MUSING AERO TONES: A ROMANTIC AND CONTEXTUAL ANALYSIS OF PERCY BYSSHE SHELLEY’S “TO A SKYLARK”
In the contemporary period, we are witnesses to a lot of repetitive horror movies spanning from the classics to the modern one, little by little inflicted by the pangs of violence, gore, and nudity. Both the orient and the occident features different films that would charm many people, especially the youth, in watching films that are embodiments of abysmal imageries, somber imagination, the intersection of the natural and the supernatural, as well as the overflowing emotions of fear and anger brought by unimaginable circumstances. Though to be distinct from the recurring motif of horror, it was Gothicism that brought the surge of the current trends in filmic productions of thriller and horror movies. In the literary history, Bram Stoker’s Dracula and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein are both literary gothic productions that sought to promulgate the emphasis of the supernatural, as well as themes of drabness and imperfections. The present is dotted already with rich productions of novels which encage thematic depictions of darkness, supernatural, and romance, like Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight Saga which incorporates vampires having a romance with a human.
The production of many romantic films are also best observed in the spectacle era of the contemporary, telescoping the recurring themes of romance combined with comedy, drama, magical realism, supernatural, and others. One of the best exponent of these romantic films is its emphasis on the emotion, which the romantic age deeply catered. We are even crying to many films like A Walk To Remember which starred Mandy Moore and Shane West. Undoubtedly, the romantic production of films that spanned many eras influenced many of our lives in the present, however as romantic as we would be, we should also be concerned on the surveying of the past, or how the “romance” was primarily constructed in the past and slowly changed in the present.
In connection with romanticism, Percy Bysshe Shelley is one of the literary giants of the romantic age. He had a rich background in the study of literature and other social sciences that enabled him to write one of his most controversial work, the Necessity of Atheism which expounded on the rejection of God’s existence due to the impossibility of locating Him through empirical bases. Shelley’s life is as well, filled with many gothic and romantic themes that became evident in many of his poems, especially dealing with the wonders of nature. This paper seeks to analyze Shelley’s poem, “To A Skylark” by: (1) historical context; (2) authorial context; (3) literary context; and (4) poetic analysis or criticism.
The term gothic originated from the classical history of the barbaric invasion of the Germanic tribes that had its monumental battles with the Roman Empire. Though divided into two groups, the Visigoths (West Goths) and the Ostrogoths (East Goths) due to conflicts in the settlement, they have reached their full potential of unparalleled power come their victory in the successful sacking of Rome.
In the study of romanticism, it is also important to study the gothic literature because it is also one of the important tenets of the romantic trend itself because of its heightened depiction of the core characteristics of romanticism. It is hard, however, to just simply contextualize how the classical history of the Goths are brought upon the Romantic age of literature. However, noting the interest of the romanticists in the remote past (which should be differentiated from the immediate past, as it would go back to neo-classicism which the romanticists or the romantic age itself negatively reacts). And because of this romantic tenet, the romantic age sought the revival of interest towards the gothic architecture, which is then to be associated with the “medieval” architecture connected to popular gothic fictions because of its somber themes and settings situated in gothic-styled places. One of the important characteristics of the gothic fiction is its association with the gothic hero where he is usually isolated and is in battle with the antagonist characterizing the epitome of evil. The term gothic is now situated as a literary term or genre which is a depictive reaction to the Enlightenment ideology of human reason.
It is primarily important to note that the romanticism existed before the romantic age as the romantic age only characterized the booming of romantic poets and not as an age where romanticism began. Three important romantic poets, Southey, Coleridge, and Wordsworth, deviated from the established system or canon of the period of Enlightenment, or characterized as “dissenters.” Wordsworth himself expounded on his belief of dissenting from the Neoclassical imperative by releasing himself from the clutches of formal structures and perfection in his poetry and by, instead, clinging to the “spontaneous overflowing of powerful feelings” that rejects any notion of restraint or order.
Romanticism itself has a loose definition, and it is defined more through its intrinsic tenets and characteristics, as asserted by F.L. Lucas, there are more than 11, 396 definitions of romanticism. In the Western world, three important events gave rise to the romantic age: (1) America’s war for independence; (2) French Revolution; (3) Industrial Revolution. Romanticism garnered a lot of characteristics, however, there are unique characteristics that can be truly characterized as being “romantic” or that which is very much observed in different literary works, possibly considered archetypal. Firstly, an important earmark of romanticism is its emphasis on “sensibility” where emotionalism triumphs over the rational reason and where truth is achievable through feelings. Secondly is the concept of primitivism, in which it retracts the confined order of the society and civilization to promote the nature itself, untouched by any means of modernized (thus, perhaps equated to “corrupting”) technologies. Thirdly, is the love for nature for according to Anthony Ashley Cooper, 3rd Earl of Shaftesbury, that “God is in nature (pantheistic) so a man who loves and honors nature, loves and honors God.” Lastly, the final earmark of romanticism is its interest in the remote past. On the other hand, the intrinsic tenets of romanticism centers on the themes of nature, idealization of rural life, sentimental melancholy, imagination over reason, and poetic diction.
Life of Percy Bysshe Shelley
Percy Bysshe Shelley is born to an upper-class family, with Timothy Shelley as his father. As a son of aristocracy, he is promised of a good life when he reaches the appropriate age, as he is also next in ‘throne’ for baronetcy. During his childhood years, he received great education, primarily home education from Reverend Edwards through a Welsh education, garnering him the tongues of Greek and Latin. When he entered the Sion House Academy, (Syon in some references), he did not have a great memory there because he was bullied by the students, and worse, Shelley had poor fighting skills and poor temper management. He, however, lived greatly when he entered the Eton. Here, he began reading gothic fictions, as well as development for the love of sciences. He was bullied again here but he just lamented for it. He published his first fiction, Zastrozz, which is a romance.
He left Eton for Oxford where he published his second fiction. He was able to be friends with Thomas Jefferson Hogg, who have collaborated with him in the writing of the Necessity of Atheism. This work garnered a lot of negative reactions and created a rift with the Shelley household. Though Hogg retracted primarily because of filial issues, Shelley continued his advocacy for their work, sending pamphlets of university officials who were mainly devout churchmen. As a result, Shelley was expelled from Oxford, together with Hogg who admitted his collaboration in the end. Because Shelley had a hard time reconciling with his father, he wandered from place to place even when he was strictly summoned to go home at once. He eventually married Harriet Westbrook even though he was against the church orthodoxy of marriage. This was also the moment his best friend Hogg tried to seduce Harriet, leading them to flee to Keswick together with Eliza Westbrook, Harriet’s sister.
Shelley was reconciled with his father and his allowance returned because of the help of the Duke of Norfolk. However, the love of Shelley for Harriet waned, when he met Mary Wollstonecraft (the daughter) and they eventually eloped to Paris, riding the tide of many English tourists visiting the restricted city. However when they returned to London, Shelley and Wollstonecraft lost a lot of funds, including large debts. Also, a lot of friends and family members regarded Shelley as an immoral atheist. Come the September 1815, the couple moved to Bishopsgate which pictured the romantic scene of Lechlade churchyard, influencing and inspiring Shelley’s poetic imagination. When they reached Geneva and finally met Byron, the couple received the news of Harriet’s suicide, which paved the way to the marriage of the couple.
The couple moved to Italy to resume their lives, but this became a stance of being a “social outcast” from the people, especially in London. As the thought of a good life came, both of their children died, causing a great distraught for Mary Shelley, that even another child, Percy Florence, couldn’t heal the pain she have incurred. Amidst all the tragedies, however, Shelley still found time to write his great works especially when he settled in Pisa. However, another tragedy befell him when the boat he and his friend Edward Williams were sailing were overturned by a great squall, causing them to eventually drown to death. This led to the unfinished poem, “The Triumph of Life” which is one ironic poem that characterizes the life of Shelley.
Analysis: To A Skylark
Music has been a part of our lives since the ancient antiquity. We had different types of instruments spanning from the indigenous to the postmodern. However, what is the real function of music? In order to answer this, it would be best to quote three classical figures that embraced music as a form of important element in the life of humans. Firstly, according to Plato, “music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything.” Is this music which is the gateway to the imagined world—idealistic, utopic. It gives soul to the universe in the sense that it emphasizes the hymn of the universe in its everyday galactic empowerment to its constellated space. It gives wings to the mind, for it is merging with the air we breathe and travel across distances which may or may not exist, factually or fictively. It enables the person to use music as a form of flight, though not escapist, to let the imagination flow and float to a lot of distances in order to construe a melody and a rhythm that speaks for the heart. Lastly, it is the imagination and life to everything, because music is the exponent of life—it is what characterizes the movement of life—every beat, rhythm, melody, tempo—all musical notes dance to us and to our society.
On the other hand, Victor Hugo asserts that “music expresses that which cannot be put into words and that which cannot remain silent.” It is true that music is something just heard, even it is voiceless, that one is able to feel the emotions flowing from it. Music then is an avenue of expression, something that can transform words into musical notes and play it, swimming through the tides of the air, and eventually serenading the caves of the ears, until it strums the inner drum of our being with all its glorified tune. Lastly, Aldous Huxley quips that “after silence, that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music.” Primarily, there is no complete silence, as silence itself is music, the music of plainness. Silence is an avenue of many meanings and metaphors that cannot be fully exclaimed through words, that the only resort is the vague utterance of silence, devoid of voice. There is another one, which is hymn-filled, the music, which is also the best avenue for expression that it expresses what can be said, that sometimes it’s best to express things into music.
Clustering all the concepts, the definition of music or the construction of music itself can be given a meaning of, “the coloring of silence with feelings and emotions, taking words into flight to the imagined landscapes.” After all, a lot of important musicians were categorized under the romantic age, namely Beethoven, Schubert, Wagner, Chopin, Verdi, Liszt, Rachmaninoff, and Tchaikovsky because their music embodied a lot of emotions and feelings, or embodied what it means to be a romantic poem. As a chief influence, music is also transcribed into different poems, making it lyrical with its emphasis on Wordsworth’s “Preface to the Lyrical Ballads” as well as the poem of Shelley, which is musical in substance and surface value.
B. Poetic Structure
It is important to note primarily that this poem is an ode, which is a romantic avenue for many romantic poets to voice out the issues or the thoughts of their minds in form of a praise while incorporating their own surge of emotions. However unique a skylark may be, Shelley uses this bird as his subject for the ode which is just a natural being that many people do not even give importance to. It is this intrinsic characteristic of the bird that made Shelley to offer an ode because it knows no one will be able to know the secret he wants to share with the creature.
The poem has twenty one (21) stanzas chunked into five lines each, where lines are alternating between rhymed tetrameter of a trochee stress and a hexameter of an iamb stress. It is a tetrameter primarily because of its three-beat characteristic, while it is trochaically stressed because of its pattern of a stressed syllable, followed by an unstressed one. It is important to note that this trochee characteristic is like “singing” (SING is stressed, “nging” is unstressed) and therefore patterns itself like one is singing the lines. It is a hexameter of an iamb stress occurring on the fifth line of every stanza because of its six-beat characteristic, while it is iambically stressed because of the poetic reversal of the stress of the trochees, now an unstressed syllable is followed by a stressed syllable. The rhyme scheme ultimately falls into ABABB.
C. Tone Analysis
As emphasized earlier, the poem itself is like singing because of its rhymed trochaic tetrameters and eventually dies out during the fifth line, which is an iambic hexameter. In short, it is like an alternation of an introduction of a sound, but it eventually dies: an introductory sound only, not forming a complete melodic hymn. Perhaps because it is engraved using a text that it is not flying yet, and it would be able to mend its wings when it is transcribed into poetic music. Finally, the poem has qualities of calm and serenading music, emphasized by the use of its words, as well as colorful alliteration to suggest the romantic beauty of such poetry.
D. Poetic Analysis
The central core of the poem lies in its rich romantic imagery and musical relevance. It’s best to analyze the poem per stanza in order to extract properly the meaning of poem accompanied by a contextual (or milieu-based) and romantic analysis (or critique) though with the exception of the first stanza, being analyzed per line. For reference of the complete poem, please see the appendix after the paper.
The first stanza of the poem opens its invocation to the bird, which is an apostrophe. It is a happy calling to the bird which he refers to a “Spirit.” It is important to note that capitalization actually is an important matter, and that perhaps this “Spirit” is something of a very important being which could be expounded further on as the poem fluxes. The second line juxtaposes with the first one, where the speaker retracts that the bird is not a bird, perhaps this indicative that the skylark is more than a bird as he referred to it as a “Spirit.” Come the third line, he embodies the skylark into a being from Heaven, which is again capitalized that may give a hint of being sacred, or being a supernatural creature. As in the fourth line, the skylark is personified with emotions which is an important part of the romantic trend. Its emotions flows and flows together with its singing (welcomed in the fifth line) creating an art which is natural, which is again a core quality of romanticism—its interest in the “uncouth” (used in a romantic sense, to be uncivilized) or the “primitive.” This skylarks perhaps is one of the most important embodiments in the life of Shelley serving as an inspiration for his poetry.
The second stanza of the poem emphasizes on the flight of the skylark, in which it goes higher and higher. Typically, a skylark only sings during its flight, and perhaps that its higher flight resonates a better melodic hymn. It is characterized to be a “cloud of fire” for two things: (1) that fire emphasizes a burning sensation of emotions and in its physically scientific sense, that (2) the cloud of fire goes up and up for it has a light weight, just how the candle fire always reaching for the sky even though it is turned upside down. As the skylark flies higher, soaring, it merges itself with the sea-color of the sky. The stanza uses a lot of words of nature like the fire, the sea, the spring, and the sky as forms of emphasizing the emotions present in the stanza.
The third stanza somehow presents a shift in emotions where the golden lightning and the sunken sun presents a vivid picturesque of the sunset, shooting the beautiful rays of sunlight as its sets itself down the mountains. It uses the clouds to illuminate its rays to call for the ending of the day. But the skylark itself still soars and flies, ephemeral as it would be perceived, it continues to fly like a “Spirit,” bodiless, but embodying full ecstasy to energize itself in the race of life. The third stanza operates itself in the dawning of the sun, presenting the night which is of darkness that may befell the life of Shelley. Shelley’s life had constant darkness, that when he soars, there’ll be a moment where he’ll eventually fall. In this context, Shelley wishes to fly and soar while singing the hymn of happiness even though darkness prepares itself to wrap the world with its abysmal pastels.
The fourth stanza of the poem introduces finally the evening in which Shelley used the word “even,” which can be characterized as an “evener” or that which is equating or smoothening. The plum color of the night melts through the flight of the lark, scattering as it melts in the sky. Shelley compares the skylark into a star in the morning, which is present but can’t be seen, or in the case of Shelley, that even the skylark soars into the darkness of the sky as it continuously merges its wings in the flight to the evening, it can still be heard. This stanza focuses on the notion that what’s important is not what we could actually see, it’s what we could actually hear or feel as things may not be as what you see it as such. In the romantic sense, neo-classicism condemned imperfections and flaws and associated it with different magnanimous omens in the world. However, it is not the physical attributes to what should be seen, or the surface, it should focus on the substance. That, being naturally flawed does not equate to a flaw in overall, because what is ideally the best is that what it is inside—its internal music. The fifth stanza is almost the same with the fourth, but the fifth one focuses on the morning star, Venus, unable to be seen during the broad daylight though it infinitely shimmers and flickers. The skylark’s music is like a beam of light piercing through the air like bullets of light. Its “silvery” color characterizes a holy nature that its music is like the sunlight of the Heavens above.
The sixth stanza focuses on the hyperbolic analogy of the music of the skylark that transcends the global arena; that, the music of the skylark is like a meteor shower the spans the whole sea of the sky. It is just one lonely cloud that is able to illuminate its rays of music to the world through the moonlight with its essence overflowing against the currents of Heaven. Though the impossible reigns here, it is very normal in romanticism to use hyperbolic imagery, as it is a fictive product, a result of the meditative emancipation of the reality to connive a construction of imagination as a triumphant king. However come the seventh stanza, the speaker now wonders on the perfect or ideal descriptive comparison to the skylark, as it is so great he can’t compare it just to anything that goes beyond hyperbole. It is able to control the clouds to shower a rain of melody, which is then combined with the rainbow of the third line of this stanza. Here, there is a mixture of many elements of nature which is the same with Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein where a monster is created using anything natural or just found on the way. This romantic sense emphasizes on the beauty of nature and its illuminated abundance come its mixture and merging with more vivifying elements.
The eighth stanza of the poem is one of the most important stanzas of the poem, as it is the intersection of nature and art. In this stanza, the speaker compares the skylark now to a poet who sings “unbidden” humans or humans that are just produced naturally without any coercive manifestations. The poem’s lines serve as an attention-grabber—that which clamps the people to pay attention to the nature itself, which has always faced degradation over the years. There are many feelings, realizations, and other thoughts existing in the world, yet they are unseen, unrealized. Through the power of the poet, however, he is able to create lines that is able to emphasize on the current situation of the world, or to address—like the music eternally serenading from the sky, showering its notes to the world. There is the poem, but it needs to be felt and heard to unveil its potential; else, it’s just good as a block or chunk of text. The ninth poem now transcends from poet to princess, in which the skylark is compared to a beautiful and unparalleled maiden in a tower. Noting here is the image of height in three forms: (1) the elevation of height as a form of aristocratic power, of being born in the high society; (2) the height as a form of physical landscape, in which the maiden is situated; (3) the height in figurative form, that the maiden is flying with all her beauty, and is hard to reach because a lover may not be adequate or deserving for her love. The third and fourth line characterizes a romantic longing for herself, that she soothes herself with romances in her aloneness, going to the fifth line where the music encages the whole room of the princess. This can be characterized with Shelley’s affinity for writing, that the music itself serves as his driving force to write. The tenth stanza compares now the skylark into a glow worm where it only glows at night. The stanza primarily intensifies the idea of things that are better felt and heard than seen; that there are many beautiful things in nature that we are unable to witness, but they are performing their wonderful miracles continuously even though no one is able to see it. It’s just like Shelley’s life when he is submerged into the darkness. Come his eventual downfall from his friends and family, no one is able to appreciate Shelley’s way with words as a poet.
The eleventh stanza compares the skylark into a rose which is surrounded by its leaves. It’s hard to set sight on the rose because of the jungle-like leaves alternating as a form of gate. The green leaves can also be extended to the thorns of the rose, which is hard to grab. It emphasizes that one needs not to hold things or to possess things just to appreciate its beauty; that, seeing it is already a pure form of appreciating nature. However, the dilemma lies on the gate-like feature of the leaves. In this sense, we do not need to see the rose, but instead, as the lines go on, we just need to smell the scent blown by the lovely wind as a form of thief in the night, stealing the smell of the rose and eventually scatter it in the sky. The twelfth stanza goes on to the comparison of the skylark’s music into a twinkling grass, in contrast with a dull grass; and into flowers awakened by the rain blossoming into a lovely view to form a wonderful music. Here, the speaker uses everyday natural things—grasses and flowers, which are just very plain. However, the music of the skylark goes beyond it, that it makes the grass even sparkle, and the flowers to have the personified sleep and woke up from it, blossoming in its full potential. The last lines of the stanza is very striking, for it exclaims again the wondrous nature of the skylark and its music: both are unparalleled and incomparable. This is equated to Shelley’s love for science and literature. We see that his passionate love for studying is like the skylark’s music, he feels it, hears it, is able to strum the notes of it, and yet, he is unable to compare it to something worth comparing and thus, unparalleled, paramount.
The thirteenth stanza is an obvious shift of tone, in which the speaker uses again an apostrophe to appeal to the bird, now he characterizes as a “sprite” or a magical fairy. He again uses the imagery of the supernatural (contrasted to earlier, “Spirit” and the recurring motif of “Heaven” with the capital “H”) to depict his doubt as he is nonplussed about the nature of the skylark for it sings so well that it can’t be just an earthly creature. The speaker problematizes now what makes the singing of the skylark so beautiful; that it is even beyond the historical appreciation for wines, or even the flood of rapture. Here are both biblical allusions; we have the wine which is the “blood of Christ” and the flood of rapture, which is the story of Noah’s Ark as a path to salvation. The wine and the ark incidents are both miraculous, and that which is being problematized—the miraculous singing of the skylark. The wine of emotions flood in this stanza. There is again a shift of comparison come the fourteenth stanza, which perhaps say that maybe, the music of the skylark is like the chants for victory or marriage—but the speaker finds it empty as both are occasional or thematic, in which the music of the skylark is universal and applicable to all, poetically transcending. Comparing this to such earthly poetries may instigate a lack, or a longing for something because it seems to be incomparable with the music of the skylark.
The fifteenth stanza is also one of the most amazing stanzas of the poem as it is the nonplussing thoughts of the speaker exposed. The speaker constantly wonders how the skylark is very happy in its life, or how it is able to be ecstatic in its flying? This dilemma of course corners the speaker into wondering, if the skylark sings for the nature and uses them as a subject or motif for the music, or perhaps the skylark sings its emotions instead? This could situate Shelley’s many dilemmas in life, where he is cornered into decisions of happiness. He is envious of the skylark’s happiness that he wants to know how the skylark is able to manifest such lovely music. The skylark’s music is absent of its pain, while Shelley experienced one. The last line of the stanza problematizes the world stripped from pain—that, is it possible to mend art without inflicting any pain? We are made aware that Shelley wrote Necessity of Atheism which garnered a lot of negative and snide remarks against him. Then he problematizes if it would be possible to write without even inflicting pain—or to musically sing it without suffering? The sixteenth stanza exposes the triumph of language over pain, or emotions over human reason. Here, the speaker asks how such a beautiful music could be indicative of pain, as well as how great works, product of study and research be characterized as an indicator of suffering. The bird is construes a barrier shielding from the pangs of suffering because of the ecstasy felt by the bird. The speaker exclaims now that the bird is full of love that it has no room for pain, that this speaker completely personifies the skylark as an embodiment of love which will never be presented with any kind of digression.
The seventeenth stanza performs quite a miraculous feat: of being a supernatural entity capable of governing its vision towards humans. The extremely elevated flight of the skylark enables itself to see the humans below it, to see beyond the normal perceptions of all people in the Earth. The speaker recognizes this feat because of the miraculous serenading effect of the skylark that it performs a miracle music that can only be associated with spirits of the supreme form, perhaps of angels. As the poem travels to the eighteenth stanza, the tone changes now into a more serious one; that as humans, we are always trapped by the chains of the past or we are paranoid about our future; we eventually forget the present. In the movie Kung Fu Panda, the wise tortoise exclaims, “you are too concerned with what was and with what will be. Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, but today is a gift. That is why it is called the present.” The speaker exclaims that people are always concerned with something’s done. It’s done and getting stuck in the past will never get you anywhere. The future is a mystery—no one knows what will be happening. It is the present, God’s gift, we should focus on because it is what is happening, and the present itself shapes the mystery of the future as another eventual present (gift). Whatever we do now, even we laugh or sing happy tunes, we’ll eventually find tinges of sadness in it, that our mortality dictates our eventual rise and downfall. In the life of Shelley, he did not concern himself with the future, that he lamented on what to do with this and that, as he had a lot of quick-decision making in his life. He concentrated in the present because it’s the “here and now” (in the Elizabethan age, the humanist perspective) and it should matter. The happiest people are usually the saddest, for they have sacrificed a lot of things in order to achieve happiness. The nineteenth stanza problematizes the notion if a human can dehumanize himself and live like a lark, free from all negative notions in life. In this stanza, the speaker then poses questions of humanistic existence or of the existentialism trend. He poses the question what if we are not humans and we are instead, skylarks. But as humans, we are prone to suffering, that we can’t achieve the truest form of happiness by relying merely on wishing to be happy. If you want to be happy, then be. Just like in Archibald MacLeish’s Ars Poetica, “A poem should not mean, but be.” This again alludes to Shelley’s life that his works should just be, and not should mean anything. It should be free from any negative condemnation that even includes the poet himself.
The twentieth stanza emphasizes the greatness of the skylark again, in which the speaker compares it with all other music, or other literary treasures in books. The poet himself is unable to perfectly write about the skylark, or to characterize its music because it’s natural—that there are things bound to be higher than us or beyond description. In the romantic notion, it resists the perfection of writing and instead dives into the natural world to describe the skylark. The final stanza of the poem is very important though the theme is recurring from all other stanzas. This stanza closes the poem to its end, with the first two lines the speaker is seeking the skylark’s guidance on how to properly acquire happiness, even just a part of it. That, knowing even a part of the bird’s happiness would help the poet to sing and hum the happiness even it incorporates two opposing forces of harmony (order) and madness (disorder). The curtain of the poem ends sadly, that he wants the world to hear his lamentations—the art of his life, but then again, he shall never know the truest form of the skylark’s happiness, as a human, he is limited and confined to the humanly way of achieving happiness, that is, opening the gift of the present time and maximizing its fullest potential.
The poem is actually rich in the overflowing of imagination but it is actually a poem of longing and sadness. The poem dives into the longing of the poet’s happiness and his enviousness towards the skylark—on how a skylark can be so happy and devoid of any form of sadness, or how the skylark is an embodiment of an utopic world while the speaker’s can probably be a bit dysfunctional or dystopic. This is primarily a romantic poem because of its evoking of many themes of nature, its full comparison to many views of the land and the sky. It incorporates the tenets and earmarks of romanticism such as resistance to imperfection, catering to the primitive, overflowing feelings, sentimental melancholy (the poet’s longing, sadness), imagination over reason (the utopic ideals presented in the poem, which intersects with its hyperbolic images), and its rich poetic diction (that which is hard to decipher because of the complexity of the language).
The poem as well can be indicative of Shelley’s life because of his downfalls. Primarily, Shelley was sad because of the bullying he received and he laments how can he achieve happiness without all these bullyings. Secondly, he asks the guidance of the skylark to teach him to fully achieve happiness in his love for philosophy, even though his ideals are strongly opposed by the clergy in that time. His publication of the Necessity of Atheism garnered him a lot of hate, as well as his future elopement with Mary Wollstonecraft while having a wife garnering him as immoral and blasphemous. In his biography, it is evident that he experienced a lot of downfalls that is hard to transcend, and that’s why he uses the supreme figure of the skylark to help him outgrow the sadness he constantly experiences. And in the end, we can see that his death became an avenue to his bliss that he is now at peace, and in his death, he is one of the most celebrated poets of the romantic age and literature.
TO A SKYLARK
Percy Bysshe Shelley
Hail to thee, blithe Spirit! Stanza 1
Bird thou never wert,
That from Heaven, or near it,
Pourest thy full heart
In profuse strains of unpremeditated art.
Higher still and higher Stanza 2
From the earth thou springest
Like a cloud of fire;
The blue deep thou wingest,
And singing still dost soar, and soaring ever singest.
In the golden lightning Stanza 3
Of the sunken sun,
O’er which clouds are bright’ning,
Thou dost float and run;
Like an unbodied joy whose race is just begun.
The pale purple even Stanza 4
Melts around thy flight;
Like a star of Heaven,
In the broad day-light
Thou art unseen, but yet I hear thy shrill delight,
Keen as are the arrows Stanza 5
Of that silver sphere,
Whose intense lamp narrows
In the white dawn clear
Until we hardly see, we feel that it is there.
All the earth and air Stanza 6
With thy voice is loud,
As, when night is bare,
From one lonely cloud
The moon rains out her beams, and Heaven is overflow’d.
What thou art we know not; Stanza 7
What is most like thee?
From rainbow clouds there flow not
Drops so bright to see
As from thy presence showers a rain of melody.
Like a Poet hidden Stanza 8
In the light of thought,
Singing hymns unbidden,
Till the world is wrought
To sympathy with hopes and fears it heeded not:
Like a high-born maiden Stanza 9
In a palace-tower,
Soothing her love-laden
Soul in secret hour
With music sweet as love, which overflows her bower:
Like a glow-worm golden Stanza 10
In a dell of dew,
Its a real hue
Among the flowers and grass, which screen it from the view:
Like a rose embower’d Stanza 11
In its own green leaves,
By warm winds deflower’d,
Till the scent it gives
Makes faint with too much sweet those heavy-winged thieves:
Sound of vernal showers Stanza 12
On the twinkling grass,
All that ever was
Joyous, and clear, and fresh, thy music doth surpass.
Teach us, Sprite or Bird, Stanza 13
What sweet thoughts are thine:
I have never heard
Praise of love or wine
That panted forth a flood of rapture so divine.
Chorus Hymeneal, Stanza 14
Or triumphal chant,
Match’d with thine would be all
But an empty vaunt,
A thing wherein we feel there is some hidden want.
What objects are the fountains Stanza 15
Of thy happy strain?
What fields, or waves, or mountains?
What shapes of sky or plain?
What love of thine own kind? what ignorance of pain?
With thy clear keen joyance Stanza 16
Languor cannot be:
Shadow of annoyance
Never came near thee:
Thou lovest: but ne’er knew love’s sad satiety.
Waking or asleep, Stanza 17
Thou of death must deem
Things more true and deep
Than we mortals dream,
Or how could thy notes flow in such a crystal stream?
We look before and after, Stanza 18
And pine for what is not:
Our sincerest laughter
With some pain is fraught;
Our sweetest songs are those that tell of saddest thought.
Yet if we could scorn Stanza 19
Hate, and pride, and fear;
If we were things born
Not to shed a tear,
I know not how thy joy we ever should come near.
Better than all measures Stanza 20
Of delightful sound,
Better than all treasures
That in books are found,
Thy skill to poet were, thou scorner of the ground!
Teach me half the gladness Stanza 21
That thy brain must know,
Such harmonious madness
From my lips would flow
The world should listen then, as I am listening now.
 De Vore, David, et. al., The Gothic Novel – University of California, Davis, http://cai.ucdavis.edu/waters-sites/gothicnovel/155breport.html (accessed September 13, 2013).
 Gothic: Origins – Melbourne High School, http://resources.mhs.vic.edu.au/creating/pages/origins.htm (accessed September 13, 2013).
 Klancher, Jon (ed), The Concise Companion to the Romantic Age (Chichester, UK: Wiley-Blackwell, 2009), 57
 Lucas, Frank Lawrence, The Decline and Fall of Romantic Ideal (New York: Macmillan Co., 1936)
 Fowler, Thomas and Mitchell, John Malcolm, “Shaftesbury, Anthony Ashley Cooper, 3rd Earl of” in Encyclopædia Britannica 24 (11th ed.) ed. Hugh Chrisholm (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press), 763-765.
 Harold Bloom, Bloom’s Major Poets: Percy Bysshe Shelley (New York: Infobase Publishing, 2001), 15.
 Ibid, 16
 The short biography of Shelley’s life was lifted from both Harold Bloom’s work as cited in Footnote #6 and from the Poetry Foundation (http://www.poetryfoundation.org/bio/percy-bysshe-shelley, accessed September 13, 2013).
POLITICS OF RACE, GENDER, AND LANGUAGE IN JHUMPA LAHIRI’S “SEXY”
There seems to be a disparity of identity when it comes to South Asians immigrating to the US, as well as how they affect the perception of the Americans towards them. There exists a conflict of language where a word or any manifestation of language seems to have different notions per culture or group. There also exists the politics of sexuality which seems to be debatable because in the Asian-American setting, it is always the Western which is the masculine and the Asian (particularly the Orient) the feminine. Also, there is the issue of race where it inflicts exoticism or it reimagines a brand new perspective on the beauty of other race. Interracial relationships of course present differences in race and skin color and how two people of different races are enticed by the exotic culture of beauty. Jhumpa Lahiri’s Sexy provides an intersecting issue of sexuality and race that cages Miranda into an assimilation to the Indian culture and how Miranda is centered on the Asian-American setting—that, an American tries to be an Asian (instead of the other way around, which is of course problematic and quite unique in Asian-American Literature). This paper would like to critique the short story in accordance to its issue of gender and race using the texts Lunch Vignettes by Shah, M. Butterfly by Hwang, Assimilation by Gloria, and The Coffin Tree by Law-Yone. as both texts can be viewed as “theoretically informed” and both are valuable media in representing the Asian-American identity. The paper would like to render Asian-American texts as theory themselves as argued in Goellnicht’s text as, “…that our theorizing…is often in narrative forms, in the stories we create, in riddles and proverbs, in the play with language.”
The story begins in the introduction to the characters, Miranda, an American, and Laxmi, her co-worker, an Indian. Laxmi’s cousin calls her informing that her husband left her for another woman on an airplane. The depression felt by Laxmi’s cousin causes a neglect for the son, Rohin which alerts Laxmi. Miranda resorts to talking with Dev and explains some stuff about Bengali culture. The story traces back to the meeting of Miranda and Dev on a make-up counter in a department store. Miranda tries her best go get nearer to Dev and they were able to meet outside the store. Every night, Dev is staying at Miranda’s apartment and they engaged in a conversation about life and Miranda rendered Dev as the first man ever to show maturity to her. Dev shows Miranda around Boston, and eventually in the mapparium. This is the place where Miranda firstly hears that she is “sexy.”
Miranda rushes to the department store to buy things that would surely surprise Dev. Miranda imagines her scene with Dev that would be like a very romantic moment with him, but Dev’s wife returns and appears to Miranda in gym clothes, dismaying Miranda. Miranda then tries to learn of the Bengali culture, language, and food.
Rohin comes to Miranda’s apartment one day and eventually goes to her closet. Rohin finds a silver dress on the floor and asks Miranda to wear it because she’ll look “sexy.” Rohin explains that sexy means, “loving someone you don’t know.” After this happened, Miranda went numb and reminisces what happened in the mapparium. After this incident, she began ignoring anything from that concerns Dev, even going to the point of totally ignoring Dev already asking him not to come to the apartment anymore.
The text presents a lot of issues concerning the identity of an American and an Indian (South Asian) including also the politics of gender and racial power. It is important to dwell first in the aspect of Miranda’s identity. Primarily, Miranda is an American woman who lives all by herself in Boston. Everything changes when she met Dev because particularly, Dev was the first man who entices her because of his maturity. Despite Dev’s legal affair with his wife, Miranda indulges in a forbidden relationship with Dev. In the latter part, we can witness how Miranda desperately tries to adapt to an environment she cannot withstand. The first issue of Miranda’s identity is her transformation to a “Mira” which she believes would transform her enough to be a Bengali suitable to Dev’s liking. Dev first commented that Miranda’s name contains a Bengali “Mira” and she is immediately enticed by it. Secondly, Miranda, when not with Dev, indulges herself in the Indian cuisine. This is almost the same with Shah’s Lunch Vignettes but here, obviously, Miranda is not eating her culture but other race’s culture. It is not denoting that she is not allowed to eat the Indian cuisine but she is eating for the sake of assimilating to the Indian culture, which is obviously a trying-hard attempt. The persona in Shah’s poem is an Americanized Indian who eats at a restaurant but with the fears of being rejected in any way because of her looks. However, she is accepted and welcomed to eat her culture anyway.
Adding to the two given reasons on the fault of Miranda’s identity, Miranda tries to recall her experiences with Indian culture—the Dixit family in which her peers made fun of because of their names and she feared the painting of the fierce goddess Kali. Though embedded in the past, she believes dating with Dev would strip the shame away from her body but of course, it wouldn’t. Though it is already in the past, it is still quite obvious that Miranda rejects the culture of the Indians and she is not fit to be assimilated into it. The digression of Miranda’s identity is her forced intake of culture that is very unknown to her. Shah’s poem present someone eating her own culture but Miranda eats another culture because she wants to absorb it and make it a part of her.
Intersecting with another food as a medium of identity, Gloria’s poem Assimilation presents the idea of assimilating into the American community by mimicking their ways. In the poem, the persona brings ‘rice meal’ into the school but he observes that what he eat is very different from others and instead the day after, he indulges with an American food. In this poem, it represents the ideal thing for an Asian to do to belong to an American society: to do what they do, or quoting a quote, “do what the Romans do.” However, Miranda is not assimilating into an Indian society because she lives in Boston and although there are other Indian-Americans there, it is not an Indian culture. Obviously, Miranda forces assimilation through a selfish avenue that having an Indian culture part of her will render her available to Dev without any exotic manifestation differing the two. Miranda cannot be rendered to be readily assimilating but she is merely forcing a culture that her body rejects. Then, she does not assimilate primarily but she “tries to be an Indian” through culture. The obvious manifestation of this is the part where she is in the grocer and she is told that the Hot Mix is too spicy for her. Obviously, the culture of the Indians is too much for her that she cannot take it all and forcing these cultures upon her would not render her as an Indian.
Law-Yone’s The Coffin Tree exemplifies the notion of language as a requirement in order to have a better communication. In this selection, the power of the English language is the active agent in determining the competence of one to live in the America. The protagonist in the story in the end, was “unable to cut the mustard” meaning that she wasn’t able to meet the required standards set for her. Language became a primary medium on how life in America works and it is a manifestation of how one’s level represents how a person already adapted in the American society. In picturing the power of language, there is a resorting to Miranda’s effort in reading her name in the Bengali manner. She tries to adapt the Bengali language even primarily noting only for her name just to be rendered as an Indian. Obviously, there is no mastery of the language and the language choice is very selective and thus, it is not able to conform to the power of Miranda over the Indian language that will be a basis of her adaptation level to the Indian society and culture. Second is the most controversial perhaps or the most intrinsic issue of language in the story: the conception of the word, sexy. In the western concept, sexy may mean that one is sexually attractive; enticing and seductive. The linguistic front of Miranda is very westernized and it does not conform to the language of the Bengali. Miranda rendered the definition of sexy in her western terms and embraced it as something that is very comforting to her—boosting her self-esteem even. Because of this incident, Miranda is inspired already to dress up for Dev and prepare her best for Dev, because she renders Dev to be the mature man that will be the fulfillment of her romantic dreams.
However undeniable, there is always the issue of language disparity and barrier. The linguistic culture of both the West and the Bengali affirms the similarity of the semantic and morphological construction of words but the lexical meaning of such words changes; like how in the postmodern, things have changed in meaning due to its respective signification. The word sexy as explained before in the western terms is someone sexually attractive. In the Bengali language, or rather in the cultural language of the Indians, sexy is defined as, “loving someone you don’t know.” Miranda is loved by Dev for the sake of the pleasures of love and all the benefits he can receive from it but nonetheless, it is only rooted in pleasure. Dev barely knows Miranda and all the historical information about Miranda, the same way Miranda loves Dev but only surfacial and never what is something more in the inside. The language of sexy became the language of love—in a sense that the word is somehow an eye opener on how love is viewed in both cultures. That, a single word that seems so good to hear is actually a nemesis that would rip apart the love Miranda founded for the surfacial aspect and never for the substance.
Because of the problem of language, Miranda and Dev wasn’t able to understand one another. Miranda took the sexy as a compliment while Dev gave Miranda a sexy remark because he loves Miranda for the sake of surfacial value. Obviuously, the disparity of language is emphasized just like how the female protagonist in Law-Yone’s The Coffin Tree wasn’t able to understand “how to cut the mustard.” Language is obviously one of the most “othering” barriers between two races. The problem of language destroyed the secret affair of Miranda and Dev (which would be rendered good) but because of the issue of language, Miranda was able to open her eyes regarding her forced intake of the Indian culture. Language even though Miranda and Dev was able to understand each other does not take form into a general English because while Miranda uses American English, it would appear that Dev uses Indian English and both are the same most of the time but there are differences worth noting.
Gender also acted as an important agent in determining the hegemonic structure of the differences of Miranda and Dev. Primarily, using Hwang’s M. Butterfly as an important theoretical medium, one is bound to note important details: (1) the Asians are subjected to the power of the Western; (2) the Asians are the feminine, the Western is the masculine; and (3) the female is eventually the one who commits suicide or dies of depression (thus oppressed). The role of the continuous manifestation of gender acted on how gender roles are present within the selection and how Miranda renders the idea about the structures of gender in the society.
Primarily, Miranda renders Dev as the ideal masculine. It is the first time that Miranda was able to meet such a man that would fill in the gaps of her romantic longing. Dev renders Miranda as feminine because he is able to subject Miranda to his commands of sex and love-making in her apartment. Primarily, there is an inverted notion of what is expected of Asian-American texts; that, it is the Western who is subjected to the power of the Asian, just like how Gallimard (a French diplomat) was enticed by the seductive power of Song Liling (a Chinese spy). It is also a given fact on how Miranda was enticed by the masculinity of Dev that she tries to do everything for Dev. Firstly, she rushed to the department store to buy the things that a mistress should have. Second, she tries to learn the Indian / Bengali culture in order to have a more acceptable state for Dev, blurring any exoticism present in their love affair. Lastly, she is the one who made the first move in the cosmetics section of the department store and throughout the short story, she is the one subjected especially when Dev told her that she was sexy.
Though articulated before that Asians are feminine and Western is the masculine, it seems to be negative again in this story. For the first reason, the Asian manifestation of Dev proves his masculinity in his dominance over Miranda. Dev dominates Miranda over the many aspect of life (especially the romantic aspect) and Miranda continues to be the weaker sex: the feminine Western. Miranda manifests a lot of feminine aspect that renders the notion of the masculine western useless.
Finally, it is the female who dies at the end or suffers from loss. In M. Butterfly, it is the male Western man (Rene Gallimard) who dies and commits suicide. Though in the short story no one commits suicide, it is Miranda who ends up in ruin. She expected a lot from Dev that he will serve as her savior from her dull life but instead, he’s the cause of the ruin. Miranda suffers a lot of loss in terms of the manifestation of her dream—the efforts she made but eventually, she loses just like Medea in the historical tragedy. But eventually, Miranda was able to get back up and she was seen at the end studying the city of Boston which is fairly new to her, possibly implying that she is a western woman and she must bond with other western men.
In conclusion, Indian-American literature seems to address the problem of assimilation and incorporation of culture. Indian-American literature manifested by Lahiri in her work presents the issue of racial relations between an American and an Indian-American in terms of language, gender, and race. It presents that language is still a very important part in the representation of Indian-American literature because there are some terms that might be of different meaning to what is expected the text to gear towards. Gender relations emphasize the idea of how gender is primarily coined in the Indian aspect and how it is viewed in the western and how masculinity and femininity intersect and represent the Indian-American in literature. Finally, racial relations still remain as an important aspect in determining Indian-American literature. The reason for this is that exoticism is quite present and deters the American from the Indian-American in terms of the skin color. The dark complexion of the Indian-Americans compared to other Asian-Americans problematizes the notion of a compatibility of races.
Mapping the text within the context of Asian-American literature, it presents a lot of themes present in other Asian-American texts especially the concept of assimilation and linguistic issue. Truly, many Asian-Americans are problematic when it comes to language because its power is the ability to communicate with the Americans properly. Without its mastery, one will have a difficulty in determining the implied notions about language. Assimilation is of course is one of the adaptive concepts the Asian-American is bound to represent in Asian-American texts. The concept of assimilation presents the notion of incorporating the self into other culture, adapting to it, and undergoing to the special stage of the Self-Americanization.
THE MATRIX OF CATHOLIC IMAGINATION IN FLANNERY O’CONNOR’S “EVERYTHING THAT RISES MUST CONVERGE”
O’Connor’s “Everything That Rises Must Converge” is a story narrating how a son treats her mother and all the repercussions stemming from it. The short story does not focus on any emotion but rather it centers itself on the conception of a family life, a search for identity, and a desire for moral lesson. Though the story can be perceived something simple at first, it brings out something more valuable and life-changing: a story that imposes a moral lesson.
First, there is the issue of reality centering on Julian Chestny. He constantly slips into his dream or thoughts of what to do with his mother, or rather how to teach her a mother a lesson for her racist attitude towards the Blacks. In his book, “Matrix of Faith”, Pugh argues that “there are competing, conflicting realities to contend with, and how we adjucate those perspectives is not as obvious as it used to be” (Pugh 2). Julian is conflicted with the realities he wants to discern: a reality of he and his mother riding a bus peacefully; a reality of Julian teaching his mother a lesson by marrying a Black woman; and a reality of Julian becoming a writer. Truly, there are many paths of realities that Julian inflicts to himself that he is now unsure of what the true reality is or what is his identity in the reality.
Pugh continues to state that, “Reality was ‘out there’ and all we had to do was [to] discover it” (Pugh 7). There is an emphasis of the existence of reality and a need for someone to exert an effort in finding it. It is like finding your destiny or fate: it’s there, but it’s upto you to find it. Due to Julian’s conflicted self, he wasn’t able to find the reality he needs to discover. Instead, he is faced by a reality he wasn’t expecting—a reality where his mother his gone and all his ironic thoughts of banishing his mother is now clawing him to another reality of being alone. It’s all because Julian thinks he can be superior but in the end, he is still dependent despite being able to graduate from college. He exerts Pugh’s concept of “will to power” which means, “…it constitutes one of the primary forces of human behavior. It is a manifestation of our desire to show our strength” (Pugh 13). Julian tries to display power over his mother; that, through his thoughts of teaching moral lessons to her mother, he can change her. He believes he has the power to change her, which is isn’t exactly what happened in the end. Because primarily, he wasn’t able to conceive the proper reality to him because “we have no firm in reality; all we have are interpretations of interpretations” (Pugh 146). Truly, we interpret things that has been already interpreted either by ourselves formerly or through another medium.
Julian’s choices throughout the story is one-sided; he did not think of his mother’s position of why is she racist. Instead of doing it in a more peaceful way, he used his own belief of teaching someone a lesson, the hard way. Pugh states that worldviews must be carefully explored and critiqued as only as we explore will we find what we believed to be the truths (Pugh 18). Julian should have taken it this way: if I do this, “is this really beneficial? Is there no other way to teach someone a lesson?” We must always engrave upon our very soul that, “If we believe our view of things is the right or correct view, we will engage in systematic destruction of the other in order to maintain our world” (Pugh 19). Truly, Julian believed in his views and he had destroyed (though unconsciously) all the other possibilities of reaching out to his mother because he apprehended his decisions to be correct and exact.
Compared to the first issue of reality, there is the second issue of identity and meaning. Primarily on identity, is Julian really sure of his identity? Was he really someone who have proven something or does he will to use his planned “moral teaching” to her mother as a base for his identity? According to Pugh, “everything we create ends up defining us inviduals” (Pugh 24). We are what we create—and most of the time, we create our own identity and thus it becomes us. Julian grows into an environment of possibly no father (as Mrs. Chestny noted that she schooled her son to college by herself) and of course, with a racist mother. We cannot blame Julian for being something who he is in the story because “the cultural context we grow up in is also a significant factor in forming out identities.” The no-father/racist-mother filial culture has already embraced him that he only had a refuge to his mother, who is a racist clashing against Julian’s conceptions of racial and ethnic identities. In the course of the story, however, aside from Julian’s multiple conception of realities, Julian’s self is conflicted. He does not have a fixed definition for his identity because he is still dependent to his mother and he still doesn’t know what to do with his life. He suffers from this identity crisis that hinders him from knowing more about the world outside his community and his mother because “we have always defined ourselves by the narrative frame that constructed our culture” (Pugh 38). In short, Julian has already adapted to the culture he grew up with and constructed it to the narratives of his life that he doesn’t know who he is outside that cultural frame. Our construction of the authentic sense of identity, St. Augustine suggests that, “we must first see ourselves in God.” (Pugh 51). Seeing ourselves first in God helps us in understanding more of our spiritual self—or how we communicate through God and have Him lead us into a journey of finding ourselves.
There is the talk about “interpretations” which is one of the backbones of the story. It is the third issue of the story—the meanings. Pugh expresses that, “all the things, the artifacts of human society that we create, are containers of meaning” (Pugh 3). Everything has a meaning in life, like a bicycle which is a two-wheeled mechanical vehicle, or a ball which is an inflatable spherical object capable of bouncing. Though there are things with fixed meaning, “we are in a world that we are constantly interpreting to ourselves and one another.” A bicycle becomes a memento given by your father; or a ball is something you played with a friend who went to the States. We interpret things with a brand new perspective. In this story, Julian fails to interpret all her mother’s hardwork for him. His antagonistic attitude towards his mother led to his downfall in the end because primarily, he interpreted his mother as a person who deserves a hard lesson but in the end, her mother becomes someone you still need in the world.
In the story, the most obvious presentation of interpretation is Mrs. Chestny’s attempt to give a child a penny. It is in the nature of Mrs. Chestny to give children a “shining” penny regardless of race because it serves as her token for a child. However, the mother misinterprets the coin that she believes Mrs. Chestny is giving alms to her child, causing the mother to hit Mrs. Chestny with a big purse, knocking her unconscious.
Community also serves as an issue in the story in the context of the merging of Black and White. The racist ideology of Mrs. Chestny dictates that Blacks and White should be separated; Blacks should grow all by themselves. However foolish is Mrs. Chestny’s ideals, it is engraved in her upbringing because of her historical experiences with her ancestors. Nonetheless, she sacrificed a lot for her son in order to bring him into good education and the son (Julian) being able to graduate from college. In the book, “The Catholic Imagination”, Andrew Greeley introduces the concept of “Christ figure” as someone sacrificing himself for friends ruining his career chances for the future. (Greeley 116). Mrs. Chestny doesn’t have a bright future anymore—she has a racist mentality and a need of training at the YMCA to lower her blood pressure.
The community of Mrs. Chestny is a merged one—of the Blacks and Whites. However instead of being able to communicate well as articulated by Greeley, “It enabled to sustain many of the social patterns they had left behind while at the same time adjusting to a different society and—as there can be little doubt any more—struggling successfully to become part of that society” (Greeley 126), it was the other way around—Mrs. Chestny refuses to be part of the “accepting community.” She is tarnished by her own hubris which causes her fall through her child, Julian.
Together with community comes a hierarchical need, in which it is present in the division of the Blacks and the Whites. Greeley articulates that, “structure implies organization, which is not possible without leadership, which in turn requires hierarchy” (Greeley 138). The hierarchical status of the community only leads to a false notion that the Blacks and Whites are equal. In the eyes of Mrs. Chestny, the Blacks should be in the lower form of the hierarchy. But it is undeniable that “it is in the nature of community that it be ordered” (Greeley 141) because through order, it creates peace and harmony. Mrs. Chestny obviously opposed this concept. She did not accept the hierarchical equality of the Blacks and Whites because she believes that the Blacks are always of the low class, and why should the community be ordered according to them?
Synthesizing the issues, our lives are constantly affected by meaning or rather, “we are experiencing a saturation of messages flowing into us from the cultures we are becoming” (Pugh 29). These interpretations become our own conception of reality and our own conception of the self. We provide meanings to our lives just like how we define our reality and define ourselves encaged in our influences through the cultural community structed by the hierarchy. In the postmodern, we are enshrouded with meaning but in order to see the meaning, we must let it flow within us. Only if we “become” we will know the reality of our being and the self we are performing.
Greeley, Andrew M. The Catholic Imagination. Berkeley: University of California, 2000. PDF.
Pugh, Jeffrey C. The Matrix of Faith: Reclaiming a Christian Vision. New York, NY: Crossroad Pub., 2001. Print.
LOCATING THE LITERATURE TEACHER IN THE CONTEMPORARY AGE
In this postmodern world, we are truly living already in the digital and technological era. Everything seems to be automatic that people would just need to chant a little spell and the work shall be done. Japan, for an instance, has already developed robots and other automated gadgets making the lives of people easier. There are now books read on tablets and smartphones instead of the traditional paperback and hardbound books. The internet almost provides everything—from how to plant a gumamela to the context and historical milieu of the works of Shakespeare. It seems that we just need to type some words and we will already have the answer.
There was a time that the time magazine featured the “you”–which is obviously us who are embraced by the technological era. We live in an era where information seems to expand and expand and connection between litterateurs across the world is easier. Information indeed is already given to us and we are the glad recipients of it. However, do we really maximize the use of this information open-handedly given to us? Or we just accept it but do not even rely on it?
In the Philippine setting, we are now experiencing technological advancements and globalization so fast that most of the time, we can’t almost keep up with it. There is the recent K-12 reformation of education that is detrimental to instructors and professors of general subjects and the humanities. This kind of system may be beneficial because it may help students, especially those who can’t continue until college, have a decent work. But on the other hand, instructors and professors might lose their jobs or they might be delegated to high schools teaching general courses. Of course, this could be a blow to them because they will be working in an environment which is new to them in whatever manner because there is a difference between college and high school education and students.
According to the recent 2012 Alexa rankings, the results presented that Facebook.com is the most visited website in the Philippines, followed by the search engines like Google.com(.ph) and Yahoo.com(.ph). Facebook.com is now the best avenue of virtual socialization to find classmates from high school and elementary, to promote causes and business products, to share thoughts and opinions about current issues, and many more. It is already like a virtual space of its own, catering to the needs of its users by incorporating a lot of features that may hinder a person from not choosing Facebook. It has Notes and Document Uploads that enables people to share documents and information. It also has games that will surely entertain its users and also fan pages grouping people together with same interest(s). Truly, Facebook became an important avenue for people to render it as their own “virtual tambayan”.
With all of these being said, is there still a value for literature teachers in the age of Facebook, K-12, and of virtual and hyper realities? The question cannot be answered in a straightforward one-sentence explanation because all of the concepts present may be connected through the present global advancement but nevertheless, they are different in giving provenance to the teachers of literature in the present.
Literature Teachers in the Facebook Age
Facebook is a great site of information. Through Facebook, we can witness a lot of events that can’t be provided immediately by the media to us. The question is, how important is Facebook in the present age…and what makes Facebook not important or disadvantageous? Firstly, Facebook is important because it promotes “additional” connection. In this technological age, our smartphones enable us to connect with others wherever we are (unless there is no signal reception in the area) but now, it is capable of using the internet and help us to connect to Facebook. Here, students can connect with their professors and ask questions regarding their lessons or ask help from a lesson that they failed to understand properly.
Second, Facebook enables the use of groups. Students using the group system may interact with each other to create a virtual classroom of exchanging set of thoughts about their lessons. This system also enables a faster update when there are announcements regarding academic setting. Also, this system is effective and efficient because when students have additional questions regarding the announcement, everybody in the group can see the question asked and the answer given, avoiding people to ask the same question over and over again, promoting rapid dissemination of information. Because of this group system, students can interact in academic context rapidly and efficiently, maximizing the time outside the academic setting and contributing to time needed in the classroom for discussions. It is also important to note that a teacher can also create a group to upload important texts / hand-outs and for important announcements instantly connecting to almost every student handled with connection to the Facebook and the internet.
Third, the internet in general can provide study guides to students when they can’t understand a certain lesson or text. Especially in literature, some students are having a hard time grasping the theme of a certain story or the story’s event flow itself. There are many analysis guides and summaries provided in the internet that can aid the student in the further understanding of the text, enabling them to come extra prepared in class and promoting their ability to recite voluntarily or when called by the teacher.
Fourth, in connection with the third importance, there are many video sites that perform or enact short stories, poems, plays, or novels that also promote better and easier understanding because of the music and video accompaniment. Students may also use the film/s to promote critical thinking by comparing how events and situations were portrayed to the written text.
The disadvantages of Facebook seems to be obvious, or the internet itself. It primarily promotes laziness that some students won’t read literary texts anymore and rely on the summary or the analysis itself. It promotes reliance too much on technology that students nowadays are letting technology to control their will and mind. As the Philippines is not a reading nation, students would resort to anything that would make their lives easier by not reading much instead, just using the internet as an extension of their automated thinking. Truly, the internet is the information age but students who are embraced by laziness would not resort to reading long pieces of information and instead, just focus on summaries provided and some reviews given.
With these given, how is the literature placed as an important scholar in this technological age? The literature teacher has a very important value. The literature teacher can guide the students into further understanding of the texts by engaging the students into critical thinking, incorporating interesting notions about their environment, and assisting them into the answering of questions. It is enough to ask “what happened” but it is important to note, “why it happened.” Summaries may help the students but summaries are always limited to what the “summarizer” has provided. He may opt to leave important statements and facts that will be very important in the explication of any literary text. By focusing also into the little details in a literary selection, the literature teacher can help make the student understand that reading is also an important aspect because it enriches him more.
The main role of the literature teacher is not to teach literature but to encourage students to be interested in literature and to read literature. What is the point of teaching literature if no one’s interested? With the no-interest of the students expounded, they resort to things that would just make them pass instead of learning. In the “Faculty of Arts and Letters” unofficial fan page, there is a post there that a certain student doesn’t like literature—or even to read literature, until he met this literature professor that made him realize literature is fun and even beyond what he regards as a boring downpour of texts. He was inspired to read selections because the literature professor also relates the text into the everyday life, making him (and other students) realize something affective.
The literature teacher must also serve not only as an inspiration but as guidance. There might be times that students resort to the internet as a guide because they are afraid to go to their literature teachers for questions. Especially in a classroom setting, students are shy to answer whenever a teacher would ask, “Class, are there any questions?” Students would normally say “none” even though there are a lot of students with questions. The value of a literature teacher is to guide the student not only in the understanding of the text but to help him “how” to understand a text better which the internet cannot provide instantaneously. The literature teacher can guide a student by interviewing him how he read the text, how he understood the text, and why did he fail to grasp the main theme of the text. With this interview, the literature teacher can set his standards and way of teaching to the level of the students to further help them in being interested in literature.
Literature Teachers in the Age of K-12
At first, people were wondering what the use of K-12 is. It would be very hard to the students because it extends their pre-college life and many students are excited to experience college life and specialize on the program of their choice. However, DepEd emphasized that this program would be very beneficial to students and parents. It is evident primarily that there is an increasing hardship for parents to enroll their students to college. This results to students only finishing high school education and these students find it hard to seek jobs especially when they are already old. With the K-12 program, this enhances the capability of students learning education and increases their secureness of job even just after graduating high school.
Summarizing the benefits of K-12, it is centered on (1) solving the annual growth of out-of-school youth; (2) addressing the low achievement scores and poor academic performances in the elementary and high school education; (3) opening doors for more jobs for the youth even without college diploma; and (4) promoting the “professional” title of Filipinos even abroad. Given all these benefits, who wouldn’t like this system? This encourages people to study and finish high school and find a decent work afterwards. However, what would happen to the teachers especially in the field of general education and the humanities?
Primarily, there is hardly a literature education in the high school education. When I went to a birthday party of a close friend, a former classmate asked my program. I told her, “literature” and she retorted, “What is that?” I had to explain it thorough and ended up telling her that it is like, “AB English”. I wasn’t able to experience a decent literature education where we are required to read different short stories or numerous amounts of novels that would prepare us for having a literature degree sometime in the future. To be honest, during my stay in high school, I have only read one novel: The Giver by Lois Lowry, which is an important novel for us to read because we were required to write a critique paper for it. In conclusion, I wasn’t prepared for grasping literature in college, or rather; I am not prepared to take on a program on Literature. I have to thank my literature professors here in college that helped me to develop an interest in reading literature and appreciating them as an important form of educating our souls. Because of them, I am graduating soon with such degree.
Obviously, the K-12 program isn’t fully beneficial to literature teachers because they will only be able to teach major courses in literature and there is only one literature program even in the university, and only one section per year level. Generalist literature professors would have to specialize in one literary field to form an expertise rendering them able to teach major courses in literature. Some teachers of course would have to resort in teaching the general courses to high school students but perhaps it would be a competitive environment because of a massive amount of teachers being delegated to the high school. If this is the case, how is the literature teacher valued in this age?
Of course, the literature teacher is a very important element in high school education. As argued before, there is hardly a literature education in high school. With these literature teachers teaching literature in the high school, they can prepare the students in college and helping them to read important works in literature that helps them develop a consciousness of how important literature is and how it is situated in the present. Literature teachers can inspire students to read so that in the future, they will develop an interest in reading. It’s hard to teach students to read in the college because the college education expects them to have a due knowledge in grammar and vocabulary, as well as an extensive reading capability. With literature teachers in high school teaching general courses on literature, students would form an awareness what literature is and how literature is an embodiment of world and Philippine cultures.
Also, the literature teacher can serve as a consultant of literature in terms of what books can be suggested by the teacher according to the student’s interest of genre like romance, science fiction, or fantasy and of subject matter like student life, inspirational changes, and others. The literature teacher while teaching may use references to other literatures that may inspire a student to read such literature. For example, if the teacher is discussing a short story about romance, he or she can use other poems, novels, short stories, or plays with the same topic and give a gist that would entice the readers in reading it. Truly, this aspect of a literature teacher is very important and must not be disregarded.
Lastly, the literature teacher serves as a promoter of liberalism in education. The literature teacher is able influence students studying different matters in literature freely, also promoting consciousness not only in the literary world but also in the current issues of the world. Also, the literature professor helps the student in appreciating art and its variants helping the student on the value of art in the world and how it is a representation of many interpretations in the world.
Literature Teacher in the Age of Virtual and Hyper Realities
Truth be told, people nowadays are incorporating the virtual world as part of their lives. Some people might even say that they cannot live without the internet. Hyper realities distort our image of what is truly a reality and confuses us on how should we view the reality. Primarily, literature is also embedded with themes of hyper reality (close is, the fantasy genre) and people tend to love it because it explores something beyond the reality: beyond what our body and our eyes can handle. However, we are already viewing much of the world with a fantasy—the world is now being controlled by technology that what seemed to be impossible is now possible in the present, and maybe even in the future.
In this virtual world, people are spending more time in being with it rather than reading literature. People just download movies and television shows from the internet and marathon-watch it rather than staying in one corner of the room reading novels of Austen, Flaubert, or Hugo. The virtual world made entertainment more interesting: games now are more interactive like the Wii which uses the physical and present body of a person to play a game. Simply put, people nowadays like to enclose themselves in a physical hyperspace rather than travelling through reading books.
Even until the present time, a lot of libraries still conform to the traditional—that is, the library as a place for studying and reading. The library houses a lot of books categorized as a form of literature that students can freely read. However in the present, libraries seem to be just a place where students who need to accomplish an academic assignment stay to research; and not stay for pleasure reading. Some students also sleep and just use their laptops to browse websites of their liking without really maximizing the use of the library for pleasure reading and desire for information. Again, libraries are already being taken over by a virtual reality.
With many people indulging themselves with the virtual entertainment, what could be the role of literature teachers? How is their value determined in this virtual age where people are already living in a hyperspace immune to literature? Primarily, literature teachers themselves can participate in the virtual lives of the students by incorporating literature and the virtual arena. Simply put, combining the usage of literature and the virtual world. There are many films that are imbued with literary importance and suggesting them to students would prove very useful not only inspiring entertainment but also imparting knowledge. Secondly, create a virtual world for literature itself: encourage students to incorporate themselves in a reality or a fantasy in the virtual world using literary works. For example, why not create a community of lovers of romance novels and help them explicate the themes of romance novels to inspire students? Though this would be hard and perhaps, late already, there is still a chance to reform on how literary educators affect the students in the virtual world. Lastly, the literature teacher can serve as a moral and affective educator: why indulge in something virtual when you can find a greater reality, an imaginative reality reading books? That, through books, you can go beyond the windows of your own room—flying infinitely to the skies of unseen and unheard places, listening to merry music caused by pipes resonating within you—and finding yourself that you are a person and a student of the reality and not of the hyper reality or the virtual world.
Locating the Literature Teacher in the Contemporary Age
With all the fuss of the contemporary age affecting the literature teaching, it all goes down the literature teacher being an inspiration and an aspiration. The literature teacher serves as a beacon of light guiding the students to the path of what is right and what would be beneficial to them. The world without a literature teacher is like a world without anyone to guide you in your travels. It’s hard to travel without a guide or knowledge where you would like to travel and how to travel for an instance. You will be lost and disinterested in continuing the travelling life you would like to pursue.
Is there a need to map the location of a literature teacher in the digital, information, modernized, and technological age? Apparently, there is no need because the literature teacher himself is still present and valued (and needed) despite many hindrances to the students’ learning of literature. The literature teacher himself is the manifestation of the need for literary education. A literature teacher, though however shadowed by the modernity of the contemporary age, still exists and their value is of high importance. They continue to serve the students in educating them with different literary thoughts that would surely help them as they move on with their lives. It is true that literature is of a low unit value compared to the sciences. However, it is undeniable that those students guided by literature and literature teach know how to function more in life: because they had more experience in travelling and in knowing.
The Years with Carlos Fuentes: Feminist Reading and Critique of Carlos Fuentes’ “The Years with Laura Diaz"
THE YEARS WITH CARLOS FUENTES: FEMINIST READING AND CRITIQUE OF CARLOS FUENTES’ “THE YEARS WITH LAURA DIAZ”
The common or notional defense is that, women are continuously oppressed throughout the years by many institutions, which are mostly patriarchal, and of course, the subjugation of the female body to the male body coerces an oppressive remark towards the female persona. Quoting Marilyn French in her novel, The Women’s Room, “Whatever they may be in public life, whatever their relationships with men, in their relationships with women, all men are rapists, and that’s all they are. They rape us with their eyes, their laws, and their codes.” The mentioned quotation is powerful yet liberating in the sense that it transpires the female liberation from the restrictive hegemony of patriarchal writing and showcases the ability of women to use the medium of literature as a worthy avenue of exemplifying the thoughts silenced by men through the vocal medium. What is intrinsic to the female liberation is of course her power not to be equal with men but her ability to be seen by both the male and female as not a “second sex” as articulated by De Beauvoir in which she emphasizes the role of the genitals as never an implication of one’s superiority over the other, but to be seen as a distinct sex from the male which she is not compared in a biased manner.
Esquivel’s Malinche showcases Malinalli, the great puta as she is coined by the Mexican history, as well as a traitor is continuously misunderstood by the Mexicans. Historically, she is seen as the translator of Hernan Cortes, as well as Cortes’ woman as they have also indulged in sex and was able to have a child. Esquivel tried to rewrite history not altering facts but still using the history as a backbone of the novel but rewrites the heroism of Malinalli. The novel is not an epic or a sage but it was able to not defend the guilt of Malinalli because she also had her own faults but the novel tried to rewrite how Malinalli is to be viewed: a woman capable of faults and wrong decisions. She should not be viewed as a weak woman who tried to denigrate the Aztec down to the particles of an ash.
In connection to this, though fictional in its very core, Carlos Fuentes uses his telescope to see the recorded history and uses it as a support to write his novel, The Years with Laura Diaz. He contextualizes the novel, or the epic or saga as referred by other people, to the history of Mexico by situating a woman who faces many experiences—love, revolution, family. The novel is quite lengthy, spanning over a hundred years and in its physical manifestation, over five hundred pages. Fuentes used the life of Laura Diaz over these years to portray history, which is one of the most important features of the politics of Latin-American writers throughout their works.
Feminism as a Framework
Magic realism as a literary trend has grown over the years and it has also manifested its own tenet as being able to be used as a literary theory in explicating texts. However, this paper would like to read Fuentes’ novel in a female perspective through a feminist reading. By means of a feminist reading, the critic wishes to gather different thoughts conceived by feminism in order to properly critique the novel not only through a formalistic (or new critical) method but also a text belonging to the feminine aspect.
Feminism in itself is a school of theory that “looks at how aspects of our culture are inherently patriarchal (male dominated) and …this critique strives to expose the explicit and implicit misogyny in male writing about women” (Brizee and Tompkins 2010). Tyson, in his book about theory, exemplifies the approaches to feminist criticism which is summarized in terms of: (1) oppression of women through the patriarchal ideology; (2) the othering of the woman; (3) the cultural determination of gender; (4) equalizing men and women; and (5) intersecting the issues of gender with literature.
The critic would not rely on the framework as a form of criticism but would also like to use the framework as a form of reading—a support in order to appropriate a richer use of feminist perspective in a text. However, the writer being a male can be a tad bit problematic, in which Fiona Tolan, in the book of Patricia Waugh, Literary Theory And Criticism: An Oxford Guide, articulated,
“The practice of approaching male authors through a feminist perspective became known as ‘phallocentric criticism’ because it sought to expose the masculine bias of a work…Millet demonstrated that a text could be something other than it was originally conceived to be. This led to the promotion of the role of the reader…From the moment phallocentric criticism was established, the text could no longer be assumed to be innocent of sexual politics (Waugh, 326-328, 2006).
In this manner, Tolan articulates that there is something different in reading a female authored text in a feminist perspective and a male authored text featuring a female hero[ine] in a female perspective. This would only lead in the exposition in the biases where the male author may write against the woman and only portray her as someone of the stereotypical notion.
Finally, the criticism would use several general questions rooted in the feminist theory to exemplify other parts of text aside from the major theories to be used. These questions will serve as a guide in unlocking the feminist themes of the work. Also, the questions will seek to understand the political standing of Laura Diaz as a woman.
Male Writer, Feminist Perspective
The foremost argument that may stem from many critics is how a male writer was able to present a woman considered as a heroic figure throughout the years of her life. She is basically grounded in a mural, but how was she able to hold such power and present it to the world? Carlos Fuentes as a male writer also hold his own masculine politics that would categorize Laura Diaz to be present of masculine politics as well. This was evident in the sex escapades of Laura Diaz. Seeking the colonial mind, colonizers often embark not only a world of exploration but also of sex. They either fell in love with the women of the land they are colonizing (such is the story of Malinalli and Hernan Cortes and the people of the Philippines with a rich Spanish descent) or of course, subjugate their bodies to the colonial power of rape. This is not to say, however, that Laura Diaz was able to present male power of rape or colonialism, but this is to say that Laura Diaz also had a rich sexual experience which should not be denoted as a representation of a Mexican woman through Fuentes’ eyes.
Laura Diaz primarily had many lovers, similar to a male who will most likely to have one. Fuentes might regarded Laura Diaz as a masculine figure and tried to subvert her femininity to a woman who will be ready to indulge love with other men. In a patriarchal culture, men who indulge in womanizing are not crucified like someone who has done a grave sin. Many husbands are philanderers and they indulge in love-making with different woman because they either: (1) need more experience in sex; or (2) they are not satisfied with the sex they get from their lover/s. If we see other cultures, there are even those practicing monogamy as permitted by religious or cultural laws but presents that one must be able to provide a living for the women and the children produced. On the other hand, when female “masculinize / menize”, they are treated like harlots or puta. Such is the lives of women in biblical times, or even in other cultures that when they commit adultery, they are stoned to death.
Next we can see the role of Laura Diaz in the revolution or rather, the abundance of the novel with politics. We can see the interest of the author to depict a lot of political information which is sometimes not needed much and enough background would be sufficient. Because of this issue, the presence of the interest of the male psyche in the political world becomes evident. The political abundance found in the novel somewhat deterred the life of Laura Diaz from what should be the focus. From the title, we can see that it is about this woman: the years that have gone by for almost a hundred years she was able to experience a lot of things. However, this seems not to be the case. Laura Diaz is basically a witness only of such events and this deters her from the usual course of a novel or what the novel must be: the life of Laura Diaz. The author seemed to delineated from the course and instead, rendered only Laura Diaz in a form of a spectacle: the ever-spectator who is only watching. Being a spectator is oppressive because it silences—you can only watch but you can never interfere. This is like watching a movie: you can only watch but you can never interfere with the decisions being made by the characters.
Going back to the political abundance of the novel, it is also oppressive in the sense that Laura Diaz’ important is neglected. Instead, the novel transforms itself like a discourse about the political status of Mexico and how it is an intrinsic aspect in the historical foundation of it. At first, these political explanations can serve as an important background. But as a reader witnesses more political explanations that seem to deter the reader from Laura Diaz’ life, the manifestation of patriarchy is visible both in the side of the author (who is a male) and of the novel (which is now becoming masculine instead of feminine). Truly, it is assumable that Fuentes did not intend the novel to be feminine or read through a feminist perspective. The novel itself might just be really a novel of patriarchal influences; that, the novel only uses Laura Diaz as an object—objectifying her through the oppressive and silencing lens.
In connection with oppression, it is also arguable as to why Laura Diaz’ life is so dominated by a patriarchal rule. Her life is very dramatic, emotional, and oppressive. The novel may try to repress the false notions of any negativity within the Mexican context however it does not fully try to repress the emotional life of Laura Diaz. First, she is neglected by her husband. They are married and also, they had children but their life is very dull. They do not inflict any spark of love between each other. In the end, it was Laura who left and if it will be coined in the modern context, it would appear Laura is the one who is the oppressive one because it is always men who leave, and now in the novel, we see Laura being the lover who left the supposedly ‘loved’ which is again a medium of a male lens that tries to picture Laura Diaz as a masculine figure. There are many more events in the life that would be too many to enumerate but with its abundance of bad luck in life, we can picture that Laura Diaz is oppressed in terms of her life experience. It’s too much of a bad picturing of a woman especially using the medium of literature because Laura Diaz can be rendered as a representation, and a bad representation at that. What constitutes the novel somehow feminine is the ability of Laura Diaz to withstand everything—but doesn’t it go down to a hypermasculine strength Laura Diaz manifests?
Approaching the Text in Feminist Criticism
As articulated before, there are some approaches to the texts that would be important in discerning how the feminist and anti-feminist aspect of the novel. Primarily, it is obvious that Laura Diaz is oppressed in the patriarchal ideology of the author. This novel is the first novel of Fuentes to make the hero a female (thus a heroine) of his novel. The problem with his writing rest on the engendering of the text which is very masculine while the heroine is a feminine. The patriarchal ideology lies in the many aspects of masculine interest: the ideology of politics. Politics in itself is patriarchal because only in the recent times we witness female icons in the political world. If we see the years the novel is divided, we can see the earliest time it is contextualized in the early 1900’s.
We can witness the “othering” of Laura Diaz when she is considered to be only a spectacle; a lens that is a witness only and who almost can’t do anything. Laura Diaz’ reduction to a spectator strips of her the ability to speak and of course, the ability to have a participative role in the novel. She is presented to be an ‘other’ or a stranger who can only watch as things go by. And that presents that however biologically female she is, the ideology of patriarchal rule cannot equate the oppressed voices of the feminists because of the culture presented in the book is too masculine that emasculation of Laura Diaz also happens, though never awarding her any privileges that a male can manifest.
The portrayal of men and women relationship is also present in the novel. Laura Diaz, in her case, cannot communicate with men easily. Primarily, she wasn’t able to have great terms with her husband (though in the later part of the novel they reunited) and with also her sons. Also, her most valuable male companion will be her brother, who dies early, depressing her more. What’s really problematic in this aspect is that Laura Diaz seems to be stripped of having a good harmonic relation with men.
Work is of course, an important aspect in the female psyche because this is a showcase of their strength as well. The work of Laura Diaz, which becomes evident in the latter parts of the novel are very feminine or a job requiring artistic talents rather than a work requiring the strength of a man (carpentry and others). The job of being a secretary and photographer is able to resist patriarchy in terms that Laura Diaz does not reduce herself to a housewife grounded only in home. The ability to work and being free to work constitutes already a large part of Laura Diaz that her work is able to rewrite how the strength of the feminine is also available in Fuentes’ novel.
Concluding: Feminist or Masculine?
It is obvious that the text is a masculine one even it features a female heroine. As stated by the aforementioned thoughts, the text is embedded in a patriarchal ideology and embodies masculine perception of politics and also incorporates the politics of the writer being a male. Although the text is masculine, there are still tinges of feminine aspect that depicts Laura Diaz as a female representation though it is solely embedded in her idea of being locked into a spectator’s lens.
Brizee, Allen, and J. Case Tompkins. “Feminist Criticism (1960s-present).” Purdue OWL: Literary Theory and Schools of Criticism. Purdue Online Writing Lab, 21 Apr. 2010. Web. 25 Feb 2013.
Fuentes, Carlos. The Years with Laura Diaz. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1999. Print.
Tolan, Fiona. “Feminisms.” Literary Theory and Criticism: An Oxford Guide. By Patricia Waugh. New York: Oxford UP, 2006. N. pag. Print.
A FEMINIST READING OF ANNE MORROW LINDBERGH’S “BRING ME A UNICORN“1
Many women, throughout the history, are given a bad reputation as a human being such as possessing numerous weaknesses, triviality, and many more negative adjectives. However, it is true that men themselves govern the society and so, they impose the power upon the society. There are women who are attached to men, part of a great section of the society. For example will be, a simple woman marrying a lieutenant colonel with given nicknames, “Slim,” “Lucky Lindy,” and “The Lone Eagle.” Perhaps the first two nicknames can be associated with something adorable, the last title signifies a massive influence of power. If a great figure of American politics marrying a simple woman who loves literature and creative writing, what would be the result?
Bring Me A Unicorn, a collection of Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s diaries and letters from 1922 – 1928, showcases her life as a youth, a college student, and a future wife and mother, whose identity as an unknown woman is stripped away and replaced by a greater title: the wife of the lieutenant colonel. Through a feminist reading, this analysis will critique the book’s portrayal of power relations between men and women, as well give minor details about the coming of age of Anne Morrow Lindbergh through the many phases of her life.
The book begins with a set of introductions on her childhood age. Anne Morrow Lindbergh showcases a lot of blissful memories through her [still intact] letters sent to her relatives (most especially to her mother and grandmother) and friends, as well as the letter of those people to her. As Anne goes through the college life in Smith College, she pictures the landscape of her school: surroundings, environment, people, places, and books. She writes these as entries in her diary, depicting her appreciations, self-thoughts, comments, and ideas. She would not create any bias within her diary—whatever thought would come up to her, which is deemed truthful and necessary; she will inscribe it in her diary. Not only has she written her present thoughts for what she sees around, but also its “futuristic end.” Such as, what kind of people will be sitting in this very garden after ten years? Or, what would be the new book acquisitions of the library so readers can plant them on their minds? These questions would raise arguments on her ideas on how she depicts the present and the future through what is seen visibly in the eye.
As the book unfolds more information, Anne Morrow Lindbergh is depicted as someone who has a literary talent. She loves to read literary books and spend time writing poems dedicated to her family. She would spend time reading books that may instigate [unconscious] inspiration or most probably, happy thoughts. Anne Morrow Lindbergh now can be described as someone who loves to read and write at the same time. She can be depicted as a “literary figure” with a sense of poetry writing and literary books reading. In her diaries, she preferred to read poetries by female poets such as Sara Teasdale and as well retrieve an influence of femininity from Teasdale’s poems.
A sense of adventure cannot be disregarded when talking about Anne Morrow Lindbergh. Anne loved to travel to many places, whatever thematic image it portrays. A restaurant would be one travelling place Anne would love. A place with paintings; a place with tons of artistic images; a place imbued with historical figures; a place with a whimsical architecture—all of which fascinates the artistic mind and curious eyes of Anne. Not only she is amazed by the general structure of her adventure places, but as well, she expresses even little details and articulates them within her diaries and letters with creative imagination by playing with words that would seem lovely both to the eyes and ears of her reader(s). Her depiction of unflawed intent to record even the little details creates parallelism of Susan Glaspell’s Trifles. It is evident in the play that women are disregarded for their concentration to the little details and their sporadic desire to observe and keep-an-eye to men-proclaimed trivial things around. However, these “trivial things” became the key to the better understanding of the real case on the story. And such, these trivially small things penetrated the keyhole in solving the mystery behind the play’s character, “Minnie Foster.” Perhaps, it would be the same with Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s desire to detail everything—for it may unfold many unknown keys that would fit into mysterious unknown keyholes.
By the depiction of information about Anne Morrow Lindbergh, it is imperative for the readers to think that Anne is a wonder—an intellectual, literary figure who enforces her feminine powers through her philosophical ideas, critical thoughts, and literary mind. Her power is much more concentrated in the world of arts and her power to move the society is perhaps, impossible due to the weakening power relations between men and women. Men outnumber women in the public roles in politics and governance. Women are much more concentrated in the field of academe, or just plainly being a housewife grounded in the home to serve its family.
The father of Anne Morrow Lindbergh, being a politician, has a great political influence in the America. And having a political influence, entitles you a base of power in the society. It is obvious that men are always being topped as great figures, great instigators of greatness throughout the history. Men have always presented various codes and laws originating from Hammurabi’s Code, and the other historical kings of the Mesopotamia, all of which are men. Even in the modern context of the Chinese, having a son is much more considered a blessing than having a daughter. Concubinage is rampant in the Chinese society and gives low regards for women; as well as the desire of men to marry women to obtain a son, who will serve as a might successor for their businesses. The depiction of the power of men is continuously severing the idea of feminine power and rule over the society. If women would be depicted as courageous leaders, enough to formulate codes and laws to promote the idea of feminine power, it would create a greater mark on the contemporary society. And to say, that many women in the contemporary period are rising to power and rule, as well as being great parts of businesses and organizations.
Implying the power between the men and women, it may be evident that many female oppression throughout the world is already disengaged by the society, it would still be a proper base for the historical or classical times. In the time of Anne Morrow Lindbergh, there are still female oppression (however, not that rampant and not that violent) in such a way, their feminine value is lowered.
Criticizing first the many women and children of Charles Lindbergh, it would be already evident that this man regarded the value of Anne Morrow to a lower state. A man wouldn’t cheat on his wife (if he values and treasures her dearly) and as well would not engage on adultery. Many would say that it would be alright for men to engage on different women because such is the political and military role of Charles Lindbergh, he would be away from Anne. However, this only presents his image of women as a “sex figure” or an “entertainment pastime.”
It would be true that Anne Morrow Lindbergh succumbed to the many evil consequences that would be imposed to her as she marries the lieutenant colonel. It is already imperative on her side to follow all the rules that would be imposed by Charles Lindbergh, with a family background of having a role in the World War I. Anne Morrow Lindbergh, as a woman with great intellectual sense, already knew the consequences awaiting after she marries. She might have already predicted what would happen in the future. Some consequences that Anne Morrow Lindbergh was able to endure would be her shortened time to devote her single life to her youth. Anne married at a young age and she can still do many things that single women do (such as enjoying social gatherings without the thought of married life and meeting much more men to choose who will be the rightful one). This was unpainted from the colors of Anne’s life. She could have chosen a better man that would respect her womanly image and revere her with great respect, with great admiration, and with great profound importance. Another consequence would be the feeling of being weak because of the political involvement of her husband. In the book, “The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas,” the Schutzstaffel officer Ralf holds a high position in the political and military situation of Germany. Having two children and a wife, he is deeply involved in politics and his time for family and recreation is already out of the context in his married life. The wife accepted everything happening from the start, because it was told by Ralf everything would be better, and everything would be for the best. Deluded by the lies of Ralf, the wife continued to believe everything. Until she witnessed the true world of cruelty happening, she loses her stand on how the world runs because of her husband. In the end, she wanted a separation from her husband, including the two children because the things happening around is not suitable already for the children and for the wife as a woman with dignity. This scenario, of course, is not impossible to happen in the life of Anne Morrow Lindbergh. However, she trusted herself more that she will be able to surpass the impassable and the impossible.
Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s desire was always to be a writer. She did not want a position in the political arena, a position where she can impose her codes and laws to the society. Simple as it goes, she wanted to be writer (in which she accomplished it, along with her images as a memoirist and a diary-keeper. She have always stayed in the corner, recording all possible details on her life—including her pre-marriage and post-marriage life. Her pre-marriage life was livelier and more imbued with fun-filled adventures throughout the places. Her father, being ambassador to Mexico, enabled her to travel to places and records many memories she can jot down in her diary. This Mexico trip became the catalyst for the meeting of Anne and Charles because of the diplomatic power and relations of Anne’s father to many of the political icons of the America. The influence of Anne’s father also instigated the marriage between Anne Morrow Lindbergh and Charles Lindbergh. This again depicted the inequality of men and women. Anne Morrow Lindbergh may or may not have a desire to marry Charles Lindbergh. However, because of the fatherly and masculine power being imposed indirectly to Anne, marriage is just a one step away. It would be mustered in the mind of Anne that her father chose such a great political figure, Charles Lindbergh, to swear love and living together in front of the altar with Anne. Thus, this empowers the idea of influences—the greater the position, the greater the influence. Men of great figures, of great honors, and great titles have more influence than those without. Imagine, two people: one is very intelligent and artistic, however not affluent and no remarkable title that would show prowess of power; and another one is perhaps, not too intelligent and artistic but holds a great rank in the society, who would have a better influence for you? Who would you follow? Of course, the latter, because you will have a notion that this man is experienced and well-versed in the language of the society. That man would be more promising and more suited to deliver great messages and talks.
As a result, it would be evident that even in the ninety’s, men possess greater power and influence than women. The power relations between the two are severed by the ideas of influence, social status, affluence, and power, and so negate the idea of women being able to do things as well without the pre-requisite of having a strong-look as a primary image. The mustering idea of the book entails that women are always depicted as writers, poets, painters (perhaps), housewives and other more that only requires intellectual skills and mastered artistry. Women do not deserve to fit in the role of becoming great political figures, or great influences in the society. The book, in the form of recollected memoirs, diaries and letters, evidently projects how women are acting and how men are different. Being the years of the World War I and the World War II, an approach to what is power is the ability to participate both in political and military matters of the American state. And such, women’s power relation with men are already dropped at the lowest level—the level of just becoming trivial images of the society, scattered to serve men.
1. This is a paper submitted for my Creative Nonfiction class at my undergraduate. I lost the source part and I apologize for this matter. ↩
Sexing the Nation: Articulating the Female Representation in Ishmael Bernal’s “Lagi Na Lamang Ba Akong Babae”
SEXING THE NATION: ARTICULATING THE FEMALE REPRESENTATION IN ISHMAEL BERNAL’S “LAGI NA LAMANG BA AKONG BABAE”1
It has become an obvious notion that films were regarded as a window to reality, or that it is a manifestation of reality fed on fantasy. The onset of many waves of directors gave way to multiple ages of film appreciation varying from the heavily censored film to the film that found its way through liberation and emancipation. In actuality, films catered into many aspects that did not center only on the intention of the filmmaker; as films are constantly affected by different contexts that force it to appear as a final commodity ready to be consumed by the people. There was a time in the history of Philippine film that filmmakers only followed what tended to be favored by the people or what is sure to be a “box-office hit” rather than plotting their own way to commercial and aesthetic success (or the non-commercial success, paved the way to the artistic maneuvering of the film as eligible for prestigious filmic awards)2.
Because of the reign of films only being classified as either commercial or non-commercial, films only gained a one-sided appreciation in the form of awards or in the form of monetary basis3. Films that were commercial will win no award possibly, but it catered so much to the public that it was accepted and rendered as a “maganda” or that which has an aesthetic quality because of the effects undergoing a superfluous reception by the mass audience. This is of course, against the formalist trend in the fallacy of affectivity which dictates that the effect of any medium, here in the form of a film, should not be a basis in the appreciation of the film’s quality but it should focus on the content solely4. The non-commercial one, on the other hand, is the film that goals to gather numerous awards but is often not winning any box-office because the audience wasn’t able to either understand it or the appreciate it because it did not fully cater to their expectations or as to what their consciousness wanted the film to appear as. Lacaba stressed that this is due to the onset of commodification and consumerism that he attacks the notion of the non-existence of the bakya5 crowd and articulated that there is actually what is called this type of crowd, that can also be coined as the “mass” crowd that affects the film industry at a great extent6. The ironic notion is that, the “mass” crowd is not filled with the reigning people, or the people of the upper class as a general notion people would think if associated with “popular culture” as articulated by Isagani Cruz’ essay, “Ang Kabastusan ng mga Pilipino.” The bakya crowd is actually a powerful class that did not need to struggle for any class ascension because they controlled the media already, and the power that were construed by them is the quantifiable aspect, not in complete quality. The notion of the non-existence of the bakya crowd according to some producers can be concluded that the power of the bakya crowd makes itself unknown, or to be non-existent7.
As articulated earlier, censorship also became an avenue of the many changes that a film can absorb. Censorship cannot be dismissed as a timeless office, or that which is not susceptible to changes depending on the context and milieu. In fact, historically, films and literature gained different censorships throughout time starting from Rizal’s two novels that were both published by the foreign press8. Censorship changed through time varying from the extreme way of censoring that even limited the display of violence and gore, to the films that paved the way to be an “escapist” trend that featured fantasies of the bakya crowd in the sexual world. Censorship became an intermittent challenge to many filmmakers that most of their works were devoid of its intended meaning, just like Bernal’s “City After Dark” which is originally named as Manila By Night but was renamed through the office of censorship because it went against the conception of Imelda Marcos’ “City of Man.”
Females were subject to different representations in the film history of the Philippines. The surge of bomba9 films undoubtedly objectified women as a commodity that is being catered to many male gazes and perverted minds. Women protruded their breasts as if it is a normal thing to be projected to the people, and spent sexual acts with male on the screen, arousing the audience with its titillating scenes. These type of films, of course, became only an avenue of the imagination that resisted reality, or that wanted reality to appear as such10. The Hispanization of the Philippines also gave way to the locking up of the female persona as the Birheng Maria, revealed through the power of Philippine machismo. In the history, it is portrayed that women served as the initiator of Christianity in the Philippines by the time the wife of Raja Humabon accepted the “Sto Nino” given by Magellan symbolic of the acceptance of the conversion of religion as well. Due to this “progenitor” mentality that was forcefully attached and then equipped by the Filipinos, women were boxed into the representation of the suffering one, or the women who cannot portray herself against the machismo culture, were she her attributes center on Christianity—chastity, perseverance, humility, and the like11. But even in this films, there is a discrimination among women, centering on many aspects of beauty, class struggle, and social relationships. In class struggle, we see the oppressive nature of the society that dictates the pauper as a female that waits her prince to be saved from the misery of poverty12 . Beauty almost prioritizes that which is not exoticized as a Filipino but rather casts women of American origin embodied in the persona of Gloria Romero. But the notion of film-makers should be also taken into consideration that film-makers were exclusively male during the 70s and that most of the crowd to be catered are also male, because of the machismo nature of the Philippines. Thus, it does not merit that a female should be nice or harboring exclusive qualities of being industrious or such, as even mirrored in Ishmael Bernal’s Pagdating sa Dulo (1972), everything is rooted for the fame and money. If the cast of Bernal’s film would appear as a woman deprived of what is culturally constructed as beautiful for the Filipinos during the 70s, no one would watch it (hyperbolically, as some would for unknown reasons) because it does not cater to the desire of the bakya crowd that a woman should embody beauty. The absence of a Caucasian blood deters a star from being casted for a major role, as those who have a native blood are more on the side of being comedians, just like how we make fun of the contemporary comediennes like Kakay, Pokwang, and others. The machismo culture of the Philippines centers completely on the idea of beauty to be of surfacial value, or that regards the value of the body greater than the personality13.
These being said, the paper does not goal, however, to be an in-depth study of the films that attack the femininity of the women during the 70s. This paper goals to form the constructed representation of women and how they are seen as objects of the oppressed, that originated from the many years of colonization by the Spaniards. This will construct as well on how the bakya crowd became the primary constructors of filmic appreciation of a certain film. This paper would focus on Ishmael Bernal’s “Lagi Na Lamang Ba Akong Babae” in which the title itself questions the construction of female identity or that which envelops the stereotype of femaleness. This paper would both analyze the surface value (or what is then projected visually) and then the substance or that which is being presented by actions or scenes in the film.
Man as the Locus of Innocence
The start of the film portrayed the anger of a wife because of her husband’s pambababae or search for a mistress. The anger of the wife of course intensifies with her words like “papatayin kita” or her desire to kill the mistress. In figure 1, we can see the husband stopping his wife from making any war even it is the man who first came in contact with the female. We can clearly see here how the man is imbued with much innocence that instead of him being the one punished for his wrongdoings, it is the mistress because of the faulty assumption of female seduction clustering into the male’s mind—that, the husband was only tempted by the provocative looks of the female and the anger of the wife intensifies clearly because of jealousy and insecurity that her husband is unable to look at her that way. This is a clear picture of what Virginia Woolf characterizes as female relations not embedded through harmony but always on social conflicts (deterred from lesbianism).
The Rural and Innocent Female
Even in the present time, it is the rural female we always see as somehow innocent or embodying a “Maria Clara” projection. It is true if we consider its implications that the Filipino women were seen as the acceptors of Christianity that instigated the machismo and Catholic culture of the Philippines. Because of this, we first see the manifestation of rurality which is very pre-colonial in nature as people were devoid of fully civilized life (as compared today) because of their savage nature and preference for the worship of deities and false gods (totems or idols). In Figure 2, we see the protagonist female carrying a batya, which characterizes her as a typical woman who washes clothes in the river. But the irony lies primarily that Alma Moreno here looks partly Caucasian, or that which is the harbinger of beauty. We see this in contemporary films that beautiful women are just turned into ugly being (e.g. Anne Curtis in Kampanerang Kuba) because it still lies with the mass crowd their preference for the lead role despite any ugly rendition made to their favorite star. The figure shows as well the innocence of the protagonist as she watches the rage of the wife from Figure 1 that she looks so innocent and deprived from any sexual perversions which is perhaps only on the surface as the substance is not yet portrayed.
One of the problems of the Philippines is that Filipinos tend to associate roles based on gender. Again, this is to blame to machismo culture that triumphs into the notion that male should do what is categorized as hard labor, and that the female should do what is associated with house works. Children will be used to the notion that teachers should be female as many teachers are really female, and some male teachers are homosexuals that leads to a construction of notion that what is rendered to be a teaching job should be exclusively female, and that if ever, a male would assume such role, he is reduced to his homosexual sense. In Bino Realuyo’s “The Umbrella Country,” we see the image of the yantok as a “straightener” or that which is the one responsible for transforming soft boys into real men, or how Daddy Groovie (the father in the novel) construes the maleness of a boy. In the Philippine setting, gender roles are constructed based on the roles people assume. Even the same novel constructs Estrella (the mother) as weak, silent, and unresisting because of her role as a wife. Figure 3 presents Alma Moreno as a waitress, which is typical jobs for female. We can even see on websites such as Jobstreet.com that there are seldom jobs that require “Male Only” or even dormitories and apartments requiring “Male Only” tenants. Some cellphone sellers in the website Sulit.com.ph attaches the label “lady-owned” to gadgets. This is not to fully say that females are empowered or rendered to be fully glorified in a sense. This is to say, sadly, the weakness of female—devoid of any strength or voiced resistance. Alma Moreno’s female gender as a waitress does not empower her, but rather buries her into the notion that she is not a resisting one, that male employers would find their Alma Moreno not resisting or easy to be controlled, that the men who needs to be services would find it easier to command Alma Moreno to get this and that for them. That, in its most absolute sense, females are associated with the house works—a typical maid or muchacha. The female is associated with such that it’s easier to order the woman to do jobs with due obedience. In fact, after this scene in this figure, the manager caresses Alma Moreno’s hand before she hands the change to the customers, and then another set of customers flirt with her but she is unable to resist because as a maid to her employer, it is considered to be “rude” to do any resistance or when you do, you are gonna be unemployed.
The waitresses in the restaurant are as well all thin, not because they are just the sole manifestation of beauty but because thinness equate to weakness, and then equal to obedience14. Obviously, thinness is also a manifestation of slight sexiness which is needed by the employer himself through his wandering gazes, as well as the customers. We can see that the body politics present in a restaurant actually matters, that it is not just a straightforward assumption that they need to be thin because they’ll be able to move properly. It is that the female body is commodified and appears to be a site of sexual pleasure for all males in the restaurant space. The female thinness serves many roles which are often unseen or subliminal in messages because it is only through the fixation of male gazes and perversion that the messages are then unraveled. We cannot, however, opt to force the female to design her own image because it will take courage and independence to do so, and so the female herself is forced to go with the flow of how the society sees her—a sexual meat15.
During sexual intercourse, we can always see that females are receptors of pain—that they accept it by putting herself as the “bottom” which is a sex position in general terms, or that which is being penetrated by the man’s power. In terms of pain however, the female was able to experience many harrowing points of pain come her menstruation (dysmenorrhea) even the unnatural ones like plucking the armpit hairs, wearing high-heeled shoes, and such are manifestations of pain for they are the preparation for the higher types of pain a woman will experience when she will be able to make love and have a family16. It is ironic, of course, as to why women is pleasured less when it is her who experience much pain. The idea is that the roles of females during sex is already fixed, already etched in the history of all histories, that women are the recipient of that manhood, the one being entered, the one receiving the pain greater than all the sets of pain she was able to experience, for it is a horror when the male assume the female role, that it humiliates the male prestige and the female identity17.
In Figure 4, Alma Moreno is being kissed all over by her man, but she is just there unresisting. She idealizes the power of being the bottom, sunk down from the deepest part of the sexual world. She accepts the man knowing that because she is sunk to the bottom, the man becomes her idealization of reaching the top—the climactic point of achieving her prestige as a woman, wanted by the male ones. She does not embody the female aggressiveness, the female who is excited to be penetrated or to receive a blow of man’s love. Alma Moreno here embodies the passive female of embodying a certain weakness. The problem here is that Alma Moreno can resist, can be the one to initiate the sexual intercourse, but she is encaged in the mentality of femaleness, on how culture was able to portray the male subversion of female’s mind towards sex, that she is to accept everything, because sex is not a form of pleasure, but a form of power, of authority, of the masking of the female persona into a weaker woman to accept the colonizer of her very own femaleness18. This is not to say that the female is but a role-player, but this is to emphasize that the female sensibility is so corrupted by the inception of machismo that she is using the past or history as her own way of sealing of feminine fate, which goes against Anzaldua’s notion in her book, “Borderlands/La Frontera” of forgetting the past (which is because of the Aztec conquest of Hernan Cortes to Malinalli or Malinche, that the female identity of the colonized or the female who submitted are rendered as puta, in the case of Malinche, “The Great Puta”)
The Human Mannequin
In the malls, mannequins are displayed with such sexiness and emphasis on its breast size to entice the female to look like them, to be like these mannequins who are so white and thin, and perfect that they want to be them that they want to replace their bodies with a mannequin one. This mentality is obviously straightforward or garnering critical opinions of high negations, however if the implications of the female dream towards sexiness and perfection is twisted, it is as if they want to venture on being a mannequin. A Korean-Pop Group, “SNSD” or Girls Generation had a music video for their song, Gee. The music video started with them displayed as mannequins then they danced with their music after. Obviously, they were displayed as mannequins because they are the embodiment of beauty and perfection, that they are the supreme idea of sexiness they want to be seen—the mannequin of femaleness. But the mannequin should not always be resorted to the mentality of a female towards her selfish motive, because there is a time that male themselves transform the woman into a mannequin by objectifying them as a form of clothes they wear, a watch they flash, or just basically, a human-size figure they want to boast to the people.
In Figure 5, Alma Moreno is actually dressing up and already combing her hair when her man went to her and told her why is she wearing such thing. Alma Moreno challenges herself and the world of course to truly see her as who she is, an attempt to display her own way on how she wants to be seen by the people which is equated to her own triumphant goal as a woman19. However, when her man went upstairs, he forces her to change what she wears, because this is obviously an idealization of the man’s desire to display Alma Moreno according to his likes, to render her as a mannequin to show to his friends because they are having a drinking session and he wants to exclaim to his friends regarding this “girlfriend” who is controlled and hopelessly manipulated by her man. Alma Moreno, using a simple dress and simple look to project herself to be natural is already beautiful, that she is already superb and breathtaking, but it is not according to her man’s standard as she is lacking, that she needs to go beyond the beauty that she had constructed, or that she have to succumb to the construction of beauty by her man20. The problem lies in the aspect that the woman is always subject to the gaze of the man, that she needs to adhere to beauty as not what she thinks but as to what the men thinks, as afterall, it’s safe to assume that Alma Moreno lives in a men’s world. The female mentality is then subverted to male control that she is truly a mannequin, a plastic, or a Barbie doll being continuously played by men. In this context, how can we problematize then, on how the female mentality is actually working when stripped away from the dehumanizing gaze and culture of machismo21?
This scene (Figure 6) from the film projects another “mannequinfication” of the female identity where is treated as a show. She projects herself to be beautiful and to be enticing to the men and she does her best to prove that she’s worthy to be brought back home for sexual gratification. She is being debased, however, that she is becoming a puppet or a circus show, a carnival girl that dances like an animal. Her costume even adheres to a leopard print, which is exotic or that can be seen in the wild safaris that constitutes her wild image dancing. She projects numerous images and like photographs, scattering them to the audience to be able to judge what would they see fit as a form of entertainment for them.
In this regard, we can see how the women are exoticized like safari girls or amazons who are hunted. They are animals who cannot even bare fangs but at the certain extent, fully are under the power of these male personae categorized as colonizers who are hunting these women to become their prized possessions, and to finally render them as a collective piece that they can display to people. Though inherent or intrinsic into a machismo power, the authority does not fully exclaim ownership, but it is power, or the ability to emancipate the woman from her savage mentality, or the ability of the man to strip the woman from her wild ways in order to be unresisting, in order to be fully maximized by the man through sex and pleasure—which is yes, very wild.
Hierarchical Classification of Femininity
In Figure 7, we can see Alma Moreno just staring, absorbing what her man continuously saying about her. In this scene, we actually hear from the man, “Babae ka lang, probinsyana pa. Ano ba ang kaya mong gawin?” (You’re just a woman, and rural girl even. What can you possibly do?). The notion is that the vague message of being “just a woman” is instilling that it is hard to construe what it means to be a woman. In the male psyche, the man has already defined femininity according to his beliefs, or to his sense of constructing the femaleness. Perhaps he constructed it as just a sexual object, a bearer of children and nothing more. She is just a condom that after its usage has been maximized, it is nonetheless thrown away and not reusable. The man inhibits the costume of wearing the uniform of authority—of a police, an army officer, a lieutenant, or a general. He enforces his own consciousness of power, and maximizing it to make a woman bereft of her own sexual consciousness and the only way to liberate herself from this evil is to strip the man his uniform, to remove his machismo thinking, and to strip is patriarchal notoriety away from him, which is deemed to be impossible and like a broken bridge, impassable—to the extent of denial of entry or authority in the first place to do so22. First, we problematize the definition of being a woman, and then we also problematize the definition of being a woman from the rural area. In actuality, both of these terms are neutral and do not actually render one’s identity to be degraded. But it is the man who constructed the notion of degradation and he is incapable of doing so because he has the authority, and authority is associated with the construction of most of the things in our lives like laws from the ancient times bordering from the lands of Hammurabi.
In this sense, we return to the politics of the body that the female is just a basic commodity in which labels are erroneously attached. The female body is just a vessel in which the patriarchal order constructs on how it will become a woman. By default, we see the female as a person, but in this twisted patriarchal ideology, the female body is but an object in which he attaches label such as beautiful, rural, urban, and even “woman.” But in this regard, however problematized even in the recurring centuries of patterned female oppression, there is nothing revolutionary or resistance involved where the female body is under control, because even the countries we have are regarded as mother, as well as nature, people exploit it, control it, colonize it with ideas and oppressive authority as the female body is where the flag of patriarchy is erected in full glory23. Thus, the hierarchy of the female is pinned down to the bottom just like in a sex position, that it is constantly a low class level or authority, or no authority at all, that it’ll always stay at the bottom deprived of any hierarchical power.
Conclusion: Women are Women
In the certain aspect, women are always women—and that line depends on who views it. Feminists will have a different view, while male will have their other view as well. The film depicts one of the most important parts of the film in which the female will always be subjected to her man, as much as this scene, Figure 8, will always be picturing the weakness of female power. It will always be therefore, that the woman’s sensibility be forged through her own ways, that she needs to wake up and fight for her self—to speak for herself and the greater human goal, as if she suppress her voice even further, she will never be emancipated by the colonizing power of male patriarchy24.
1. This is a paper required for our Literary Theory class in my undergraduate. This paper has been haphazardly done for only an hour and 30 minutes (excluding fully watching the film, reading sources, etc) and it may appear trashy. I will be revising this in the future. ↩
2. Jose F. Lacaba, “Movies, Critics, and the Bakya Crowd,” in Readings in Philippine Cinema, ed. Rafael Ma. Guerrero, (Manila: Experimental Cinema of the Philippines, 1987), 176↩
4. William Wimsatt and Monroe Beardsley, “Affective Fallacy,” in Norton Anthology of Literary Theory and Criticism, ed. Vincent Leitch, (New York: Norton, 2001), 1232-1261↩
5. Bakya crowd is also called a mass crowd or the crowd that has a cultural taste and level differing from the crowd that appreciates true aesthetic qualities of a film.↩
6. Jose F. Lacaba, Movies, Critics, and the Bakya Crowd, 177↩
7. Guy Debord. Society of the Spectacle, trans. David Nicholson-Smith (New York: Zone Books, 2006), 129↩
8. Guillermo De Vega, Film and Freedom: Movie Censorship in the Philippines. (Manila: Self-published, 1975), 6↩
9. Softcore pornography↩
10. Petronillo Bn. Daroy, “Social Significance and the Filipino Cinema,” in Readings in Philippine Cinema, ed. Rafael Ma. Guerrero, (Manila: Experimental Cinema of the Philippines, 1987), 97↩
11. Rafael Ma. Guerrero, “Tagalog Movies: An Understanding,” in Readings in Philippine Cinema, ed. Rafael Ma. Guerrero, (Manila: Experimental Cinema of the Philippines, 1987), 114↩
13. Naomi Wolf, The Beauty Myth (New York: HarperCollins, 1991), 152↩
14. Ibid, 187↩
15. Germaine Greer, The Female Eunuch (London: Farrar Straus Giroux, 2002), 165↩
16. Andrea Dworkin, Woman Hating (New York: Penguin Books, 1974), 115↩
17. Germaine Greer, The Female Eunuch, 287↩
18. Ibid, 293↩
19. Naomi Wolf, The Beauty Myth, 290↩
20. Naomi Wolf, The Beauty Myth, 177↩
21. Ibid, 76↩
22. Germaine Greer, The Female Eunuch, 335↩
23. Adrienne Rich, Of Woman Born (New York: Norton, 1995)↩