Reading Lolita in Tehran Prompt B

Monday, December 8, 2008


Hey guys:

Sounds like you guys are enjoying the book as well! The detail that Vanessa notices in the front cover of the memoir maybe suggestive of the women’s defiance against the limits society has placed on them. What once use to be a religious sacrifice has turned into a signal of political allegiance and it seems that Nafisi wants to use the cover to portray the possibility of defiance, not through violence but through subtle and personal subversion. You seem to have also noticed their appreciation of the daily activities that many may take for granted due to its simplicity or insignificance. However it is evident that when even the simplest right is taken away, its impact is greatly felt and one experiences a deeper gratitude to even something as simple as a book club. It is in times of suppression when “we “rediscover and even covet all [the] things we took for granted.” (55) For the women involved in the group, it is much more than just discussions on selected books. By defying their social expectations, each woman is taking a personal stance against the atrocities that they so unjustly have to fight. Though they are not actively protesting their forced submission to unjust rules, they submissively protest the coverings forced upon them by taking off their robes when in the presence of each other, they resist the ignorance that society expects of them and they find an escape from their harsh reality through literature. Nafisi seems to say that for one’s voice to be heard it is not necessary to physically fight or shout, but rather actions, though simple in manner is a form of protest as well. What I love most about this book so far is that it shows the true power of literature. It shows literature not just in the conventional sense but rather in a way to show its ability to question and push one to reflect upon ideas that we accept or society pushes us to accept.

I really like your observation of Nafisi’s use of color as well. I had not noticed that before. Thanks for providing all those examples! After taking a closer look at it I too see a connection between color and individuality as well as a parallel with the lack of color to the lack of freedom and rights. Distinction seems to be emphasized whenever color is used in Nafisi’s distinction. The women are no longer associated with the same black covering that they wear in public, but rather by their individual styles of clothing and accessories. Throughout the first part of the memoir, Nafisi asks us to “imagine” and picture what their world must be like. In my mind, I see the living room in which they have their weekly meetings to be splashed with an array of color, where as the outside world in which they all must reenter is sadly black and white.

As to the description of Sanaz’s walk home, I find it very revealing as to the feelings, thoughts, and experiences a Muslim woman living in Tehran must undergo. This prohibition that they face daily declares that “whoever [they] are…was not really important… [they] had become the figment of someone else’s dreams.” (28) They live not by their own identities but rather by the identities someone else has envisioned for them.

Ashley, I agree with your thought as to the impact of the veil upon the woman. It serves as a garment that blurs the lines of distinction between each individual and groups woman as one. Nafisi emphasized through Sanaz’s experience, as you have pointed out that, that woman are defined by the men in their lives and lives in subordination to them. They have no individuality for it is taken away by their forced way of dressing as well as overshadowed by the male figures in their lives.

Great comments you guys! Now back to more reading : )


Hi Ashley,

Responding to your post, I agree that when Nafisi speaks directly to the readers, her words seem to not only address the readers but apply to them as well. She truly has provided a new perspective for me at looking at works of literature. That I believe is one of the reasons I like reading this book so much as well. It becomes more than just words but rather experiences that we all have the ability to partake in if we “hold [our] breath with the characters and become involved in their destiny.” However, I believe that she is not only speaking of “entering the world of Muslim women” but she is also asking readers to apply this motto to all literature that they undertake. By reading novels and truly empathizing with the characters, whether one approves of their morals or not is the best way in understanding the actions and feelings of the characters. Nafisi’s ability to empathize with characters and relate them to her life and the lives of others is a commendable gift. She allows the novels she reads to become a part of her and in that way she broadens her views and perspectives of society.

The other quote you chose goes along the same lines as the first one: “It is only through literature…” It reinforces the idea that literature provides a pathway to experiences that one may otherwise have no access to. In Nafisi’s memoir she speaks of women who are oppressed by society, women who have once experienced freedom but also have experienced it being taken away unjustly as they are left powerless, only able to watch as the events unfold. As you said, Nafisi wants readers to empathize and not judge. For empathy is the best way towards understanding. In her memoir, she documents her journey home, a place in which she held her dearest memories of home to find it irreversibly changed.

As to your question of Nafisi alluding to a Christ figure and her students as her follower, I see your point but I don’t believe that she is. She is in many ways like her students and is not in a better position. She finds that all that she once believed was beautiful about Tehran to be questioned as the Revolution takes place. Women lose their rights as individuals, innocent lives are lost, and students are corrupted and forced to form divided groups. She feels “paralyzed and frozen…like a lost animal in danger.” “The fear was not of bullets…[but] some lack, as if the future were receding from [her].” (149) As a woman in Tehran, Nafisi experiences all that the other women experiences as well. However she does help to bring together a group of women to support, listen, and understand each other.

At the end of the novel, why do you guys think that Nafisi and her students lose contact? Did their relationship just exist because of the conditions of the time or was it a natural separation. By losing contact, is it a symbol of leaving the past behind?


Hi Vanessa!

In your post for part 2, I agree that the Gatsby section of the memoir veered off from storyline in the beginning in which a group of oppressed women join together to not only study novels, but also regain their own identities. However, I believe that the Gatsby section is a necessary part of the memoir because it provides background information as to the political and social atmosphere of the time. The Gatsby section also reveals a lot about the character of Nafisi herself. As you have stated, Nafisi is a rebel, not in the traditional sense of the word, but in a more subtle way in which she defies the oppression the Tehranian society has forced upon its citizens. She has returned to Tehran in search of the nostalgic feeling of home, to find, in her horror, a country transformed and changed from that in her memory. As Nafisi rewinds to the past in the Gatsby section of the memoir, she opens and introduces herself as “a young woman [who] stands alone in the midst of a crowd at the Tehran airport…” (81) The “dream” that “had finally come true” (82), however, was not the one she had envisioned. The years she had spent abroad leaves her clueless as to the changes in her home country. She soon discovers that the “mood…was not welcoming. It was somber and slightly menacing…” (82) Nafisi reveals her naïve self upon her return but is soon rid of it as she contemplates the “discrepancies, or essential paradoxes, in [her] idea of “home.” (86) What she once identified herself with, her nostalgic memories of home is no longer and she is left to question, not only where is her home now, but also who is she in relation to the new country she so unexpectedly step foot in. She is lost in deciding on “the familiar Iran [she] felt nostalgic about, the place of parents and friends and summer nights by the Caspian Sea” and “this other, reconstructed, Iran about which [she] talked in meeting after meeting, quarreling about what the masses in Iran wanted.” (86)

Also, I completely agree with you on your opinion that Nafisi is a courageous woman. You say that she is “in the wrong place at the wrong time” but I believe that it is that essential fact that allows her to write such a powerful story of one woman’s struggle against a place and a time in which she does not seem to fit at all. Nafisi herself is a contrast between the Middle Eastern views in Tehran and Western views in America. Having the opportunity to experience both, she is able to separate what she believes is moral from the immoral.

Though I did not enjoy the Gatsby section of the novel as much as I had the Lolita section, I find that it reveals more about the author herself. She brings us back to her teaching days and shows the struggle she underwent to uphold the innocent and peaceful image she once held of Tehran. What is most interesting in the Gatsby section, I find was the description of the divide between the students in her class according to the political groups. This divide illustrates the situation of the country in even a class room environment. The political atmosphere that she incorporates in this section not only serves as a backdrop, but also shows the personal impact it has on her. She shows the changes she has undergone, from an innocent young teacher eager to educate students on the masterpieces of Nabokov, Fitzgerald, and Austen to a stronger and more independent woman who finds a new definition of home and of herself.

Lastly to address your question as to the relation between the novel of The Great Gatsby with the situation in Iran at the time, I believe that Nafisi wanted to demonstrate that like the story of Gatsby, in which one man tries to recreate the past, Iran, trying to bring back unjust rule will no doubt lead to its own destruction. It is both, Gatsby’s and Tehran’s unwillingness to move forward that will lead to disaster.


Hey Vanessa,

I think we have all noticed Nafisi’s ability to engage the readers into the events of her life through her vivid descriptions. Not only does she tell us of her emotions but she gives philosophies that are wise and relatable. She truly shows the significance of literature to lives of not only the oppressed, but everyone. Literature has the ability to play both a minor and a significant role in one’s life. I find that by putting ourselves into the shoes of women living in Tehran, we can feel and experience the horror that must have been running through their minds as the period of uncertainty and revolt was on the rise. Imagine living during a time in which one must go against one’s moral beliefs to avoid death. I find it difficult to envision such a situation. Though the choice seems obvious, what would you do in times of such danger, betray one’s beliefs or comply?

Another topic that you brought up that occurs repeatedly throughout the memoir is the idea of the individuality of women. In Tehran this individuality, not only for women, is put into question and denied as each is forced to wear a veil. The veil creates a suffocating uniformity that deprives each woman of her own identity. The veil is unjust and like you have stated places woman in an inferior position. Though Nafisi addresses this idea of society’s suffocation of individuality, she also hints at the idea that it is one’s acceptance of such oppression that ultimately leads to such atrocity. In the example of Invitation to a Beheading, Nafisi mentions that it is the main character, Cincinnatus C. that fails to assimilate to society and as a result of this failure, it is not him that lives in a surreal world, but those who has put him in exile. The whole story is ironic in that it is the people, supposedly in positions of powers that live in a fictitious world, where as Cincinnatus C., the supposed victim, is able to maintain a sense of reality. In many ways this story relates to the woman in Tehran, where a world of surrealism is enforced upon them. However it is up to each individual woman to maintain their own reality.

Vanessa, I really like your comment that fiction is meant to “question reason.” Reading the book makes me wonder a lot about the concepts we accept in our society and the images we associate to certain groups or beliefs. In many ways Nafisi addresses the power of a group as well as the power of an individual. She poses Tehran and its supporters of the unjust rule, whether forced or not, as the group, but also shows that an individual has the power to reject the ways of society.


Hi Ashley,

I’m glad that you brought up the character of Mr. Bahri in your posts. I agree that he is a quite interesting and unique character in Nafisi’s life as well. As you have mentioned, there seems to be a tension that exists between them two. I find that much like the tension in the society of Tehran, the tension between Mr. Bahri and Nafisi are based on the contrasting views of gender as well as other societal standards. To me Mr. Bahri represents one who is trying to assimilate to the changing ways of society yet still holds doubts as to the morality of the changes. He is a student, still young and easily influenced. Nafisi addresses Mr. Bahri with a title of respect to show that despite their difference in views she still is able to empathize and understand his opinions. Through their example, Nafisi shows that despite having different opinions, it is still possible to up hold a relationship with someone who thinks differently. The tension exists not only because of their differences in thoughts but also because of the ideas society has created of what is right and what is wrong. Even innocent interactions between a male and female must be carefully carried out for it is not “right” for men and women to touch. He is also one of the few men in the novel that appears to maintain respect for women despite the changing times and men’s growing superiority.

Hey Vanessa, me again!

Reading the memoir, I find that it is not that Nafisi wants us to like her work but to have an understanding of it: of not only her struggles and experiences but also the struggles we all may encounter. She shows the importance of one’s identity, as one’s knowledge of oneself is most important in avoiding defeat in the threat of having one’s identity stripped away. The quote the you incorporated in your post about Nafisi’s feeling of irrelevancy to her society seems to show how despite the fact that she is in her home land she does not feel at home. She had once mentioned before that the most powerful kind of literature is one in which makes you feel uncomfortable in your own home. It is possible that Nafisi is trying to relate her experiences to those one would gain from reading a great novel. Though she feels a strange new foreignness in a place which she once held such familiar feelings towards, she still forces herself to remain, to face and to fight the forces that has taken away those nostalgic feelings.

Reading Lolita in Tehran Prompt A

Hi Guys!

I just finished reading part one, Lolita, and I find the book really intriguing. The technique that Nafisi uses to write her memoir is very unique. She weaves in the novels she discusses along with her life as well as pieces of her students’ lives in her memoir. In this way she shows a connection between fiction literature and reality. Part of the reason why I find the memoir so intriguing is because it makes me think. Nafisi poses many new concepts and views of looking at literature that I have never thought of before. She shows the power of literature, the escape it provides, the thoughts it provoke, and the many interpretations it leads to through her recollection of the experiences she held with her students.

In the beginning of her memoir, she describes two photographs, both of the same 7 students, but one shows all dressed in black, with head scarves, where as the other shows an array of colors and styles. The difference between the two photos, though of the same essential seven students are significant. The uniform dress of Iranian woman stifles their individuality. In the eyes of the public they are inferior. I have heard of the strict regulations Middle Eastern society sets upon women but to read about actual feelings and thoughts of the victim brings a new light to its severity. The second picture, where all the girls remove their coverings, reveals the individuality that lies beneath. In this way, as Nafisi opens her memoir, readers already see the struggle women must put up with in order to keep their identity under the suffocating covers of society.

Quickly, the weekly Thursday meetings can be seen as more then intellectual conversation but also as a place where for a “few precious hours [they] felt free to discuss [their] pains and [their] joys, [their] personal hang-ups and weaknesses; for that suspended time [they] abdicated [their] responsibility to [their] parents, relatives and friends, and to the Islamic Republic.” (57) In an environment secluded away from the harsh reality they face in society, all seven females attack their personal conflicts through discussions of revered works of past literary heroes. Through their journey, Nafisi subtly draws parallels between the questions and concepts drawn between Lolita and An Invitation to a Beheading to each girl’s actual realities. It is interesting to see the different perspectives and opinions each woman brings to the discussions. The idea that arises from An Invitation to a Beheading, that “the forces of evil…are ridiculous and can be defeated” (23) shows that the oppression faced by the women in Middle Eastern society can be defeated. However, in the face of evil the mass population has no choice but to succumb and abide to survive. This subordination brings about a question as to why is it that we allow such atrocities even though we together have the power to stop it. There of course can be a variety of reasons, but what do guys think?

I find Nafisi’s brief descriptions of Cincinatus C. and his situation as a prisoner to be quite interesting, possible second book? Or even Lolita?

Also what do you guys think is the significance of the magician that she briefly mentions? When she asks us to “imagine” what do you guys see as the image she is trying to portray with her descriptions of the secluded living room? Could the mountain tops she sees outside her window be a symbol?

Again I really like this book so far. Hope you guys are enjoying reading it as well!


“The first day I asked my students what they thought fiction should accomplish, why one should bother to read fiction at all…I explained that most great works of imagination were meant to make you feel like a stranger in your own home. The best fiction always forced us to question what we took for granted. It questions traditions and expectations when they seemed immutable…” (94)

Nafisi makes a powerful statement as she identifies that the power of fiction lies in the fact that it may be unsettling to one and question what one may hold as true. I believe that she is right, in that literature needs to be able to question the accepted and present ideas contrary to what society may accept without question otherwise. The power of literature lies in the fact that it may “make you feel like a stranger in your own home.” What one may have never questioned or never given thought to is written in another perspective to challenge one’s previous beliefs, either making it stronger or making one doubt it. Literature should challenge us and present new ideas. In Reading Lolita in Tehran, I find that Nafisi does exactly that. She not only calls for readers to take a closer look at the rights of women in society but she also places a strong emphasis of the power of the individual to change what is wrong in society. Though the women conform by wearing the veil in public they still manage to maintain their identity and individuality by not conforming to the political party’s beliefs. As she takes us on her experience from a naïve new professor who is yet unaware of the political instabilities in Iran, to one who sees the social divide and questions her place in it, Nafisi demonstrates that in the midst of the chaos and injustices, by not doing anything, and allowing a “repeating [of] the past… [it has] wrecked their lives in the name of a dream…” (144)

In many ways, literature has the ability to teach us lessons, lessons though not immediately obvious that are nonetheless present. It is up to each individual’s interpretation to find what that lesson is. As Nafisi refers to the novel of The Great Gatsby, she gives us examples of different interpretations of the novel, varying amongst students with different beliefs and different backgrounds. Though some views of Gatsby is less sympathetic than others I find that the idea that Gatsby represents is what makes him so relatable and yet so detestable. He represents the desperate hold one may have on the past, a hold so strong that it is only when destruction of the beholder occurs that it will end. Nafisi thoughtfully parallels Gatsby’s self destruction with that of the situation she describes in Iran. It is not that she condemns any specific opinion, but she offers both sides a fair trial. “Those who judge must take all aspects of an individual’s personality into account.” (118) As the memoir continues, I find myself becoming more aware of the rights I have, both as a female and as an individual.

Not only does Nafisi successfully make comparisons between novels and her life as well as the life of others, she demonstrates that it is only through literature that “one can put oneself in someone else’s shoes and understand the other’s different and contradictory sides and refrain from becoming too ruthless.” (118) This ability to empathize, I agree, is crucial in being able to truly appreciate works of literature. Nafisi gives readers reasons as to why literature is so power. She indirectly praises the works of literature through her integration of them into her own memoir. What do you guys think that “fiction should accomplish”?


From the very beginning of the novel in which Nafisi recalls the two photographs and describes her students, she places special emphasis on Nassrin. Nassrin, who “lived in so many parallel worlds” (297), is a character in Nafisi’s life that represents the clashes between the many different expectations of society, of oneself, and of one’s heritage. In writing her memoir, Nafisi describes her relationships with each of her students in which they share with her personal stories and experiences but seems to find it difficult to exactly define Nassrin. In her attempt to describe her, she finds that “she’s slightly out of focus, blurred, somehow distant.” (5) Like a Cheshire cat, appearing and disappearing at unexpected turns in [Nafisi’s] academic life…one can only say that Nassrin was Nassrin.” (5) Nassrin is an interesting character to me because she lives in three different worlds. She lives in world, a “reality” created for her by society. One in which women are considered to be subordinate, and one in which women must not show any trace of individuality or identity. She is also caught in a world in which she must build with lies to her parents in order to maintain their idea of traditions. She lives in a world where people define for her what is acceptable and proper, yet despite being in such oppressive realities, she finds refuge in Nafisi’s book club. She finds that though such harsh realities exist, the “relation between fiction and reality” (6) may be just a thin line between acceptances of rules imposed upon her or her will to fight for what she believes in. In many ways, Nassrin is an example as to the pull society has on an individual. Even when she is “without the veil, she slumped, as if she were trying to cover something.” (296) The oppression that she has put up with leaves her unable to know how to embrace herself and leaves her feeling naked when it has been taken away.

Another character that I find to be intriguing is the magician Nafisi occasionally visits and mentions. His presence and significance in the novel is vague, yet he brings about an air of mystery that leaves readers and even Nafisi asking, “was he ever real…did he invent me?” (Epilogue) He has isolated himself from society and this isolation allows him to view the Revolution from an outsider point of view. Nafisi’s vagueness about him makes me wonder whether he was part of her imagination, a sort of escape from reality. What do you guys think about the magician? Does he truly exist?

It is interesting that Nafisi writes a memoir in which the stories of others, whether it be stories from novels or stories from the lives of her students, become such a distinct part of her that in describing each one, we learn about her views as well. Nafisi integrates all her experiences with the Revolution, with her students, and with her personal life to shape a memoir that ultimately shows “the relation between fiction and reality.” The relationship between the two is ever changing, depending on one’s views. What is once fiction can ultimately become reality.


“How do you get away with those nails…I wear gloves, she said. Even in summer I wear dark gloves. Polished nails, like makeup, were a punishable offense, resulting in flogging, fines and up to one year imprisonment. Of course they know the trick, she said, and if they really want to bug you, they’ll tell you to take off the gloves…It makes me happy, she said in a thin voice that did not suggest any trace of happiness. It’s so red it takes my mind off things…and then she burst into tears.” (271)

Reading this passage, it really struck me as to how restricted and how much the oppression has impacted the women. I realize that everyone is fighting their own battle, some more strongly than others, but nonetheless fighting a battle that seems never ending, against the forces that strips them of the rights that they have once experienced. In this passage a simple action, one that I can relate to, painting one’s nails must be hidden from public view. “Even in summer [she] wears gloves.” I empathize with not only the discomfort of having to wear gloves during the summer, but also the indignity that something as simple as painting one’s nails for self expression must be concealed. A front seems to be put up by Azin as she lies and says “it makes me happy.” It is evident that she tries to distract her self from the horrifying nightmare turned reality as she states that the “red [of the nail polish] takes [her] mind off things.” Throughout the memoir, Nafisi continually brings up subtle yet sudden events that truly show the magnitude of the changes each woman living in Tehran at the time must face. They have to adjust to a completely new lifestyle and hide what once was defined as normal. This change in societal standards is so sudden that I question whether it is possible to happen in America. Though probably most unlikely, it is nonetheless a possibility. Reading this novel makes me question the possibility of the impossible. The citizens of Tehran are in a sense living in a surreal world in which they had not envisioned as their future. Having to struggle to do something as simple as painting nails makes one appreciate the rights they have even more.

As Nafisi has previously questioned, why is it that “Lolita or Madame Bovary fill us with so much joy? Was there something wrong with these novels, or with us? (47) I believe that it is not that we enjoy the pain of others for our own satisfaction but because “regardless of the grim reality they present, there is an affirmation of life against the transience of that life, an essential defiance.” (47) The stories we may encounter, though tragic and heartbreaking are nonetheless stories that show a struggle nonetheless shows an effort at which we try to fight against the injustices imposed upon us successful or not.


“A hero becomes one who safeguards his or her individual integrity at almost any cost…Lack of empathy was to my mind the central sin of the regime, from which all others flowed. My generation had tasted individual freedom and lost; no matter how painful the lost, the recollection was there to protect us from the desert of the present.” (224)

Like many of the other statements Nafisi makes in her novel, they are all thought provoking and makes me think of concepts that I have never bothered or even considered exploring. Unlike the valiant image we all hold of heroes, Nafisi describes a hero, not to be the physically strong individual who saves the day, but rather simply, as an individual to maintains his identity and integrity “at almost any cost.” Thinking about that statement, the task , though sounding pretty simple, is in fact difficult to uphold in times when one’s life is threatened. In Tehran, woman are threatened if their veils are not worn, and many, going against what they know is right must embrace the cruelty. There seems to be then, a very thin line between what is heroism and what is not, is saving one’s own life or the lives of others by going against one’s integrity not heroic?

Nafisi has asked repeatedly throughout the memoir for readers to “imagine” and ultimately to empathize with the situations that she describes as well as the pain and the suffering the woman undergoes. The ability to experience what the characters in a novel experiences is what sets apart the astute reader from the regular reader. I agree with Nafisi in that not being able to empathize can be considered an evil, one that blinds one to the feelings of humanity and allows no room for sympathy or kindness. As Nafisi continues to weave her life as well as the lives of the group of woman she shares so little and yet so much in common with, she does so in a way in which we see each one grow to become an individual. At the start of the novel, though each was given a different name, it was hard to distinguish who was who since their traits were so vague and indistinct. However as each begins to shed not only the physical veil that they cover themselves with, but also the veil which we all in some ways wear, they become distinct individuals.

Also in Nafisi’s statement that I have quoted above, she asks us to ponder what happens when the protection of the past is not enough to shield the harsh reality of the present “desert.” Where do we turn to when reality seems to be a nightmare, a surreal world? In times such as those that the woman in her memoir faces, it is ourselves that we must turn to.

Mass Poetry Festival: A Day In Lowell, MA

Monday, October 27, 2008

October 11, 2008, a picturesque fall day in the town of Lowell, poets, writers and people with great artistic talents stud the town of a little over 100,000 people. With trolleys running through the town, gas stations reminiscent of the olden days, and trees assuming the brilliant colors of fall, the location of this year’s Mass Poetry Festival was perfect. Market Street was liven up with applause as poets read their works to customer at the local sandwich shop, Olive That. Poetry filled the atmosphere on that fall day.

At the Lowell High School, two great writers, Marjorie Agosìn and Ed Sanders share their works with an eager audience. Marjorie Agosìn begins with a poem entitled Obedient Girl which speaks of the savagery of war and its impact through the point of view of a young girl victim. Her works show a clear Chilean influence as she reads her works that mocks the Chilean president and call out his “crimes against humanity” as he “parades among the dead”. With her soft voice, Agosìn also entrances the audience with her poems from her book Dear Anne Frank, which tributes the life of Anne Frank. Her poems are both touching and captivating, gaining one’s undivided attention with a song like flow of words. She brings culture to her readings as well, reciting some of her works in Spanish, forming a connection between her heritage and her works. Agosin’s readings demonstrated a wide range of her talents and clearly demonstrated her experiences and inspirations. From writing about serious issues that has impacted our society to writing about simple matters (I Don’t Do Lunch), Agosìn exhibits her great ability to write both seriously and humorously. As Agosin leaves the stage, with the audience still in awe, another great writer takes the stage. Ed Sanders. His voice contrasts that of Agosìn, where as hers was soft and lyrical, his was strong and enthusiastic. He opens his reading, telling the audience of the New Orleans influence on his writing especially that of Hurricane Katrina. He entitles the tragedy as Unearned Suffering. Sanders’ poem exuded a powerful message in which each line was short but to the point. He speaks of the many unearned poverties of society from secret poverty to religious poverty. He arouses the audience as he presents a comical reading named, Send George Bush to Jail. He encourages the audience to chant along with his satirical poem, bringing life into the small Lowell High auditorium. To end his presentation, Sanders continues to include the audience in singing along to William Blake’s laughing song, Innocence Song ending the poetry reading on a light note. As the applause ended, audicence members were able to take pictures and get autographs from the two talented poets.

The experience in Lowell, MA on a fall Saturday was really enjoyable from the 45 minute car ride there, navigating the highways with a TomTom to the car ride back with music audible to the next car over and everything in between, the Festival helps to bring great writers together to be appreciated under the brilliant fall sun.

Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim by David Sedaris: A Soundtrack

Saturday, October 11, 2008

1.Our House- Madness
2.Lost!- Coldplay
3.Listen- Beyonce
4.Because of Your- Kelly Clarkson
5.I’m Yours- Jason Mraz
6.Beautiful- Christina Aguilera
7.No Rain- Blind Melon
8.Money, Money, Money- ABBA
9.Good People- Jack Johnson
10.You’re so Beautiful to Me- Ray Charles

Miss Emily’s Death: The Truth Revealed (Faulkner/ Hemingway Dialogue)

“The hills across the valley of the Ebro were long and white. On this side there was no shade and no trees and the station was between two lines of rails in the sun. Close against the side of the station there was” (120 Hills Like White Elephant, Hemingway) “a big squarish frame house that had once been white, decorated with cupolas and spires and scrolled balconies in the heavily lightsome style of the seventies, set on what had once been our most select street.” (26 A Rose for Emily, Faulkner) “The American and [William Faulkner]…sat at a table in the shade, outside…It was very hot…” (120 Hills Like White Elephant, Hemingway)

American (Hemingway): “It’s pretty hot…Let’s drink beer.” (120 Hills Like White Elephant, Hemingway)

Faulkner: “What’s your name, boy?” (163 Barn Burning, William Faulkner)

American (Hemingway): “Oh, cut it out.” (121 Hills Like White Elephant, Hemingway)

Faulkner: “I was being amused. I was having a fine time.” (121 Hills Like White Elephant, Hemingway) “We are two different kinds…It is not only a question of youth and confidence although those things are very beautiful.” (161 A Well Lighted, Clean Place, Hemingway)

American (Hemingway): “It’s the only thing that’s made us unhappy.” (121 Hills Like White Elephant, Hemingway) “When Miss Emily Grierson died, our whole town went to her funeral.” (26 A Rose for Emily, Faulkner)

Faulkner: “I told you…You’re getting to be a man. You got to learn.” (165-166 Barn Burning, Faulkner)

American (Hemingway): “But, Miss Emily—“(27 A Rose for Emily, Faulkner)

Faulkner: “Alive, Miss Emily had been a tradition, a duty, and a care; a sort of hereditary obligation upon the town, dating from that day in 1894 when Colonel Sartoris, the mayor…remitted her taxes, the dispensation dating from the death of her father on into perpetuity.” (26A Rose for Emily, Faulkner)

American (Hemingway): “But…We are city authorities…” (27 A Rose for Emily, Faulkner)

Faulkner: “She died in one of the downstairs rooms, in a heavy walnut bed with a curtain, her grey head propped on a pillow yellow and moldy with age and lack of sunlight.” (31 A Rose for Emily, Faulkner)

American (Hemingway): “But that’s not proof. Don’t you see that’s not proof?” (163 Barn Burning, Faulkner)

Faulkner: “This case is closed.” (164 Barn Burning, Faulkner) “Would you please please please please please please please Stop talking.” (123 Hills like White Elephant, Hemingway)

American (Hemingway): “You talk like an old man yourself.” (161 A Well Lighted, Clean Place, Hemingway)

Faulkner: “Are you trying to insult me?” (161 A Well Lighted, Clean Place) “Perhaps…you can gain access to the city records and satisfy [yourself].” (27 A Rose for Emily, Faulkner)

American (Hemingway): “No!” [Hemingway] said violently, explosively.” (164 Barn Burner, Faulkner) “I want some poison.” (29 A Rose for Emily, Faulkner)

Faulkner: “Come on back in the shade…You mustn’t feel that way.” (122 Hills like White Elephants) “Do like I told you…I don’t want to have to hit you!” (173 Barn Burning, Faulkner)

American (Hemingway): “I’m sure that won’t be necessary.” (27 A Rose for Emily, Faulkner) “I aim to…leave this country…I don’t figure to stay in a country among people who…” (164 Barn Burner, Faulkner)

Faulkner: “That’ll do” (164 Barn Burner, Faulkner) “The train comes in five minutes.” (Hills like White Elephants)

American (Hemingway): “Would you do something for me now?” (123 Hills like White Elephants, Hemingway)

Faulkner: “Come on stop talking nonsense…” (161A Well Lighted, Clean Place)

American (Hemingway): “You decline to answer that, [Faulkner]?” (171 Barn Burning, Faulkner)

Faulkner: “You do not understand…I want to go home and into bed…I’m sleepy now. I never get into bed before three o’clock.” (160 A Well Lighted, Clean Place, Hemingway)

American (Hemingway): “See you do then.” (173 Barn Burning, Faulkner)

Faulkner: “Don’t you see I can’t…” (174 Barn Burning, Faulkner) “I don’t care anything about it.” (122 Hills Like White Elephants) “Lemme be, I tell you” (165 Barn Burning, Faulkner)

American (Hemingway): “All right.” (123 Hills Like White Elephant, Hemingway)

Ind Aff- Setting

Intertwining a historical background with a modern setting, Weldon’s Ind Aff, explores the consequences of an “inordinate affection” that invariably overshadows one’s logical senses. In her exploration, she creates a cross between the decisions that establish history with the consequences of those choices that one is then force to reevaluate. Weldon incorporates the gloom of a rainy day, a relationship that builds on overwhelming affection rather than true love, as well as a historical back drop into the story’s setting in order to show the insensibility and irrationality that arises from the one’s overbearing devotion and affection. Told through the point of view of a young, ambitious student, the story deliberately incorporates the infamous assassination of Archduke Ferdinand II in the display of not only a scholarly knowledge of the narrator, but also to exemplify her struggles in seeing past the façade of a “muscular academic” to see an old, married professor who smells “gently of chlorine” due to her “inordinate affection” just like Princip’s dominating nationalism.

Quickly establishing the fact that “this is a sad story”, Weldon utilizes the element of water in the form of rain in order to not only magnify the sadness of the story, but also to exude a tone of irony. The story in reality is not really sad in the sense of sorrow but sad in the sense that
“it was a silly sad thing to do, in the first place, to confuse mere passing academic ambition with love.” (206) As “the rain [fills] up Sarajevo’s pride” (201) it seems as though it tries to wash away the “two footprints set into a pavement which mark the spot where the young assassin Princip stood to shoot.” (202) Weldon creates a setting that exudes the feeling of regret and emphasizes the permanence of one’s actions. She begins by building the character of the narrator through explanation of her emotions through her surrounding settings. The gloom the rain produces clearly reflects her feelings as she is in a relationship where she is unsure if it is “more than just any old professor-student romance.” She wants answers that unfortunately, Peter cannot provide her. As Weldon begins the story with a relationship confliction amongst her characters, the setting she creates helps readers to associate imagery to the mood. The rain serves not only to establish the atmosphere in which the story takes place but also helps to confine Peter and the narrator “beneath other people’s umbrellas” (202) where they are forced to face their problems and journey towards a conclusion of the future of their relationship.

In weaving the story of a single gunshot that carries the power to set off one of the most disastrous wars in history, in which its ring is still resounding, with the story of a striving young student who is undeniably in conflicts with the decisions she has made, Weldon asks readers not only to examine the consequences but the motives as well. Weldon draws onto readers’ knowledge of the infamous assassination in order to create a dual setting that reflects the actions of the past and today. Not to say that the murdering of Archduke Ferndinand is comparable to a student in conflict with her emotions towards her professor is equivalent but the proximity of her location to Princip’s undoubtedly shows a connection. The backdrop of such a historical moment exemplifies the longlasting consequences of a single action, just as the narrator is in the midst of coming to a decision as well. She parallels Princip’s devotion to his country to the narrator’s devotion to her supposed love. Both Princip and the narrator’s motives are quite simple: love. Whether it is love for one’s nation or love for another being, Weldon shows that throughout history, the blinding power of love blurs the lines between rationality and irrationality creating actions based solely on emotion and not consequences. She sets the story in two highly contrasting time periods, but in the same location to show that despite an obvious passage of time, and progression of society, there remains the weakness of humans to act under the spell of love. Princip decides to murder Archduke Ferdinand out of a show of patriotism because, after all, “what’s a man to do when he loves his country.” As Weldon shows the irony of human nature through her setting, it is evident that the “inordinate affection” that the narrator at first expresses towards Peter blinded her from reality. She does not see an aging professor, with a wife, and with a “[less than] good mood” (205), but a “six foot two and grizzled and muscled” man. However set in the isolation of rain, the narrator is able to reflect and come to a discovery of “the real pain of Ind Aff.” Her realization, as exemplified through Weldon’s shift of the narrator’s reference to Peter to “Professor Piper”, leads her to be “finally aware [of] how much [she] lied [to herself].” (206)

In Ind Aff, Weldon creates a character who begins the story as a young and uncertain student who ponders the actions of Princip, who resided in another to show time period and another setting to show a repetition in the nature of humans through time and to come to a realization her true feelings. The historical environment plays the role to exemplify the danger of “inordinate affection.” In the end, the unnamed narrator comes to a realization that she does not want to follow the footsteps of Princip who “if he’d just hung on a bit, there in Safajevo, that June day, he might have come to his senses.” (207) The rain forces the narrator to see the reality of her situation as it clears away the blur between what is moral and what is immoral as she is in a relationship with a married man. In the end, the narrator decides not to be the one who “lit a spark” to result in the destruction of a family, of a marriage, and ultimately of her own moral senses.

Everyday Use- Characterization

The characters in Alice Walker’s Everyday Use each contribute to show the contrast that exists among the varying interpretations of a heritage and its contribution to one’s identity as she establishes her idea through the ironic tone that is present throughout the story, the contradiction in personality, dress, and demeanor of her leading characters, as well as through the difference in values and definitions each holds of her own roots. The values one may hold of their own origins are undoubtedly influenced by social stereotypes. She creates metaphors in order to establish relatable circumstances in which readers are able to grasp the rift between a mother and daughter who both view their origins in opposite terms. Walker sheds insight upon the differences in self-identification versus identification by society by developing distinct values and beliefs in each of her characters.

Walker beings the story under the narration of Mama, who describes the arrival of Dee, a daughter who denies her true roots to find escape in the stereotypical image of what her heritage should be. Mama compares the reunion to that of a cliché one in which mother and daughter share a warm embrace as the host praises her for such an accomplished daughter. However, Mama infuses irony in the seemingly touching experience by stating that in fact she is “in real life …a large, big boned woman with rough, man working hands … [wears] flannel nightgowns to bed and overalls during the day [and she kills and cleans] a hog as mercilessly as a man”, all of which are characteristics that add contradiction by presenting a less than graceful image of what should be the stereotypical overwhelmed with joy mother on television. Rather than a tear-filled reunion however, the world of difference that exists between Dee and Mama and Maggie stands as a block between mutual understanding. From the beginning, the impact of society (the television) is visible. Dee personifies the television, as she arrives in style of dress so outrageous that “it [hurts Mama’s] eyes. The contrast between reality to what is expected is evident as Dee plays the role of a stereotypical African woman as Mama and Maggie embraces their identity as black women living in the south with a history as told through the stories and experiences of their ancestors and not through society.

The irony of originating from the same upbringing and yet possessing such contradictory views of their heritage is exemplified by Dee and Maggie. Dee changes her identity to fit into what society expects her to be. By changing her name to “Wangero Leewanika Kemanjo” she detaches herself from her family and accepts societal expectations regardless of how fallacious they may be. Her views clearly differs from those of Maggie and Mama who both know of their heritage through items such as the quilt and butter churn, all of which serve as remnants of their family’s history. Dee does not share the same appreciation for those ancestral items as she sees them as decoration and a sort of validation of her relation to her ancestry. She holds the items in a more detached sense then that of an affectionate one. Though Maggie expresses few words throughout the novel and is hardly noticed behind the shadows of Dee, she ironically possesses the one thing that Dee lacks: a real understanding, appreciation, and acceptance of who she is, not by the standards of society but by her own definition. Mama recognizes the difference in the attitudes of each sister and recognizes that though Dee may outshine Maggie in many other aspects it is Maggie that is deserving of the quit, a symbol of her heritage and obstacles that were defeated to make the progress they have now.

Walker raises the question of not only how one’s appreciation and acceptance of one’s true roots, may differ, but also addresses why they differ. She juxtaposes two siblings of the same heritage and show that one’s identity without a doubt based on self interpretation and not interpretation by society. Dee allows society to create the image of who she is, while Maggie, though less sophisticated and experienced, is ironically the one who is strong enough to defy the stereotypes of society and have a true grasp of who she really is. Walker praises the natural sincerity that comes in appreciation of one’s heritage while mocks one’s unwillingness to embrace one’s true roots.

Miss Brill's Stream of Conciousness

Monday, September 15, 2008

Set on a “brilliantly fine” day, readers witness the isolation of Miss Brill from her society as she struggles to play a recognizable role in it, despite a seemingly inviting environment. Katherine Mansfield’s short story of an old lady, Miss Brill, characterizes the feeling of isolation and rejection from society. Mansfield employs the use of a stream of consciousness point of view in order to exemplify the brutality of being in isolation and alienation through a relatable Miss Brill as she is confined to her own thoughts and secluded from any outside interactions. Told in such a point of view, Mansfield enhances the feelings of seclusion by allowing readers to only see, feel and hear through the thoughts of a lonely woman.

As Mansfield leads readers on a journey though the thoughts of the aged Miss Brill, her struggles to separate herself from brutal reality and a self deceiving idealism, is evident. In her evasion, she lives in her own thoughts where she shields herself from the harshness of her disconnection from society. Through her detailed recollections of the visitors in the park, her keen attention to the couples that appear, and the capacity in which her imagination takes in order to create company for her misery, it is seen that the feeling of being alone is so powerfully upsetting, that one must struggle to avoid it. Throughout the short story Miss Brill shares no physical dialogue with any of the appearing characters despite the numerous people that walks past. Miss Brill’s monologue continues as she deceives herself into believing “how fascinating it was” and “how she enjoyed it” while in reality, her loneliness is manifesting within herself. Through the use of a stream of consciousness narrative, Mansfield is able to allow readers to pry into the private thoughts of a suffering yet, proud old woman who refuses to accept her solitary state. She refuses to be defeated, and in her resistance she leads herself to self deception.

However, despite being in a “play” that “even she had a part [that] came every Sunday” the performance nonetheless must come to an end. With an “old couple”, “two young girls in red” and “two young soldiers in blue” Miss Brill cannot escape reality as she is forced to face the fact that she is alone. She, among all the “twos” and the “couples”, sits on the bench, behind a mask of thoughts struggling to blind herself from the truth. She wants to be included, play a part, be someone but it is only within her thoughts that she is. The way in which she wants reality to be is, unfortunately not her reality. Although Mansfield places Miss Brill in a fall setting “with a number of people out” and a “band [that] sounded louder and gayer”, where possibilities seem ever present, she never fully allows her to break out of her isolation and interact with others. The confinement to her thoughts disallows her any opportunity of communications with others. It is through this stream of Miss Brill’s thoughts that readers are able to truly emphasize with her and understand the cruelty of living in such a crowded world and yet feel so alone. In many ways, the point of view of Mansfield short story is to help place emphasis on one’s separation from society and the consequences its victims must face. Though the cause of Miss Brill’s loneliness is not revealed through her thoughts, she does expose that “yes, [she has] been an actress for a long time” and in that period she has been in denial of being just like the people who all appear to be “odd, silent, nearly all old, and from the way they’d stared they look as thought they’d just come from dark little rooms or even—even cupboards.” Her thoughts, no matter how much they try to deflect reality, is interrupted as a young couple, ironically deemed as “the hero and heroine”, brings her daydream to a halt. They insensitively push her back into her “cupboard”, asking “Why doesn’t she keep her silly old mug at home?”

As Mansfield’s short story of an old woman’s struggle to stay within the acceptance and inclusion of society comes to an end, it is evident that Miss Brill’s stream of thoughts which helps her to create that fantasy must come to an end as well. In the flow of ideas, one after another, in which she pretends to live a life in which she is not alone, in which she is with the old couple sitting on the bench, or the band playing lively music, it is evident that Miss Brill holds hopes of finding companionship. However this false allusion to reality is destroyed as her thoughts come to a halt. Miss Brill realizes that she is in fact alone. Mansfield captures the feeling of loneliness through Miss Brill, creating a character that expresses a feeling that everyone experiences and is able to use a point of view that constantly hints at the impact of such a feeling as it leaves one with constant thoughts of how to evade such a terrible fate.

Stevens's Journey

Friday, September 5, 2008

Instead of taking a journey towards the future, Stevens of The Remains of the Day takes a journey back into his past. His personal growth result not from a physical journey but from his journey in reexamining his life, and what he ultimately discovers to be the “remains of [his] day.” Though Ishiguro is taking Stevens on a trip to meet the lovely Miss Kenton, he in fact also takes him on a journey in search of the significance of the life he has led as a butler. From the journey that Stevens takes, he transforms himself internally, and goes through a process of self discovery. Ishiguro incorporates the literary technique by creating a character who journeys on a trip to become surprised at what he discovers about himself in the end. The very use of this element in his novel allows readers to see the process in which Stevens comes to realize who he really is. Along with travelling through the beautiful lands of England, Stevens not only encounters magnificent picturesque scenery but, also encounters past recollections that he begins to look at under a new light. His solo venture out of the secluded life he led in Darlington Hall allows Stevens to view life from a different perspective and grow as a person.

Stevens introduces himself as a butler who strives towards perfection in his profession. He however begins to recognize an unmistakable change in his methods of carrying out his work as he becomes “responsible for a series of small errors in the carrying out of [his] duties.” (5) Stevens ventures out of his isolation and is encouraged by beginning for “the first time to adopt a frame of mind appropriate for the journey” (26) as he stands in the serenity of the landscapes of England. Ishiguro has now propelled Stevens out of his sheltered life, with a seemingly plausible reason. However, with a journey in progress, there no doubt exists a greater significance to be found on his quest. As Stevens stumbles upon small road blocks, he is given a chance to stop and reminisce about his days under the service of Lord Darlington. As readers travel through the pages of the novel, it is evident that we only catch glimpses of the present and is constantly pulled back into the glory days of Stevens as a “top-notch” butler. His constant referral to past events leaves readers to question, whether he regrets his rather pathetic past in which his profession dominated his life. His inability to live his life in the present is no doubt one of the personal road bumps he encounters in his quest. Ishiguro paves the road for Stevens in both a literal and a figurative sense. Along the way it can be seen that the conflict Stevens has is with himself. He struggles against his definition of success as he leads himself on a blinded struggle to achieve “dignity.” As he strains himself to achieve a sense of dignity within his character he allows his duties to surpass his personal desires. Through his reflections it can be seen that he does not allow his emotions to interfere with his job even at the death of his own father for despite “its sad associations, whenever [he recalls] that evening” he does so “with a large sense of triumph” (110) at the way he was able to compose himself in the face of such tragedy. As Ishiguro creates two journeys, a physical quest to find Miss Kenton, and also an emotional journey, Stevens begin to merge the two journeys into one as he begins to reveal signs of his emotions along the way.

Despite going on a quest that takes him far away from the walls of Darlington Hall, the memories and experiences he has seems always to be at the end of every thought he shares and in turn is always incorporated in his experiences along the trip. The bind that his service under Lord Darlington has on him stubbornly refuses to release Stevens and holds him hostage in the past. However, as the journey progresses, Stevens for a moment puts aside his intended reasons for travelling so far away from home and begins to truly interact with people who readers know not through his recollections. In his stay with the hospitable couple in the village, Stevens begin to recognize a distinction of social status between him and his employer. Though he is mistaken to be a “gentlemen” by the villagers, he does not pause to correct them. The journey has, as a result, brought Stevens to a realization of his blindness to all other aspects of life besides that of his job. His loyalty has been so unwavering throughout all his years of service that he fails to enjoy life. In his disregard of being mistaken for someone else, he does not correct them because it allows him to become someone else, to experience life as a being who is not defined by what he does but who he is. With no task awaiting him to be completed, Stevens’ quest allows himself time to truly speak to himself and at last hear his own thoughts. The quest can be viewed as a period of self reflection for Stevens, as he verbalizes his past experiences and looks at himself from the sidelines. The trip becomes more than a tiny vacation, but becomes a revelation for Stevens in understanding that in life there is no such thing as the perfection he tries to achieve and that there is in fact more to life then fulfilling duties, there are points in which one must strike a balance between selfless and selfish in order to be able to enjoy the subtleties of life.

Disguised as an errand, his journey proves to be more than just a duty for his job. Ironically, the journey which begins through motivation to correct a “faulty staff plan” ends with Stevens’s recognition of himself, not as a butler but as a man. Though the intentions of the journey begin simply as a professional duty, Stevens learns that “the evening is the most enjoyable part of the day.” (244) He comes to realize that in a day, an analogy to life, what matters most is to be able to truly enjoy what he has accomplished by the end it. Finally coming to terms with his past, and surpassing the ignorance he once had towards the world, he accepts the outcome of his life but still continues to try “to make [his] small contribution count for something true and worthy.” (244) Stevens takes a step forward from his past and brings a new source of optimism in his return to his post. He emerges from the journey not as the Stevens he began as but becomes reborn with new found realizations and wisdoms of life. Though he neglects to see a possibility with finding love and partnership with Miss Kenton, he realizes that tomorrow is a new day and that he wants to take advantage of its new possibilities so that by the end of it he can enjoy what remains.

Things Fall Apart


As the novel begins, Achebe wastes no time in introducing Okonkwo as a powerful and prestigious character who is "well known throughout the nine villages and beyond." (3) I also have noticed the savagely and almost barbaric characteristics that Achebe associates him with. The animal-like descriptions sets the novel in a world that though seems organized by their religious belief in gods and spirits, is in fact uncivilized. The irony at work seems to be seen throughout the novel, as with the relationship and feelings Okonkwo holds towards his father. I find his hatred and intolerance with "unsuccessful men" and "his father" (4) to be the stem of an inevitable downfall. It is this intolerance that leads him to do everything and anything to avoid following the footsteps of his father who died as a disgrace without gaining any titles in the village. Though his motivations lead him to success, his obsession to avoid becoming his father leads him to become a man who lacks morality, sympathy and sentimentality. He is so blinded by the goal of becoming the total opposite of his father that he ignores all conscience. He is under the false impression that through abuse towards his wife, that through strict training of his children, and that through holding back his emotions he is powerful and he is respected. However, it is clear that beneath the facade that he displays for the world, he is a weak man trying to hide his insecurities about his shameful upbringing.

I find that the yams maybe in fact a symbol of Okonkwo himself. He like the yams, the most important and prized crop, holds a prestigious position in his village. However, the fate of the yams may be a foreshadowing of the fate of Okonkwo himself as “yams of the old year were all disposed of...the new year must begin with tasty, fresh yams and not the shrivelled and fibrous crop of the previous year.” (36) Through the life of the yams, it can be seen that though one may experience a period of glory, it is inevitable that that surreal moment is bound to come to a close. When one’s purpose becomes useless, one is sure to be cast aside, without regards to one’s prior status or accomplishments. Okonkwo’s strives for perfection in his yams as he “looked at each yam carefully” (32) just as he leaves no room for weakness in his life. His life in fact is dominated by this fear of being weak, which is ironic since this is his greatest weakness.

Nwoye can be viewed as the living version of Okonkwo’s fear and Ikemefuna on the other hand maybe symbolic of the ideal image he holds for what he sees as a strong man. However, when Okonkwo becomes the one to kill Ikemefuna, he in a way is killing that unrealistic ideal he has held. After the murder, we are able to catch a glimpse of the humane side of Okonkwo in which his guilt sent a “cold shiver [that] descended on his head and spread down his body.” (63)


In the second part of the novel, "things [really do] fall apart" as many of you have noted and also the title is beginning to make sense. Okonkwo’s inability to show his “weaknesses” is ultimately what causes his life to fall apart. His drive to prove himself to be a man creates an overpowering pride that requires him to reflect and restart his life. The change takes place as a result of a very ironic incident as most have already mentioned. Okonkwo loses all that he strived for in one gun shot, an accidental one at that. The gunshot penetrates into his ego, and releases the one fear that he has tried to avoid. Along with losing the status he holds in his village, he becomes the "weak" man he had always despised. He now has to become dependent on his kinsmen,family from his mother's side.

In response to gypsyloo's comment that the exile is a chance for Okonkwo to learn of the importance of women, I completely agree. Okonkwo is no longer in a land which encourages the inequalities of genders, but rather respects females. Though Okonkwo is given a second chance to change his life, by starting from scratch in Mbanta, I don’t believe that he has taken the opportunity. Achebe shows Okonkwo’s inability to change through the rainstorm that occurs right before his departure back to Umuofia. A rainstorm, normally representing some sort of cleansing does little to help erase the misguided ideals Okonkwo holds for his family and himself. In spite of the storm, Okonkwo does not return a changed man, but rather a man that wants to pick up from where he left off. However, irony is continually in play as he returns to find a shift in Umuofia itself. Its so called “men” are no longer fighting back against the intruders to their village (missionaries).

To address And The Benefactor Is... Dario’s question on what the significance of Enzima being taken to the cave is, I believe that it shows the corruption of Umuofia and the blinded willingness of the people to follow along. Also it exposes readers to a side of Okonkwo that have not been seen before. Umuofia is a village deeply rooted in it’s following of spirits and gods to a point in which some actions are questionable morally. In the treatment of twins, burial of men who died dishonorably, and even of children who was born dead, we see the brutality of Umuofian traditions. In some ways Umuofia bears a parallel to Okonkwo himself since he is also “feared by all its neighbors.” (11) The invasion by the missionaries causes not only Umuofia to fall apart but he himself as well (Nwoye leaving him in shame, being held hostage by the whites, manliness being taking out of the warriorlike citizens). The immortal spirits that passes judgment to me resembles an organized group of dictators. However getting back to the question, Okonkwo finally shows his paternal side as he comes to the cave to go after Enzima, showing his emotions for the first time. He actually cares about his children. This is a revelation to the cold man Okonkwo portrays himself as.


In the last third of the novel, things get more chaotic as we are brought back to Umuofia again. The missionaries have definitely had an influence on certain people of the village, drawing them away from beliefs that they had questioned before. Nwoye was the primary example of the doubts that the Umuofian traditions created amongst its people. I can understand why Nwoye had decided to join with the missionaries, and that Okonkwo was part of the blame for his son’s betrayal of his own religion. Beginning from Nwoye’s rebellion, the life as Okonkwo has envisioned falls to pieces. His village, once characterized by men of bravery, is now under the power of the white missionaries. This shift in the novel isolates Okonkwo from the rest of his village. A sense of change is coming about and as we all know, Okonkwo is too stubborn to accept anything apart from his own beliefs. His pride and ignorance causes his own death.

The ending to the novel is very dramatic. I had not expected Okonkwo to commit suicide. Gypsloo’s analysis of Okonkwo as a Christ figure seems to be quite accurate. Though he was once a man of importance in his village, Achebe continues to employ irony as he ends the novel stating that Okonkwo will only be commemorated by not “a whole chapter but a reasonable paragraph.” (209) Okonkwo who has attempted throughout his life to die not as his father had, without any honors, ironically follows his father’s example. Achebe seems to be making a very realistic yet harsh point about life. Achebe uses Okonkwo to demonstrate the cynical side of life in which one’s accomplishments is disregarded in that even “one of the greatest men in Umuofia…will be buried like a dog.” (208)

Overall I enjoyed reading this novel and I have to agree with angela that there are many similarities between this novel and One Hundred Years of Solitude.

The Remains of the Day


My very first impressions of Stevens were that of a polite, restrained, and highly matter-of-fact man. Ishiguro wastes no time in letting us know that his occupation as a butler, is more then just a job to him, it is in fact his life. He has lived so many years in the confines of the walls of Darlington Hall that when presented the opportunity by Mr. Farraday to “see around this beautiful country” (4), he responds by saying that “It has been my privilege to see the best of England over the years, sir, within these very walls” (4). The dedication to his job and his employer leaves him at a disadvantage of knowledge of the outside world. He only learns of the different landscapes and regions of Britain through Mrs. Symons’s, The Wonders of England. Also the trip he takes reminds me of the “quest” described by Foster in How to Read Literature Like a Professor. Going by the guidelines of what is defined to be a quest, the quester is obviously Stevens, the place to go is to visit Miss Kenton, the reason to go is to try to seek her services due to the shortage of staff at Darlington Hall, and the challenges and real reason to go has yet to be revealed. As predictions, I believe that the trip he undertakes will lead him to discover truth about the Lord Darlington he so highly praises, to develop a relationship with Miss Kenton, and also to learn of life outside of that of a butler.

In my opinion, Stevens’s overly analytical personality with respect to his job is a bit pathetic. His life has been so consumed with creating “staff plans”, organizing events, and keeping flaws to the minimum that I question whether he has had time to develop a social life. I wonder if he has ever been in love, (Miss Kenton perhaps?). Though he is the narrator of the novel, he reveals little about his emotions, maintaining what he deems as “dignity”. I find that Stevens has yet to reveal his true self to us, under the self controlled exterior, there must be a man of emotions.

I agree with Kevin in saying that his sophistication in speech and manner surpasses that of his employer. Even though much time seems to have passed in his days as a butler, Stevens cannot adjust to the changes in relationship between employer and employee. I find it both funny and awkward that he tries to “smile appropriately” every time Mr. Farraday jokes with him.

One last thing, I was wonder how close to the facts are the history described by Stevens, or is everything made up? (i.e. Lord Darlington, the conference to discuss the Treaty of Versailles, ect)


After getting through two thirds of the book, I'm continued to be impressed by Stevens' eloquence. However, Stevens continue to tell his story in a documentary-like style in which he conveys information of a more factual base rather then an emotional base. He continues to recollect his past memories at Darlington Hall under the employment of Lord Darlington. It seems to be a point being emphasized that as he recalls certain moments of his past, he reflects and discovers an aspect in which he had not recognized before. There seems to be moments in which he reconsiders past actions and goes through tiny revelations. “The nature of coming away on a trip such as this that one is prompted towards such surprising new perspectives on topics one imagined one had long ago thought through thoroughly.” (117)

Throughout his journey, though he says that he only has professional intentions in mind, it seems as though he is rather using it as an excuse to see Miss Kenton after the many years that has passed. His composure disallows him to even reveal his true emotions to readers. He has “spend some long minutes turning those passages over in [his mind]” (141), as he ponders the true meaning of Miss Kenton’s letter. I find that the reason for his self-control over expressing his emotions as a “normal” person would to be because it is connected to his definition of dignity and his view of what a “great butler” should be.

To respond to Kris10, I find that the village people help to bring new definitions to Stevens own debate on the word of dignity and what it embodies. They present a view from the “common people” and declare that “Dignity’s not just something for gentlemen”.

As I read, I continue to wonder about the title and its true significance. What do you guys think it means? Do we have enough information to know yet?


So now for the ending…

Personally I found the ending to be somewhat disappointing because I had expected Miss Kenton and Stevens to return to Darlington Hall together. Throughout Stevens’s final reminiscences, he brings back more and more memories he has had with Miss Kenton. I found his recollection of the incident in which Miss Kenton announces her engagement to be the most revealing about his and her underlying emotions towards each other. Throughout their exchange, Miss Kenton seems to be searching for Stevens to find an excuse to hold her behind from leaving. It seems as though Miss Kenton wants Stevens to give her a reason to remain behind. However, his curt responses caused Miss Kenton to be in disbelief that “after the many years of service [she] has given in [that] house, [he has] no more words to greet the news of [her] possible departure…” (219). She even goes to state that Stevens had “been a very important figure for [her] and [her] acquaintance.” (219). As I read this scene, I wonder if in Stevens’ recollection he sees the obvious signs of Miss Kenton’s hints of her feelings towards him. I find that this incident is a great example of how restricted and how sacrificing his profession as a butler has lead him to be.

When Stevens finally sees Miss Kenton, I find it interesting that he addresses her as Mrs. Benn, when throughout the novel readers have grown to know her to be Miss Kenton. It is as though Miss Kenton has transformed into a new person with her new title. I found their reunion to be bitter-sweet. It is obvious that over the years, Miss Kenton has no doubt contemplated the possibilities of a different life if she had stayed with Stevens at Darlington Hall. She makes that point clear by recalling that at times “[she] gets to thinking about a different life, a better life [she] might have had. For instance, [she gets] to thinking about a life [she] may have had with [Stevens]” (239).

It seems as though this meeting with Miss Kenton has awaken Stevens in a sense from his stoic nature. Though he recognizes that “it is too late to turn back the clock” (239), he does see that he may have overlooked and missed out on opportunities in his life. However, as the title of the novel now seem to reveal, that at the end of it day, we are all left with what remains, that is the good and the bad, the joys and the hardships, and the success and the failures. What “remains of the day” cannot be changed, but it can be used to help one strive towards a better day, as Stevens in the end announced that it “perhaps is in deed time [he] began to look at [the] whole matter of bantering more enthusiastically”. As a man who seems so stuck in his days under Lord Darlington, his journey seems to have helped him progress into adjusting to the changing times.

One Hundred Years of Solitude


There is a lot going in the novel as Marquez tries to develop each of his many characters. Since the novel begins with Aureliano Buendia “as he [faces] the firing squad…remembering that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice” (1), I’ve been focusing more on his progression in the novel. What could his exposure to ice mean and why of all things that have occurred in his life did he remember that single event? Like all the men of the Buendia family, Aureliano seems to follow in their footsteps of first being successful and then suffering a tragic fate. He begins as a prosperous goldsmith but as soon as he reaches manhood, he not only marries a child, Remedios, but also becomes a colonel who loses all sentimentality. Marquez seems to be making a statement about manhood in general, about its savagery. Marquez’s message is put into words by Ursula who declares that “at first [the Buendia men] behave very well, they’re obedient and prompt and they don’t seem capable of killing a fly, but as soon as their beards appear they go to ruin.” (152) Unlike his brothers and father, his destruction does not come as a result of his own doing but rather because of the tragic fate he suffers. He loses his wife, of whom he is deeply in love with, he loses himself in the brutality of war, and he loses all sense of emotions as he have sex with numerous woman without truly loving any of them. In that sense he differs from the rest of the Buendia men. He is different in that his sufferings does not come as a result of the chase towards wild dreams like Jose Arcadio and Jose Arcadio Buendia but rather comes ironically as a result of his passion to bring justice to the town of Maconda. It can also be noted that he does not have a very strong physical presence throughout the first third of the novel as he is away at war for most of the time. His absence from Maconda led to its slow corruption by Jose Arcadio and further steers it away from the utopian society many of you have agreed the town to be at its founding. Aureliano is a character that epitomizes both goodness as he goes to war to fight for the ideals of liberals, but becomes corrupted to epitomize brutality instead as he ignores relationships to friends and family in his quest for power.

On another note, I also find the character of Ursula to be one of significance. She, unlike the men of the novel is the constant reminder of morality. Despite all the shame her family has brought about, and the devastating fate suffered by the men in her life, she is uncorrupted and strangely strong in her endurance of the tragedies she faces, from the losing of her husband to his mental illness to the losing of her sons and daughters to shame. Amongst all the madness and chaos of the novel, Ursula is a recurring symbol of hope for the continuance of life despite events that would draw anyone away from sanity. She has witness many falls and yet she herself is still standing in spite of it all. I completely agree with ashley8 in that Ursula is like the glue trying to hold the Buendia family together.


In the second part of the novel, I too notice that there exists a sort of a cycle in events and names. History is constantly repeating itself in the fates of each Buendia. The Buendia men at one point experience immense success whether it be Colonel Aureliano Buendia’s prominence in the war or Aureliano Segundo’s prosperity with his farm animals. However with each case of success, a cycle repeats itself as each man faces a downfall in which they are banned to their own solitude. Marquez personifies solitude on many occasions making it seem as a companion that the Buendia’s have “an honorable pact” (199) with. Each case of solitude leaves the Buendias isolated from the outside world. To me the title may refer to a one hundred year curse the Buendias have in their family in which each generation carrying the same cursed names will repeat a cycle of facing solitude unto death.

The corruption and chaos brought on by the introduction of technology as well as different markings of modern day society shows Marquez’s view on the modern world. He seems to mock the impacts of modern technology and advancements as it transforms a peaceful city to a destructive and uncivilized one. He calls the arrival of all the deathly temptations to be a “tumultuous and intemperate invasion.” (228) This invasion undoubtedly lures the innocent city of Macondo into temptations and ways of the outside world that only serve to turn the people towards savagery fuelled by a hunger for power as steph113 has mentioned. (i.e. the mass killing of workers by the banana company pg. 302) In many ways the arrival of the foreigners is like the opening of Pandora’s Box, releasing all evils of man.

Mary makes a good point about Marquez’s use of irony as exemplified in Ursula who sees clearly despite her physical blindness as she realizes that “time was not passing…but it was turning in a circle.” (335)

On a final note, I find the character of Aureliano Buendia II to be quite interesting because he is the only character to experience solitude immediately, from the moment of his birth where he is banned to isolation.


In the last part of the novel, Ursula’s long time fear of having a child in the family bearing the stamp of incest, a pig’s tail came true. Marquez’s use of irony again is evident in that after the many generations of the Buendia family that come about due to incest, it is the last offspring that bears the notorious pig’s tail. The pig’s tail can be called a motif as it is a constant fear of Ursula’s. It reemerges with every act of incest. What is ironic is that the pig’s tail seems to be a punishment better then that of the curse of solitude that all the Buendias face. In a literal sense, the pig’s tail is the symbol of consequence for incest but it may also be a symbol of the end to the century long suffering of an entire family. The pig’s tail is the sign of the end to not only the years of solitude but also the end to the Buendia family line. The fear and expectation of Ursula is confirmed but in some ways it is a relief that the last Buendia will not suffer from unrelenting solitude. Going on bond_smoka’s comment on the recurring animal imagery in the novel, I find that Marquez contrasts and combines human characteristics with animal ones to produce a primitive feeling in the city of Macondo and in its inhabitants. The disobeying of all rules of acceptable behavior by societal standards reinforces this idea of primitiveness that Marquez conveys. They have no boundaries as to whom they love.

There also exists a surreal element to the novel as Stevie wonder ii and c-rod has pointed out. This sense of unreality contributes to the unexplainable events that occur in the novel such as Remedios the Beauty’s elevation into the heavens. Melquides and the gypsies as well add to the sense of surrealism. I find the parchment of Melquides and his influence in Macondo to be critical. Once deciphered, Aureliano II discovers that it is Melquides who writes the life story for each member of the Buendia family. Melquides was the person who introduces Macondo to the new inventions and discoveries and it is also he who has sparked the interest of the Buendia men in their thirst for knowledge. Melquides becomes the true writer of the novel as he decides the fates of all of its characters. By the end of the novel, I, like ashley8, believe that Marquez wants to show the consequences of solitude, of its suffocating isolation that disallows one to live life to the fullest. At times, solitude may seem to be a blessing of peace such as in the case of Ursula, but in many cases, solitude not “[having] a second opportunity on earth” (417) at life.

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