Category Archives: Group A

The Accident

“If this was Hu Caoxing, he was really on his game. The cop listened for a while and then gave me a hard look before walking away from the crowd to continue the conversation. He came back less than two minutes later with a totally different attitude.

He said nothing to me. Instead he addressed himself directly to the farmer.” – Page 2

In this particular passage, the cops are showing up because of the accident that has occurred on the street. When the cops show up, Old Wei does get a bit nervous, but then immediately calls someone he knows (perhaps a friend or collegue) who is names Hu Caoxing. Hu Caoxing acts as a way for Old Wei to get out of trouble with the cops. Perhaps Hu Caoxing has some type of special connection to the law enforcement, so Wei thinks calling him will help in the situation, which we find DOES happen. When the cop gets a call from Hu Caoxing, he automatically refocuses his attention to the other driver that fell off the motorbike, and not Old Wei.

When I find interesting about this whole situation is that even though Old Wei is a lawyer himself, he still needs to make a call in order to get out of trouble with the cops. One would think that someone who works in such a prestigious field as law would own up to being somewhat at fault right from the get-go. However, it is not until later (the very end of the article actually) that Wei admits he may have been a little at fault. Also, I would think that as a lawyer, Wei would handle the entire accident with a little more class than he did. He responded “Fuck YOU” to the poor man when he found out that he was driving without a liscense. I feel that if I were Wei, I would have been a lot more sensitive to someone who could have possibly been seriously injured, and I would not put so much emphasis on if he had a liscense or not until I knew that he was ok.

Persepolis “Unity”

“We didn’t really like to wear the veil, especially since we didn’t understand why we had to.”

page 3

This novel caught my attention from the first page. None of the other books or stories we have read in class have ever had such an affect on my interest so fast. It was most likely because this sentence was brought to life by the illustrations. The way the story is told through comic book like sequences brings the story to life. The pictures show extreme conflict among adults, and confusion and fear among the children. In the second picture box I would never know that the girl is not pictured all the way to the left. I thought she was just the girl on the far left until I finished reading and I could see her cut out.

This is similar to the story of Saleem because it reveals what goes on in a child’s mind during a time of war and dictatorship. Children do realize when things are going wrong in the world even though they are expected to never think twice of new order that is suddenly enforced into their lives. The veil obviously has just as much symbolic meaning in Persepolis as the sheet did in Midnights Children.

Destruction of childhood faith

pg. 6

Marjane: “I was born with religion.”

pg. 10

Marjane: “My faith was not unshakeable.”

pg. 14-17

Marjane: “God, where are you? …That night he didn’t come.”

After hearing of the massacre in the theater Marjane becomes determined to protest in the demonstations against the Shah. Naturally, her parents tell her she is too young and it is too dangerous. However, this little “prophet” is still convinced of her importance when she says, “For a revolution to succeed, the entire population must support it” (pg. 17). She is again shut down and put to bed. The powerlessness of being a child roams around in her mind as she looks to talk to her beloved God. However, her faith in humanity is shattered and thus her faith in anything else is bound to be questioned. It’s incredible how quickly a child’s realm can be destroyed in a single moment. Of course, no childhood is the same but it can certainly be said that some kids grow up faster than others, whether it was their decision or not. Marjane seems to have a personality that is more mature than most kids her age – she has an insight that aims to better the good of the people. She sees herself as a prophet figure, just as Saleem saw himself as a messiah for India. They were both children who weren’t really children in their head thrown into a history linked to war and violence.

So then I suppose it poses the question of: what really causes children to grow up so fast? What truly robs them of their childhood? How much of it is their surroundings and upbringings, and how much of it is their own intellectual ability to see beyond the average child?

Persepolis – pgs. 3-93

Marjane: After marching and throwing stones all day, by evening they had aches all over, even in their heads.

“Hey Mom, Dad, let’s play Monopoly!”

Mom: “Darling, we are tired.”

Dad: “Now is not the right time.”

Mom: “Monopoly! I can’t believe it! Ha ha!”

Marjane: “It is never the right time! And for me, I love the King. He was chosen by God”

Dad: “Who told you that?”

Marjane: “My teacher and God himself”

Dad: “God did not choose the King.”

Marjane: “He did so! It’s written on the first page of our schoolbook!”

 

I thought that it was really ironic that the chapter “The Water Cell” begins with Marjane begging her parents to play Monopoly with her, a game that symbolizes capitalism, after they had spent the day  supporting Marxist revolutionary forces. It really showed how young Marjane was and how she couldn’t fully comprehend what was going on around her, especially since she was receiving such mixed messages. By the end of this chapter, Marjane comes to realize why her family is against capitalism and even tries to experience what her grandfather experienced in jail by taking a long bath. But it still must be confusing for a child at this age to understand whats going on around here when she is being taught 2 different things. On one hand, she is taught in school (and believes she was told by God as well), that the King was chosen by God himself. When she is home, however, her parents told her a completely different story.

 

Satrapi and her Constant Learning Experience

Dad – “Tell me what these are!”

Marjane – “Letters.”

Dad – “You must understand that their love was impossible.”

Marjane – “Why is that?”

Dad – “Because in this country you must stay within your own social class.”

Marjane – “But is it her fault that she was born where she was born? Dad, are you for or against social classes?”

 

I should begin the post by saying that I am really intrigued by the way Satrapi wrote this book. The comic book format is certainly unusual, but for this story line, this technique definitely works!

In the passage that I posted above, Marjane got caught writing letters to her maid’s (Mehri) boyfriend in the next house over from her. Since the maid could not read or write, she asked Marjane to write one letter a week for 6 months to the boy in the window. When Marjane’s father learned of this new, he was very upset with his daughter. But, the person who seemed even more confused was Marjane.

Throughout the book thus far, Marjane has been a person who questions society and not only that, but she is a very young girl growing up in the midst of the Iranian Revolution. I would normally think that a young girl in such a situation would be frightened to speak up and question society, even her own father in the midst of the protesting days.

Although the situation with the maid and the boyfriend next door does not seem like a very important part of the story so far, I feel like it is important to highlight that as a young girl, Marji doesn’t think it is fair that just because Mehri was born in a different area and is not of the same social class as the boy, that she should not be able to show her love for him. Marji saying the words, “But is it her fault that she was worn where she was born” confirms for the reader that Marji is not an ordinary child. She is insightful and disagrees with society’s view at the time that social classes need to marry into the same social classes.

 

Impatience in coping with death

“No one noticed that the nephews, godchildren, servants, and proteges of Big Mama closed the doors as soon as the body was taken out, and dismantles the doors, pulled the nails out of the planks, and dug up the foundations to divide up the house” p.199-200

Some interesting parallels arise in “Big Mama’s Funeral” and “The Death of Ivan Ilych”. Feelings of relief and joyous celebration are ones not often associated with the death of a loved one however in both these stories those closest to the dying are those most impatient for their death.

One wonders why this is so, if people are so shallow that money and power and social advances truly have that deep of an impact on reactions to death, or if it is something much more, a way to cope with death by distraction. Of Big Mama’s death, it says “No one was indifferent to [it]“. All her subjects, family members, business colleagues, and friends had a definite reaction to her death. The narrator makes clear that she was beloved by all so a general feeling of complete grief would be expected after her death. And yet “the only thing that was not missed by anyone amid the noise of that funeral was the thunderous sigh of relief which the crowd let loose”. Big Mama’s funeral was made into a two week-long ceremony and by the end of it, people were ready to move on. There was nobody left to mourn or to grief, everybody was in the mindset of getting on with their lives rather than mourning Big Mama’s. Ivan Ilych’s wife and colleagues, too, were discussing future plans and settlements with excitement and haste as Ivan was lying on his death bed. His wife says how hard it was for her to take care of him and hear him in pain during his dying days. However it is not because she could not bear to see him in pain, she physically felt taxed by his dying needs.

Is this feeling of relief simply conducive to the simple-minded characters in these stories, or is it actually very humane? I think it is not so simple as greed and impatience, it is a form of coping. Moving on with life sometimes is the only way to get over death.

 

 

midnight’s children

“…and now I am cast as a ghost. – I am ransacking the house for a spectral disguise. My grandfather is out and about his rounds. I am in his room. And here on top of this cupboard is an old trunk, covered in dust and spiders, but unlocked.”

page 28

I am having trouble understanding what is currently going on in the book by the sudden changes in setting and time period. However, from what I have gotten is the sheet with a hole in it is very important to the grandparents. The grandfather fell in love with the grandmother even after she was covered with it for three years. But I still cannot grasp what the point of the hole is, and why it is so sacred to be kept for so many years at the top of a cupboard in a trunk. And if it is so important, wouldn’t one think the grandparents would ensure the trunk is locked?

And since they trunk was not locked, why were they so angry about the narrator looking in it? And the sheet must have some negative meaning to it because if it only symbolized their love and marriage they would most likely be happy to share with the family. There are mixed signals in keeping the trunk unlocked and hidden.

And more questions about the narrator saying he felt like a ghost. Why was he only feeling noticed once he did something wrong, which he did not know was wrong until after. As he said later in the paragraph he was feeling “vaguely resentful that it had not been locked in the first place.” But his grandmothers reaction made it clear there was something very important about the sheet.

Midnight’s Children

“In short: my grandfather had fallen in love, and had come to think of the perforated sheet as something sacred and magical, because through it he had seen the things which had filled up the hole inside him which had been created when he had been hit on the nose by a tussock and insulted by the boatman Tai.” pg. 23

In this passage, it is clear that the hole in the perforated sheet is somewhat “filling” the hole Aadam got when he fell and injured himself while praying. When he vows to renounce his religion and never bow before God again, a hole formed inside of him. Then, another hole becomes present in his life – the hole in the perforated sheet covering Naseem.

Because he can only examine Naseem through the seven-inch hole, as requested by her father, Aadam must imagine what she looks like. Though she falls ill several more times in the next few years, she never experiences pain in her head or face, and this prevents Aadam from seeing her face. He has fallen in love with her even though he doesn’t know what she looks like. Falling in love with Naseem through this hole is reinstalling the faith he lost during his fall because by falling in love he has found something to believe in.

 

Aadam and Naseem

“That evening, Aadam contemplated the blush. Did the magic of the sheet work on both sides of the hole? Excitedly, he envisaged his headless Naseem tingling beneath the scrutiny of his eyes, his thermometer, his stethoscope, his fingers, and trying to build a picture in her mind of him. She was a at a disadvantage, of course, having seen nothing but his hands.” – 23

 

The speaker here is discussing how Aadam felt when he had to go and examine Naseem. As background for this quote, we know that Ghani asked Aadam to examine Naseem in particular way because Ghani claimed that his daughter had fallen ill.

There is certainly much imagery here in this quote. We can imagine in our mind’s eye how a man is reaching through a sheet time after time to examine a young woman, but pictures her as “headless” because he never gets the chance to see her. It is evident to the reader that he also imagines she is fantacising about him at the same time he is. He also notes that at least he gets to reach through the sheet and have some type of interaction physically with her, while she simply cannot because she is just standing there looking at his hands.  The repetition of “his eyes, his thermometer, his stethoscope, his fingers …” is used to illustrate that he is the one in the dominant position while he is with her. I believe there is also some contradiction here, because the narrator says that Naseem is “trying to build a picture in her mind of him.” However, the narrator then goes on to say that even though that may be the case, Naseem is also at a “disadvantage” because she can only see his hands.

After analyzing this quotation, I still would like to know what the author meant by, “Aadam contemplated the blush.” I seem to think that he means Aadam contemplated the situation as a whole being very physical and romantic in his mind, when realistically it was not. Aside from that sentence, I find that this quote means something so much more than what Aadam is actually feeling. We are brought directly into his mind as to what he is imagining. 

The Lottery in Babylon

Vikram Bhoyrul

“Naturally, those so-called “lotteries” were a failure. They had no moral force whatsoever; they appealed not to all a man’s faculties, but only to his hopefulness. Public indifference soon meant that the merchants who had founded these venal lotteries began to lose money. Someone tried something new: including among the list of lucky numbers a few unlucky draws. This innovation meant that those who bought those numbered rectangles now had a twofold chance: they might win a sum of money or they might be required to pay a fine–sometimes a considerable one. As one might expect, that small risk (for every thirty “good” numbers there was one ill-omened one) piqued the public’s interest. Babylonians flocked to buy tickets. The man who bought none was considered a pusillanimous wretch, a man with no spirit of adventure.”

This short story focuses on a fictitious city where an organization called the “Company” ran a lottery system that became the center of all life. In this passage Borges tells us that the lottery evolves into a system that penalties. This passage summarized the overall message of the story. Borges argues that that while inhabitants of a large city all have a chance at success, they are in fact slaves to a corporate driven system where only the elite can truly win. Also if you choose to not partake in this “system” you are immediately outcasted as viewed as a degenerate.

In cities there are several regulations and social norms that demand its inhabitants to live a certain way. It is as if the reigning deity is the economy. We as people innately compete amongst ourselves for that chance at pleasure or success. And even when we learn that what we are fighting more might cost us more than we originally thought as far as our overall happiness is concerned, we end up pursuing these goals regardless. If we don’t, we are choosing to not believe in a system that has created the structure of our civilization. Borges argues this and it is consistent in several ways with a majority of the previous authors we have read or discussed so far. This story presents a very interesting analogy and relates to the urban culture of our world today.