“Song of Ourselves”

Coming off our final unit on Romantic poetry, specifically a deep dive into Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman, we wrote a final send-off poem together, inspired by Whitman’s send-off in section 52 of “Song of Myself.”

Here is the text version of our “Song of Ourselves.”  And here is our video:

Imagine…

With our last year at OPRF coming to an unusual end, I’d like to add one last song to our playlist. Imagine by John Lennon, is a musical piece I would argue is poetic and a good listen during these times.

Within the lyrics, John envisions a world without borders, religion, and material possessions. Only with the elimination of these three can there finally be a “real” world peace. The elimination of nationalities, religion, and one’s economic class would create a unified Earth in Lennon’s mind.

Instead of focusing on John’s powerful vision of world peace, I would like you to utilize the difficult but not impossible tool Lennon encourages. Lennon guides the listener to use their imagination to envision a world without social constructs that divide us from one another. I on the other hand, encourage you to use this song to escape the confinements of your couch, bedroom, floor, wherever you are currently sitting during this lovely quarantine.

You may say I’m a dreamer

But I’m not the only one

I hope someday you’ll join us

And the world will be as one

The above stanza is the hook for “Imagine.” It appeals to the sensuous dimension of poetry with Lennon speaking of the sensation of unity with the words “one” and “us.” The use of “one” creates a sensation of a single entity, with the choice of “us” creating a feeling of a single united entity. Lennon furthermore connects with the emotional dimension with the usage of “hope.” By using “hope,” Lennon inspires the listener making an emotional connection. Finally, Lennon continues into the imaginative dimension with the use of “dreamer.” A dreamer uses his/her imagination, and in this context Lennon is a “dreamer.” By labeling himself as a “dreamer” he inspires his listeners and followers to become like him, a dreamer.

Whether you listen to the song with focus specific to Lennon’s vision, or you utilize his lyrics to liberate yourself from quarantine and venture into the depths of possibility, Lennon’s work “Imagine” is a piece of poetry.

“Stronger” by Kelly Clarkson

In this absolutely surreal time, it is important to remember that “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” – Kelly Clarkson. This song is not only poetic in its lyrics, it is also inspiring during this global pandemic when things seem like they’ve hit rock bottom.

Thanks to you
I’m finally thinking about me
You know in the end
the day you left was just my beginning

One thing that really stands out about this line is the antithesis. Using “end” and “beginning” is an important contrast and it shows that although it may have been the end of a relationship for Kelly, it was the only the beginning of the rest of her life where she can really focus on herself. This really applies to us seniors because even though our senior year ended all too soon, it is really only the beginning of our lives. We have so much to look forward to.

What doesn’t kill you makes a fighter
Footsteps even lighter
Doesn’t mean I’m over cause you’re gone

This line metaphorically explains why going through something tough makes a person stronger. Your footsteps don’t actually get lighter, you just feel better after you have been through something that was really hard. I think this is an amazing way to portray successfully getting through a struggle and it is a nice reminder to all of us that quarantine is not going to kill us. In fact, it will make us appreciate seeing friends, going to school, and being able to go out to dinner so much more.

I think that this song is a great addition to our Positivity Playlist. It helps us remember that we need to stay optimistic about our current situation because we can only go up from here.

History: A Vicious Cycle

In The God of Small Things, Arundhati Roy oftentimes repeats certain phrases and words. Some examples include the lines “a viable, die-able age” (pages 5, 310), “The God of Small Things” (250, 274, 312), and “tomorrow” (321) (a word that already implies repetition and routine). Roy does this specifically when writing about major plot points. These include Ammu and Velutha’s relationship being contrasted with Estha and Rahel’s incestuous encounter. The breaking of the Love Laws in these affairs, and the constant occurrences of loss and mortality throughout the novel. 

When these themes are being detailed, Roy describes them using phrases that are often repeated when discussing separate, but similar, events. In doing so, she is able to communicate the idea that they’re not the only thing happening again and again in this novel. Rather, they are used to create a sense of deja vu that effectively expresses one idea. Where these phrases pop up, again and again, something else is repeating too: the breaking of the Love Laws, the re-enacting of history, and the human inclination toward carnal gratification. We are constantly making the same mistakes, breaking the same rules, and dying in the same ways as our ancestors. 

History, Roy argues, is shaped like a circle. Mankind gladly enforces it through acts of defiance and rebellion that echo those or the past. By using certain words and symbols over and over again, she signals to the reader when she’s detailing an event that has happened, in some way or shape, before when someone is repeating history when it is more evident than ever that repetition lies in the nature of humanity.

Orientalism in Pop Culture

While watching the Orientalism video, Edward Said mentioned the presence of Orientalism in Hollywood. This got me thinking and I decided to do a little research on it. I was shocked to see that some really popular movies had scenes that portrayed middle eastern people as dangerous and violent.

One of the most surprising examples for me was from Back to the Future. I remembered the scene in which Libyan terrorists were shooting at Doc Brown. I think the most disturbing thing about this is that the times I have watched this movie, I never gave this scene a second thought. It never occurred to me how racist it was to choose Libyans as the terrorists coming out of nowhere to shoot at Doc and Marty.

The Libyans | Futurepedia | Fandom

This shows me that Orientalism is rooted in a lot of us because of the society we live in today. It makes me sad that I have unknowingly learned that middle eastern terrorists are normal. It’s making me wonder what other forms of Orientalism are occurring in pop culture today that I have been oblivious to. I’m hoping that learning about this topic will help me see racism towards middle eastern people that I have never noticed before.

Orientalism in New Girl (Spoiler Alert)

One of my favorite television shows of all time is New Girl that ended a few years ago. The characters are all endearingly weird in their own way and they get themselves into so many funny situations. New Girl has become a comfort show to me as mac and cheese is some people’s comfort food. That being said, because I love it so much, I feel that it is necessary that I criticize it and it’s Othering of Hinduism, displayed in the character, Cece.

About New Girl with Zooey Deschanel on FOX

New Girl is a sitcom about a girl named Jess (Zooey Deschanel) who gets cheated on by her ex-boyfriend and is forced to find a new apartment in LA. She ends up finding a listing on Craigslist for an apartment that needs a new roommate. She ends up moving into this apartment with three men: Schmidt (far left), Nick (second to the right), and Winston (furthest to the right), and shenanigans ensue.

Cece Parekh | New Girl Wiki | Fandom

Cece is portrayed as Jess’s hot, wild-child best friend. Because of this, Cece doesn’t feel like she belongs in her Indian/Hindu culture. To stick with this premise, it seems that the writers rely on Orientalism to accentuate her differences and make her drawn toward Schmidt, the self-proclaimed “douche bag.” This is most apparent in season two when Cece is suddenly fixated on getting married in order not to disappoint her family and to have children. Cece also does this in opposition to Schmidt, who is her ex-boyfriend at the time because she thinks that he is not ready to be serious with her, which is what she needs if she wants to have children soon. When Schmidt comes over to her apartment in an attempt to win her back, Cece does something that the writers portray as “drastic,” which is to call her mother and ask for an arranged marriage, something that is very common in Indian/Hindu culture.

It is further clear that the purpose of the arranged marriage premise is Othering rather than for the purpose of exploration or acceptance when Schmidt assumes that Cece doesn’t want to get married to the person that she is arranged with and attempts to ruin her wedding. This results in Cece confessing that this is not what she wants. This implies not only that the writers find arranged marriages somewhat barbaric and outdated, which is a fundamental element of Orientalism.

This is just one example of how Orientalism is used in the writing and character development of this show. In order for Cece to married to Schmidt, she has to disregard her mother’s disapproval. The show begs Cece to be estranged from her culture due to the fact that it doesn’t seem appropriate in the American culture that she lives in.

Orientalism as it is used in this show is a perfect example of how media can distort public perception of a culture and how people experience it.

Trauma in God of Small Things

Throughout the novel, God of Small Things explicitly says that Sophie Mol’s death is the catalyst for the destruction and subsequent dissemination of Rahel and Estha’s family. However, it is possible that the subtext of the novel suggests an underlying cause of this dissemination: trauma. Each and every character experiences unspoken trauma in their own way, manifesting itself into brittle family ties, the breaking point being Sophie Mol’s death. Although her death ultimately did lead to its dissemination, trauma was the underlying cause of the state of the family after Sophie Mol’s death, exhibited by how all of Rahel, Estha, and Ammu’s actions leading to Sophie Mol’s are predicated by each of their individual traumas.

Early on in the novel, Arundhati Roy explains that Ammu moves in with Mammachi and Pappachi because her alcoholic husband was abusive. At first, Pappachi has a hard time believing this because he was a wealthy Christian Englishman. Additionally, she was physically emotionally abused by her father who was also a wealthy businessman. Ammu began resenting her children because, “…their wide-eyed vulnerability and their willingness to love people who didn’t really love them exasperated her and sometimes made her want to hurt them…,”(42).  Her trauma from her past relationships is part of why she acts in the way that she does. She begins resenting wealthy Englishmen, which may have been part of why she fell in love with and had an affair with Velutha, who was a dark-skinned, lower class and Marxist man. This is significant because this leads to Mammachi and Baby Kochamma locking her in her room so that she would not see Velutha any longer, which leads to her lashing out at her children, saying that she did not love them and blames them for her situation. Her anger at this moment at them clearly is rooted in her resentment toward her children due to their naivety and connection to her ex-husband, despite them clearly having little to do with Mammachi and Baby Kochamma’s actions. This leads to them running away and rowing a boat down the river, the boat tipping over, and Sophie Mol eventually drowning. Sophie Mol becomes a symbol of how when trauma is unspoken, it can cause great distress to a person’s relationships. So much so in this case that it leads to Sophie Mol dying and Estha and Rahel having to move away, and their family to be destroyed as Ammu goes to “fend for herself”.

This is also exhibited by Estha’s trauma within the story. When Estha is at the movie theater to see The Sound of Music, he is sexually assaulted by the “Orangedrink Lemondrink Man.” Estha is traumatized by this and becomes afraid of the Orangedrink Lemondrink Man because he knows where he lives. This becomes a significant part of his decision to run away, besides Ammu telling him to go because he realizes that, “(1) Anything can happen to anyone. and (2) It’s best to be prepared,” (186). He realized the best preparation to protect himself from Orangedrink Lemondrink Man is to leave the place where Orangedrink Lemondrink knows he lives. It is his and Rahel’s combined efforts of running away, and heading to the History house. Sophie Mol tags along, and ends up drowning, causing her death. This decision making caused by Estha’s effort to avoid trauma, because of his past trauma.

Rahel’s trauma is somewhat smaller but still important to the accumulation of trauma that led to Sophie Mol’s death and the subsequent dissemination of her family. After seeing The Sound of Music Rahel makes a snide comment about how Ammu should marry the Orangedrink Lemondrink man, unaware of his encounter with Estha. To this, Ammu responds, “‘When you hurt people, they begin to love you less…’,” (107). This is traumatic to Rahel because it makes her believe that Ammu does not love her. She continues to think this when Sophie Mol arrives and is adored by everyone in her family. This thought process is the precursor to her, Estha and Sophie Mol’s decision to leave because of both her ideas that Ammu didn’t love her, and Estha’s ideas that lead them to leave and try to get to History House by boat.

The accumulation of trauma here is clearly the catalyst for the dissemination of Rahel and Estha’s family rather than merely Sophie Mol’s death.

 

Sex, Violence, and Their Disturbing Similarities

Arundhati Roy’s novel, The God of Small Things, while heralded as a part of the modern literary canon, has often been criticized for its sexual themes and plot points. On pages 97-100, Estha is sexually abused by an adult man. Pages 316-321 depict the sexual relationship between Ammu and Velutha side-by-side with Estha and Rahel’s sexual encounter, which has been called disturbing by some. What these critics fail to realize, though, is why Arundhati Roy includes so much sexual content. The Answer? To deliver a message. 

Nearly all the conflict in the novel – from Ammu sleeping with an Untouchable to so many of the story’s women being physically abused. From Baby Kochamma’s desire for Father Mulligan – to even Estha being molested, is all caused by people succumbing to the body’s inclinations toward sex, violence, and physical indulgences. The body, Roy claims, governs the mind, and consequently, it writes the ever-repeating story of History itself. 

A person’s body is their most powerful force of communication. It can make love, it can hurt others, it can drown and leave a family devastated. It is a catalyst for so many happenings in one’s life, plagued by desire and rage and it’s constant teetering between life and death. Roy’s explicitly sexual content, along with her emphasis on physical description (the depiction of Comrade Pillai’s body on pages 257-258 as disgusting and ugly directly mirrors his character), show the reader that the body and its needs comprise much of what drives the novel’s plot – what drives history itself, and the story of mankind. Hence, these sex scenes are justifiable: they are instances of a greater theme manifesting, of something bigger than sex taking place. They are moments in which lives and families are torn apart, all at the hands of the human body and its power.

Disney Movies

Orientalism is present in Disney movies like Aladdin. In these types of children movies you would not expect an underlying subject of things like Orientalism to be brought to your attention, but there are clear signs in each movie that Orientalism is in fact shown.

Orientalism can be defined in many ways, but when it comes in regards to these types of movies, it is when the East is represented in a stereotypical way.

In Aladdin‘s original opening song the lyrics caused many people to speak up because they stated that the town was going to hurt you if they didn’t like how you looked. This was seen as a huge stereotype and was later taken down because of the outrage it caused. “Orientals” are seen in this movie as aggressive, for example, Aladdin almost getting his arm cut off when he tries to steal. They also make the belly dancers in the movie have minimal clothing. The different types of clothes on characters make the subject cross a fine line of being offensive.

When movies like Aladdin falsely represent certain groups of people, it affects our society because kids grow up to believe the things they see on social media. This movie can teach kids incorrect information regarding people in the East, and can create a major divide in our society. Harsh words like these and false representations can be created to seem lighthearted to children because they do not know better than to listen to the happy music in the background and what the hero will do in the end.

If movies like Aladdin aren’t talked about, it will become our norm is listen to things like this and believe they are true.

 

Was Chacko Actually in Love?

One of the main themes in The God of Small Things is society and class. Margaret Kochamma plays a big role in this since she is English and that makes her of high social class. Chacko met Margaret Kochamma during his time at Oxford and during a flashback the narrator states, “He had no pressing reasons to stay in touch with his parents. The Rhodes Scholarship was generous. He needed no money. He was deeply in love with his love for Margaret Kochamma and had no room in his heart for anyone else”(234). The text says that Chacko was deeply in love with his love for Margaret Kochamma so does this mean the he did not actually love her?

I think that this text shows how caught up in class Chacko became with Margaret Kochamma which forced him to fall in love with her. He fell in love with her because she was a white British woman and that is what society told him to value. While he may have loved her I think that it is more likely that he fell in love with her status and the status that he would receive if he married her. The Kochamma family is largely composed of Anglophiles which is why Sophie Mol’s arrival is so important. They are treated like royalty and the whole family goes out of their way so that they will think highly of them.

I do not think that Chacko truly loved Margaret and think that he was in love with her status. If Chacko truly loved Margaret he probably would have tried harder to keep their marriage alive instead of spiraling and giving up. If Chacko loved her then Margaret probably would have loved him back and would not have fallen in love with Joe. Chacko was in love, but he was in love with status instead of Margaret.

Orientalism in Indiana Jones

The Western construct of Orientalism has always been a big part of the American film industry, although the way that the Asian culture is represented is almost never accurate. Hollywood has incorporated Orientalism in many of the adventure films, including the one and only Indiana Jones. In Steven Spielberg’s first three Indiana Jones movies, Indiana’s adventures take him all around the Middle East and India. He frequently encounters a stereotypical, fantasy version of the Asian culture, where Indiana’s character is meant to represent someone that the audience can relate to and root for against the differences he comes in contact with. 

In Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, there is an absurd amount of the Western/Eastern binary. At the dinner scene, the arrangement of absurd food is meant to shock the audience, making them view the Indian culture as barbarians who consume the most inedible meals. The white characters who show disgust once again represent the audience and their disgust. 

These movies all have the same thing in common, Indiana Jones becoming a hero after defeating all of the villains and taking power over Asian culture.

Baby Kochamma’s role in The God of Small Things

Baby Kochamma is an essential character to understanding the impact of social status and class on the characters in the novel, The God of Small Things. Baby Kochamma has always strived to belong in the highest social class possible. Her image is extremely important to her which is why she needed to have Velutha taken out of her life when she found out about Ammu’s affair with him. Her pure Syrian Christian niece was not allowed to have an affair with an untouchable because it would hurt the family’s reputation and look negatively upon her.

Baby Kochamma is similar to a lot of older people in America today. She is unwilling to change with the times even though the caste system was abolished about 15 years beforehand. However unlike in our world today some Americans believe that they are superior to other races but the civil rights act was passed 60 years ago. Just like Baby Kochamma’s treatment towards Velutha they try to put themselves above others and continue to oppress humans because of the color of their skin which puts them in a lower class. The book teaches the importance of social classes and even when abolished the prejudices held against people that were once considered lower class.

Baby Kochamma believes that she is superior to everyone else because of her superiority complex that being a Syrian Christian gives her. Roy portrays her as a negative and unlikeable character since she possesses old fashioned ideology that needs to be abolished.

Gen Z and Orientalism

One of the biggest things that separates Gen Z from the generations before it is that we have all grown up in a post-9/11 world. Those of us in the class of 2020 weren’t even alive before it. So how does that shape our view of the Eastern world?

Orientalism has been present in the United States for a very long time, but many people credit the attacks on the World Trade Center with heightening it. After the attacks, the media created a narrative where the Middle East was synonymous with terrorism, and that has continued through
Gen Z’s entire lifetime. For some in this generation, the only images they’ve seen of the Eastern world are ones of terror cells and desolation. And now we’ve all lived through President Trump’s attempts at a “Muslim ban,” which absolutely stoked the xenophobic fire.

Despite all of this, I believe that Gen Z has the capability to change the American rhetoric around the Eastern world. Although we all don’t remember a time before 9/11 and the stereotypes and racism that followed, we are able to recognize over-generalizations and call people out when they are misinformed. We are continuing to challenge the norms in the media and entertainment industries around telling Eastern stories. Perhaps we, as a generation, will be able to break down the idea of “otherness” that comes with Orientalism and appreciate each other’s cultures without fear.

Pappachi’s Moth

As I continued reading The God of Small Things, one recurring symbol I noticed was the moth that Pappachi had discovered but not received any credit for. Pappachi’s “greatest setback was not having had the moth he discovered named after him” (23). At this moment, the moth became a symbol of failure, “which tormented Pappachi and his children and his children’s children” (24). 

The next time we are introduced to the moth is once Estha and Rahel leave the theater and Rahel makes a snarky comment about Ammu marrying the Orangedrink Lemondrink man. Ammu responds by telling her that hurting people with words will make them love you less. 

Once she says this, “A cold moth with unusually dense dorsal tufts landed lightly on Rahel’s heart. Where it’s icy legs touched her, she got goosebumps” (107). Hearing something like this from your own mother at such a young age completely terrified Rahel, and I would’ve been worried about it too. Rahel knew she shouldn’t have said what she did, and immediately after her mother responded she felt like a failure- like she wasn’t loved as much anymore, and that stuck with her for the rest of her life. 

Pappachi’s moth returns each time Rahel feels as if she has done something wrong, and the moment she heard Sophie Mol’s silence from the river, “On Rahel’s heart Pappachi’s moth snapped opened its somber wings” (277). Rahel is blaming herself for the death of her cousin and not being able to save her. This cold feeling of failure never leaves Rahel, and she takes it with her for the rest of her life. 

Point of View in GOST

When you first begin to read ‎Arundhati Roy’s novel “God of Small Things,” it is hard to tell what is going on. It jumps from one point of view to the next seemingly randomly, and it can be hard to follow. Once you get used to this third-person omniscient style of writing, however, it is clear how much of an impact it has on the story.

Each character has a unique perspective on the events in the story, as each of them experienced things differently. For example, each of them view Sophie Mol’s death in a different way because they all know different versions of the truth. Rahel and Estha were actually present, so they have a much different understanding of what happened than Ammu or Baby Kochamma. The fact that the point of view changes so often before the actual cause of Sophie’s death is revealed builds suspense because it’s clear that none of the characters know the same things. It also helps the reader fully comprehend the true extent of the confusion and complications around the death because we get to see it through multiple characters’ eyes.

The changes in point of view also helps us empathize with each of the characters. Every one of them does something questionable in the story, so if it was told exclusively from one perspective, some of those characters would turn into antagonists. Instead, we get to understand the reasoning behind their actions and why it made sense to them, so no one is truly a “bad guy” or a “good guy.” They all have their flaws, but they all believed they were acting correctly, and we are able to see that because of the multiple points of view.

Why “Wild Roses” is a Song of Positivity and Empathy

My submission to the songs of positivity and empathy playlist was “Wild Roses,” from Icelandic band Of Monsters and Men’s third album Fever Dream. I personally loved this album, even as it departed somewhat from the band’s style in their first two albums, which you probably knew if you read my review of it in the Trapeze last semester. “Wild Roses” happens to be my favorite song on that album. However, it’s not an obviously cheery song like some of the other songs on the playlist, and so I’d like to explain why I picked it, other than just liking it. And maybe do a little bit of line-by-line music poetry analysis, too. The song’s exact meaning is a little vague, but I’ll be talking about the general sense I get from it.

(Go listen to the song before you read if you’re at all interested.)

Wild roses on a bed of leaves in the month of May

I think I wrote my own pain

Oh, don’t you?

This line is an interesting way to open the song. “Wild roses” are an important metaphorical symbol in the song, perhaps representing sweetness or peace in a natural sense, but they’re also not, which is important. The word “wild” here is definitely somehow relevant, and I think it is referring to the speaker; they may appear nice, but there’s an edge, a neurosis that’s eating them up somehow, perhaps? I’ll get back to roses. “I think I wrote my own pain” suggests that the speaker is suffering and brought it upon themselves somehow, which isn’t exactly a message of positivity, although I’m sure we all can empathize with that.

Down by the creek, I couldn’t sleep so I followed a feelin’

Sounds like the vines, they are breathing

Even though the speaker is tormented, nature is at peace elsewhere, and this gives them some solace. This is part of why I consider this song to be one of positivity: not unbridled light, but light within darkness. But it’s a little too early in the song for me to be generalizing a theme.

And I’ve seen the way the seasons change when I just give it time

But I feel out of my mind all the time

Things do get better and the world does go on if we give it time, but it isn’t easy to do that. The speaker feels trapped in their neuroses and struggles, like it’s never going to get better.

In the night I am wild-eyed, and you got me now

This line is the first time we’ve heard of someone other than the speaker, as well as the reuse of the word “wild.” The speaker is evidently going through a dark time, which the night may be a symbol for, but there is someone here to help.

Oh, roses, they don’t mean a thing, you don’t understand

But why don’t we full on pretend?

Oh, won’t you?

“That which we call a rose / by any other name would smell as sweet.” So goes the famous line from Romeo and Juliet, and I think there’s definitely a loose connection there. Much like Juliet questioned the utility or necessity of the word “rose,” the speaker questions their utility as a metaphorical concept. Roses don’t mean anything. They’re just flowers. We assign symbolic purpose to them as heralds of beauty and romance, but there’s nothing that really makes a rose romantic beyond smelling nice. Mentioning how roses don’t really mean anything is a bold choice in a not otherwise especially deconstructive song named after roses, but it’s the next line that intrigues me. “But why don’t we full on pretend?” Sure, roses don’t mean anything, but that doesn’t mean we can’t pretend they do. Ultimately, the speaker just wants someone to engage in this pretending with them.

Before I closed my eyes I saw a moth in the sky

And I wish I could fly that high

Oh, don’t you?

Humans can’t actually fly above the clouds like insects and birds can. Not without heavy equipment or vehicles, anyway. Flying is the quintessential fantastical dream of humankind, and like the previous lines imply, the speaker wants to make-believe, to wish for better things even in their dark state.

A serpent on a bed of leaves in the month of May

What do you want me to say?

Rather than wild roses, the speaker now refers to themselves as a serpent, often associated with evil or sin in many different religious and cultural traditions (which is totally unfair; snakes are cool, y’all). “What do you want me to say?” implies that they are acknowledging their perceived “evil”; the speaker is filled with some amount of self-loathing, and has no good response to it.

You keep me still when all I feel is an aimless direction
When I think I’m losin’ connection
I see you

Despite the alienation and despair the speaker may be feeling, however, the person they are speaking to is still there for them, no matter what.

In the night I am wild-eyed, and you got me now

Dim the lights, we are wild-eyed, and you got me now

The pre-chorus repeats here, but with a change: “we are wild-eyed.” Not only is the speaker’s friend still here for them, no matter what, the song also acknowledges that both of them are wild-eyed. Both people have their own struggles, but the important thing is that they’re there for each other.

Repeat chorus and pre-chorus.

So, what was the point of that little sojourn? I suppose my point was that “Wild Roses” is not a simply happy song, but it is an optimistic one, and ultimately kind of existential in its message. Nothing has inherent meaning, and we all struggle in a world beyond our abilities, but that doesn’t mean we can’t be there for each other, acknowledge each other’s plights, and “pretend” — assign our own meanings, try to fly anyway. That’s the best we can do in an existential world, and there’s a certain optimism and beauty in that.

“Small Things”

When initially reading The God of Small Things, I remember thinking how many heavy topics seemed to be brought up in the first chapters of the book.  This society was concerned with “Big Things” such as marriage, the caste system, and politics. However as I continued to read, Roy points out the “Small Things” that give the book its meaning.

One of the first examples that stood out to me is when Ammu tells Rahel that she doesn’t love her as much as she used to.  Although Ammu doesn’t seem to think about this situation again, Rahel is inconsolable. “A little less her mother loved her” is a phrase that is repeated many more times throughout the book.  This statement is a “Small Thing” to Ammu, but it consumes Rahel.

At many points in the book, Roy takes a lot of time to acknowledge something that seems insignificant.  She says, “Just outside Ayemenem they drove into a cabbage-green butterfly (or perhaps it drove into them.)”  Roy uses this description of a “Small Thing” to show that the perspective of the reader is not the only one. Even an insect could have a point of view, and even a suicidal intention.

Because of their youth, Estha and Rahel seem not as tied to the “Big Things.”  But this may mean that they carry the weight of the small things, or the secrets and lies of their family.

Does Societal Obligation Trump Love?

“The God of Small Things” is a book filled with complex relationships between lovers, friends, and family. In a society that is heavily influenced by politics, it gets messy when navigating these relationships. As Roy demonstrates, obeying these laws might mean betraying the ones you love, and disobeying them could lead to death.

Throughout the book, there are many instances in which we see this conflict. One of the most significant examples is the affair between Velutha and Ammu. Despite Velutha being an untouchable and Ammu being of a higher caste, they engage in an affair. They ignore the system that prohibits romantic relationships between castes. This ultimately leads to Velutha’s death when his own father exposes the affair to Baby Kochamma. Their love was not enough to surpass the rules of society. Velutha was born an untouchable and he died as an untouchable too. His label was his downfall.

It is also important to note that Velutha’s own father was willing to expose his own son in order to follow the “Love Laws” of society. Vellya Paapen betrays Velutha by choosing his obligation to follow rules over familial love.

This is just one of many examples of the impact that politics has on the relationships between characters. Overall, based on the events in the book, societal obligation does indeed trump love. But I feel that this is not always the case. India is a special case because the caste system is extremely strict. However, in other places throughout the world, we see mixed class relationships all the time. After reading this book and seeing just how strict the caste system in India is, I feel lucky to live in a place where I can love whoever I choose.

Orientalism in Disney Movies

After reading up a little on the concept of orientalism, my mind went to movies that I’ve seen. More specifically Disney movies. These movies, that are made for children have underlying themes and concepts that you really don’t realize until you are older. Looking back on the movies I watched as a child its clear that I have a different understanding of them than I did as a child….

That being said, some of the Disney classics that popped into my head that have these racist stereotypes in them are Lady and the Tramp, Mulan and Aladdin.

In Lady and the Tramp the cats in the movie are depicted as evil characters of whom seem to resemble the Asian culture. It seems as they are associating their evil nature with their race. The siamese cats act very sly and are always sneaking around in the movie which is a stereotype associated with orientalism, being suspicious and sneaky.

In Mulan, the Asian culture is presented in a somewhat exotic way. It is what Western people consider the “typical” Asian culture, which has continuously been represented in Western cinema. This idea meshes all the different branches of Asian culture to seem like its the same, when in reality they are completely different places. With this in mind, this concept is what children in Western countries were taught when they were young through movies like Mulan. The movie is a combination of Chinese and Japanese culture making Mulan an unrealistic representation and generalizing the cultures in Eastern countries. The film is clearly intended to be set in China because they show the Great Wall of China amongst other details incorporating Chinese culture. But they also show her wearing kimonos, white face make up, and the Japanese national flower, the cherry blossom throughout the film.

Lastly, in the movie Aladdin, the evil villain, Jafar, who is trying to steal the magic lamp is represented as someone from the Middle East, again who is the villain. He is the evil man who is scheming against the main character. In addition, later in the movie, Jasmine is enslaved by him which adds to his evil nature. This adds to the racist depiction of his character by him objectifying a woman. In addition, Princess Jasmine is from a culture that typically covers their head and most of their body. But in the movie her outfit is nothing of the sort. This adds to the Western depiction of Eastern Culture.

Reflecting on these movies, it is clear that these ideals are heavily influencing the film industry. Film makers are using these stereotypes and inaccurate representations of different cultures to better their films. Western cinema is based off of incorrect assumptions and depictions of culture and people in general. How do we change this moving forward?

The Importance of Capital Letters in God of Small Things

When reading novels, getting invested in the story is the thing the author wants the reader to do. However, while taking AP Literature and Creative Writing in the same year, I have really started to realize the beauty of writing, the different ways authors write, and the “rules” that can be broken throughout a book and the “rules” that are followed.

Rules consist of every basic period after a sentence, a capital letter at the beginning every sentence, commas when you need them and so on. Many authors including Arundhati Roy who wrote God of Small Things practices these. However, one technique that Roy uses that I absolutely adore, is that she uses capital letters on not just pronouns but nouns as well. For example, at the very beginning of the novel there is a sentence where words that shouldn’t be capital, are capital that would take a reader by surprise; “In those early amorphous years when memory had only just begun, when life was full of Beginnings and no Ends, and Everything was Forever, Esthappen and Rahel thought of themselves together as Me, and separately, individually, as We or Us” (4).

The first time reading that sentence, the words, “Beginnings, Ends, Everything, Forever, Me, We, and Us” were read with emphasis. Roy wanted me to look at those words and know that the narrator thinks these words are important and/or have a higher meaning. Also, the twins in the story, Rahel and Estha use capital letters for words that they find important like “Unsafe,” or “Let Her Be” (44) while they are narrators. As this book is centered around life of these two twin children, the capital letters put attention to those words because the kids find them meaningful. It allows the reader to try and empathize with the naiveness and vulnerability of children.