At the beginning of "Petals of Blood," the individual pasts of Munir...more**spoiler alert** Complicated, riveting, beautifully written...
Response for class:
At the beginning of "Petals of Blood," the individual pasts of Munira, Karega, Abdullah, and Wanja hang heavy over them, shadowing them, waiting to be acknowledged. Their lives' journeys attempt in one way or another to escape these pasts -- pasts that are laden with stale feelings of sadness, shame, and memories of poignant failures. The problem of an ignored and murky past is difficult to solve, yet simple in theory: these people will no longer be the containers of these burdens if they can address them, rather than avoid them. When vulnerability is induced by the drinking of Theng'eta, and these troubles are brought out publicly, in front of the community, they become shared pasts that intertwine with one another, thus becoming a knotty mess of burdens, but none the less, a shared one. This now provided a strong unity, a "oneness" (252). This is definitely progress, and allows them to move about in their everyday lives somewhat more freely. This was just the first step, however, and these complicated pasts now collectively weigh down on their consciouses. They are not yet free. Now not only are they heavy with their own troubles, but of those close to them as well.
It is only at the end of the novel, when they begin to accept their own histories and lives, rather than running from them, that they can move forwards. This is a result of having confidence in hopes that are simultaneously enigmatic and tangible. These are what each one labels his or her own "new world." This is when they can accept the changes that have come in Ilmorog, this is when they can move on. Karega, while insulting Wanja and also speaking of a poignant truth says, "that is the kind of lesson we can learn from our past... as a guide to action." For Munira, it his understanding of the divine, and the feelings of power he experiences when taking weighty matters into his own hands. For Karega, it is when the young girl visits him in prison and speaks of his impact on the workers' union. For Abdullah, it is the bond with a stranger who he once labelled his brother, and has now taken the role of an ambitious and brilliant son, with integrity and determination. For him, it is also the fact that he didn't have to bear the responsibility of murder, and was able to save Wanja's life, thus forever imprinting himself upon her mind. For Wanja, it is the pregnancy she has eagerly chased after for years, and is finally ready for, after once again experiencing rebirth through fire, and then a reunion with her mother in which "they wept together, maybe both weeping out their different memories" (401). For all, it is the realization that "life was a series of false starts, which, once discovered, called for more renewed efforts at yet another beginning" (401).(less)
Despite the delicate and artistic command Armah has over his words, I found "The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born"...more**spoiler alert** Response for class:
Despite the delicate and artistic command Armah has over his words, I found "The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born" extremely troubling. It was not the depictions of filth and decay so realistically portrayed that I found so disturbing, but more so the sense of loss, hopelessness, powerlessness, and greed that not only invaded the mundane everyday lives of the masses, but also surrounded the entirety of Ghana, creating an oppressive stagnancy.
For some of the masses, like the man, the state of Ghana created a seething anger, but the stagnancy allowed himself to manage his life with a sense of apathy that is quite disturbing. His anger would only passively manifest itself through comments of frustration aimed at either his wife or mother-in-law. This is clearly the type of alienation Marx discusses in the articles we read, in which he proposes idealized notions of what could be. However, he fails to offer any means of how to make do in a world where the possibility of change seems highly unlikely -- how to personally manage the overwhelming sense of alienation and live a life that has meaning and some reassuring purpose. Armah presents no answers to this question either. He actually counters the stagnancy with the passive revenge that the man experiences when helping Komsoon escape through the shit at the end of the novel. And it is only when the man is drifting on the sea, alone, that he feels some sense of contentment -- but he knows it is not lasting, and that the static and bleak country begins once he gets back to the shore.(less)
**spoiler alert** While attempting to add a new dimension to the many-sided story of colonialism, Aidoo seems to accidentally present us with a flat o...more**spoiler alert** While attempting to add a new dimension to the many-sided story of colonialism, Aidoo seems to accidentally present us with a flat one dimensional girl. She gives us Sissie, who is first presented to us as pure, sweet, and naive, but by the end of the work she becomes an angered, exhausted, and jaded woman. In writing the previous sentence, I was almost tempted to say that she "evolved" into a bitter woman, but the truth is, Aidoo does not give us growth or evolution. She doesn't present us with transformation, she provides us with one and then the other, never giving us a sense of in-between or a process of development. She gives us extreme polarities rather than a spectrum of truth, and because of this the reader wonders what really made Sissie snap. We know that Sissie's relationship with Marija is surfacey and slightly odd, but when Sissie cruelly dismisses Marija, it doesn't entirely make sense. Where did this detached form of disgust begin?
It seems as though Aidoo is trying to tug at our consciences and have us feel sadness when we experience Sissie's new disposition, trying to alert our awareness to a guilt we should be experiencing because of our privilege, but in truth, I felt more sad at Sissie's simplistic and judgemental attitudes. All whites are foul and cruel creatures? All Africans that pursue lives in Europe and the United States are selfish traitors? How is this possible? And how does this attitude give Sissie any kind of sense of enlightenment, and even more poignantly, how does this help her live a meaningful, self-fulfilling life?(less)
Started this today, and have only read the preface, but holy shit, Sartre's preface is the preface to end all prefaces. I am stoked for this.
... Turns...moreStarted this today, and have only read the preface, but holy shit, Sartre's preface is the preface to end all prefaces. I am stoked for this.
... Turns out the preface is kind of better than the book in its entirety. Oh well. Still worth the read.
Fanon's language and enthusiasm allow us to easily get lost in his words, and it is clear that the prospect of a free and sovereign nation is what provides his voice with fervor and excitement. However, he seems caught between a radical idealism and his perception of what is actually possible. At one point he claims that "there will never be such a thing as black culture because there is not a single politician who feels he has a vocation to bring black republics into being" (189). On the other hand, he talks of the Algerians' increasing relevance as they become a more defined and self-aware culture that is purposeful in its actions.
Fanon is rightfully dissatisfied, but his dissatisfaction is broad and looms over all parties involved. He is not only highly critical of France's colonial regime, but the national bourgeoisie and proletariat as well. He is torn between the possibilities of what he encourages his people to fight for, and the question of whether, in fact, they are actually possible. He seems unsure of the Algerians' actual capabilities and strengths in the areas in which he counsels them. This is apparent when he discusses the current conceptions of violence during his time. He disagrees with attempts to explain Algerian violence from either a physiological and neurological perspective, though he does not assert himself strongly against them. He clearly has his questions when it comes to the capacity and competence of his people, and when he treads warily on these issues, he loses the passion in his voice and the confidence of his support.(less)
Fanon's stressing of the importance of self-determination being essential to an individual's freedom is an impor...more**spoiler alert** Response for class:
Fanon's stressing of the importance of self-determination being essential to an individual's freedom is an important theme throughout Chinua Achebe's tragic novel "Things Fall Apart." The profound loss experienced in the novel, is not just simply the death of the protagonist, but more so the tragedy of this loss of individual freedom. One of the most interesting cultural aspects of the Igbo people is that even in a culture which strives to please its ancestors, one has the ability to transcend the lives and limitations of his forefathers. Okonkwo's immense shame of his lazy father helps him to begin to define the kind of life he would like to lead from a very early age. He shapes this life and his own identity by working to accumulate traits that are held in high regards by his tribe -- traits like strength, loyalty, diligence, and hard work. He becomes a dignified member of his society, despite the fact that his inner conflicts stew inside of him and often times lead him to impulsive acts of violence due to an inability to articulate his internal struggles. Regardless of the fact that his inner self is in constant turmoil, he is able to live a life that is rich with family, culture, and religion, and he is able to find meaning in his daily life and through his work.
At the end of the novel, when Okonkwo is found hanging from the bough of a tree, it is apparent that not only is one of Umofia's greatest warriors dead, but that the possibility of a man struggling to find himself through the tribal history and customs in the village of Umofia can no longer do so. The identity he created, which was composed of the rich culture of his tribe and the vibrant lives of the people in his village, is now split, and he loses the strong support that he had worked his entire life to build for himself. The swift, violent, and shocking gesture of his suicide causes a state of inertia and uncertainty for not only the villagers, but the white missionaries as well.(less)
Made me thankful that I've been to Africa, and terribly sad that nothing is not contaminated and sacred, really. Well, things are sacred. Many things...moreMade me thankful that I've been to Africa, and terribly sad that nothing is not contaminated and sacred, really. Well, things are sacred. Many things are, but, y'know. This book read like a song.(less)