nefeliatelier

bits and pieces that interest me

The influence of names in Edwidge Danticat’s “Farming of Bones”

 

In October 1937, the Parsley Massacre, one of the 20th century’s least commemorated acts of genocide, took up to 20,000 Haitian lives. This mass slaughter was ordered by the dictator, Rafael Trujillo, to decimate Haitians, living in the Dominican Republic and cleanse it from ‘outsiders’.  In The Farming of Bones, author Edwidge Danticat tells the story through the eyes of a young Haitian girl named Amabelle, taken to work for a family in the Dominican Republic after losing her parents after having drowned in a river. Danticat takes the reader through the turmoils and massacre that the Haitians went through in the year of 1937. Danticat uses the motif of naming and names to represent the differences in societal classes and emphasize how characters and social prejudices are influenced by how someone is addressed. In addition, Danticat addresses the oppression of the parsley massacre and how the deaths and victims were neglected and forgotten.

The role of naming a child differs through societal classes. The upper class will choose a name to honor someone, and the lower class will choose a name for its symbolic meaning. Whilst discussing the name of his newborn child, Señor Pico says that he “‘will name him Rafael, for the Generalissimo,’… And so the boy became Rafael like the Generalissimo, the president of the republic. Rafi for intimates,” (35). Here Danticat uses the motif of names to convey that a name is given to someone in order to honor someone else. Both Señora Valencia and Señor Pico have named their children after somebody rather than giving a new name. Señor Pico names his son after the Generalissimo to honor him, inferring that during that time period, many Dominican Republicans were naming their newborns after the Generalissimo. European and Spanish cultures tend to put emphasis on the names of powerful people. Here it can be seen that the motifs of names and power overlap, creating a sense of nobility. Differently, when Sebastien’s mother is speaking to Amabelle, she says that she “named him Sebastien…because I knew it would be wise if a man could have two deaths. The first one comes quick enough, so it’s good to have another one in reserve,” (238). Danticat uses allusion of the Saint Sebastien story, to give Sebastien’s name a deeper meaning. The story of Saint Sebastien holds a significant amount of meaning as it gives the impression that Sebastien’s life may have been similar to the saint’s life in terms of having two deaths. By giving him a name that holds this meaning, his mother believes that his spirit lives on, even though he is gone. Differently to Señor Pico and Señora Valencia, Sebastien’s mother gives her son a name with significance. Although both families are honoring someone, the form of honoring is very different and argues the gap between two social classes and how naming can distinct them from one another.

Another approach Danticat uses names for are the titles of names, to represent one’s culture and social standing. When Amabelle is discussing with Mimi about the titles they give their employers, Mimi states, “I don’t have to christen her ‘Señorita’ in your presence, do I?…I don’t call her ‘Beatriz’ in her presence…But what would be so terrible if we did say only their Christian names?” Amabelle responds, “It would demonstrate a lack of respect,” (61). Danticat portrays the importance of titles by showing the respect Amabelle has, by christening her employer “Senora” or “Senorita”. On the other hand, Danticat questions this social standard through Mimi’s character, as to what would be so wrong if the workers were to call their employer only by their Christian name, as they have always only be called by their Christian names. These titles suggest a power dynamic that places the employers superior to their workers. Mimi puts their position into perspective and how they are treated as lesser. The feeling of insignificance among the lower class, in particular, the Haitians, is mentioned after the parsley massacre again: “Men with names never truly die. It is only the nameless and faceless who vanish like smoke into the early morning air.”(280). Danticat uses names to portray the importance that a name holds in society. She conveys a social injustice and criticizes the gap between the two classes of rich and poor. In this case, the rich are the ones with names (such as Señorita, Señora) meaning they are treated with a higher level of respect. However, the poor are nameless, and thus makes the underprivileged be forgotten and the wealthy remembered.

From the telling of the novel, Danticat constructs a wide range of motifs to convey the history of Haiti and the Dominican Republic among the social classes. She displays the influence that names have on both cultures and highlights the gap between the social classes and cultures. Thus, she expresses the importance of giving a name to a child and compares the symbolic meaning of a name among the upper and lower class. Danticat also focuses on the importance titles have when addressing someone from the upper class, however, those who are ‘nameless’ are forgotten. In doing so, Danticat reveals that names of someone should not be forgotten no matter their cultural background or social standing.  In today’s society, with movements for mass shootings, like #saytheirnames, we as a society are starting to take a stand against brutality and not disregard or forget the injustice that we see. No factor, whether being race, religion, social class or culture, puts someone’s name before another or makes someone’s life more relevant than others.

Advertisements

The multiple narrative perspectives in Ismail Kadare’s Broken April

IMG_1382

“Not a single dictator can change the literature. Even the worst governments in situations cannot suppress literature.” (Poolos, Alexandra.) Ismail Kadare’s words are echoed in his novel Broken April, written during the time when dictator Hoxha was in power. Kadare is bringing an awareness to the Albanian laws of the Kanun by indirectly showing struggles and conflicts through characters living in these affected regions of Albania. In educating the reader about the blood vengeance, money and corruption within this system of rules and traditions, he brings a new perspective to the Albanian regime. Through the use of different narrative perspectives within the novel, Kadare is representing the different approaches the Albanian society has towards the Kanun. These multiple approaches reveal how rules and traditions impose an ultimatum for Albanians between pride and honor.  

The novel begins through the perspective of Gjorg Berisha whom Kadare characterizes as acquiescent towards the rules and traditions of the Kanun. His characterization highlights the domination the Kanun holds, by building an ultimatum for Albanians, between revenge and honor. As Gjorg awaits Zef Kryeqyqe, the man he must kill, Gjorg wishes to himself “…that dusk would come swiftly, that night would race on after it so that he could run away from this accursed ambush.” (p.8) Kadare personifies the night racing off after dusk, meaning for nightfall to come, to describe what Gjorg is secretly wishing. Gjorg wishes for the night to come, as it would enable him not to kill Zef Kryeqyqe. Although Gjorg does not want to kill Zef Kryeqyqe and is skeptical towards the assassination required from the Kanun, he still continues with the killing and without protest. Later in the novel, when Gjorg is waiting to pay his blood tax, he is surrounded by pouring rain and it brings him to the thought “…wet grain is heavier. He remembered having carried a sack of corn once in the rain from the storehouse at subprefecture all the way to his village.” (26) Here, Kadare symbolizes the rain as the Kanun. With Kadare’s use of visual imagery, he illustrates the rain being a heavier load for daily chores, such as carrying a sack of corn. The heaviness of the rain symbolizes the heavy burden of the Kanun on daily lives. Under the heaviness of the Kanun, it is more difficult for Albanians to free themselves, as there is a significant weight that all Albanians under Kanun laws, must carry with them in their day to day lives. Gjorg is a representation of the newer Albanian generation who questions and sees that the Kanun as a never-ending bloodshed. Thus, seeing brutality and the facade of tradition the Kanun brings, the younger Albanian generation stay true to their family. However, there are some that question what they see and are in a state of rebellion towards old customs, in this case, the Kanun. Kadare conveys the disability, stress, and controls the Kanun has on the lives of the Albanians. Hindering them from being free and be under their own authority, instead, the Kanun leaves Albanians with the only option, either to take action in vengeance or lose family honor and pride.

The fourth chapter of the novel is written from the perspective of Mark Ukacierra, the man involved with the economic and political sides of the Kanun. Through Mark Ukacierra’s perspective, Kadare reveals the monetary and misogynist manners of the Kanun, which is seen when Mark is recalling his encounter with Diana and Bessian and describes Diana as “a witch” rather than “a woman”, however “beautiful as the fairies of the high mountains, but evil.” (134). In the novel, Kadare portrays Diana as a symbol of strength and courage that Mark Ukacierra is unable to grasp as a result of his manly pride. Therefore, he associates Diana’s strength as something evil because his pride feels threatened by it. Mark is comparing Diana to a witch rather than a woman because his pride depicts women as weak, which is why he also compares her to a weaker mythical creature, the fairies of the high mountains. In the comparison of Diana to fairies of the high mountains, Kadare is also elevating how Mark is familiar with women who, in the literal sense, are from the high mountains (high plateaus). The women from the high plateau Mark is familiar with are weak yet beautiful like fairies, rather than threatening and powerful like witches, thus highlighting the pride of Albanian men’s effect on Albanian women’s suppression. However, later as Mark reflects on the fall in blood vengeance and the negative impact it has had on the Kanun he “thought of mad things he dared not confess to anyone.” which is “…if only the women as well as the men were subject to the rules of blood-letting.” (144) Kadare is using diction of “mad things” to characterize Mark having pride, as well as “dared” and “blood-letting” to illustrate how the ones involved in the Kanun, are so fixated on the blood tax and view the Kanun as a merchandise that they would sacrifice the rules and their pride to keep up the Kanun. Mark is trying to preserve the honor of the Kanun by getting more people to kill. However, by not allowing women into the laws of the Kanun, as Mark views them as “mad things”, he is putting his pride before the honor of the Kanun as he “dared” not express his thoughts. As he is enforced and under the influence of the laws and traditions of the Kanun.

In the novel, the different narrative perspectives reach different ethical and moral approaches towards the Kanun. Rules and traditions are seen to create internal conflicts within the different characters as honor is put at risk by either revenge or pride. Kadare’s aim in writing his novel through different narrative perspectives is to create an understanding of the different sides to the Kanun’s killing and capital. Kadare himself said “People read my work because they want to read literature. And at the same time, they gain an understanding of the country itself.” (Poolos, Alexandra.)

 

Works Cited:

 

Poolos, Alexandra. “Albania: Millennium Voices — Albanian Writer Ismail Kadare.”

RadioFreeEurope/RadioLiberty, RadioFreeEurope/RadioLiberty, 9 Apr. 2008,

http://www.rferl.org/a/1092283.html.

 

Being Falsely Convicted of Crime

The United States is home to 5% of the world’s population, but 25% of the world’s prisoners (13th documentary- Barack Obama). A 2015 study showed that 56% of imprisoned individuals are African American and/or Hispanic, even though they only make up 32% of the US population (NAACP). Why is this the case? Why are people getting away with shooting young African American males? Yet, African Americans are being falsely convicted to crime. Clearly, something isn’t right and hasn’t been since the Civil War.

Let us start with the 13th Amendment that states that it is unconstitutional for someone to be held a slave. This grants freedom to all Americans. However, there is a loophole: criminals. The 13th Amendment was created after the Civil War and states that “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime.” (Legal Information). This loophole allows slavery in terms of a small percentage of those who have been convicted of crime. Primarily, according to the 13th Amendment, a convicted offender is programmed into the legal system as a slave, resulting in a modern-day slavery. This has a cruel impact on people who endure a wrongful felony conviction. Going back to the post-Civil War era, after the 13th Amendment was established, African Americans were arrested in masses, for petty crimes such as loitering or vagrancy. The outright intention of the 13th Amendment was, and still is, to outlaw slavery – but this has not been achieved. So, could this be a reason for why 33% of African Americans are incarcerated for drug offense, when only 12.5% of them are illicit drug users? (NAACP) We don’t know, what we do know is that when the Constitution fails to provide all constitutional protections, laws become meaningless.

Some evidence of this lies in the American Legislative Exchange Council (also known as ALEC). ALEC is a powerful, secretive corporation supported by Republican-forward companies and politicians. ALEC writes “model legislation” on a range of topics in favor of the conservative legislators (ALEC exposed). Just name any controversial conservative item of legislation:  ALEC is behind them all, including the infamous “Stand your Ground” law, that legitimizes the shooting of anyone viewed as suspicious. It was when the weaponless 17 year-old African American male, Trayvon Martin was shot dead, right in front of his home, by George Zimmermann, that ALEC lost its anonymity (CCCCD Libraries). Because of the “stand-your-ground law”, George Zimmerman did not face any prison sentence whatsoever because he had felt threatened by this young boy, and has ALEC behind him.

Unfortunately these cases of racial inequality in the prison system cannot be solved, because they have already happened. However, there are possible solutions to prevent further cases such as these. For example, the “blinding cases” system. Like everybody, prosecutors have an “unconscious bias.” To ensure that this unconscious bias is not part of their decision-making when it comes to the suspect’s race, all the police would have to do is exclude racial profiling from their reports (Business Insider). “Blinding cases” has proven to benefit many different fields. For instance, a Harvard study of symphony orchestras did a blinding of musical auditions to assess the impact on female musicians. The results showed that the probability for women to chosen as instrumentalists would advance by 50% (Claudia Goldin and Cecilia Rouse – Harvard University). Blinding prosecutors to the racial identity of offenders could have an equally positive effect. Prosecutor bias has an influential impact, so, even a small reduction of this bias would be advantageous (Business Insider).

I hope that many of you have understood my message regarding an issue urgent to our country. Each and everyone of us must understand this injustice. We are the next generation and it is our responsibility to make sure that our country will not persist in making decisions and criminal accusations based on the color of someone’s skin. The persistent idea of race and its attendant inequalities must be put to an end. I do not want to say that this can happen overnight, but we can work progressively against this injustice. For example,  employing the concept of blinding cases. This won’t solve structural racism but it will begin to solve certain biases and inequalities towards a just system in the United States of America. As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said “INJUSTICE anywhere, is a threat to justice everywhere.” (Letter from a Birmingham Jail).

BIBLIOGRAPHY:

“Letter from a Birmingham Jail [King, Jr.].” Edited by Ali B. Ali-Dinar, Letter from a Birmingham Jail [King, Jr.], African Studies Center- University of Pennsylvania, http://www.africa.upenn.edu/Articles_Gen/Letter_Birmingham.html.

 

Gooden, Cliffon. “Sign the Petition.” Change.org, 2011, http://www.change.org/p/challenge-the-13th-amendment.

 

Legal Information Institute. Cornell University Law School. November 20, 2012. Retrieved November 30, 2012.

 

“Criminal Justice Fact Sheet.” NAACP, http://www.naacp.org/criminal-justice-fact-sheet/.

 

ALEC Exposed, http://www.alecexposed.org/wiki/ALEC_Exposed.

 

Williams, Juan. “Trayvon Killing Puts American Legislative Exchange Council in the Spotlight.” The Hill, 23 Apr. 2012, thehill.com/opinion/columnists/juan-williams/222965-martin-case-puts-alec-in-spotlight.

 

Strauss, Valerie. “The United States of ALEC.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 27 Sept. 2012, http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/post/what-is-the-united-states-of-alec/2012/09/27/06dfb1ca-08b6-11e2-afff-d6c7f20a83bf_blog.html?utm_term=.02dc785c56c7.

 

“George Zimmerman Trial.” Famous Trials, famous-trials.com/zimmerman1.

 

Conversation, The. “3 Professors Have a Radical Idea for How to Remove Bias from the Criminal Justice System.” Business Insider, Business Insider, 22 Oct. 2016, http://www.businessinsider.com/how-to-remove-bias-criminal-justice-system-2016-10.

 

Goldin, Claudia. “Orchestrating Impartiality: The Impact of ‘Blind’ Auditions on Female Musicians.”Http://Scholar.harvard.edu/Files/Goldin/Files/orchestrating_impartiality_the_effect_of_blind_auditions_on_female_musicians.Pdf, 13 Aug. 2006, links.jstor.org/sici?=0002-8282%28200009%2990%3A4%3C715%3AOITIO%22%3E2.0.CO%3B2-A.

 

CCCCD Libraries /LMC, alice.dvc.edu/record=b557457~S3.

 

‘A Most Wanted Man’ a film by Anton Corbijn

movie-one

A Most Wanted Man is a amazing film but a bit confusing for a 13 year old girl like me. The film is about a man named Issa Karpov (played by Grigori Eduardowitsch Dobrygin) who leaves Russia to come to Hamburg, Germany because he was being tortured in Russia and wants to get the money his father (a terrorist who has passed away)  has given to him.Annabelle Richter (played by Rachel McAdams) a lawyer for refugees who have been traumatized and want to start a new life helps him and becomes his lawyer. Annabelle Richter goes to a banker named Tommy Brue (played by Willem Dafoe) to get the testament of Issa Karpov’s father so that Issa Karpov can live in Hamburg. Thats where Günther Bachman comes in (played by Phillip Seymour Hoffman) and Erna Frey (played by Nina Hoss)two german espionage agents, that lead a team which seeks to develop intelligence from the local Muslim community the team has as well german actors. Günther Bachman is trying to catch a terrorist meanwhile named Dr. Faisal Abdullah (played by Homoayoun Ershadi) and has the son of him help him spy on him. Günther also gets involved with an american diplomatic (played by Robin Wright) to find out that she tricks him.

This film is a must see! While I was watching it it didn’t seem like a typical hollywood star film… it seemed real. I felt like I was in the cafe with them watching them speak. The film was reality and the acting couldn’t have been better. Once i watched the film I was really depressed about Hoffman’s death because before I didn’t appreciate his acting.

‘Rebecca’ a film by Alfred Hitschcock

Laurence Olivier and Joan Fontaine in Rebecca

‘Rebecca’ is a drama-thriller film by Alfred Hitschcock made in 1940.

When a rich aristocratic man named Maxim de Winter meets a young naive women who’s name isn’t mentioned in the film  in Monte Carlo and gets married to her. The film is really about Maxim de Winter’s first wife Rebecca who dies and drowns in the sea. When the new wife of Maxim de Winter moves into the huge house, more like a castle, she meets the strange housekeeper Mrs.Danvers who had an obsession with Rebecca. The film is full of mystery and secrets which ends up leading the viewer to an unexpected surprise.

I only found out now reading wikipedia that Maxim de Winters (new) wife’s name was never mentioned. The actors are Joan Fontain playing the naive new wife, Laurence Olivier playing Maxim de Winter and Judith Anderson playing Mrs.Danvers.

I really enjoyed watching Rebecca and it has become one of my favorite films.

Where’d you go Bernadette by Maria Semple

whered-you-go-bernadette

Where’d you go Bernadette is about a 15 year old girl named Bee who gets straight A’s in her report card. As a reward her parents book a trip to Antartica. But the day before the trip Bee’s mother Bernadette disappears.

Where’d you Bernadette is a epistolary novel which I found was very interesting and full of surprises. I enjoyed reading Where’d you go Bernadette because I love reading books on mother daughter relationships.