Thanks to COVID-19, Orientalism is making a return in major ways, including the President of the United States immaturely referring to a professionally-labeled virus as the “Chinese virus” on several occasions. The truth is that Orientalism went pretty dormant for a while but that would not last forever. Historically, people, regardless of ethnicity, have felt the need to assign blame on a culture if society is trending negatively or if they perceive a major threat. In WWII, Germans believed it was the Jews’ fault for Germany’s economic downfall. After 9/11, Muslims everywhere were blamed for any terrorist attack. In a time of uncertainty, people like to make one thing certain: who is to blame. Orientalism can be overcome just like the Jews overcame the antisemitic reign of Hitler and Muslim-Americans are toughing out a battle with Islamophobia. It is important to actively protest Orientalism in all forms and consider what truly matters more in a time of crisis, blame or resolution. (The answer is resolution).
There are a few things to consider when discussing the novel’s title. On one hand, we can concentrate on the main portion of the title and think about the specific individual it may be referring to – the God of Small Things. All things considered, from Ammu’s fantasy, we get the possibility that the God of Small Things speaks to Velutha, the man whom she cherishes, regardless of the way that society will never accept them being together. In her fantasy (which happens in Chapter 11 and happens to be entitled “The God of Small Things”), Ammu dreams of a man with one arm who holds her near him: He could only do one thing at a time. “If he held her, he couldn’t kiss her. If he kissed her, he couldn’t see her. If he saw her, he couldn’t feel her.” (205)
When Ammu wakes from her dream, Rahel and Estha are there with her. Ammu notices a curl of shaved wood in Rahel’s hair and knows that the kids have been to see Velutha. She knows even more, “She knew who he was – the God of Loss, the God of Small Things. Of course she did.” (206) Velutha’s identity as the God of Small Things is fortified toward the end of the book when we find out about Ammu and Velutha’s first romantic encounters. Since they know it’s impossible for their love to exist, they never talk or consider the future, or what one may consider to be the “big things”; they just adhere to the present.
Rylan by The National comes off of their 2019 album I Am Easy To Find. The song is about an introverted teenage man named Rylan. His struggles to fulfill his parents’ hopes that he comes out of his shell “Rylan, did you break your mother’s heart?/Every time you tried to play your part” Rylan’s feeling of isolation becomes so dark that the singer makes an allusion to suicide, “Rylan, we can take the quick way out/You can turn blank-white in a blank-white house.” The narrator uses an ABAB rhyming scheme in the first stanza “Rylan, you should try to get some sun/You remind me of everyone/Rylan, did you break your mother’s heart?/Every time you tried to play your part,” and illustrates the low esteem that Rylan is developing.
“Change your mind and nothing changes.” In the choruses, the narrator advises Rylan to change his pessimestic attitude and to start approaching people. He must develop his social skills and learn to cope with rejection, just like everybody else. With the repetition of the first line, it creates a sense of urgency as if Rylan is running out of time to try to adjust his introvert habits, “Rylan, you should try to get some sun. / You remind me of everyone. / Rylan, you should try to get some sun. /A little bit of heaven in everyone”. It is amazing how Matt Berninger can see through certain characters and explain them in these very poetic and sympathetic ways. Through quick lines and often rhyming The National is able to tell the story and explain the feelings of a hypothetical but realistic teenager.
Beloved is so much more than just the spirit of Sethe’s dead child. She represents the spirits of all the slaves who died on their forced voyage to America. Beloved possesses memories that are unique to the trauma that slaves went through during their time on the Middle Passage. Beloved shares this memory with Sethe’s mother and therefore raises questions about Beloved also representing Sethe’s mom.
Because of Beloved’s unique supernatural characteristic and portrayal of so many forgotten slaves, she is individually underdeveloped in the story. Sethe’s actions and experiences shape Beloved and she proves to a beneficial part of Sethe’s life, until she isn’t. She assists Sethe by asking her to reveal stories of her past but later turns too needy. Her role as more of a force than a person helps this idea become clearer. While Beloved represents Sethe’s unnamed child, she is also a character for the masses that died during America’s most shameful period.
Saeed and Nadia escape through many different portals that lead them to various spots in the world. This is to escape danger and the violence that is occurring in their hometown. However, this is not the only time they try to distract themselves from life. We watch Saeed and Nadia become lost in their phones in order to access “an invisible world.” Whereas Saeed uses his phone to escape his life in a controlled manner, Nadia has no problem using the internet to the fullest extent as a way of distracting herself from her otherwise dreary everyday life in a war-torn city. Another way of leaving the real world temporarily is through recreational drugs. Nadia consistently suggests that she and Saeed roll joints together and smoke marijuana and Saeed taking hallucinogen-inducing mushrooms in Nadia’s apartment. These risky decisions are frankly desperate tries to escape reality and avoid the dangers that they would otherwise face. I understand why they feel they have to resort to these habits but it does not change the fact that they are despairing acts.
I am much more conscious about my life and how to make meaning in it because I have read “The Stranger” and you should be too. I think it is a very well-written story of what happens when you buy into existentialism. Obviously it is an extreme to say that all people who do will find themselves on death row. Because the positives of the idea of existentialism is to emphasize freedom of choice and pure independence to define meaning of life, it is only appropriate to consider the negatives of living this way. On page 35 Meursault thinks, “When she laughed I wanted her again. A moment later she asked me if I loved her. I said that sort of question had no meaning, really; but I supposed I didn’t.” He has chosen to disappoint her and reveal that he feels no connection to Marie and doesn’t feel he wants one.
This should encourage readers to be more sensible and understand that existentialism is hardly liberating but rather a guise of freedom. Choosing to not acknowledge roles or labels is not really a beneficial behavior. Having these roles that society has decided to recognize is healthy. It may mean less freedom in the traditional sense of the word but it allows people to be who they want and to live for what they want without this burden of individuality that existentialism brings on. This motivation to have roles and definitions is great and Albert Camus accidentally sheds light on this idea. To live thinking life has no purpose will lead one to live life without purpose. This is a dangerous way to live because that person may have fewer reasons to live life completely and for the right reasons.
The Cariboo Cafe by Helena Maria Viramontes is very relevant to modern immigration trends and brings attention to the hardships that are often faced by immigrants. Sonya’s family is faced with unexpected adversity that stalls their desires of living the American Dream. The overarching theme of distrust is highlighted by the rules that her Papa sets for her to ensure her safety. He says, “never talk to strangers” and encourages her to avoid the police at all costs. This perceived lack of safety is increased when Sonya is attacked at school. Unfortunately, this phenomenon of foreigners feeling unwelcome and very out of place is common in the United States. There is a somewhat common belief that immigrants have no place here and this leads them to feel scared. Our modern stance on the southern border and especially non white immigrants are targeted and seen as the enemy. Sonya’s family fights these realistic obstacles in hopes of attaining what may be a fallacy, a less difficult pursuit to happiness and the American dream.