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.

God of Small Things and its Showcase of Broken Rules

I would like to start off with my opinion of novel, and I must say, it was not necessarily a favorite. I think the imagery throughout the novel was nice, and I enjoyed how certain characters developed throughout the story. But many times I was left absolutely confused. I think that may have been intentional as questions I had were answered throughout the story, but I think it being written that was didn’t allow readers to truly make connections with the characters and their stories and personal struggles. My favorite character was Velutha, simply because he seemed to have the most depth in character in my opinion.

Although I was not the hugest fan of the novel, I liked how it highlighted the breaking of a number of societal norms, whether they were specific to Ayemenem or just in general.

The first one I noticed was the number of failed marriages. I think divorce is still something people feel ashamed about today (although they should not) and it was interesting to see that almost everyone that was once married in the novel was either divorced or had a terrible marriage (like in Ammu’s mother’s case). And despite it being common in her family, it was still not common in her community. The text states,

Within the first few months of her return to her parents’ home, Ammu quickly learned to recognize and despise the ugly face of sympathy. Old female relations with incipient beards and several wobbling chins made overnight trips to Ayemenem to commiserate with her about her divorce. They squeezed her knee and gloated. She fought off the urge to slap them. Or twiddle their nipples. With a spanner. (43)

Ammu was still treated as if her situation was terrible and incredibly unfortunate just because she was divorced.

Another societal norm that was broken in the novel was the idea of a loving and supportive mother. Ammu seemed anything but that most of the time. She obviously loved her kids, but her love for them was often volatile and detached. Ammu literally said that she “loved her children but their wide-eyed vulnerability and their willingness to love people who didn’t really love them exasperated her and sometimes made her want to hurt them — just as an education, a protection(pg 42).” I don’t really think that’s much of a nurturing mother way of thinking. And when she did things like shrug her kids off when they were embracing her, or telling Rahel she loved her less the epitome of a detached love that lacks insight on how her actions affect her children.

There is also the biggest societal role broken when Rahel and Estha slept together, which I really did not enjoy (but I’m sure that was the point). I was kind of expecting it as the book went on and highlighted their closeness and their “oneness.” But it was just so weird.

Sex, Gender, and Orientalism

Typical examples of Orientalism, at least historical examples, seem to have a preoccupation with gender, power, and sex. In the interview with Edward Said, many paintings are shown depicting women in positions of sensual weakness, either being generally exposed or being aggressively handled by men. This idea of women being sexual objects to be used by men carries over into many of the more popular concepts in Orientalism. The concept of the harem, for example, is one where several women are in a sense owned by one central man and are used by him for sex, often existing in addition to the man’s wife or wives.

There is also the concept, popular in times of over conflict between the United States and the Middle East, of the ravaging Middle Eastern man sexually assaulting women and children in battle. This concept is not exclusive to Oriental/Middle Eastern stereotypes, but it goes hand in hand with depictions of Islam in Middle Eastern countries being one with female oppression and assault at its core.

Finally, I want to talk about the concept of Middle Eastern women being commodities not only for Middle Eastern men to consume, but for Western men to consume. Even in children’s films such as Aladdin, the main woman, Jasmine, is shown in clothing that is often associated with belly dancing. Belly dancing itself is largely considered sensual, centered around the movement of the hips. Its typical clothing involves a low-rise skirt and something to cover the chest, with flowing fabric that moves with the dancing. When Googling belly dancing in order to write this, I found YouTube videos with “sexy” and “hot” in the descriptions. I also found some Halloween costumes for children, which I don’t have much to say about as an intellectual point. Just thought it was weird.

What is up with this preoccupation with Middle Eastern people as either sexual objects or sexual aggressors? As to the sexual objects, I think it has something to do with how India and the Middle East were (and still are) viewed as commodities themselves. Colonialism views the world as full of things to be taken and owned. Often times, those things include people. White, straight men traveled around the world and took everything they possibly could. In a way, portraying these women as scantily-clad, sensual women that were regularly dominated by the men in their countries already made it seem as though they were asking for it. Asking to be dominated, abused, and owned by the white colonialists. For the men, I think it has something to do with similarly justifying the violence and ownership of themselves, their possessions, and their land. When we portray people as savages, less than human, it makes it that much easier to abuse their rights.

Check out this video by Lindsay Ellis if you’re interested in Orientalism and musical theatre; it’s a fascinating breakdown of one of the more obscure, yet fetishized characters from Phantom of the Opera.

If Covid-19 Began in Italy…

Hello all! This has been an interesting break from school to say the least. From reading the news about the spreading virus and its global impact, I thought that Edward Said’s novel, Orientalism, tied perfectly into the current state of the world.

Orientalism is essentially the lens in which the West looks through at the East. Throughout history, it has been seen that the East is portrayed as the “other”, seeming to be far different from Western society. Orientalism, therefore has made it very easy for prejudices in the West to be formed against the East.

We all are aware that Covid-19 can be traced back to Wuhan, China; with many sources pointing to the large animal market in the city as being the epicenter of the virus. At the beginning of the outbreak, when the virus was primarily only seen in Wuhan, I saw many disturbing posts directed towards marginalizing and blaming Chinese people. For example, there were images surfacing of a woman eating bat soup (presumably in China), and without even knowing the source of the photo I heard people were BLAMING the virus on that one woman/the people in China eating bat soup. In addition to this, The President also stated in one of his tweets that this was a “Chinese Virus”. Although yes, the origin of the virus was in China, placing such a name on the virus only leads to racism and discrimination! (There are many more examples of racism I saw online, these just stood out the most to me).

For starters, blaming anything on a group of people/race marginalizes that group from the “western” society we are used to. This in effect leads to mass racism. Asian-American’s are coming out online saying that non-Asian people literally walk away from them on the streets… as if they somehow automatically have the virus for looking a certain way? Unbelievable.

I have seen many people post and make racial jokes/comments about the virus, when most of the time, the people making the comments are simply not educated on the topic. It is heartbreaking to see this happening because this is a time when we all need to support one another. People are being hateful towards Chinese people without realizing all that the Chinese have done to try and minimize the spread of this virus. Instead of spreading hate during this difficult time, we should lift one another up and talk about all the good things that are being done around the world to stop this pandemic.

Overall, my question is: would the world look different if this virus originated in Italy? Would people be avoiding “Little Italy” as they were “China Town” in Chicago?

I hope everyone ruminates upon this, and thinks twice about a racial comment they may choose to say. The entire world is suffering, so again, let us take our orientalist glasses off, and appreciate all that is being done to help stop this virus.

“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.

Life Is Beautiful

I never saw myself smile or laugh while watching a film about a tragic historic event that affected so many lives. With Roberto Benigni’s Life is Beautiful, a film about a Jewish Italian waiter (Guido) who falls in love with a women, eventually they marry and have a son (Giosue) . Then in turn of events the family is separated from each other and taken to concentration camps. The father focused to protect his son from the horrors of reality, he convinces his son that it is only a game and everyone is playing along. the film is set against the tragic backdrop of the Holocaust, but doesn’t focus on the tragedy. Benigni uses comedic elements, antics and humorous interactions, and physical gestures to bring comedy to the dark event.

Benigni use of noticeable physical gestures, humorous interactions, and antics. Benigni starts the first half of the film more lighthearted and romantic between two characters who eventually fall in love. But the audience is soon reminded that this movie is set in a tragedy under Mussolini and Nazi power.

The first comedic strategy Benigni uses is the interactions Guido has with his son Giosue, who doesn’t understand what’s happening around him. Benigni takes advantage of this and uses the knowledge of a child for comedic purposes. For example in the film, upon arriving at the prison camp, Giosue is confused why so many people are lined up, the father Guido explains that everyone is lined up because they can’t wait to get inside. Benigni is using the interactions between a son and father to express comedy in very tense situations in the film/

Another comedic strategy Benigni uses is Guido’s physical gestures throughout the film. Throughout the film Guido performs a goofy walk while being escorted by any Nazi solider. Guido performs this goofy walk because he knows his son is watching him. Guido needs to act funny to show his son that the situation isn’t serious. There are many physical gestures throughout the film that bring light to the situation.

Life is Beautiful is the perfect example of comedy because it focuses on bringing the Holocaust a very dark event in history into the light with comedic strategies.

Comedy Can Also Be a Profound Art Format

Long time ago, I used to think only great tragedy like King Lear can give reader not only the impact of story but also some meaningful message. These messages transmitted by the miserable ending of those characters always make us think about the society or humanity. We empathize with the story, feel the power from it and make some changes about ourselves or the things around us. However, as I have appreciated some famous art works all over the world recent few years, I gradually recognized the appeal of comedy.

One of them I watched last year called Operation Love . It is a famous Japanese TV series. The story mainly tells a young man who is attending his best friends’ marriage ceremony looks at the slide show of their past and regrets. He believes the bridegroom should be him, but he never has the courage to transmit his feeling to her. He finds Rei(heroin) always kept a sad countenance in the photos which makes him feel even regretful. At this moment, a fairy occurs and gives him the chance to travel back in time and fix those sadness. The plot itself is not so amazing since it is a very classic time lapse. However, as you keep watching, you will probably get fascinated by Ken’s character. He is hard-working but also clumsy. In order to find Rei’s favorite coffee milk, he spent all his afternoon searching in the city. He knows he is a ordinary person, but he doesn’t follow the rules and is willing to take risks to accomplish impossibility. He looks very optimistic, but he is actually anxious and timid. Even though he has tons of weakness, he shows me what is the true persistence looks like.

Ken uses the number of each Japanese character to calculate the success rate of his proposal
Ken

As I noticed his efforts, I received a huge amount of courage from him. I tried to express my feelings more straightforward just like him. There is a famous joke came from this show which called Japanese run because Ken is always running in the story. He failed again and again during his time lapse and blamed on the destiny, but he finally speaks out his true voice. Except for pursuing his own love, he helped others during his trip as well. He once encouraged his friend who feels very inferior because of his height to confess his love manfully. What’s more, since he came from the future, he knew that Rei’s grandpa would die soon at that time. So he persuaded Rei to visit her grandpa and tell him her gratitude personally. This behavior made Rei eliminate her biggest pity in the future. The humor of the character, the exciting music, the sincere friendship and the pure love all make the Operation Love a literal great work. I learn so much from Ken and his experience. If a show can make an individual grows and has a better understanding of the world, that’s enough to call it “meaningful. ”