See, I’m Not Crazy

Seeing as to the lack of any actual class time including the promised timeline, I have decided to make my own and prove that there is a discrepancy in the timeline.

As we all well know by now the plot of the book centers around the death of Estha’s and Rahel’s cousin Sophie in December of 1969, and coming together 23 years later. Now, I’m going to warn you, this next part does have math. 1969+23=1992. So the year that the reunion takes place is 1992, this means that because Ammu was 27 in 1969 she was born in 1942 and died at age 31 in 1973. The fact she dies at age 31 is important, for when her children meet all those years later they were also 31. Now, 1992-31=1961. That is the time line as we first see it.

Click here for a visual representation of my timeline.

But then Roy makes an … interesting choice. On page 40 it states that Ammu was 8 months pregnant when the Sino-Indian war broke out, In October of 1962. Meaning they were not born it 1961 as was originally calculated but instead November of 1962. This, for a lack of a better term this monkey head soups this all up. If this were true, then they were 31 between November of 1993 to November of 1994. Meaning, Arundathi Roy made a mistake.

Orientalism In Cinema

Orientalism refers to the Western imitation or deception of certain characteristics and aspects of the Middle East and Asia. The film Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom is an example of Orientalism. The film was released in 1984, and was banned as soon as it was released. In the film the main antagonist is a cult that practices inhumane rituals, such as lowering humans into a lava pit and pulling out the victims heart.

Image result for indiana jones and the temple of doom india cult

This image shows the cult underground performing inhuman rituals.

Another example of Orientalism in the film is when Indiana Jones and his companions are about to have dinner at a Palace. The course of the dinner featured a snake with little live snakes moving around the table to spiders, huge black beetles, and monkey brain soup with eyes floating.

Image result for temple of doom dinner scene real

For desert they are having frozen monkey brains

In the film of Temple Of Doom, the film inaccurately represent the lives of Indians and their beliefs. With the the use of inhumane cults capturing kids and enslaving them, bizarre food items such as money brains for desert. I personally have never noticed the negative portrayal of India’s culture because the first time I saw the film I was a little kid and only knew that Indiana Jones is like a super hero helping everyone and doing the impossible. Unfortunately this isn’t the only film that represents Orientalism because Hollywood is known for it, films like Isle of Dogs and, Dictatorship.

A Bird’s-Eye View

The personal is political.

Second-wave feminist slogan

In AP Literature Class, we’ve talked a lot about power, including massive power structures such as race, class, and gender. However, I know that for me, sometimes these concepts can become very abstract. I don’t always connect our talk of these issues with the real world, because in my everyday life, power structures have always just surrounded me, as seemingly natural as the air I breathe. I am desensitized to them, and I have no way of seeing the extent to which they actually shape my life. That is, until, every once in a while, a really good piece of literature makes me zoom out and gives me a bird’s eye view of life with which I am able to realize how much large-scale power structures do impact individual lives. In my opinion, The God of Small Things might do this the best of any book we’ve read this year. 

The God of Small Things deals not merely with power dynamics, but it makes clear their consequences in a very poignant way. By juxtaposing the characters’ personal power struggles with their power struggles on a systemic level, it shows how large-scale power structures can have deeply personal impacts. 

One quote that I believe shows this very strikingly is on page 101. It consists of Estha’s thoughts as he has just come back into the auditorium after being molested by the Orangedrink Lemondrink Man and is watching the Sound of Music. He wonders if one of the characters from the film, Baron von Trapp, would be able to love him and Rahel and be a father to them, and imagines that Baron von Trapp has the following questions that Estha and Rahel must answer before he can decide.

(a) Are they clean white children?

No. (But Sophie Mol is.)

(b) Do they blow spit bubbles?

Yes. (But Sophie Mol doesn’t.)

(c) Do they shiver their legs? Like clerks?

Yes. (But Sophie Mol doesn’t.)

(d) Have they, either or both, ever held strangers’ soo-soos?

N… Nyes. (But Sophie Mol hasn’t.)

“Then I’m sorry,” Baron von Clapp-Trapp said. “It’s out of the question. I cannot love them. I cannot be their Baba. Oh no.” 

To me, this quote is particularly heartbreaking because it highlights so many of Estha and Rahel’s vulnerabilities and insecurities due to both the state of their personal lives and their status in society. 

First of all, their desire for Baron von Trapp to be a father to them shows their yearning for a father figure in their lives because of the absence of their own father. While this is personal to them, it is also connected to the political because the reason their parents divorced was because their father was abusive, and the reason Ammu even got into a relationship with an abusive man in the first place was because she was desperate to escape from her own abusive father and was not allowed a college education because she was a girl, so she had few options other than marriage (38-39). Therefore, Estha and Rahel’s lack of a father, while it is very personal, is also connected to issues of women’s rights and feminism. Likewise, Baron von Trapp’s questions about whether Estha and Rahel blow spit bubbles and shiver their legs also shows how their relationship with Ammu can be tense because they sometimes remind her of their father (especially when they blow spit bubbles an shiver their legs) (80), and therefore how the effects of something as large as sexism can be felt even in a deeply personal sphere.

Another way Roy blends the personal and political nature of Estha and Rahel’s insecurities in this quote is the mention of all the ways Sophie Mol meets Baron von Trapp’s standards while Estha and Rahel don’t. Estha and Rahel are acutely aware of how much their family adores Sophie Mol, and this not only sparks in them children’s natural jealousy at another child seeming more loved by their family than they are (if any of you have little siblings, you might have felt this when they were born), but also a sense of inferiority based on a WHITE/person of color and WEST/east power dynamic. Estha and Rahel are cognizant of the fact that Sophie Mol is so beloved by their family not only because eight-year-olds are cute and it’s always fun to see a family member who you haven’t seen in a long time, but also because the fact that Sophie Mol is white-passing and British makes her somehow extra special and superior. Thus, once again, Roy shows how large-scale systems of power such as racism influence things as intimate as family dynamics and children’s’ self-esteem. 

But for me, the word that blends the deeply personal and the political the most strikingly is the word “clean.” 

(a) Are they clean white children?

No. (But Sophie Mol is.)

The idea of Estha and Rahel not being as “clean” as Sophie Mol and the white children in The Sound of Music is a really loaded concept in this passage in so many ways. On one level, it reflects racism, as people with darker skin have often been seen throughout history as less “clean” than people with lighter skin, particularly in the West and countries that have been subject to Western colonialism. However, it also relates to Estha’s experience of abuse, as it is not unusual for survivors of sexual abuse to feel they have been made “dirty” somehow by their abusers if they have not yet been able to come to terms with what happened to them. So, as Estha sits watching The Sound of Music, he feels doubly “dirty” both because of what happened to him on an individual level and because of what society tells him about who he is. To me, Roy’s multilayered use of the word “clean” and her repetition of it throughout the chapter is a perfect example of how the lines between personal struggles and political struggles can become very blurry for marginalized people and how each type of struggle can have an impact that is extremely profound.

Chatta and Mundu

From being from the west, I was curious what type of clothes they would being wearing in the book. I also wanted some sort of visual of what it would look like. The author mentioned in Chapter 8 that Kochu Maria still wears her “spotless half-sleeved white chatta with v-neck and her white mundu.”(161) She explains that this is the traditional dress for the Syrian Christians women. However, she further explains that some have decided to start wearing saris.

Kochu Maria says she will not stop wearing this type of dress because she does not want people not see her as a Syrian christian despite her low paying job. She wants to be seen as a “touchable, upper-class Christian”(162) She is using her appearance to further her position in a very tight caste system in the novel.

I researched this type of dress, chatta and mundu, and found it was very common in the late 19th century to early 20th century and originated in southern India. It was influenced by European colonialism. This style of dress went out of style sometime in the 1950s which furthers Kochu Maria’s traditional mindset.

Image result for HOW TO WEAR KACHAMURI

The Barbarians

“Swaying the wide world, I have but one aim in view, namely, to maintain a perfect governance and to fulfil the duties of the State: strange and costly objects do not interest me. If I have commanded that the tribute offerings sent by you, O King, are to be accepted, this was solely in consideration for the spirit which prompted you to dispatch them from afar. Our dynasty’s majestic virtue has penetrated unto every country under Heaven, and Kings of all nations have offered their costly tribute by land and sea. As your Ambassador can see for himself, we possess all things. I set no value on objects strange or ingenious, and have no use for your country’s manufactures. This then is my answer to your request to appoint a representative at my Court, a request contrary to our dynastic usage, which would only result in inconvenience to yourself. I have expounded my wishes in detail and have commanded your tribute Envoys to leave in peace on their homeward journey. It behoves you, O King, to respect my sentiments and to display even greater devotion and loyalty in future, so that, by perpetual submission to our Throne, you may secure peace and prosperity for your country hereafter.”
-A letter from Emperor Qianlong of China to King George the III of the United Kingdom of England, Whales and Scotland.

By the 1700’s Britain was not in a good place. It had just lost the majority of its New World colonies after the American Revolution and had a ludicrously huge trade deficit to what was then the world’s most powerful economy, China. This was due impart to the various trade restrictions placed on any foreigners attempting to trade. As a result the British government sent a group of men carrying the greatest inventions of the Western World to demonstrate the benefits of trade with Britain. The result of this can be seen in the Emperor’s letter.

In the eyes of the Chinese, China was quite literally the center of the universe. Their name for themselves was Zhong Guo, literally Central Kingdom, as in the center of the world. Any outsider was a barbarian destined to one day be conquered by the emperor. Any arts or sciences from these people was to be ignored. This letter eventually lead to Britain to sell ungodly amounts of opium to the Chinese to make up for the loss. China did not like this and started the Opium Wars as a result, leading to China’s century of humiliation.

The reason as to why I am bringing this up is to Illuminate the fact that the driving reasoning behind what Said calls Orientalism is in fact merely human nature. It is a cross cultural phenomena unique to nobody. We are discussing this from a European perspective, flip it around 180 degrees and we see the the same thing from an Oriental perspective.

Orientalism in Law and Order

Law and Order has seen many soon-to-be stars make appearances on the show: Idris Elba, Bradley Copper and Kerry Washington to name a few. However these guest stars tend to play some very stereotypical roles. Young African-American men always seem to be portrayed as gang members and young Middle-Eastern actors always seem to play someone connected to a terrorist or a terrorist themselves.

This reminded me of Orientalism. This viewing of people from the East as less then and in a very stereotypical way despite knowing it can’t always be true. Law and Order is unique example because it has been on even before 9/11. The show has a distinct shift in how Middle Eastern actors are portrayed on the show. Everyone that was Middle Eastern was put into a box of terrorism.

This racist idea is very harmful for the relationship between the West and the East. I read an article which made the connection that the majority of serial killers are White American men but that does mean that everyone assumes all white men are serial killers. However, this not making assumptions does not seem to stretch to people of color. Despite the fact, that majority of terrorist do come from the Middle East, it does not mean that everyone from the Middle East are terrorist. Orientalism is a way to describe this generalization in Law and Order.

Orientalism and the Real Orient.

As I was reading the Orientalism article, I feel like I need to step out and say something as a Chinese as well as a transfer student. Personally, I never received any weird comment since I came here. However, I can say people here do have some prejudices or misunderstanding about the Asia. Although I don’t talk much, I record the world by my mind like an observer. One of my friend called Amy, she is also a student of OP. I remember she once asked me if she looked like Chinese because people around her all assumed she was a Chinese. I told her that, first of all, she doesn’t look like Chinese. What’s more, if I can’t tell, I will ask her nationality before making any conclusion as a respect to you. I am not saying that people here are rude, but most Western people actually regard the south Asia as a whole. In other words, people may not recognize that so many different countries lie in that place.

Shanghai highway in city

Another example is that different events no matter from big to small as long as it’s about China here are all kinda of lacking creativity. What does it mean by that? Most of the Chinese-Americans, American artists or Asian scholars prefer to perform the ancient part or traditional culture of China or other Asian countries, but what I want to say is that those old-fashion things can hardly attract me not to mention foreigners. I can understand those people them want to present the cultural charm of Asian, but too much same artworks just make people’s thoughts got locked. Like, if I say what you think of Chinese culture, you may come up with lanterns, dragons or dumplings. It’s fine if you really like those things. However, the reality is that we have not only lanterns, dragons or dumpling, we have share bikes that they are available in all the streets in cities in China which nicely solve the environmental problems; we have the best transportation system in the world that in Shanghai, it just looks like a sky maze which made of intricate highways; we have the widest spectrum of food that includes 8 main styles of cooking that each province got over hundreds of localized dishes and we change the menu along with seasons, weather, even your health condition; Our famous novel series is known as the fantasy of heroes with Kongfu’s adventure, and how many people know the deep love and hatred behind martials and the pageantry existing between the sky and the earth before they criticize Chinese literature.

The return of the condor heroes