Margaret Kochamma’s Display of Orientalism

Throughout “God of Small Things,” the reader is able to see how India is viewed from the Western world from tourists that are encountered throughout the novel, but specifically through the eyes of Margaret Kochamma. One of the first instances of the view of India from a tourists perspective is when the family goes to the airport to pick up Margaret Kochamma and Sophie Mol. Other Western families are also arriving and being greeted by their Indian relatives. Roy describes their encounters, “With love and a lick of shame that their families who had come to meet them were so… gawkish. Look at the way they dressed!” (134). The way the Western relatives disapprove of their Indian family is a display of orientalism. Westerns like to believe that what they do– the way they act, dress, talk– is the only “normal” way. Later in this passage, the Indian families are referred to as dirty. The way that the Westerners are treating the people in India is mainly based of Orientalism, and growing up believing that Indians are not well dressed, shameful, and dirty.

Margaret Kochamma’s role and her Orientalist view adds even more to the novel, and is arguably very important to the novel as a whole. When Margaret Kochamma told her coworkers she was going to India “The Heart of Darkness,” as the book describes it, they tell her that “Anything can happen to anyone” and “It’s best to be prepared” (252). Without saying it, her coworkers are implying what many Westerners think, that India is an unsafe country, especially for white people. Margaret Kochamma has reservations about bringing her daughter there for this exact reason. But, her worst fears are realized and her daughter dies in India. The fact that the whole book basically revolves around this event, one so deeply rooted in orientalism shows how important Orientalism is to this book. What is even more interesting to me is that the outside or Western view of India as unsafe is partially supported, with Sophie Mol dying. But it also refutes Orientalism because her death does not happen in the way most Westerners probably would’ve expected (something like a scary man kidnapping you off the street). Instead it is her own family, two young kids, who accidentally kill her.

The Motif of Pappachi’s Moth

Pappachi’s moth is introduced at the beginning of the novel. It is the moth that he discovered but he did not get credit for. His moth also marks the beginning of his abusive tendencies towards Mammachi.  The moth represents his anger and the fear in others that accompanies his temper tantrums. It is said that Pappachi’s moth haunts the family,  “tormented him and his children and his children’s children,” (24). But in a broader sense, the moth symbolizes any uncomfortable feelings in uncontrollable situations.

The moth becomes most prevalent for Rahel. In situations where she feels scared and out of control, Arundhati Roy places descriptive imagery to depict the moth landing, tiptoeing, and envolepoing Rahel’s heart. An example of this is when Ammu tells Rahel that when she hurts people, they love them less. Roy describes, ” A cold moth with unusually dense dorsal tufts landed lightly on Rahel’s heart. Where its icy legs touched her, she got goosebumps. Six goosebumps on her careless heart. A little less her Ammu loved her” (104). This is a scary moment for Rahel. Her mother just told her that her careless words made her love Rahel less. Especially for a child, that is very frightening and unexpected. Rahel doesn’t want her mother to love her less, and feels guilty, and so the moth lands on her heart to remind us of Rahel feeling insecure. The moth motif continues throughout the novel, and comes back at one of the most critical points of the novel as well, specifically when Esta and Rahel lose Sophie Mol to the river. Roy depicts, “On Rahel’s heart Pappachi’s moth snapped open its somber wing” (295). Again, Rahel feels unsure, scared, and as though she might have just killed her cousin. This causes the moth to come back. Another interesting thing about this passage is that it suggests that the moth never truly leaves Rahel, it just opens at certain times. This connects to the idea that Pappachi’s moth will truly haunt his descendants forever, never leaving their hearts. Finally, I would like to point out that the moth also seems to become present at times when Rahel is exposed to darker feelings and emotions. Feeling of abandonment and of fear of murder are not typical feelings small children have. The moth is there to guide Rahel into more adult feelings that contrast her normally childlike manner.

“Groundhog Day” — A Less Conventional Comedy

“Groundhog Day,” directed by Harold Ramis, is the story of a cynical newscaster, Phil Connors, who lives in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, where Groundhog Day festivities occur every year. After reporting on the groundhog, Phil goes to bed and wakes up again to Groundhog Day. His repeated Groundhog Day helps him to have a different perspective on his life and gives him a chance to make a better impression on his co-host, Rita. The main plot of the movie follows Phil as he tries to have the perfect day with Rita.

While “Groundhog Day” could be dismissed as a light-hearted romantic comedy, I think that this would be a very shallow look at this movie. On the surface, it may just seem to be a movie about when the guy gets the girl. I believe that one of the most important parts of this movie is the character development of Phil. He transitions from an unlikeable character to a very sympathetic character by the end of the film. In this way, “Groundhog Day” strays a little from the traditional comedy path. Aristotle’s definition describes a comedy as the rise of a sympathetic central character. “Groundhog Day” adds a layer to this definition, and takes an unsympathetic central character and makes him extremely likeable to the audience. Although this does not strictly follow the formal definition, I think that this progression makes the movie even more of a comedy. Not only is there a happy ending, but the fact that a sour character was able to change makes the movie overall more meaningful for an audience.

In this same way, this less conventional comedy sheds light on human nature. While some may think that a person’s character cannot be changed, I think this movie illustrates that a person can change for the better. After being a man a haughty and egotistical man, Phil eventually begins to shed his egotistical exterior, and works toward improving his life and those around him. Only after he chooses to use his life to love himself and those around them is he set free from the endless loop. This shows that anyone can change for the better, but also has a deeper meaning. I think that his loop and cycle could also represent any type of struggle someone is going through, and the way he dug himself out of his hole was through kindness and selflessness. I think this that message is incredibly important, and the fact that it can be delivered through what seems to be a light-hearted comedy is even more impressive and powerful. Giving people this important and uplifting message while also making them laugh makes this comedy a meaningful art form.

The Combination of Horror and Satire to Show Racism

“Get out,” directed by Jordan Peele, is a thriller and horror film about a young African-American man (Chris) who visits his white girlfriend’s (Rose) family for the first time. The family is extremely welcoming and accommodating, which Chris reads as the family trying to accept their daughters interracial relationship. But as time progresses, Chris begins to notice odd things. For starters, the family has many African American people who work for them, but they seem off and don’t act like normal people. In addition, One of the older members of the family is married to a younger black man, who while Chris is speaking to him begins to scream “Get out.” These events put Chris on edge, in addition to the families repeated beliefs that black people are “athletically and genetically superior” to white people. Spoiler Alert! I feel that the end of the movie must be spoiled in order to understand the satire and meaning behind the movie. Chris’ suspicions are correct, the family has different plans for him than to just have him visit. The mother of the family hypnotizes him into a “sunken space,” where Chris is detached from his own reality, watching it like a movie. We discover that the family has been doing this to the other black people who are in the house, but in this state of hypnosis, they have been putting the conscious of their white relatives into the black people because they believe black people to be genetically superior. The African Americans whose body it actually is are forced to watch what their body does through the sunken reality they are hypnotized into. Certain things, like flashes, can cause them to regain control and consciousness for a while, which is how the one man tells Chris to “get out” when a picture is taken of him. This man knows what will happen to Chris if he stays.

The film specifically uses irony and hyperbole to demonstrate how racism in America, although many white people think is much better, is not actually changed that much from the past. Irony is used with the contrast with what the family is expected to be — a democratic family trying to accept Chris — to what they actually are — basically enslaving black people for their personal gain. This contrast is supposed to shock the audience, but also supposed to represent the racism in our society everyday that we don’t notice. Hyperbole is also used in the movie. Obviously it is not possible to take someone’s consciousness and put in someone else, there is not technology for that. The use of the “sunken consciousness” is not meant to be taken literally, but instead meant to show how white people are still shaping and trying to control the minds of black people. Although this is meant to be extreme, it is also meant to shed light on the blatant racism that still exists in the U.S.

The movie is definitely criticizing modern America. The combination of satire and horror serves to attack racism and white people’s mindset towards black people in America. The writing shows how even those white people thought to be normal often have racist mindsets. Although it is meant to exaggerate the situation in America, it’s purpose is to also show how extreme and dire the situation with racism in America is, and what could theoretically happen in the future. I think Peele wants to change society with this movie by truly showing the racism occuring in America.

American Privilege

In his song “American Privilege,” Allen Stone challenges Americans way of life and the privilege we have simply by being American. The song specifically targets white Americans and their mounting privilege– whether it is realized or unrealized. Stone has a particular fixation throughout the song on consumerism, and how Americans waste and expend their money with little thought.

Oh, it doesn’t seem right
That I – I was born white
And my parents don’t fight
Told me they love me each night

Stone begins his song by discussing his innate privilege as a white American. He describes that he had happy, married parents who were supportive of him. For many Americans, this is a reality for them because they were born with these privileges. Stone goes on to give more examples of American privilege.

I don’t lose sleep for kids sewing my sheets
Or the ones stitching my sneaks
As long as I can buy ’em both cheap

Stone then goes on to expand on his idea of American privilege by criticizing many Americans ideal of consumerism. He attacks Americans for not caring how their materials were made, who made them, or the conditions they were made in as long as they don’t have to pay a lot of money to get them. In both of these stanzas, Stone is taking things that many Americans take for granted and making them think about what those things truly mean about them and their privilege. His articulation of how easy his (and other Americans) life is compared to others provides an introspective opinion that would make many Americans think twice about their privilege.

American privilege is blurring my vision
Inherited sickness

Although short, I think the chorus of this song is incredibly powerful. Stone is saying that although many Americans enjoy their lives and the privilege that comes with it, he believes the privilege Americans have to be a sickness. In a haze of his privilege, Stone is struggling to make the right decisions in light of his privilege. I think this is true for many Americans. They are blurred by privilege they often don’t know they have, so they inherit a disease most Americans have.

Overall, I believe this song to be poetry. I think Stone eloquently puts into perspective American privilege in a way that is presentable and not overbearing to Americans. By constantly using “I,” Stone does not place the blame on us as listeners, making us more willing to listen to what it has to the important, reflective, and necessary messages it has. .

Is “Beloved” a Ghost Story?

In reading “Beloved,” a question arose in my mind. Is “Beloved” a ghost story? Clearly, there is a ghost or spirit of some sort in the form of Beloved. While Beloved is a spirit, what was Morrison’s motive to include a ghost in a story about post-slavery America? While one of Beloved’s main purposes is to haunt Sethe, what more does she represent?

There are a lot of questions there. But in my opinion, “Beloved” is not a ghost story. Personally, I think to call it so is simplifying Beloved as a character. To call “Beloved” a ghost story is to overlook many important events in the novel. As readers, we see many different time periods and events throughout African-American history throughout the book. We see a newly post-slavery United States through the “present” eyes of Sethe and Paul D. We also get to see flashbacks of Sethe’s and Paul D’s back to Sweet Home and slavery. We even get flashbacks to Sethe’s childhood and her mother, who spoke a different language, where Sethe would have been around people who could’ve remembered the middle passage. Morrison uses Beloved to fill some of the gaps missing in this history. As readers, we get vivid, horrible, brutal images of the middle passage through Beloved’s description. This is a part of the history that would not have been included in the story otherwise, but is very important in understanding the history of slavery in America. Beloved is also the one who asks Sethe so many questions about Sweet Home, providing the reader with more information about Sethe’s experience as a slave. Although Morrison could have found other ways to delve into Sethe’s past, Beloved is a natural and interesting tool that Morrison can use in order for us as readers to learn more about Sweet Home.

In this way, I think Beloved as a character serves a much larger purpose than just to be a ghost in the story and haunt Sethe. For this reason, to call “Beloved” a ghost story is a bit of an insult to the book because it holds so much more than that.

The Effect of The Narrative of “Exit West”

In “Exit West,” Mohsin Hamid tells a riveting story about two main characters, Saeed and Nadia, in a war torn city. While much of the novel focuses on Saeed and Nadia’s travels away from their home city, I think that the first part of the novel in the city is just as important as the immigration in the second part of the novel.

The first part of the novel focuses on the war torn city that Saeed and Nadia are living in and their day to day lives inside the city. It recounts Saeed and Nadia going about their lives normally: going to work everyday, going grocery shopping, and even partaking in some drugs. Basically until the last few weeks before they leave through a door, Saeed and Nadia go throughout their lives with very little change despite the war.

I think this narrative from inside a war torn city is important for Westerners to read and understand. So often we watch the news or read the newspaper, where all that is focused on in areas experiencing conflict is physical destruction and political turmoil. The news also focuses on people fleeing war torn cities. This novel takes away the element of hard journeys of migration by implementing the idea of doors, allowing the reader to focus on the narrative of Saeed and Nadia. And as Western readers, I think it is important for us to understand that what we hear in the news isn’t the whole perspective. “Exit West” is an excellent narrative to understand a little bit more of the narrative of people in war torn areas.

“Groundhog Day” as an Existentialist Film

The movie “Groundhog Day” is about a man, Phil Connors, who has a bad outlook on life. But by some fluke of nature, Phil ends up repeating the same Groundhog Day over and over. At first, Phil is confused, and keeps repeating his actions every day so that they are the same, in case the next day is not a repeat of the last. But then, Phil begins to realize that he can act however he wants and there will be no consequences because there will be “no tomorrow.” He begins to break many social and societal constructs, basically doing whatever he wants because he knows there will be no repercussions. He ends up becoming happier and having a better outlook on life once he begins doing this. He has a new level of freedom that he did not have before.

One particularly interesting thing about “Groundhog Day” is that it portrays a positive view of existentialism. I think it’s easy for many people to say existentialists are simply pessimistic and refuse to see any good in life. “Groundhog Day” refutes all these statements. Phil begins the movie tied to societal constructs meant to give life meaning. After repeating the same day over and over again, Phil is set free from these constructs. He no longer fears society’s judgement of his actions. And only when he gets this freedom is he truly happy in the movie. Although existentialism is, on one level, about trying to shy away from things we traditionally think gives value to our lives, it’s also about the freedom we can acquire from living without these social constructs.

One other connection that I think must be made here is the connection of “Groundhog Day” and Camus’ “Myth of Sisyphus.” Much like Sisyphus, Phil must repeat the same day, pushing his “boulder” up the hill, just for the day to repeat or the boulder to fall back down the hill. But Phil begins to recognize the absurdity of life as he repeats his days, just as Camus says Sisyphus must accept the absurdity of life as he pushes his boulder. Camus says that once you realize how absurd life is, you can find amusement and even happiness in its absurdity. This is why he proposes that Sisyphus is happy, and this is why Camus would also consider Phil to be happy as well.

The Relationship Between the Tlics and Terrans in “Bloodchild”

The Tlics and Terrans have an interesting and complex relationship in “Bloodchild.” One side of their relationship is based on power. The Tlics have control over the Terrans in the story. The Terrans can’t leave The Preserve and are also forced to bear the Tlic’s “children” (the shrubs) even though it can kill them. Even with supposedly “good” things, like the eggs, the Tlics control how much the Terrans get. Everything is monitored by the Tlics, so that the power dynamic seems clear: Tlics have power over Terrans.

At the same time, the Tlics seem to be making an effort to make the Terrans comfortable. It would be easy for the Tlics to force the Terrans into hostile conditions simply to bear their young. Instead, they provide the Terrans with things like eggs that make the Preserve more enjoyable for them. They also acclimate Tlic and Terran so that they are comfortable with each other. The Tlic even go as far as trying to make the Terran physically comfortable, by encasing them in their limbs.

These two sides of the Tlic and Terran relationship are extremely conflicting. I think it’s interesting to observe which characters believe each side of this relationship. For many it’s unclear. Does the mother refuse eggs because she believes the Tlics are cruel? Does Gan agree to bear the Tlic’s children because he feels a strong emotional relationship with her? A relationship the Tlic want him to feel? The overarching question for all of this is why the Tlics make so much effort to have connections with the Terrans, when it does not seem necessary? How much are the Tlic innately similar to the Terran and how much of how the Tlic act is a direct result of being in constant relations with the Terran?