Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Who's more Important? Men or Women?

This novel once again brings out the lack of fairness in gender difference. The expectation between girls and guys has a huge gap apart. Why do girls have to stay pure to get married while guys can do whatever they desired?
The society that this novel takes place encourages guys to visit Maria Cervantes's brothel, a prostitution house. In the people’s view, it is an action that portrays machismo. They believe such desires and deeds to be acceptable. In contrast, girls do not have that kind of irrational freedom. They must keep their virginity until the day they get married. It is the only way for the bride to be recognized and accepted into the groom’s family. If girls have to keep their pureness then doesn’t it make sense for guys to do the same? In following the society’s culture, the only difference it shows is the lack of women’s rights.
Expectations for each gender also differs each other. The girls have to learn how to do embroidery, sew, weave, wash, and iron, making candy, and arranging flowers. These are the skills that are expected from all girls. In addition, they are not allowed to go into the public as much as they wish. They are confines in their houses, socializing with only family members. Guys on the other hand have opposite expectations, or I should say, independence. They serve in war, drink and party until early mornings, and spend time in the local brothel. It is obvious to see guys in their society are free to mingle and interact with everyone while girls must stay home.
One possible conclusion from this culture is they belief in a paterfamilias oriented family structure. The eldest male in the family takes charge and runs family matters. The men must go into the world and socialized to bring food to the table. In addition, they must maintain family’s honor and keep up their reputation. The women in the house have to perform domestic tasks such as cleaning, cooking, and washing for the whole family. In the men’s eyes, it is the ideal and proper duty for all women. As a result from the duties women’s must perform, they are imprisoned in their own homes from light to dark. They wake up to make breakfast, watch the children, clean and wash during the day, and make dinner at night. By the time they finished these tasks, it would be dark to go out.
From these expectations that women have to fulfill portray them as inferior to men. The men are the only people who get to see the outside world. They are the ones who interact with new people and have a broader knowledge of current events. They are also the ones who shelter the family and put food on the table; the women’s contribution in the family is view as trivial. Realistically, their homes and society would not function in harmony if there were no women. Everyone have their own parts to makes up a family. Each of these contributions should be weighted equally whether is it just cleaning dusts off the shelves or bringing a bag of cash home. To prove my point, here is an example. A man can come home from a long day of work with a bag of grocery. He is also hungry. Of course he has to rely on his wife to fulfill his need of a hearty meal. He has to hand over the groceries to his wife who will then turn it into a festive meal. In all, there must always be an A and B to make C.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Similarities Between Ibo and Me

It is very surprising to find similarities between the Ibo culture and the Vietnamese cullture. The most striking common custom is the marriage ceremony. Wedding in the Vietnamese culture is a chance to gather family and friends together. Everyone, including family, friends, and neighbors, comes to the bride house to make preparation. The men and boys are responsible to clean and decorate the exterior of the house. The men also kill pigs and chicken to use for dishes. Younger boys help spliting woods for fire. Women and girls prepare the ceremonial food for all the guests. They cook special dishes, prepare fruits and vegetables, and decorate the house with flowers. After all is done, the groom’s family arrives. Leading the way is the groom, the matchmaker, and his parents. Immediately behind them are ten close male friends and relatives of his carrying trays of gifts for the bride’s family. One of these trays include bottles of wine. Other trays hold fruits, candy and snacks, cakes, tea, the bride’s dress, jewelries for the bride, and many more. The bride’s family receives the gifts by sending out their female friends and relatives.
The Ibo culture share very similar traditions. Almost all the women from the village come to Obierika’s compounds on the day of the wedding. They help the bride’s family make preparation. They cook yams, cassava, and make vegetabl soup. The men duty’s is to help pound foo-foo and split woods. When their shares of work are done, they welcome the guests. The groom’s family is welcomed by the important females of the bride’s side. The groom leads the way. He is followed with his male relatives carrying pots of wine. When everyone is in the compound, both family exchange words. It is obvious as to how similarities these two culture have when is comes to marriage. The procedure from preparing foods to greeting the guests are almost identical. It is fascinating to find two countries, which lies thousands of mile apart, can have such tradition in common.
There is one belief which the Vietnamese culture does not agree with the Ibo culture. The killing of children is seen is murder. It is immoral to take the life of any person. Everyone born has the right to live under any circumstances. No one has the power to decide whether the person deserves to live or not. In fact, having twins is rare in the Vietnamese. The mother should actually be happy if she have twins. The Ibo believe twins are evil; therefore, they should be killed. It is unfortunate to have this belief. In Things Fall Apart newborn twins are left in the forest to die. This practice is cruel and dehumanized in the eyese of the Vietnamese. I believe the approach of the Vietnamese on this issue is universalized. Whether is it an American, Canadian,, European, Chinese, Japanese, or Austrailian, they would all agree that putting a person’s life in danger is unhumane and no one should have such authority to do so.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

The Importance of Marriage: Children!!

The people of Ibo believe marriage is the most crucial task to keep the continuation of family line. All males want is to get married so they can have children. Together with their wife and children, they’re able to build a loving family just like their parents. Getting married is seemed as a duty all male must fulfilled. If we compared it to American culture, it is like going to college to prepare for a successful future.
The love and passion they parents have for their child is expressed through the name. Here are a couple of examples. The name Nwabu-uwa means my child is the world to me. A more expressive name is Nwakasi which denotes my child is priceless and the most precious. These names can obviously reveal the pride the Ibo parents have in their children.
The man is not the only ones obsessed with children. A woman’s acceptance to her in laws’ family also depends on whether or not she can conceive a child. After she born her first child, she is immediately considered a part of her in laws extended family. Up until this point, she was never officially the wife of her husband. The birth of the child earns her this status.
If a couple is unable to conceive a child, they would be looked down by everyone. Both the husband and wife would be mocked and be the subject of talks. The people of Ibo view a childless marriage as disappointment. These humiliations commonly cause relationship problem between the couple. The person to suffer most is the woman. Her name would be picked out and get ridiculed by her female neighbors. In search for hope, she constantly seeks the doctor for help. The doctor might give her roots and herbs to take try. If she has to hope, the doctor last resort is giving her psychological theory to comfort her misfortune.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Ivan living in lies

Ivan Ilyich’s most excruciating pain is to live in lies. It seems as if his life revolves around a pretend dress-up party. Ivan takes in what he considered the ideal way of life and pursues it at any cost. His goal is to be recognized, successful, and admired. To attain these three characteristic, Ivan set up a fictitious lifestyle. 
            Ivan puts extra efforts into decorating his dream home. He puts personal touches to every corner of the house. His main purpose is to create a house that would flaunt the richness and greatness of his possession. It is a way to indirectly announce to his friends that he is just as wealthy and better off as everyone else. He accessorizes the house with expensive china and bronze. Yet, Tolstoy makes an interesting comment. He says, “it was like the home of all people who are not really rich but who want to look rich” (57). Tolstoy’s statement definitely proves the point. Ivan is living in a living fantasy. His house is not the upper-class, sophisticated mansion he yearns for. The house is furnished with, “. . . inexpensive purchases of old furniture” (57). Therefore, Ivan is actually pretending he lives in the dream home. Because he thirst envy by others, he must sacrifices to live with pretension.
            The guests who come to his house are also selected by their ranks and importance. Ivan, who wants to be successful, must have good relations with high-ranking professionals. He has to carefully choose his companions. They should be able to give him the best advantages. After a couple round of elimination, Ivan got rid of the, “. . . shabby friends and relation” (61). They are the people who offer no benefits to his stride for success. They are only people who show affection towards Ivan. Obviously, it is not enough for Ivan. His desperation’s for this goal persuaded him to give up the true friends and take in the allies. This is another way of expressing how Ivan manages to abandon his old friends and pretend to make good relationships with his new ones.
            Ivan even includes his works as part of the pretension. The endless arguments he has with his wife began early in the marriage. At first, Ivan was humble, and let his wife have her ways. As the situation intense to the point he can not handle it, he escapes by burying himself in the office. He gives his unremitting attention to his job. He stays in the office for long hours, and arrives home as later as he could. In Ivan’s mind, this plan forces his brain to think that life is pleasant. He is the man of the family who puts bread on the table. Therefore, he must constantly work hard to do so. Domestic tasks are the duty of his wife. She has the obligation to take care of the house and their kids while he is busy at work. After work, he expects a hearty meal with his wife and children. It is how his family should act. Once again, Ivan is trying to cognate the reality. He forces himself to be separated from his home so that he will not have to face the presence.

Friday, September 21, 2007


What is the role of love in the play?

The power of love is one of the main mechanisms that drives the story along. It has an immense effect on the conclusion of the tragedy. Antigone knows she is sacrificing her life if she gives her brother, Polynices, his last proper respect. Despite the consequences, she still buried her brother. The motive of her action is out of the love and compassion she reserves for Polynices. Antigone’s death reflects a domino effect to the rest of Creon’s family. His son, Haemon, ended his own life when he heard that his fiancée committed suicide. Haemon must feel empty without his fiancée. The absence of her love left a hollow space in his heart. This loss will clearly affect him in a negative way as he says, “Then she will die…but her death will kill another” (99). After finding news on Haemon’s death, his mother decided to join in his footsteps. She secretly killed herself. It is obvious the reason for her action is the agape love she attains for her son. The three deaths also represent the different types of love in human beings. The loves of all human’s heart desire include the following: a mother and son, a sister and brother, and a husband and wife love. The fact that Creon is left alone, with no family member, reveals how love has abandoned him.

Is Creon’s punishment as fair as that of Oedipus?

The story of Oedipus Rex concluded with Oedipus destroying his eyes. He hopes to isolate himself from the rest of the world. He also lost his mother, the person whom he loves very much. His punishments include the following:

First, Oedipus has to endure the physical pain he has inflicted on himself.
Second, he lost his mother/wife, the most important person in his life.
Third, he has to live in remorse for the nefarious deeds he has committed.

Creon’s punishment does not involve physical pain. He did not inflict physical torturing on himself. Instead, it is his mentality that slowly destructs his soul. His one irrational mistake caused the lives of three people. He lost his wife, his son, and his daughter-in-law. These dear people are his family. As they head into the underworld, they take along their loves. Creon must now live as a loner with no love, sympathy, nor respect. He has to live to blame himself for the destruction of his own family. Another price he has to pay for his actions is the family’s blood line. Now that his only son died, Creon has no successor to carry out his heir. This issue is more excessive than that of Oedipus’s. Although Oedipus lost a family member and his eye sight, he still has his children to continue the ruling. On the other hand, Creon is left with empty hands. In all, Sophycles made a balanced scale of punishment for both parties. One suffers physical pain, while the other endures emotional pain.


Sunday, September 16, 2007

Destiny, Change, Fear

Anthony brought an interesting point in his discussion last Friday. He mentioned the importance of destiny, change, and fear. I believe there is a special relation among them. It is within the cycle of these three elements that brings out the irony of the play; understanding destiny can bring changes, and changes create fear.

“Why should anyone in the world be afraid / Since Fate rules us and nothing can be foreseen?” (49). Destiny is a cemented path of life created by god. It tells the happiness, consequences, and obstacles each person must endure; the ending of each person’s life is inescapable. At a point in the story, Oedipus’ parents find out their future tragedy which foretells that their own son will kill his father. Immediately, they find ways to prevent the catastrophe. Clearly, the revelation of destiny already brought changes. However, Jocaste was the one who sent Oedipus away to be killed. Ironically, the above statement was quoted by Jocaste, yet she is actually the one who tries to change fate. If she knows that fate can not be changed, why does she still commit sins to prevent fate? She is human, who relies on the intelligence of human; she thinks she could overpower god and mock fate.

“Your fate is clear, you are not blind to that” (70). Indeed fate is as clear as a crystal. No one has the choice to not accept its existence. Oedipus learned of his cruel past and realized that his sins are crimes cannot be undone. He must live with them. Eventhough he is aware of his dark future of long days and nights of remorse, Oedipus still tries to break himself free from the truth. The change he made this time is to sacrifice his eyesight. It is a wise choice? Well, there is not a correct answer. If Oedipus true intention is to not see the future, then he has succeeded. But he also must understand that will still live with knowing that fact that it will come. Destiny will come to find him.

“I fear the oracle may come true” (51). These are the words from the great king Oedipus. After Oedipus found out the truth, he is brought upon with insecurities and dread. He fears the prediction of the prophecy will become reality. This is the last stage of the cycle, where fear finally meets destiny. Jocaste thought she has eradicated evil by giving up her child; yet she still lives with anxiety. Her actions only relieve the concerns of her frightful future. Oedipus plays on the same idea after finding out his sins. He tries to isolate himself from the rest of the world by ruining his eyes. Once again, Oedipus is running away from the truth because he thought he could change the presence by blinding himself. If he can not see, he will not have to face the truth. This is an act of cowardice that derived from fear.

The cycle of these three elements would repeats itself. Undoubtedly, fear will soon reach destiny. From fear, we make changes in our life to avoid our destiny. We desperately evade destiny with ridiculous tricks. But in the end, we must face our destiny.


Thursday, August 30, 2007

The Kite Runner

I must say that my decision to pick The Kite Runner was a random choice. All the books on the summer reading list were checked out. I would have had to wait for quite a while until it was my turn. Luckily this book was one of the many few that were available. I enjoy reading every written word in this novel from the beginning to end. It leaves me with a justification that “what goes around comes around.”

Even though Amir and Hassan got breastfeed from one nurse, and live in the same house, they are each in different worlds. The soul reason that separates these worlds is the social status. Hassan is the son of a servant. Amir is the son of a wealthy business man. Despite the differences, these two boys bonds like brothers. Hassan protects Amir from all danger with his slingshot. Amir reads books to the illiterate Hassan. What is disappointing is the fact that, due to cowardice, Amir abandons his life-long partner, Hassan. The incident at the alleyway could have been prevented. Amir could have stop Assef. But he did not. This betrayal later injects a painful guilt into Amir for the rest of his life.

Karma soon works its way around. Amir feels ashamed of his decision. He is bashful from his own action. Since that day at the alleyway, he never lives peacefully. He does not even dare to face Hassan. There is a constant reminder of his wrongdoings living inside. This is karma’s first waking alarm; it lets the sinner lives through an uncomfortable life with a regrettable mindset.

The second retribution Amir must face is his obligation to save Hassan’s son. He went back to his homeland in Kabul, the place which buried of all his shameful deeds, to rescue Sohrab. Amir relives painful memories of the past as he searches for ways to free Sohrab. Through numerous obstacles, Amir manages to bring Sohrab to America. None of this could have happen if it wasn’t for Rahim Khan. Rahim advises Amir to take Sohrab from the orphanage. Since my religion is Buddhism, we believe that everything happens for a reason. Those who committed evil will always redeem for their crimes. The fact Rahim decided to contact Amir after fifteen years is no coincidence. It is karma that says it is time for Amir to serve the rest of his misdeeds.

The greatest punishment Amir has to endure is finding out the truth that his half-brother is Hassan. This is the person whom he has always take advantage of. It is the person whom he has been jealous of throughout his childhood. It is the person whom he had betrayed. But also, it is the person whom loves Amir more than himself. This is a cruel penance. He must now feels more remorseful for committing sin on his only half-blood brother.

This novel reminds me of an important life lesson which is to treat others the way I wanted to be treated. The actions I make today might not affect me right away, but it can come to haunt me later on. Good things come to those who give and wait. For others, karma will definitely pursue them in life.