A Note on Orientalism in Lunana

Edward Said describes Orientalism as a built-in system or method by which, the West not only socially constructed and actually produced the Orient, but controlled and managed it through a a series of power relations, working through the tropes, images, and representations of literature, art, visual. In other words it is the imperialist and colonialist outlook on the east by the west.

It can be argued that “Lunana: A Yak in the Classroom” is trying to be vocal on the idea of orientalism. Unlike most movies of this nature, the teacher or “savior” or person with power would be of different nationality or one group (typically the have not’s/ not white or western) is portrayed as evil. However, in this movie both the children/villagers and Ugyen, the protagonist, are both Bhutanese. What differentiates Ugyen from the children and villagers is that fact that he is more “modernized.” This idea of “advanced” society and tradition society is also seen through what Australia means to Ugyen. Although Ugyen goes to Australia at the end of the movie, the fact that he sings the yak herders song shows that the movie is going against this western idea of the east (that maybe all easterners want to be like them but just can’t). Also, the cast of the film is basically all “amateur” actors, with actual Lunana villagers and other Bhutanese people. This goes against the idea of Orientalism because the film takes the actual perspective and thoughts of the people the film is about to portray an accurate representation of that group.



Loyalty — Admirable or Just Plain Stupid?

In the play King Lear, Kent is a servant of King Lear. He is banished from the kingdom when he points out that King Lear is making a bad decision in Act 1. However, he takes on a different persona, goes by the name “Caius,” and rejoins King Lear’s entourage of men. He follows Lear everywhere making sure to protect him from the treacherous whether and trying to reunite him with his daughter Cordelia. At the end of the play when Lear dies, Kent is offered the kingdom to rule but Kent responds with “I have a journey, sir, shortly to go; / My master calls me. I must not say no (V.III.390-391).” This can be interpreted in many ways but I see it as he leaves to kill himself because his master, Lear, has died. Through this character I have wondered what Shakespeare meant to say about loyalty — admirable or stupid?

When answering this question, I think it is best to look at the two most loyal servants in the play — Kent, servant of Lear and Oswald, servant of Goneril. Oswald and Kent are both very loyal, defending their masters and both even die because of their loyalty to their masters.

However, there lies a key difference between the nature of Oswald’s and Kent’s servitude. Unlike Oswald, Kent seems to have his masters best interest at heart. Kent is kicked out of the kingdom because he told King Lear the truth, that he is making the wrong choice of disowning Cordelia because she actually loves him the most. Kent knew that Lear was making a bad decision that would hurt him later and acted upon Lear’s best interest. He then proceeds to help King Lear in the storm and throughout the whole play, showing that his loyalty rides deep and can’t be broken by his master even kicking him out. On the other hand, Oswald blindly follows Goneril’s orders never questioning anything she tells him to do. His loyalty also seems to stem from his self-seeking characteristic. For example, in act 4 he is more than willing to take Reagans orders to kill Gloucester; “That eyeless head of thine was first framed flesh/ To raise my fortunes”(IV.VI.254-255). He implies that he is getting a reward for his loyalty which doesn’t feel like loyalty because it could be broken easily.

Ultimately, I think Shakespeare is saying that true loyalty is very admirable and is a virtuous trait to have. Yet, I think it is important to note that it is Kent’s loyalty that is admirable, not Oswalds.

A Sweet Addiction

I have never been much of a lyrics person, mostly infatuated by the sounds and rhythms of my favorite artists. However, through this assignment I was able to delve deep into the lyrics of one of my favorite songs, “Cherry Wine” by Hozier. These poetic lyrics shed some light on domestic abuse in a relationship where the man is the victim and woman is the abuser. Hozier wanted the song to show specifically this cycle of justification that many domestic abusive situations perpetuate, a cycle cited by many people as a way for the abused to be controlled and guilt to be shifted from abuser to victim.

This is best shown in the related chorus;

“The way she tells me I’m hers and she is mine
Open hand or closed fist would be fine
The blood is rare and sweet as cherry wine.”

Throughout the whole poem the speaker, the man being abused, constantly accompanies an abusive moment to a line that justifies it. The physical abuse is demonstrated directly through the second line, an “open hand” representing a slap and a “closed fist” representing a punch. However, line three defends this pain by using blood and cherry wine as similes. Cherry wine, an alcoholic beverage, is toxic but addictive and sweet. Similarly this relationship is definitely toxic but the speaker can not get out of it nor does he really want to. Also, these lines being the chorus and repeated multiple times throughout the lyrics emphasizes this “justification” cycle mentioned earlier.

“But I want it
It’s a crime
That she’s not around most of the time.”

The word “crime” is used as a multidimensional word in this stanza. In one way the crime could be the fact that he is in an abusive household. Maybe the fact that he still wants her despite all the pain she is/was causing him. Or maybe it’s a crime that she is not around enough even with his love. Whichever meaning one decides to take, the importance is that the speaker does understand that he is in an abusive relationship yet he is so emotionally attached to this woman (through no fault of his own) that he can’t get out.

Hozier, through this poetic song, brilliantly gives readers a deep sense of the physical and psychological terrors of domestic abuse.

Breaking Stereotypes

In Exit West, it is pretty clear that Saeed, Nadia’s family, and most of the people from their hometown practice the religion, Islam. From a western perspective and through mainstream media, it seems that Islamic countries show a patriarchal society mostly because of tyrannical leaders who may interpret the religion in a biased way. Either way, ideas like Women shouldn’t make important decisions regarding their own lives, a male guardian should approve women’s marriage or divorce, and more are integrated into the society.

Exit West is very refreshing because it not only breaks common stereotypes of women in the whole world, it destroys stereotypes of women in the world of Islam. This is shown through the character Nadia. Right from the first time the reader meets her, they see that she is not like most women portrayed in literature and media as “she donned a black motorcycle helmet… straddled her ride, and rode off” (5). She wears a concealing black robe but her reason (“so men don’t fuck with me”(17)) sets her apart from most women. She moves away from her family to live independently and unlike Saeed doesn’t miss home when they leave.

I like that these types of books exist so that women can feel more empowered when they read about Nadia. Especially, a world that consistently tries to oppress them. After reading these types of books, it feels easier to live the life you want and fight back with the life that others want you to live.

A Changed Man?

The first lines of The Stranger seem to be very well known in the literary world and rightfully so; “Maman died today. Or yesterday, I don’t know” (3). This is how the reader is introduced to Meursault and throughout the first half at least and even 3/4ths of the book this same indifferent and detached person is what we get. He through life with the understanding that whatever he does, doesn’t matter because it doesn’t really change his life. I think it’s important to note that before going to prison he really only thought about HIS life and how it really didn’t matter how it turned out to be. Because when he does go into prison he starts to have trouble accepting his inevitable death. All he cares about is “escaping the machinery of justice, seeing if there’s any way out of the inevitable” (108).

But soon into chapter 5, We see that Meursault in fact does realize deep deep down under all that hope and contradictory thoughts that “since we’re all going to die, it’s obvious that when and how don’t matter”(114). Only then can Meursault accept that there is no need for hope for his appeal. Yet I don’t think he fully understands and fully accepts his death.

I think it’s his outburst with the priest, when we finally get to see Meursault’s beliefs and thoughts come together. From this encounter he finally understands that the universe and world is also indifferent and that no one persons actions changes anything because the world keeps living without a worry about anyone. He is able to recognize that whatever happened to him, he would be in the exact same position as now. Meursault feels free at the end by his death. He likes that he lived his life his true authentic way without the standards of society influencing anything, as a stranger.

“To Shoot or Not to Shoot”

The end of part one ends with Meursaults overkill of “the Arab.” I was confused as to why Meursault even shot the Arab once because the second time Raymond and he encounter him, Meursault keeps Raymond from shoot by saying, “It’d be pretty lousy to shoot him like that” (56). This seems to be one of the first times, if not the first where we see an ounce of morality in him. He understands that it would be wrong for Raymond to kill this man both because the man doesn’t deserve to die and it Raymond would face consequences.

However, once Meursault is handed the gun for safekeeping, he suddenly has this big realization that whether he kills the man or not kill made no difference in his life or in the world with the line, “It was then that I realized that you could either shoot or not shoot” (56). Although I want a different answer this line seems to show that Meursault killed for no apparent reason at all. He was indifferent to the shooting.

Except why 4 more shots?? He say’s it was like “knocking four quick times on the door of unhappiness”(59). Maybe in this instance Meursault was trying to feel some sort of feeling (unhappiness) for what he had just. He knows that his indifference to everything is not normal and deep down wants to feel something even if it’s negative.