Vignettes, Questions, Themes, and Life

To begin with, I think the use of the vignettes throughout the book were really neat. I didn’t really value, or understand, them until I finished the book and reflected on what I read. The first vignette, about the lady in Australia, actually threw me off. I thought that we were going to learn about the lady at the end of the book, or that scene would be resolved and I would have an understanding as to what happened. I came to realize that there would be more of these scenes, and they would never be resolved, leaving me with questions. Like I said earlier, I didn’t really like this aspect of the book, but I now feel like I have an understanding as to why Hamid did this. Obviously the vignettes are scenes of people going through doors and entering a new life, but there is an underlying theme of all of them, that relates to a theme of the book.

First off, I think that the reason that the vignettes are left unfinished and unresolved is because that is what life is like for every person in them. I always had this feeling of confusion, wondering what’s going to happen, how does this get resolved. I think Hamid was trying to put the reader in the mind of the immigrant. There is no guarantee of what will happen next, and there’s no way to know how everything will end up. On top of that, the fact that in all the different vignettes there were different short term outcomes, like the man leaving England for Africa, which made him happy. Or the family who made it out of their city, only to be taken aback by an unknown group of people likely the books form of ICE, or something along those lines. That shows that the outcome can have many different forms. This theme of not knowing, a cliffhanger, is throughout the whole book. To show this, the final words of the book are ” They rose and embraced and parted and did not know, then, if that evening would ever come” 231. The ending of the book leaves another cliffhanger to the reader. I think this novel shows the overall mystery in life, and how nothing can be promised, that there is no guarantee as to how things will end up. To finish though, I think Hamid did an amazing job with this novel, because it shows the mystery of the displacement of people, and life itself.

“Black Box” and the Questionable Empowerment of Women

On the surface, Black Box seems like a short story that does a good job of empowering women through the decisions they make, specifically being a spy and helping the government gain information on high profile criminals. However, through the use certain words such as “Beauty”, and the involvement of our narrator’s husband, there seems to be slight ambiguity in what our author was trying to convey.

To begin with, it seems that the use of the word “Beauty” is used to describe all young women. That is only one word, and it can be taken that calling someone a beauty reduces a girl to one aspect. That is degrading to females because it takes all other aspects out of them. They are only seen as beauties and nothing else. On top of that, it is said that “Posing as a beauty means not reading what you like to read on a rocky shore in the South of France.” This quote is one of many that shows that beauties are supposed to not do what they want, and solely have to listen to what their Designated Mate wants. If this is the case, then why does the author refer to all young women as beauties, and not just the spies. I feel like this means that our author is actually in a way being degrading.

When you look at how the narrator talks about her husband, it also seems that she is taking part in this program not because she wanted to, but more because her husband wanted her to. This is taking away from her decision, and is implying that she can’t make her own decision. the quote “You will reflect on the fact that America is your husband’s chosen country and he loves it.” This quote makes it seem that she is partaking in this because of her husband’s allegiance to his country. These quotes, plus many more throughout the story, prove the ambiguity the author makes when trying to empower women.