Should I Stay or Should I Go?: A Look at Locational Decisions Made in Lunana: A Yak in the Classroom

Throughout the film, Lunana: A Yak in the Classroom, the main character, teacher Ugyen Dorji often contemplates which setting he wants to be in, and which one is the most fulfilling for him. At the start of the movie, Dorji starts his story in a bustling city in Bhutan. One of the very first things we learn about our protagonist is that he is attempting to secure a visa to move to Australia. However, in Bhutan, you have to spend five years working for the government in order to maintain citizenship status and Dorji has only completed four years. He tells his governmental boss that he does not find joy in the profession of teaching and wishes to leave the country to pursue his dream of becoming a singer, another major theme found throughout the film. Instead of allowing him to leave, the secretary states he just finish his final year of service and, since he cannot seem to do his job in the city, has to teach in the most rural, isolated school in the world in the city of Lunana. Lunana is so remote that it takes several days of hiking to reach, and none of the kids there know what a car is. The community only really knows one another, no one else.

The entire lead-up and journey to Lunana is filled with discontent and complaining from Dorji. He is upset at having to leave his familiar city life, his friends, and his girlfriend. He is unfit for the hike to Lunana and disrespects customs and traditions he deems as strange, a possible (though not likely) nod to the concept of Orientalism. He feels on the outside of this society as well as feeling a sense of superiority to them. That is, until he meets the children he will be teaching and sees the lack of space and materials dedicated to their education. He starts to come around to the village, forming connections, and getting supplies to help enhance the school to the best of his ability. He truly begins to immerse himself in the culture, learning more every day about their routines, practices, songs, and most importantly, the connections they have with yaks. In the middle of his stay in Lunana, he learns that his visa to Australia has been approved and he is able to leave once his service year is finished.

The winter quickly approaches, and so are the last few days of Dorji’s stay in Lunana. When he learns he must soon leave, he is immediately distraught. He says that the children still need him and that there is so much he has not been able to teach them yet. Everyone in the village urges him to return the following year after the harsh winter has come to a close. He stays in Lunana for as long as possible until being told he must leave, or he will be stranded there. I truly believe that if he intended to return to Luanan he simply would have remained there through the winter. He wanted to teach and help for as long as possible, but he never intended to remain there, or even return. Once he left, that would be the last time they saw him.

The film ends with a scene of Dorji signing in a bar in Sydney, Australia. He has left everyone behind once again, but this time to follow his heart and attempt to actualize his lifelong dream. He does stop mid-song and sit in silence for a minute before singing a song taught to him in Lunana about the yaks and their significance. The film does not let the audience know if he ever did make his way back to the village of Lunana, which I think was the perfect way to end it. Either way, Dorji would have had regrets about his decision. It is important for him to see all of his aspirations through, which would make the return to Lunana that much more meaningful. If he left Australia for Lunana, it would show what an immense, life-changing impact that experience had for him that he was willing to leave his dreams for it. However, the opposite is also completely understandable. It would be uncharacteristic for him to sacrifice so much to return and teach in the village. I think that they needed one another to learn a lesson, but I am not entirely sure if I think he ever returned. Humans need to go on journeys and experience life in order to grow and learn what is bes for them, and every step he has taken, Dorji has done that.

Manliness, Emasculation, and the Fear of Strong Women

Gender roles play a HUGE role in the storyline of King Lear. From the emasculation and takedown of King Lear resulting in a major loss of power to him to the ultimate, untimely demise of every strong, or even just, every female character, this work truly highlights sexism that was alive and prospering during the time period in which Shakespeare wrote it.

At the beginning of the play, in Act 1, Scene 1, Lear is furious at the fact that Cordelia states she will love her husband when she marries him in the future, and will thus not be able to afford every drop of her love and devotion to her father, for now, and forever. He states, “I loved her most and thought to set my rest On her kind nursery. Hence and avoid my sight!(I, i, 137-139). Here it can be seen that unconditional love is only expected of women in this play. Lear banished Cordelia because she would not love him unconditionally for her entire life in the way he expected. While parents are supposed to love their children unconditionally, Lear abandons his daughter, the one he loved the most, because of gender roles.

According to Lear, his other two daughters, Goneril and Regan, aren’t much better than Cordelia. Both of his daughters have stated that if he wishes to live with them, then he must reduce his worldly possessions to almost nothing. In this grand act of emasculation, Regan states, “What need you five-and-twenty, ten, or five, To follow in a house where twice so many Have a command to tend you? What need one?”(II, iv, 300-303). Here, Regan is completely overpowering Lear. She is “stripping” him of the last few things he has power over, to allow him to stay and be cared for by her. Lear sees this as a complete and absolute reduction of his power, which he refuses to stand for. Instead of being reasonable and giving up his men, he leaves her castle as an insane storm rages on.

At the end of the play, all three of Lear’s daughters end up dying in the battle that rages on for power and total control of the kingdom. Regan was killed by her sister, Goneril. According to the Gentleman, “Your lady, sir, your lady. And her sister By her is poisoned. She confesses it”(V, iii, 268-269). Goneril poisoned Regan over Edmund, a man, for fear that she would have stolen him from her. By having these women die over a man, Shakespeare is reinforcing the gender roles that women are petty, and exist purely for men and to fight over men. He does not even afford them their own, unique deaths. Rather, deaths by one another, grasping for a man they cannot both have. Cordelia is mourned the most by her father. He is overcome with grief when he finds her lifeless body and, in response, states, “Her voice was ever soft, Gentle, and low, an excellent thing in a woman”( V, iii, 328-329). Even in her death, Lear enforces patriarchal ideas of what women can be. He liked that she was quiet, subservient, and gentle, and in her death, that is what he is choosing to remember. Not the times she controlled an army, or stood up for herself, using her voice. He never chose to acknowledge her power.

“Haunted” by Poetic Lyricist, Taylor Swift

Music and poetry are one and the same. They both possess intense emotions and allow the reader/listener to gain perspective on an experience whether they have directly experienced it or not. No one knows this better than Taylor Swift. The twelfth track on her third, and only completely self-written, studio album, “Haunted” encompasses a full range of heartbreak and yearning for a person who has left without warning or explanation.

You and I walk a fragile line
I have known it all this time
But I never thought I’d live to see it break.

Swift begins her song with these three lines, where she articulates that this woman’s relationship with this person has been on the verge of ending for quite a long time, however, she was in denial of it ever actually happening. She truly believed she would outlive the end of the relationship, although the outcome was inevitable.

And it’s coming over you like it’s all a big mistake

Oh, I’m holding my breath

Won’t lose you again

At this point in the song, the woman thinks that the man understands that he has made a mistake, and she is reluctant to do anything, (even breathe), lest she risk him leaving again, and it being her fault, even though he is already gone. Here, the listener can feel the pain, anxiety, and blame that the woman is afflicted by, believing that it is her fault he left even though no one actually knows why he left her, or why the relationship ended.

Come on, come on, don’t leave me like this

Here, Swift adds another reference to the 7 stages of grief, this time bargaining. This woman is essentially begging the man to remain in the relationship with her, despite him already being gone.

Can’t breathe whenever you’re gone

Can’t turn back now, I’m haunted

Here the reader can see that the woman has been emotionally dependent on him. As the theme of breathing returns, she panics without him, unable to do something as simple as taking a deep breath to calm herself in the face of turmoil. She is unable to take control. The fact that she feels “haunted” alludes to the ghosts of their past relationship and the grief she feels as the result of its death. She is always reminded of it, unable to let go of the intense feelings of loss and betrayal she has experienced.

He will try to take away my pain

And he just might make me smile

But the whole time I’m wishing he was you instead

She has made an honest attempt to get over this past relationship, filling the void in her heart with a new man, but she is unsuccessful, most likely due to the emotional baggage brought on by the unexpected end to their relationship and the lack of closure she received as a direct result. This past relationship is now impacting her current relationships, although he is still gone, and will not be returning, no matter how badly she wants him to.

Towards the end of the song, she states,

Won’t finish what you started

I believe this could be alluding to the fact that she is unwilling to finish a variety of things, including the breakup, the relationship, and possibly the version of herself that she was with him. We, as listeners, are able to view the full spectrum of her pain and lack of acceptance throughout the song.

You and I walk a fragile line

I have known it all this time. Never ever thought I’d see it break

Never thought I’d see it

These final lines directly relate back to the first few lines of the song but offer a new perspective. This woman is finally giving up on getting back in the previous relationship. She is at a complete loss for words and the damage and hurt that has been inflicted upon her is irreversible.

An Unhappy Ending, or Just a Realistic One?

Throughout the novel, Nadia and Saeed’s relationship becomes increasingly more strained and increasingly more platonic than romantic. Towards the end of the novel, there is a clear shift when Nadia moves into her own room, and she and Saeed start to miss their meetings, eventually forgetting to miss the meetings altogether. “While the first shared weekend walk that they skipped was noticed sharply by them both, the second was not so much and the third almost not at all, and soon they were meeting only once a month or so, and several days would pass in between a message or call”(222). As time begins to pass, they both shift away from their dependence on one another. They form separate relationships and allow themselves to have new beginnings. Their relationship had been significant, and made a big impact on them both in major ways, but had just stopped serving them. It was no longer beneficial, for them to remain together. I recall when I was reading that I hoped there would be a moment where their love was rekindled, and they lived happily ever after in the company of one another. However, I soon realized that this was in no way shape, or form realistic, nor would it be fair to Nadia or Saeed. They had changed one another so drastically, they were no longer a fit. I believe that the end of the story, while almost neutral, is fitting for the narrative. When Nadia and Saeed meet up after so many years away from one another, there is a comforting vibe to the novel, especially when it stated ” they rose and embraced and parted and did not know, then, if that evening would ever come”(231). They are reminiscing on past promises and connect physically one final time as if to finally close the book on their relationship, which I think is the most realistic, optimistic ending possible.

Meursault: Cold and Heartless, or All-knowing?

Throughout the novel, The Stranger, we are often presented with the idea that Meursault is unfeeling and doesn’t really confront his emotions. He often comes off as cold, closed off, and unable to love. When he attended his mother’s funeral, he didn’t want to see her body and never so much as shed a tear for his dead mother. Despite this, he felt as though he “was able to understand Maman better”(15). While he didn’t have an outwardly expressive legubious reaction to the death of his mon, he was able to foster a deeper connection and understanding of her even afer her passing. Towards the end of the novel, he states that she “must have felt free and ready to live it all again. Nobody, nobody had the right to cry over her”(122). He obviously has found peace in her death, maybe due to the fact that his own is impending. He is able to find comfort in the fact that she has died and is reliving her life elsewhere. I found it immensly interesting how right at the end of the novel Meursault brings up the fact that he feels no one should be allowed to cry over her. Is this beause of his own guilt about not being sad at her funeral, or because she is happy and free now in death. He was simply ahead of his time, not crying for her at any point, because he new she was free, and that death had offered her this freedom.

Why Do People Love People Who Don’t Love Them Back?

A common theme that stood out to me in the first part of this novel was how much Marie loves Meursault, and how indifferent Meursault is towards Marie. “When she laughed I wanted her again. A minute later she asked me if I loved her. I told her it didn’t mean anything but that I didn’t think so. She looked sad. But as we were fixing lunch, and for no apparent reason, she laughed in such a way that I kissed her”(35). Obviously, we can see that there is no apparent termination to the relationship upon the realization that Marie and Meursault are not on the same page emotionally. Meursault, while not in love , is still very physically attracted to Marie, only truely caring about her in a sexual, physically affectionate nature. He is positively indifferent in any conversation with her regaurding the future as well as feelings. “That evening Marie came by to see me and asked me if I wanted to marry her. I said that it didn’t make any dfference to me and that we could if she wanted to. Themn she wanted to know if I loved her. I answered the same way I has the last time, that it didn’t really mean anything but that I probably didn’t love her”(41). The relationship dynamic is so interesting in the way that Meursault is willing to do almost anything to make Marie happy and keep her in the relationship even if it is not really something he wants to do. I almost wonder if he’s doing this as a way to avoid confict or if he simply does not actually care. I also find it peculiar that Marie continues her relationship with Meursault because she does care how he feels about her. She loves him and wants him to love her even though he has stated on several occasions he does not feel the same way.