Monday, February 3, 2014

This is a Photograph of Me - Margaret Atwood

This is a Photograph of Me

It was taken some time ago
At first it seems to be
a smeared
print: blurred lines and grey flecks
blended with the paper;

then, as you scan
it, you can see something in the left-hand corner
a thing that is like a branch: part of a tree
(balsam or spruce) emerging
and, to the right, halfway up
what ought to be a gentle
slope, a small frame house.

In the background there is a lake,
and beyond that, some low hills.

(The photograph was taken
the day after I drowned.

I am in the lake, in the center
of the picture, just under the surface.

It is difficult to say where
precisely, or to say
how large or how small I am:
the effect of water
on light is a distortion.

but if you look long enough
you will see me.) 

Literary Devices and Imagery

- Imandi Paulin Harmoniel 1215325

The Oppression of women in society is one of the most depicted themes in women literature. And “This is a Photograph of Me” by Margaret Atwood is not an exception. It is an Artwork in which the theme (oppression of women) is fully explored through a Pictionary poem.

  Indeed, Margaret Atwood the Canadian poet makes use of multitudes of images of nature (branch: part of a tree) to show that women appear only as a supplement to this picture. In other words, she uses the images of nature to show that women are taken for granted in the society.

 The ambiguity used in the poem is one the key power that helps the persona to reach her goal. Indeed, from the title (This is a photograph of me), we all expect a clear description of the persona (since it is her picture). But on further reading, all we get is the picture of a beautiful landscape. But, still we expect to see a feminine body making an appearance in the landscape. And to our big surprise, we learn later that persona is dead. She has drowned in the lake which is a metaphor for the male dominated society. Margaret Atwood uses the ambiguity and mysticism to state that, women are so much oppressed in our society in such way that they end up losing their identities.

  Margaret Atwood did not just make use of good images to make her point. She also made use of her grammatical skills. Indeed, the brackets towards the end of the poem are of great significance in the achievement of the author’s goal. Brackets are normally used to bring a supplement of information whose absence will not affect the sense of the conveyed idea. Surprisingly in the poem “This is a photograph of me” it is in the part of the poem enclosed in brackets where we get more information about the woman who is supposed to be in the picture. The persona uses this style to show the hopeless situation of the woman in society and the lack of importance accorded to them.  

   It is true and real! Oppression of women in society is not merely a flaw but a devil that threatens the stability of our society. However, some questions arise:
Are men entirely responsible for the oppression of women?
Do not women share a part of responsibility on the curse which lies upon them? When they bargain for power in patriarchal societies through compromise, aren’t they contributing to this devil?

Sunday, February 2, 2014

This is a photograph of me: Critical Appreciation

- Abhilash Kumar (1215301)

The poet uses a photograph to represent the oppression and marginalisation of woman in patriarchal society. The atmosphere within the photograph is a very gloomy one and is indicative of the hopelessness of women under male domination. The photograph is symbolic of the patriarchal society while the speaker represents the whole womanhood. The poet has also utilized several aspects of nature observed in the photograph to symbolize the imposing nature of patriarchy. She uses foggy imagery like “smeared print”, “grey flecks” etc to throw light on the complexity and obscurity of woman’s identity in the oppressive society.

From a higher level, the photograph is symbolic of the history of the woman. The passive voice presentation of the picture clearly indicates this. Just as blurred lines and grey flecks blend on the very fabric of the paper of the photograph, the future of womanhood is obscured in total vagueness. The blurred lines also indicate the vagueness in precision and accuracy of the account on the woman. Since the history of the woman is entirely scripted by the patriarchy, the poet realizes that the whole account is borne with inaccuracies and is pointing out this fallacy through the use of blurred lines. The dim light in the photograph is indicative of the inaccuracy of the patriarchal account on the woman’s creativity. Whatever work the woman does for the society, no matter how important it is, is entirely overshadowed by the society itself. Patriarchy ignores the contribution of the woman. The poem is devoid of any sort of a rhyme scheme which in itself is a sort of a literary device serving the purpose of the sorrow of womanhood. It indicates the extent of derailment of woman off the fundamental means of happiness and peace of mind. Moreover, each object indicated in the photograph is a metaphor for aspects of misogyny. The poet is forced to act within this limited framework restricted by misogyny – she is oppressed to such an extent that she feels insignificant and insecure. Her actions are constantly censored by the society - she is not allowed to rise above the surface. In fact, the poet’s decision to not use a rhyme scheme may be symbolic of this restriction. The poet’s choice of raising the gender issue through a photograph is so because visual representation is the most effective means of evoking feelings within the observer – the most efficient way of arousing sympathy.

The poet also gives directions to the reader to visualize the photograph. This may be to rail the reader’s thought process to that of the poet so as to convey the message more clearly than an arbitrary interpretation. In a way, she welcomes multiple interpretations but she doesn’t allow the original message to be overshadowed by them. She paints the insignificance of woman in the background of the photograph – the low hills, indicative of the constant struggle she has to undergo, yet seldom considered by the society. This is indicated by the prominence of the lake before the hills. The poet further emphasizes on this insignificance through the use of parentheses. One uses parentheses to enclose information that may not be significant to the reader but may be additional information. The poet does this to indicate the insignificance of her existence in the whole picture taken by the society. The poet is half-expectant of the reader to take note of her feelings as she feels it is useless expressing herself to the society. The lake may be yet another metaphor for the society. She mentions that she is in the lake, in the centre of the picture, just under the surface. It might be indicative of the irony of her position as an activist. She might be hinting that she is an activist (her occupation in the centre of the picture may be indicative of this) but the society does not glorify her actions. She is invisible at a glance as if she is wiped off the face of the picture but she tells the reader that she is actually in the picture – just under the surface. Just as the effect of light on water is a distortion, she says that it is difficult to say how large or small she is as she is one in a million – a speck amidst a vast collective consciousness. Yet the poet ends on a hopeful note that if one looks long enough, eventually she would be visible. She might be indicating that there will come a time when all her struggles - meaning the common struggle of all women – would become meaningful when the society itself would stumble upon such an era as everything is transient and nothing is ever perpetual - even the society changes.

The Photograph Of Her

- Rohit Revi, 1215306
  Rahul Joshi, 1215304

The concerns raised by Atwood are ubiquitous and all pervading. The roots of our civilisation are soaked in bigoted misogyny. Gender roles are enforced upon the unwilling and anything short of complete subservience to the normative, is deemed blasphemous. Masculinity imposes itself not just physically upon feminine characteristics, but on abstract platforms as well. Masculinity tries to vindicate itself on the same bigoted normative morals, that were vouched for by patriarchal social constructs all throughout recorded human history. In the wild, there are no ulterior gender roles, that are coerced
upon the unwilling. Biological roles are identical to perceived gender roles. Complex power structures do not exist in the wild. In pack animals, power structures are established by biological competence and evolutionary benefits. In human beings though, power is a living, breathing, perverted organism. So what has human cognition come at the cost of?

The Indian Mythology reiterates and reinforces patriarchy through glorified narratives. In
literature, characters of Sita, Draupadi, Kundhi and Gandhari are among the few feminine characters that occupy substantial spaces within the narratives. They are all tailored and demure; constrained within the roles ascertained by the narrator and his fictitious masculine characters. Measured in terms of her inabilities and her inadequacies, the modern woman is expected to be a quantified object that briefly reflects the chiselled traits of these mythological allusions. Every Indian woman is expected to be a compiled permutation of either Sita or Draupadi, as in accordance with her erstwhile role. The abstraction of human identities start from Gods and Goddesses; the aspired constructions of perfection. The perversion lies therein. The Goddess, therefore, was the original sin. We, as a collectiv consciousness, create ideas and manifest them in our imaginative narratives, thereby reinforcing and immortalizing them. As these narratives propagate across generations and cultures, their medium of propagation, the language, is strongly influenced by the nature of the ideas that characterize the narratives themselves. And so, 'humankind' came to be convenienced as 'mankind'; the long line of gendered human language and thereby, gendered human cognition.

We are so pathetically immobilized, caught within these circumstantial constraints of being born to a society and culture, that alternate cultures and societies appear false and farcical. The demure woman is the moral woman. Anything but, is a mutant caricature of her womanhood; a laughable deviance. If she vocalises her mind or her body, she is likened to harlots, but the very act is something only a harlot is presumed capable of. She's either an aspiring Goddess or a decadent prostitute. Typecasting the gender role to a female child was further facilitated by consistent and systematic indoctrination. Indoctrination through narratives. Their sexual maturity was glorified and a pompous ceremony was born out of it; a loud invitation to prospective grooms of all ages.

And today, with integration of the world, and subsequent disintegration of arbitrary geographic boundaries that decided where cultures end and begin, our view of 'society' became much more fluid and inclusive. The aesthetics of dwelling and clothing ceased to be cultural representations. Adolescents internalized elements from the universal pop-culture, and constructed their own identities. This influx of alien cultural elements were met with hostility, by host cultures everywhere. The narratives that facilitated our lives until then, had nothing to say about them. We were ethically and morally challenged. In this fit of moral insecurity, night clubs and other liberal social spaces were vandalised. The liberated woman and everything she represented was demonized and emulations were punished. The Goddess cannot wear denim.

RUMAYAN – The Tale of Lava and Quesha

A blasphemous, communist, fatherless satire on Ramayan and Sita's twin blues.

Scene I

Narrator: It is a dark morning in the studio apartment and Mrs. Rum is in the process of giving birth. Mr. Lard Rum is nowhere to be seen, and she seems to be the only person in the room. Mrs. Rum, on her back and on the floor, screams indecipherable words while she forces a child out of herself.

(A few moments later)

Mrs. Rum (frantically): Oh NOT AGAIN!

(Realising that she was not done yet, she begins to push the second child out of herself. When it’s finally done, she sits up straight and begins a wait, lighting a cigarette by the window-side.)

(Lard Rum enters, holding on to an envelope)

Mr. Rum:  What in the world is all this mess? Mrs. Rum (accusingly): Well, you did this to me.

Mr. Rum (pointing towards the new-born babies lying motionlessly in coloured fluids): What in the world did you eat to throw all that up?

(Mrs. Rum stares blankly and then sighs)

Mrs. Rum : These are your children, Lard. Remember the time you said latex condoms are too main-stream for your liking and that your Dad wouldn’t approve, so asking the forces of nature for protection was a better idea?
Mr. Rum: Uhum?
Mrs. Rum : Well it wasn’t.
Mr. Rum (shock, surprise, anxiety):  You are pregnant?
Mrs. Rum: I was.
Mr. Rum (sighs): Well thank fuck, you aren’t now.
Mrs. Rum: You don’t really get how this works do you?
Mr. Rum: Hmm?
Mrs. Rum (condescends): When mommy and daddy love each other very much, they hug each other in a very special way. And when they do that, a baby comes out from mommy’s tummy. And that is how babies are born.
Mr. Rum : Oh that’s delightful. I’m a father? I’m a father! We hugged each other in a special way and a baby is born! This is great news, Cytha!  We’ve got to tell people. In fact, I’m off right now to tell the guys.

(Hurries to the door. Stops mid-way abruptly and turns back. Walks slowly towards Mrs. Rum)

Mr. Rum (slowly and curiously): Wait a second there. Who’s the father of the other baby?
Mrs. Rum (evidently not bothered): Huh?
Mr. Rum : We hugged each other and a baby was born. Who the hell did you hug for the other child?
Mrs. Rum: Eh?
Mr. Rum: I am asking you this very clearly, Cytha. Who is it? Who is the other guy who dared to hug you? Who gave you the bastard child? It was Ravon, wasn’t it?I’ve seen the looks you give him. You’ve always wanted to hug him in a very special way!
Mrs. Rum (mumbles to self): I can’t believe this is happening. (louder) You are the father of both children goodarnit!
Mr. Rum: What the fuck do you take me for? We hugged once, so we have one child. Now what i want to know is who else did you hug, because cleaaaarly, you have a second child! Its mathematics, Cytha. Its mathe-fucking-matics!

(Mrs. Rum stares blankly at the sudden eruption)
Mrs. Rum: I see! If that is how things are, I’m leaving right now. You’ll never see me again and sure as hell, Lard, you crazy son of a bitch, you won’t see either of your children. (theatrically) I’m going to raise a goddarned family of my own and if they ever ask me who their father was, I’ll remember to say Ravon and that he sure gave me quite a few heads.
(grabs both kids and stomps out.)
(door slams shut)
(End of scene I)
Scene II

Narrator: A decade has passed since Cytha Rum infamously liberated herself from her ex-husband’s insanity. Now she has taken a step further into women empowerment, and this women’s day, she gets her all women fitness clinic inaugurated by a male movie-star, now popular for its discounted rates for married women. She has managed to keep both the children, Lava and Quesha, from turning homicidal, which is quite an achievement with bastard children with genetic disorders. More importantly, she has managed to love them, which too, is quite an achievement with bastard children with genetic disorders. She happily mothers perpetually depressed ten year olds in a suburban shack and is presently working on a poster for her clinic.
Mrs. Rum (frustrated evidently): I’ve told you a million times you cannot have a mutual identity crisis just because you’re twins. It is just not possible, Lava. You can only be one person!
Kid I: I’m telling you mother, I’m not Lava. I clearly remember I was Lava yesterday before you put me to sleep. I wake up, and I look into the mirror and realize “Holy Christ! It’s happened again.” Besides, why would I lie for a name like Quesha? It is almost like you WANTED him to be a stripper.
Mrs. Rum (dismissing): Where’s your brother?
Kid I (mutters): Where’s anyone anyway? What does it mean to be at a place? (muttering trails away while Kid I slowly walks away dejected)

(Mrs Rum gets back to the work, takes her time, seems satisfied and hangs it up)

(end of scene II)
Scene III
Narrator: Ten more years down the line, the mutual identity disorder has been identified and fancified, and the twins earn their living being researched upon. Needless to say, they have chosen to make life interesting for the researchers, who believe they’re onto something big. Meanwhile in the living room, Mrs. Rum has just received an envelope addressed to Mr. Rum, and she presently wonders if which one of the two Mr. Rum’s it is addressed to, and more importantly, did it matter which one.
(The Kids enter and stand apart from each other)
Mrs. Rum: There’s a letter addressed to Mr. Rum. I suggest you open it?
Kid II: You Who, Ma?

Mrs Rum: Alright Lava, it’s yours. (carefully holds out the envelope exactly in between the two kids)
Kid I: I’m Quesha.
Kid II: So am I.

(Mrs. Rum drops the envelope and walks away. Kid II picks it up and looks at it. )
(Impatient knocks on the door. Kid I walks up to the door and opens it. Lard Ram stumbles through.)
Mr. Rum: I’m sorry, but there’s an envelope addressed to me and I’m told it was delivered here. That must be it.
Kid II: Hold on. It says here it’s addressed to me. It’s says so right HERE.
Kid I (turning towards Kid I): Does it matter? The recipient is merely a proprietary object. It is the message within that’s of meta-physical significance.
Kid II: You’re right. It depends.

Kid I: It’s subjective.
Kid II (dryly): Tell me about it.

Mr. Rum: There must be a mistake, I’m sorry. I’m Lard Rum and you?
Kid I: I’m Quesha Rum. (points to Kid II). And this is me, Quesha.

(Mrs. Rum walks in and stops abruptly, noticing Lard. Mr. Rum continues to examine the envelope, and does not recognize her. Mrs. Rum watches them bond.)
(Conversation in background)
Mrs. Rum: Lard, you son of a bitch, you’re back.
Mr. Rum: Cytha?
Mrs. Rum: Indeed, and you’ve come at the right time too. My sons have all grown up, and they are nothing like their father.
Narrator: They were.
Mrs. Rum: I’ve brought them up, Lard. I’ve brought them up, and they are capable of keeping me company for the rest of my life, while you rot away like the piece of turd that you are.
Narrator: They weren’t.
Kid II:  Dad? That’s delightful. I’ve always wanted one of those.
Kid I: There is just so much to catch up on. Let’s head somewhere and maybe do that?
(Mr. Rum drops the envelope and heads towards the door with the kids on either side)
(Mrs. Rum walks to her cupboards, open a drawer and pulls out a shotgun)
Mrs. Rum: Delightful. (Cocks it)