Author Archives: lianag

Graceland: Dialect

“If you look at de package, you will see dat de expiry date is December eighty-three. Dis is a new drug from de white people’s labs and plenty research done get into it. It is manufacture in Yugoslavia. In dat country dey call it narcotics and it is costing plenty money.” (pg. 9)

This quote, as well as many others of its kind throughout the first ten chapters, really stuck out to me as telling of what the author’s main purpose is with this novel. Not until now in the semester have we reached a novel that puts such a strong emphasis on dialect.

It was slightly present in The Dubliners, and the colloquialism in the British works were certainly different from what we use now, but Graceland gives us the first taste a a strong focus on dialect as indication of character development or culture exposure. Not only does the dialect say something about each character who uses it (i.e. their lack of education or full immersion into the culture), but it also reminds the reader of the culture about which we are reading. Oftentimes in this class I have gotten so lost in the plot and characters that I forget that we are in a world literature course that focuses on the different varieties of cities. This novel does not allow that, however, as we are constantly reminded of the circumstances under which this storyline takes place simply based on the dialect the author, and consequently the characters, use.

As of right now, I am quite fond of this change, as it achieves a level of interest from me that the other novels were unable to obtain. However, I can see myself getting annoyed at the disruptions later on in the novel as the use of dialectic language becomes tedious, as it has the potential to retract from the effect of the meaning behind these very important words. We will see as time passes whether or not this authorial decision will in fact prove to be a good choice!

Midnight’s Children

“All games have morals; and the game of Snakes and Ladders captures, as no other activity can hope to do, the eternal truth that for every ladder you climb, a snake is waiting just around the corner; and for every snake, a ladder will compensate.” (160)

I feel as though this quote really encapsulates this story up to this point. It’s almost like the concept that “every action has an equal and opposite reaction.” The fate of these characters seems to be so rocky throughout the story, never settling on one outcome—positive or negative. This observation, coming to the conclusion that there is no concrete end as good or bad, reflects on the character’s idea of life. This epiphany comes at a crucial time in the story, as he is developing his ideology and truly delving for the first time into how he views existence. For example, there appears a negative in that Aadam and Reverend Mother have to come live with them, but a positive when Saleem finds that he is the cause of his mother’s good fortune at the racetrack. Though a lot of positive occurrences happen throughout this novel, there are also just as many negative counterparts.

Additionally, this board game says a lot about the snake imagery used in this novel, possibly defying the blatant opposition between good and evil. They move into the house of a man who studies snakes, thus introducing this symbol into the story. In the Bible, for example, a snake tempts Eve to defy God and eat an apple from against his wishes. Traditionally, good and evil, like Snakes and Ladders, are seen as opposing and separate forces. In reality, however, these so-called obvious classifications become confused, and the distinction between them becomes ambiguous as shown throughout this novel. The idea that Dr. Schaapsteker could save Saleem’s life with snake poison represents the concept that the line separating good and evil is never as clear as one might initially think.

Perhaps there are two meanings to this imagery in that yes, we find the positives and negatives in life, but also in that they might not be as separate as we initially thought. Might this confusion reflect on the story as well? Why does he put such a strong emphasis on snakes? Conceivably this ambiguity is on purpose in order to further emphasize the opposing yet compatible agents concept.

Role of Women vs. Men

Helmer. Well, well, out with it!

Nora. You could always give me money, Torvald. Only what you think you could spare. And then I could buy myself something with it later on.

Helmer. But Nora…

Nora. Oh, please, Torvald dear! Please! I beg you. Then I’d wrap the money up in some pretty gilt paper and hang it on the Christmas tree. Wouldn’t that be fun?

Helmer. What do we call my pretty little pet when it runs away with all the money?

Nora. I know, I know, we call it a spendthrift. But please let’s do what I said, Torvald. Then I’ll have a bit of time to think about what I need most. Isn’t that awfully sensible, now, eh?

Helmer. Yes, it is indeed–that is, if only you really could hold on to the money I gave you, and really did buy something for yourself with it. But it just gets mixed up with the housekeeping and frittered away on all sorts of useless things, and then I have to dig into my pocket all over again.

 

Throughout the first two acts of this play, one cannot help but notice the very different roles that each character, especially depending on gender, plays in the household. The most notable comparison comes with the relationship between Helmer and Nora. Husband and wife, this couple would certainly maintain an equal partnership in maintaining the house, family, etc. in today’s society. However, it is clear here that such a relationship is not present, surely reflective on how such partnerships were constructed during this time period.

In this passage, it is more than obvious who calls the shots in this relationship. Nora must beg her husband to even consider allotting her any extra money, implying that he assumes full control of the family’s finances. Even though we later find out that her intentions for wanting the extra allowance were in fact very good-natured, Helmer is adamant in believing that she will do nothing but waste it, the reason for which we can assume is because she is a woman and therefore has no regard for monetary value. While Nora seems to lead a more “Lady Macbeth” type role in this play as she cryptically runs the household behind her husband’s back, Helmer refuses to believe that she has enough sense to even handle a small bit of extra money.

I chose this passage because it represents something very prevalent that I noticed throughout the first two acts. Helmer (as well as the other male characters) neglect to see that Nora is in fact a strong character that is worthy of respect and possibly more sensible & able than one might think upon first interaction. It will be interesting to see how this cryptically strong woman can overcome the obstacles of such an ignorant society in order to thrive under the pressure of very obvious and troubling acts of sexism and disrespect.