most of the people…”, Winterson encloses the distance between the protagonist and the reader and sets up the contrast that happens later on in the chapter when readers realize how different their life is from the protagonist’s. Moreover, this text reveals the characteristic of the protagonist, who is also the narrator, creating a strong conversational feeling and setting up a casual tone of the novel. The novel is written in first person, this ensures that the emotions of the protagonist can be accurately delivered to and felt by the reader. The first person POV also allows Winterson to include her comments and opinions within the narration, this could be seen through examples such as when she was describing her daily routine of making tea for her mother: “in she came, and taking a great gulp of tea said one of three things.” (3). The phrase “one of the three” carries a sense of confidence that the protagonist knows everything her mother is going to do, which then implies the repetition of the daily life and thus conveys a sense of boredom and dislike. This chapter also reveals that Jeanette was adopted by her mother because of her mother’s personal desire of making a child into the god’s missionary to fulfill her own desire. It foreshadows the tragedy that happens later in the novel where Jeanette had a conflict with her mother and was sent out from the house. This chapter constantly mentions religion, and readers are presented with the Sunday routines of the family as well as how the character does not find much interest of it but is only doing because there’s nothing else to do. Additionally, this chapter includes many pieces of information that is from the ‘future’, in other words, this is a memoir-like piece of writing where the narrator knows what will happen next “she did finish eventually, but not for three years”, this is what Jeanette said when her mother was building a half-room for her. This makes me wonder how does the first person narrator know these information and why is the author making this choice. The reason may well lie in the childhood experience of the author, Winterson was adopted, then became a lesbian and left home…
The connection between the book “Genesis”, where god creates human and then focuses on the life of a family, is present in the first chapter. There is a shift of narrative perspective, from first person to third person, in the middle of the chapter, a fairytale is presented of how a princess takes over the duty of a hunchback of being the ‘god’ of a village, educating them and writing songs for their religious events. It draws a parallel with the book where a person was given the mission to gather people’s faith and present them with the god’s will.
**This is the only connection I managed to find in the first chapter, so please leave any thoughts in the comment to help me with more. THX!

Global Issue Exploration

Now that we’ve finished our first practice IO, went through the CNY break, we are going to start preparing more systematically for the IO exam and begin our study of the novel Orange is Not the Only Fruit.

This post is about the planning and preparation of the next IO. I chose The World’s Wife and Green Rice as my two works, and I will be talking about the global issues that I will focus on.

One of the issue is “how motherhood changes a person’s identity and role”, and I looked up an article about this theme. Here’s the link to the article. This article is related to the two works that I’ve chose as they are all generally about the female identity, and that they comment about the gender roles of female. The most important role, mother, of course, is covered by the two works. While Green Rice focuses on how motherhood shapes the females in Vietnam culture under the effect of war, The World’s Wife mentions the value of motherhood towards a female individual. However, the article is more informative as it describes the circumstances that a mother will face. It explicitly states the difficulties that mothers face and is generally in an admiring tone, praising the role of the mother. The author of the two works, on the other hand, expresses more of what they feel about motherhood. Their tone are more definite and mostly addresses motherhood as a positive thing to a female. This could be resulted in the authors being females, they generally view motherhood as a good change in their lives, whereas in the real world, things might be different

The other issue is “The reactions of modern day females to social expectations”. Here’s the link to the article. This article talks about how females seemingly have freedom decide to who they want to be but are actually judged by their appearances all the times. This is one type of social expectation, but there are also more expectations that are related to the identity and action of female. In The World’s Wife, there are many references to both types of expectations. The author Duffy doesn’t seem to have too much resistance towards these expectations, instead, she uses it to point out many insufficiency in men and to emphasize the gender inequality issue. Whereas in Green Rice, the author Lam addresses the social expectation of females during war time, it is more of a friendly tone that hopes for all humans to have better lives.

WORK AND FAME

As we got deeper into Duffy’s poetry, “The World’s Wife”, I figured that there are lots of connections between the poems in the collection. As this poem is wrote in the perspective of female, there are many opinions and impressions for the male identity that Duffy incorporates with the well-known stories in the world. The three poems I found connections in were Mrs Sisyphus, Mrs Faust, and Mrs Quasimodo. All of which were told in the perspective of married women, whose emotions are left unattended by their husbands. These poems emphasize on the materialism life as well as the unreasonable focus on fame and work.

 

So, starting with “Mrs Sisyphus”, it was based on the Greek mythology of the king of Ephyra. The most famous image of him is the figure pushing the stone up the hill, but the stone keeps on falling back to the starting place after Sisyphus has pushed it to the top. This is exactly how the poem starts “That’s him pushing the stone up the hill” but Duffy added an internal voice of the persona commenting that action right behind it, “the jerk”, showing her distinct attitude and introducing the main idea of the poem: male focus on lame and infinite work and tend to lose their meaning in these meaningless actions. The structure of the poem is somewhat interesting as it ties in with the main idea and sort of helps express it. The poem is made with three stanzas, the opening, 5 lines, the ending, 8 lines, and a massive long 19-line middle stanza full of pieces of Sisyphus’s beliefs and will. The long middle stanza of the poem symbolizes the tedious task Sisyphus repeats, both contextually and structurally. Another interesting point taken from Duffy’s interview with Barry Woods is that almost all the words rhymes or half rhymes with the word “work”, again emphasizing the main idea of the poem. If we look into the lines of the poems, it also provides the same idea. For example, in the middle stanza Duffy writes “Folk flock from miles around just to gawk//they think it’s a quirk” to show the meaning less of the work itself through the reaction of the “folk[s]” that came from other places to watch the work, and thought of it as a “quirk”, a joke, a bad habit. Moreover, this work that Sisyphus is so focused on never ends, as shown through lines “that feckin’ stone’s no sooner up//than it’s rolling back//all the way down”, the stone rolls down right after he’s pushed it up. The attitude of Sisyphus towards his work, despite the obvious flaw, is surprisingly optimistic as he says “Think of the perks” and “Mustn’t shirk”, Sisyphus is certain that the work he is doing has purpose and feels the responsibility to accomplish it. By pointing that out, Duffy leads the poem to the useless “hundred per cent and more” effort that people give to their work.

 

Moving on to “Mrs Faust”, this poem talks about the life of Faust and his wife. Faust, as a famous literary figure, is an ordinary person whom sold his soul to the devil in exchange for honor and fame. In this poem he represents the side of fame, and Mrs. Faust represents the side of materialism. Again, structure first, the contextual shape of this poem goes from the two being together, then split apart each living their own lives, coming back to each other at the end when Faust confessed his guilt, and finally with Mrs. Faust alone in “everything [Faust left] to me”. After they married, Faust “grew to love the kudos,//not the wife” and even “went to whores.” But on the contrary, Mrs. Faust, who’s focused on material life only, “felt, not jealousy, but chronic irritation.” So she accepted the relationship and shifted her focus onto other things such as “t’ai chi, Feng Shui, therapy” and so on. The next few stanzas revealed the pernicious habit that Faust picked up, he went to parties and enjoyed the fame that he trade with his soul, he continued cheating on his wife, and tried many different jobs just for fun. This is the exaggeration of the habit of those who blindly looks for fame in the real world while the tragedy ending serves as a warning. On the other hand, Faust’s wife spent her life going around and trying everything out, she lived completely to her greed, “celibate,//teetotal, vegan,//Buddhist…” That on itself actually sounded like a stylish lifestyle to me at the start, but the ending where Mrs. Faust bought a kidney and cured her illness flips the whole message around. In one way it emphasizes the effect brought by such a husband like Faust, on the other hand it criticizes the materialism lifestyle, which is a common trend in people nowadays. Even the author herself, Duffy claimed to be a shopaholic in the interview with Barry Woods.

 

Lastly, “Mrs Quasimodo”. This poem is based on Victor Hugo’s story of a deformed bell ringer, who fell in love with a beautiful girl. But Duffy told it in Quasimodo’s wife’s view, she was as ugly, deformed as he was, and was also a bell ringer. Although not the most significant focus, this poem mentions the change of love, Quasimodo slowly loses interest in his wife, and Mrs. Quasimodo results that change in his love of his work, ringing the bells. The structure of this poem is quite random, as there are no specific number of lines to each stanza, and there are no consistent rhyme scheme throughout. At the start, when they’ve just married, Quasimodo would swing “an epithalamium” for his wife and she viewed the poem as “sexy” and “exuberant”, which are all generally praising words. The contrast that exists between the word “sexy” and Mrs. Quasimodo’s description of her husband’s trait highlights the value of her love, how it has gone past the appearance. Even such pure love was betrayed, and Mrs. Quasimodo blames this situation on the bells that Quasimodo values very much, he even gave names to each one of them. Mrs. Quasimodo revenged by “murdering” all the bells and pulling all the clappers in the bells out, that way they cannot sound anymore. On one side this is a poem about jealousy and betrayal, but it also signifies the importance of the bells to Quasimodo. This makes one of the main ideas of the poem to be the amount of attention people, especially males, put on their work and the consequences that comes with it.

 

In conclusion, the three poems, Mrs. Sisyphus, Mrs. Faust, and Mrs. Quasimodo, more or less focuses on the idea of man being too focused on specific aspect of life, either work or fame, and the consequences of these.

The Secret in Carol Ann Duffy’s Poems Reflection

We have finished the study of the selected poems in Green Rice, and are now moving on to 15 of the 30 poems in Carol Ann Duffy’s collection The World’s Wife. Before the actual study of specific poems starts, we, as usual, were given tasks to explore the background of both the collection and the poet. An article called “The Public and Private” explores areas regarding the incentives that lead to Duffy’s creation of all her poems in general as well as the specific analysis of a few poems in the collection that really highlights the main themes. Based on the reading, here are a few points that I found interesting and might help with future studies of the poem:

 

– The contrast in writing styles (tones) and language uses in different poems within the collection (intertextuality)

– Characterization of men as useless, incompetent, arrogant, vain, and unnecessary

– The reveal of a character’s hidden secrets

 

The article suggests that Duffy often adds ambiguity in the persona in poems before The World’s Wife. Using this point as a hint, the choice of certain tones in the collections are even more deliberate as the identity of personas are explicitly given by the poem titles. This method of making the identity translucent invites the reader to have deeper thoughts into the real intention behind Duffy’s creation and helps readers to have a better understanding when reading the poem. As seen in the first two poems in the collection, the poem’s form shifts from a narration of a story to the description of Thetis’ thoughts. The real intention of these choices could be explored in a more detailed way as the identity is given. Being sensitive to the poem’s form, to me, is important in terms of understanding the poet’s real intention of writing the collection.

 

The second point is merely the central theme that runs through the poem. As present in all the poems, the characterization of men is often linked with words that has a derogatory sense. This reflects the personal experiences of Duffy, where she met a poet at the age of 16 and fell in love with him…… It is interesting observing how these experiences are reflected in the poems. (I am a bit offended by the descriptions)

 

Thirdly, the article suggests that the content of the poem relates to one of the beliefs that Duffy holds toward childhood. She believes that everybody in their childhood, or even adulthood, have some hidden experiences, secrets, in their mind. Based on this belief, Duffy is bounded to revealing these hidden secrets in the characters that appears in her poems; for example, as stated in the article about the poem Mrs. Darwin, the persona implies that she is the one who came up with the idea of the theory of evolution. These hidden thoughts are fascinating to discover as it lights up the “light bulb” the way when characters in anime come up with good ideas.

 

So above are the three most meaningful, significant points that I summarized from reading the article.

Global Issue Presented in “The Nest”

As we studied the poem collection Green Rice, we each picked a poem to analyze. The poem I chose is “The Nest” and below is my interpretation to it.

 

The strand I will be focused on is Beliefs, value and education.

In particular: How education plays a role in the growth of children.

The poem mostly states how the egg, representing the child, stays alone during the process of hatching, and linked that to how the nest made with straw and grass, indicating knowledge and books, enriches the child’s life and ensures him/her to healthily grow until hatching. The poem is written in chronological structure, where the egg first “rises” (7), then becomes something for the nest, and finally hatches into “insistent life” (32). Throughout the process, the state of the nest is constantly brought to attention. At the start of the poem when “Mysterious silence deepens” (1), Lam uses the word “shake” (3) to represent the effect of silence on the nest. The word “shake” could be associated with the emotion of fear, and if the nest represents the knowledge as a whole, it is suggesting that knowledge left alone is vulnerable in the sense that it could be easily lost. This explains why the nest “shake[s]” as its been left alone. Then, as the egg appears in the nest, the knowledge is being acquired and thus the silence is replaced with “chanting voice” (6). On the egg’s (child) perspective, it gains knowledge from the point of birth and slowly turns into a “full” (10), “beautiful” (26) egg. Here the relation between education and the child is specified, and Lam points out how they help each other as they both gain benefits from the relationship.

The poem constantly mentions the symbol of “strands of straw and grass” (13), in my interpretation they could be books. Unread books are worthless and thus has no purpose of existing, this idea is illustrated in the fourth stanza of the poem where they are “woven without soul” (14). However, as the egg touches the books, as the child grows to a stage that he/she can read, the books “become musical strings” (15) both themselves and to the child. The next two stanzas describes the relation between the egg and the nest in more detail as Lam used similar structure to indicate the complexity of how they are affecting each other. The symbol of life and death is also significant as the poem progresses. The idea of an “ivory egg” in line 5 indicates that there are lots of sacrifices made by other people in order for the egg to exist. Furthermore, the exact phrasing appears again in line 26, but this time accompanied with the descriptions of “Dry grass and straw” (25) , as well as the direct statement of “death supports life” (27). In this case, the death could be seen as the knowledges that is already being learnt, and the life could be how new knowledge, new values are formed within the child. Finally, at the end of the poem, Lam further expresses the hope that is put towards the egg. Lam uses a simile comparing the hatching of the egg to “a sprout splitting a seed” (31) to indicate the continuation of life. The power of nature is appreciated and associated with the hatching of an egg, which on itself would be part of the cycle of nature. Thus, Lam extends the hope into “Many skies will fill with life” (34) at the end to emphasize the continuity of Vietnam and Vietnam people.

Overall, this poem “The Nest” models the relationship between education and the child, and thus expanding and connecting to the formation of any community.

Green Rice and Its Background

As we are finished with the novel Grendel, the next text that we are going to study is a collection of Vietnamese poems written in the period of warfare by a female poet Lâm Thị Mỹ Dạ. The translated version along with the original pieces are made into a book called Green Rice. When I first read the introduction without any prior knowledge to the background information of the history of the poem, I didn’t really understand the importance of the poems and the true emotion that they contain. It was until the first class, when we went through a few articles about the detailed content of the Vietnam war that happened between 1955 and 1975, did I start to have a spark of interest on discovering more of what people were experiencing and feeling at that point. Unlike the historical texts, reading poems written by an ordinary citizen is a more effective way of understanding the case as a whole. What I took from that lesson was that Vietnam people really have a strong emotional bond with their country, many of them joined the war simply because they wanted to protect their believes and faith.

 

With that knowledge in mind, I went back to the introduction again and really appreciated many methods the translator incorporated to make sure the hidden emotional message was well communicated. Taking consideration of the English level of the author, the translator spent a mass amount of time with the author Lâm Thị Mỹ Dạ to communicate and get a better understanding of the living habits. Moreover, he worked with local citizen to make sure the cultural elements were taken into consideration, they wrote literary analysis for most of the poems that were translated to make sure that they understood the actual meaning behind it. The translator also mentioned the consideration of rhyme schemes, rhythm, and musicality of the translated text; the author was only able to retain a small portion of that. This connects to the same translation unit that I have been studying in Chinese, where it is really hard to convert texts, especially poems, into a different language while taking account for all the elements. A similarity between Vietnamese and Chinese was the lack of words that clarifies the logical relationship between words and sentences. As written by the translator, that aspects was one of the major problem she faced during the translation process.

Paper 1 reflection

PP1 Tight-Rope Walker

Reflection:

The thing that I am satisfied with this paper is my planning and how I stuck to the plan while I write. The three points listed were well followed and developed as I wrote the paper, and from the process, I came up with a bigger point which made my conclusion relatively strong. The success of this time is because I didn’t rush my reading section based on my relative slow reading speed, I took my time and tried to understand the text as much as I can before summarizing up the annotations and forming them into points. Also, the time management was pretty well sorted, I had 2-3 minutes at the end to proof read my paper and I found a few places with grammar or spelling mistakes. Aspects that I didn’t do so well are the connection between the question, in this case “tension”, and my points and my reasoning explaining the points. Starting with the connection, I forgot to take in mind the questions while I annotate and plan my paper. It could be caused by the lack of interpretation of the deeper meaning of the text, in other words, I am only reading the plot of the text but not the intention of the author upon writing this text. As a consequence of that problem, my points may be deviated from the message of the text, which then makes it hard for me to form a strong reasoning based on the points. Another possible cause of that problem may be because of the lack of vocabulary, for example, in this text I interpreted the meaning of “meadow” as a type of bird that’s similar to an eagle where it actually is a grass field. However, this isn’t a big problem because as I read more book and practice for the SAT test (cough cough…), my vocabulary is going to improve. Ways to improve the problem of interpretation would be to take my time on interpreting the text and think more on the point of view of author-reader relationship when annotating and planning. Also, I need to be more aware of the stylistic features (the “style” part of the given guiding sheet of annotation) as it helps me to understand the intention of the author and thus deepens my point. If a target needs to be set for the next paper, I would say to focus my point as much as possible on the guiding question and to keep up with the planning and time management.