Author Archives: tarakav

Murder and Maturity

“Near tears he watched Beatrice retreat into the house. He looked around for Oye, but she was nowhere to be found. Instead he saw his teenage cousins, Innocent and Godfrey, and a gaggle of other boys ranging from ten to nineteen. This group of young men from the neighboring hamlets had come to welcome Elvis on his first step to manhood as dictated by tradition, and as part of the ritual they would form a retinue of singers. [...] Sunday noticed Elvis’s attention straying and realized that he was looking for his mother and grandmother.

‘It is time to cut your apron strings,” he said to Elvis. “Dis about being a man. No women allowed.’” (18)

This passage from chapter two brings up many of the issues at play in the story as well as topics we have been discussing in class. Primarily, this scene further established Elvis’ relationship with his father. His father is harsh with him even though he is only five years old. His father is trying to force him to sever his dependence on his mother but in later years he will be forced to live without his mother completely. It was brought up early in the novel that his mother died when he was young and he still carries her journal with him. Chapter two is prefaced with a recipe like he would find in his mother’s journal. This enforces his connection to his mother as though the story of his life and her journal are comparable works.

This passage also highlights some of the characteristics of their culture. The ritual that requires the killing of a small animal exemplifies their perception of the importance of masculinity. Also, women are excluded from this occasion showing that there is a clear delineation between the sexes, similar to what we have seen in Persepolis.

This passage also mentions his cousin Innocent. His cousin fought in a war and now screams through the night. This story is told in the same chapter where Elvis is forced to grow up and lose his childhood innocence through the killing of an animal. When Innocent was forced to go to war, he had to kill people, citizens of his own nation, and as a result, is scarred and has lost his innocence.

The Duality of Snakes

“Snakes can lead to triumph, just as ladders can be descended: my grandfather, knowing I would die anyway, administered the cobra poison. The family stood and watched while the poison spread through the child’s body… and six hours later, my temperature had returned to normal. After that, my growth-rate lost its phenomenal aspects; but something was given in exchange for what was lost; life, and an early awareness of the ambiguity of snakes” (169).

This event is a significant moment in Saleem’s life in two major ways. The first being that had the doctor not given him the poison, he would not have survived. Secondly, this event gives Saleem a unique perspective on good and bad and, in conjunction with his fascination with Snakes and Ladders, chance.

The game is based purely on chance and not at all on skill. Because ladders lead a player closer to victory and snakes take them farther away, it could be looked at simply as a game of good and bad with the ladders representing good and snakes representing bad. His life experience showed him that these things usually happen in pairs and that good and bad often balance out. After hearing of the assassination of Gandhi, his family lived in fear of an outbreak of conflict, the snake. “But for every snake there is a ladder,” and they discover that the assassin was not Muslim.

However, Saleem’s experience with the snake venom showed him that snakes can be a savior. Even though snakes are traditionally a sign of evil, he owes his life to their existence. Without snakes, there would be no venom, and without venom there would have been no cure for his typhoid. So in this situation, the snake is ironically the ladder. But as in all situations, there is also a metaphorical “snake” which in this case is the loss of his rapid growth-rate.

The Need to Nurture

HEL. My dear, I have often seen it in the course of my life as a lawyer. Almost everyone who has gone to the bad early in life has had a deceitful mother.

NORA. Why do you only say- mother?

HAL. It seems most commonly to be the mother’s influence, though naturally a bad father’s would have the same result. Every lawyer is familiar with the face. This Krogstad, now, had been persistently poisoning his own children with lies and dissimulation; that is why I say he has lost all moral character… I literally feel physically ill when I am in the company of such people.

[…]

NURSE. The little ones are begging so hard to be allowed to come in to Mamma.

NORA. No, no, no! Don’t let them come in to me! You stay with them, Anne.

NURSE. Very well, ma’am. [Shuts the door]

NORA. [pale with terror]. Deprave my little children? Poison my home? [A short pause. The she tosses her head.] It’s not true. It can’t possibly be true.

At this point we have learned about Nora’s forgery crime but she has not yet exhibited much guilt. During this conversation with her husband, she first seems bothered when she realizes how disgusted her husband is with Krogstad for committing the same crime as she did. However, what seems to bother her most is the thought that her actions could negatively affect her children.

Through most of the play the maid is caring for the children but when Nora is with them she appears to be a very beloved and affectionate mother to her children. Nora also takes pride in the fact that her actions kept her husband alive when he fell ill years earlier. Though her husband constantly condescends to her and believes she is completely dependent on him, she keeps many things from him and even plays into his expectations of her in order to feed his masculinity or to get her way. Nora seems to understand her role and the advantages of being a beautiful woman. Her husband calls her “little squirrel” and scolds her for eating sweets as though she was his daughter and not his wife but she does not seem bothered by this. Even Nora likens her relationship with her husband to the one she had with her father. Only when her role as caretaker and mother is threatened does she become agitated. Dr. Rank is the personification of bad parenting as his own poor upbringing has manifested physically and threatens to take him away from her.  ­

Nora has accepted and learned to utilize her expected role but her need to nurture becomes a burden when she first takes out a loan to care for her husband and then has to prevent herself from being taken away from her children.