Ms. Kate Liu
World Literatures in English
Q2.The limitation and/or protection of Indian women by purdah in “Honour.”
A: The protagonist, Shamshad Begum was typically an Indian woman victimized by purdah system throughout her life. The purdah here was not only shown in terms of external confinement but also influenced how Shamshad responsed to the crisis happening on her. The restriction can be perceived in how she could not face the betrayal of her fiancée, the degradation of her position in the society, and the treacherous reality. And even, in the end, she put herself into another “purdah”
(whorehouse). The opening description of the bathroom tells us that Shamshad had to peep out at her fiancée from the window of the bathroom which resembles “the Forty
Thieves’ Caves: dark, damp, cool and … (p.67).” She just did it to fulfill her sexual
desire like a thief, which means she can directly show her affection in public; instead, she served tea to Aziz, her fiancée to show her obedience. In addition, Family honour caused her great invisible burden and self-circumscription. She even had never been to school but put into strict purdah and taught many languages at home (p.67). She can be said a woman totally controlled by the family and confined by purdah, never have contact with outer world.
After the death of her parents and her father-in-law, she was still proud of her family honour and never thought to step out of purdah though her fiancée leaves for his own business. During the time of the absence of Aziz, Shamshad remained her arrogant attitude because of family honour and deeply believed in god’s will to keep
her waiting for Aziz. All she could do to react was crying alone in her purdah and nothing else. When Aziz was back with his new wife, Shamshad felt herself was a widow from that moment. Shamshad meanwhile looked down Kallo Bai as a woman exposing herself like a whore. To Shamshad, women should stay inside but not to be exposed too much. Ironically, Shamshad did not feel betrayed cheated by purdah system which limited her in a little space of a bathroom and cannot promise any happiness. However, she totally blamed Aziz for being unfaithful to her. She lost love, affection and even cared nothing about money and material stuff from then on. Shamshad to me does not try to react aggressively or positively back to this betrayal but come back her purdah and close herself in terms of praying to God only.
In the third part, also the last, Shamshad though worked on herself as a maid,
she never regarded herself as a maidservant. That can be apparently seen in her shock while being called “Bua” (p.75). She in her heart remained her sense of pride of her family honour. Moreover, in the process of being passed on to three different masters, Shamshad hardly had a chance to experience the evil and cruelty of the reality. The last master indeed hinted a lot to Shamshad but she unconsciously or purposely refused to face the reality. She finally went back to her room and turned to God, whom she prayed for inner peace. Possible reasons for Shamshad ending like that
might be that she had no idea of breaking through the situation out of fear and innocence by purdah influence.
Q3.The issue of illiteracy and letter writing in “Annamalai.”
A: The illiteracy of Annamalai is mostly seen from the eye of the narrator, also his master, who has vast communication gap with Annamalai. This gap comes from language differences between two of them, mysterious gardening knowledge of Annamalai and Annamalai’s lack of education. In the first place, we are told that Annamalai actually couldn’t sign but merely impressed his thumb as his signature in dealing with legal documents (p.118). Later in the story, Annamalai suggested the master to retrieve name board from the doorway and never asked the names of people delivering news to him. All these indicate that actually Annamalai was not illiterate so he did not care about names or even had no idea of written words. Likewise his fellows and brother were “illiterate louts” (p.132) like he, who were not educated.
Although he despised his fellows a lot, in fact he was the kind of person like them.
Annamalai called his master a gentleman, helped move books into the house and kept respectful distance from books and papers. Annamalai indeed put the master in a higher position for he was an educated and willingly obeyed the master’s orders.
On the other hand, the way he was consciously remote from books tells that he did not feel comfortable with knowledge. Regarding gardening, Annamalai dichotomized plants into “flowering plant” and “weed” (p.124). Such simplified way of
categorization points out the simple mind of Annamalai. His unconnected logic, particularity and obstinacy in growing plants show that he is withdrawn from the surroundings and incommunicable with his mater.
The verbiage problems first arise when the master helped Annamalai do letter writing to Annamalai’s fellows. Pronunciation of the address of the hometown never sounded the same to the master, though Annamalai repeated several times. This communication gap attributes Annamalai’s incapability to speak English and the
master’s poor understanding in usage of Tamil. Nevertheless, as to correspondence between Annamalai’s brother and Annamalai, we could see that Annamalai’s brother
relied on Annamalai greatly in finance and any other trivialities. In Annamalai’s
responses to those letters, Annamalai hated the cowardice of his brother and bothering of all nonsense but he finally decided to come back and deal with the problem. Despite the grudge, Annamalai was actually attached to his family and his hometown on his decision to going back. And also, through letter writing from Annamalai, the master knew about Annamalai’s background.
Q5.How are children (their education, gendering process and/or family relations) affected in a colonial or post-colonial society? (e.g. Sugar Cane Alley and “The
Music of the Violin”)
A: This question is done in group.
Q6.Discuss the theme of mother-daughter relationship in three of the texts we have studied. (e.g. “Her mother,” “Bright Thursdays,” and Annie John.)
A: “Her mother”, “Bright Thursdays” and Annie John all deal with
mother-daughter relationship as the main theme to see the transformation and rebellion of the daughters under various factors. In “Her mother,” the mother told the
daughter, Rani to be independent but fell back to a traditional route to expect a marriage for the daughter. The mother never seemed to understand Rani at all; therefore they do not communicate. In Annie John, we have another traditional
mother, a bit similar to Rani’s mother, who held traditional minds to wish her daughter, Annie a marriage and be a traditional woman. Though at the first part of the story Annie felt unaccepted by her mother because the mother wanted her to be independent—don’t be “the little me” (p.26), the mother still gave Annie lessons to
learn young lady’s business like sewing, which was considered necessary for being a woman. This is not real independence. Nevertheless, “Bright Thursdays” goes deeper
into the issue of class differences. The mother sustained herself with fantasies that the daughter, Laura could be accepted by her father’s family which belonged to upper
class but failed at the end. Crossing boundary of classes is not seen in the other two stories. Despite that, three mothers resemble each other in knowing little of their daughters.
Teaching of independence by mothers on daughters contradicts to some points of view of their own in “Her Mother” and Annie John. The mother in “Her Mother”
taught the daughter, Rani to be independent, which the father took as a reason to blame the mother for her asking Rani for a marriage. Mother cared a lot about the daughter in America. All she said was nagging for Rani’s health and reminding her of
not see an American man. Mother was concerned mainly about daily trivial stuff. She was not an independent woman but proud of the husband’s need for her. Unlike her,
Rani never thought of a marriage and supported her sister to live apart with her brother-in-law after marriage. Rani looked her father, who was glad to have Rani in America (p.138) as the model for her life. This point is detected while she was doing homework of sentence-writing (p.133). Rani picked up the road totally different from her mother’s. Her leaving away was certain. The mother could not communicate with the daughter just like what she could do at the end was only praying to God and hoping her coming back.
In Annie John, Annie was by her mother’s side all the time in the beginning.
The intimacy and connection between them is tight and firm. Annie in a sense admired her mother greatly as one who protected her and would be her side. She did not feel needs to be an independent person until the mother scolded her to have her own dress. Annie was pushed fiercely and suddenly to break this intimacy with her mother. The sense of lost and missing merged in her mind. Although Annie’s mother
might unconsciously teach or imply Annie that chores are something you will have to do in your future family, Annie actually merely saw her mother as one served for her and protected her. After the trauma, her mother gave her lessons of manner to really educate her as a young lady, a woman. This gradually made Annie to know that her mother was not educating her to be independent but a traditional woman having a marriage and doing housework. Hence, Annie rebelled against it by carrying hatred for her family and her hometown, and left the place.
Inferiority in social class influences the mother-daughter relationship in “Bright
Thursdays”— the daughter, Laura becomes a victim in between her mother, Myrtle, a maid and her grandma, Miss Christie. Myrtle bred Laura as “best-dressed little girl for
miles around” (p.198), excessively protected her from other children of her age (p.200), corrected her accent and bathed every day (p.202), etc. To Myrtle, all these were ways to get Laura back to her father’s family which belonged to upper classes
and promised Laura a good fortune. However, Laura felt isolated and different from peers (p.200). She could not identify herself among them. And Myrtle never asked her to do chores but Miss Christie did. It again confused Laura and could not let Laura to find identity in each family. To think from Myrtle’s perspective, we would know that
the upbringing on Laura to Myrtle was the only way for her daughter obtains a better life. Yet the class boundary was not that easy to break down. That was the reason why Myrtle’s upbringing and expectation put Laura into a tremendous fear instead of helping her. And in the end, being called “bloody bustard” (p.211) by her father
incited Laura inner awareness of being independent.