Hanif Kureishi was born in 1954 in a suburb near London, England. He wrote the short story My Son the Fanatic in 1997. The story is about a father whose son’s religious awakening causes a tension in the family. The father, Parvez, is scolded by his son for excess drinking, prostitutes, and not having a beard. In the end, Parvez beats his son, Ali, who then asks, “So who’s the fanatic now?’ (1209).
Ali’s religious awakening may be hypocritical in one way. Ali does not seem to honor his father. Ali is constantly scolding and ridiculing him about his many ‘un – religious’ behaviors. When Parvez and Ali have dinner together Parvez gets drunk. His son disagrees with his actions and is even described as hating his father. “Ali had a horrible look on his face, full of disgust and censure. It was as if he hated his father” (1205). While it may be acceptable to not agree with a parent or any family member getting drunk, it should not be followed up with hate for that parent. Abu Elias writes, “Islam commands us to honor our parents, to obey them, to respect their opinion, and to be kind in general to our family members” (2015). Honoring parents is a commandment in the Koran as well. This article even says further that Allah will not be with those who do not honor their parents.
Ali does not agree with his dad’s lifestyle, but getting into arguments with him and not respecting him is not the right thing to do according to Islam. Doing so results in Parvez hitting Ali in the end. When asking who the fanatic was, Ali could have meant who was more radical? Was Parvez so radical in his lifestyle that any change – his son converting to Islam – caused disruption to how he lived? That could very well be the case. So, in the end, Parvez could have been more radical in his own beliefs and life styles than Ali who is a Muslim which is a religion that many people wrongly associate with radicals and terrorists.
Word Count: 348
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Jean Rhys wrote The Day they Burned the Books in 1960. The story is about a young boy whose black mother wants to burn certain books after his white father had died. In the end, the narrator and the boy, Eddie, steal two books and run away from the house. Rhys was born in the West Indies and grew up knowing many different people of many different races.
What is the point of this story? When first reading it, it seems like it may not even have a point. A boy’s dad dies and his mom wants to burn some of his books. He steals a book and that’s it. Eddie and the narrator are about 12 years old when this happens, right around the time of puberty. Rhys could have been writing about a child who rebels against his parents and starts to become his own person.
Rhys also could have written the story to talk about the narrator not feeling comfortable or as one with her peers. Eddie takes a stand and states that he does not conform to what his peers like: daffodils or strawberries. The narrator seems to appreciate this and also talks about meeting other British children who may not associate with her because she was born in a colony and not England. She says that she likes this because she didn’t want to be associated with them in the first place.
One of the meanings or themes from this story might be to not conform to everyone else. That it is important to be who you are and not what anyone else thinks. Mr. Riederer writes in one of his blogs posts that Eddie associates himself with British culture and considers himself to be a minority. He writes, “Thus, while Eddie identifies himself with British culture, he also now is subjected to view himself as a minority in the Caribbean” (2018).
Word count: 317
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\The Heart of Darkness is a novella written by Joseph Conrad. It was published in 1902. In this story, the main character, Marlo goes on a journey through Africa in exploration and for The Company in order to make money. Along the way he hears about a man named Kurtz who is considered to be a hero in finding ivory. When Marlo and Kurtz are heading back to Brussels, Kurtz dies. Kurtz is told to have become a savage as he was on the land with other savages.
What is interesting about this story is the fact that Kurtz who is praised and thought of as a great man is discovered to be a savage. He doesn’t want to go back to the mainland but would rather stay with the other savages. He then later decides to return because of his illness. The reason that Kurtz becomes a savage is because those are the people that he is around most of the time. Kurtz begins to get involved with the other savages and then soon submits to their ways. This is what happens when someone is around someone else, they begin to act the same way. Jim Rohn says “You are the average of five people that you spend the most time with” meaning, those who you are around you become. The bible even has passages about being around others. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15:33 “Do not be misled: ‘Bad company corrupts good character.’” This is what happened to Kurtz, the influence of the savages corrupted him.
The reader might ask themselves if they were in Kurtz’s situation, would they also become savages? Many of us may say no because we think that because we are civilized people, we would not succumb to actions like cutting off the head of rebels and putting them on sticks. I however think if one is around people like that long enough then they might also become savages in order to survive.
Word Count: 329
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The Other Boat was written by EM Forster and published two years after this death. The story is about a man who is on a journey to meet a woman whom the reader can assume to be his fiancé or wife. On this boat, Lionel, the man on the journey, meets up with one of his old friends. The old friend, Coconut, is in the same cabin as Lionel and the two have sex with one another. In the end, Lionel kills himself.
Lionel kills himself because he possibly feels remorse for sleeping with Coconut, he also may have felt remorse for killing Coconut. However, if Lionel did not feel bad for his actions, then he wouldn’t have killed Coconut and he wouldn’t have killed himself. Humans are moral beings who know right from wrong. Some could argue that morality is learned and not something someone is born with. Never the less, this character most likely knew that he did something wrong.
It is interesting to note that Forster did not publish this story himself. It was published after his death. Forster most likely knew that publishing this story would bring bad publicity to himself and his book. He may have even been afraid that publishing this story could have him thrown in jail like another author. According to Kate Symondson she states: “In 1895, when Forster was 16, Oscar Wilde was sensationally sentenced to two years of hard labor (the maximum sentence) for homosexual acts. As well as cementing the unacceptability of homosexuality in the popular consciousness, the imprisonment of London’s most famous and loved author read like a cautionary tale to Forster, casting a long shadow over his sexual maturation and identity” (2016).
While my views on homosexuality are not necessary for this blog, it is important to note a quote from Susan Chun, a writer for CNN. She writes, “Philosophers and psychologists have long believed that babies are born "blank slates," and that it is the role of parents and society to teach babies the difference between right and wrong; good and bad; mean and nice. But a growing number of researchers now believe differently. They believe babies are in fact born with an innate sense of morality, and while parents and society can help develop a belief system in babies, they don't create one” (2014). This quote argues that morality is something that humans are born with and that it may not be something learned. Society may not have formed Forster’s morality, but was something he was born with. It is possible that Forster chose not to publish his work because of morality (he knew homosexuality was wrong) or because of fear (he didn’t think it was wrong, but didn’t want to get caught) The fact that Forster did not publish this story based on either his morality or fear is something that we will never know.
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Word Count: 481
Isaac Rosenberg was a poet who wrote during the first World War. He died in 1918, but not before he wrote his poem Break of Day in the Trenches in 1916. In this poem, Rosenberg writes about the sunrise but feels that time is still the same. He also writes about a rat who has more freedom than himself.
When Rosenberg sees the rat, he is pulling a flower that is next to a wall in the trenches just as the sun is rising. When Rosenberg sees the rat, he says that after it touches his hand, then it is possible that it could go on and touch a German’s hand as well. This rat has no comprehension of what is going on. It does not pick sides and does not have a say in what happens during the war. Though it is not involved, Rosenberg chooses to personify this rat by saying that it smiles as it passes other men in the trenches maybe because it knows that according to Rosenberg has a better chance of living than the rest of the men do. Thinking about this can be sad – the fact that a rat has more of a chance at life than a human does – I think Rosenberg chose a rat because its filth and lowliness says that even the worst things in life don’t have to worry like men do during war.
Rosenberg asks the rat what it might see in the men’s faces as they shoot each other. Rosenberg seems to not dwell on this idea and then states what he thinks is safe is the flower that is behind his ear. The flower that he picks up is a poppy which according to the BBC was used in WWI as a symbol of remembrance and hope. “Wearing a poppy was inspired by the fields of poppies that grew where many of the battles were fought. The red poppy is connected to the Royal British Legion - a charity created by veterans of World War One. They say that the red poppy represents remembrance and hope” (2018). Changing the subject quickly might mean that Rosenberg has hope that the war will end soon. He doesn’t want to dwell on the fact that men are killing each other even though he still thinks about it. He tries to dwell on things that will take his mind off of the war and also give him hope: the poppy.
Photo Credit: Flickr
Word Count: 415
The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is a story written by Robert Louis Stevenson which was published in 1886. Stevenson was born in 1850 and is known mainly for writing the book Treasure Island in 1882, four years before Jekyll and Hyde.
This was an odd story to read mainly because of the fact that a man, Dr. Jekyll, takes a potion and turns into a monster. My question is: where did he get the potion and how did he create it? What would make someone want to do evil things?
There are also a few biblical references in the story as well. Mr. Hyde is referred to as the devil and also in the beginning of the story Mr. Utterson talks about Cain and Abel. These biblical references may be a metaphor with Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Cain and Abel is a story about jealousy and evil and referring to the devil is also referring to someone who is evil. Dr. Jekyll would be considered the good while Mr. Hyde would be considered the evil. It is also like an internal conflict inside a human to do good and evil. A human may want to do something evil or wrong, and struggles to make the decision and do the right thing.
Word Count: 216
Michael Field was a poet from the middle 1800’s to early 1900’s. What many people may not know is that Michael Field did not actually exist. Field was a penname for Katharine Bradley (1846 – 1914) and her nice Edith Cooper (1862 -1913). Both women wrote plays and poems under this pseudonym. Apparently, these women were ‘lovers’ even though they were related.
When first reading the poem Maids, not to you my mind doth change I read it from the perspective that a man was writing it. Other readers, especially of that time, would have done the same. When reading the poem, the author writes about his love for women. The author writes, “Maids, not to you my in doth change; Men I defy, allure, estrange…” (762). Which means that the author prefers men over women.
Of course, at the time lesbian relations was not something that would have been accepted let alone a woman who had a relationship with a relative. A woman who would have written about another woman would also have been thought of as strange.
This poem, written by either Bradley or Cooper, may have been written for the other. Field says, “And if care frets ye come to me as fresh as nymph from stream or tree, And with your soft vitality…” (762). The author is writing to not just women in general, but to one woman. When reading this poem, the second time (this time from Bradley or Cooper’s perspective) I read it as one writing to the other.
This poem has two perspectives, but one message: the author loves women. Reading it different ways may give the reader a different feeling depending on what they believe in, but its just like two different routes that lead to the same destination.
Photo Credit: Flickr
Word Count: 299
The poem In an Artist's Studio is written by Christina Rossetti she writes about how men view women. She states in the last line of the poem that women are not seen for who they really are. Rossetti writes, "Not as she is, but was when hope shone bright; Not as she is, but as she fills his dream" (539).
Rossetti was born in 1830 and was considered to be a feminist. She wrote this poem in 1856 which would have made her about 26 years old at the time. In this poem, she describes a male artist who is painting a woman. The woman is described to be perfect and even “an angel” but then in the last line Rossetti states that the woman is not seen as she really is.
This would be considered a feminist idea because she brings up how men view women. During the 1830’s women did not have many rights and could not vote or own property. Women were not thought of as superior but rather the weaker gender. Men had the wrong idea of women during this time.
In line 10 of the poem Rossetti writes, “And she with true kind eyes looks back on him” (539). I think what she was trying to express is that women were thought to be happy with the way things were. I think that she believes that the conception of the time was that women were always happy and that it didn’t take much to please them. Their pleasure may have come from pleasing men.
The main point of this poem is to talk about the oppression of women. Rossetti is saying that men view women a certain way and think that women act and are a certain way, but it is not true. The idea of this poem was to possibly raise awareness that women needed more rights and needed to be treated equally as well.
Word Count: 320
Photo from: Flickr.com
My name is Jake and I am a student at WSU and will hopefully graduate in the next year. I hope to then get a teaching liscence and become an English teacher. This blog is for my British Literature class where I will post reviews for the assigned readings.