The Bluest Eye – A review

The crowning achievement of a story is when it stops being just a collection of words and transcends into reality. With Toni Morrison’s “The Bluest Eye”, crosses that boundary easily. In her debut novel, Morrison creates reality and mixes it up in words that drop like music. She makes the narrators speak, she makes them croon in blues, when a character moves, she makes the movement a jazz melody. Her lyricism is subtle, but, you feel it run deep into your soul. The novel becomes a mark that you wouldn’t brush off no matter how hard you try.

The novel is a exploration of the meaning of beauty through the life of Pecola, a little girl who believes that she would be more beautiful only if she had blue eyes. However, it also lays bare the hard dislike the colored men and women harbor within themselves. The novel begins with Claudia as a narrator. She narrates sometimes as a young child living through the events and sometimes as a grown woman looking back on her childhood.

Her narration introduces us to the protagonist. She paints with bright strokes a picture of a girl who is subdued in nature, a girl who is bullied and left alone. Claudia is not a girl who despises herself, in her fierce pride she almost shadows Pecola, but, the contrast humanizes our little protagonist too. We see a tortured soul who feels alone, and is bullied, a girl who is led easily into anything that comes her way. Then, we see the narrator, in all her innocence describing things that are adult, and we let that resonate with our very souls.

Morrison works in contrasts, she paints prostitutes and pious women, she creates happy families and unhappy ones and makes us breathe in the pain that her protagonist suffers from. A pain she drives through the descriptions of Pecola’s closed ones. Yet, she is cautious to keep Pecola just out of our reach, she is cautious in making her mysterious, never hiding her and yet, giving the account of her through the eyes of others. She paints her family, a family which takes pride in their ugliness, to the point that they try to make it their own, they try to emphasis on the ugliness. This becomes

Pecola’s downfall, the unhappiness of her parents spreads to her and she wishes she could just disappear. Where Claudette’s innocence wishes to explore and is unabashed, Pecola’s innocence avoids and wishes to disappear.

Mrs. Breedlove, Pecola’s mother, pushes her daughter is subtle ways. Morrison humanizes her as the woman who blames her misfortune on her husband and on her ugliness. Here lies the author’s brilliance. Even when she creates someone like Cholly, a drunk man who would not care for any of his family, she still manages to humanize him, to make us sympathize with him. In this way the Breedloves are created as a dysfunctional family, but, at its heart a human one.

In its humanity the novel breathes. When a laughing prostitute lets go of a jar of liquor nly to make it burst at the feet of some young girls. When a little woman discovers she is menstruating and she asks if she was dying. The instances become part of something living.

The author says in the foreword that she wrote the story after her friend expressed her wish to have blue eyes. However, the book delves into her own life too, and in a way that is painful and aso eye opening, she creates something spectacular. “The Bluest Eye” is a living novel, it grows on you and consumes you, leaving behind a changed person and in that Morrison conquers. She asks questions about whether the beauty we assign to people is a representation of the truth, and then she makes us investigate that ourselves.

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No, I am not afraid of the dark…

… but am afraid of what’s in it

Darkness has always been an old friend, spine-chilling and endless, but, a friend nevertheless. Maybe, because it also holds melancholy well; and without darkness we really would not appreciate the light. Yet, it holds mysteries and fears that we put in our cupboards when we were younger, that we decorated our hiding places with so that we won’t face them.

It becomes more apparent when we face a lonely night reading a novel and we push the lights off. The sounds and creaking amplify in the dark and you imagine that someone is holding out their hands just to grab you and pull you downwards. You try to persevere but, once the fear is in your mind it grows in bounds and leaps. Soon enough the small sound becomes the footsteps of a friend you lost the year before and the creaking the hands opening the door. You try to push in your earphones and listen in all hopes of deterring your fears but, it doesn’t go.

You are a slave of darkness now, and the darkness condemns you

This post is a part of Write Over the Weekend, an initiative for Indian Bloggers by BlogAdda.

“Lord of the Flies” – A review

“Lord of the Flies” sketches out a human narrative that brings civilization as a whole under inspection. Through the actions of kids stuck in an island, William Golding tries to emulate a society without laws, and then draws out a story that is spine-chilling and introspective at the same time. William Golding’s universe is not unfair, however, it does erase the boundaries of good and bad quite easily.
When, the children land on an island, the first response is to panic and scatter. Here is where we find Ralph and Piggy, both voices of reason in a group of boys who tend to go towards anarchy. The civilization starts. Till this point, Golding is fun, he makes Ralph and Piggy be high-nosed English boys who have been conditioned by the society to be perfect in following the rules.

The pace Golding establishes is sluggish, he uses words that create an atmosphere of horror and adventure. At once, you almost feel like you are reading a teenage fiction book. However, the pace changes almost suddenly and you are smack at the middle of everything again. Ralph is driven by his need to be civilized and often times becomes the sole voice of reason in the Island, but, in such extraordinary circumstances, the boys seek fun, they seek freedom, and there comes Jack.

Jack is a character whose caliber might be comparable to that of Arnold Friend’s from Joyce Carol Oates story “Where are you Going? Where have you Been?”. He is an enigma, a person who desires to have a following and be called strong. In his craving for authority, for power, he leads a group of men to hunt, an occupation that automatically gives him a ruling role, and also puts him away from the voice of reason, Ralph. In his struggle he embraces his primal instincts and thus, the organized society descends into madness.

William Golding investigates the parts  of human psyche that we do not discuss even when we are behind doors. He puts children in a position that demands them to form a society and descends the entire world into anarchy. The tension rises with the killing of the sow. A mother sow who is killed by the group of hunters in a moment of passion. They enter her and she dies, her head to put atop a wooden stick. The sow in this case is a catalyst, and the killing begins the tumultuous pages that put the violence out there, naked for all to be seen.
Here, Golding does a master trick, he puts the rational people with the primal beasts and he lets the desires flow out into the open, an experiment that makes this book transcend into new territories, and to some extent, dissolve the boundaries of good and evil.

If the sow represents the innocence, Simon represents the morality of the society. He is always there, he understands the pain and the ultimate fate that awaits them and he fights it. At the end, he becomes a sort of catalyst too, he is portrayed as somewhat of an icon, who is doomed to fail. In the mastery of words, Golding transforms the whole world which seemed so real into fantasy and in that fantasy he plays along really well.

There is a reason why this is a cult classic, the atmosphere, the components and the characters all add to the story creating literary brilliance. Golding creates characters that one might see in any school and he uses them brutally. Written by Golding in the aftermath of the second World War it depicts humanity as a whole. It might be interpreted as a saga of the civilization itself, or just a document on what goes on inside the human mind whose civility we have come to take for granted. He does not employ flowery language and the book carries no tedious descriptive passages, instead in a taut story which has all the making of a childish adventure he throws in his ideas to create something that has survived the test of time.
Characters here do not merely represent human beings, they become symbols of a greater moving civilization, a representation of integral parts of any society.
In doing this, Golding creates a genius masterwork that would be remembered through the ages. The only problem I see with this novel is that the pace, which is uneven throughout. In the middle the pace whizzes out and we are left with sluggish writing that makes reading a chore.

Overall, this is a work that is brilliant and would probably be remembered through the years for being one of the best novels ever written.

Daily Prompt : IMHO

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “IMHO.”

As I write this, some of my brethren in Indiana are getting persecuted due to their new religious law. Something that I thought could happen, and yet, somewhere refused to believe the implications that it would have.
The revisions allow for them not to be persecuted on an individual basic, a victory maybe.ut, they can still refuse to service a gay wedding. They feel that they are being pressured into somehow following an ideology they do not believe in when they are asked to service a wedding that goes against their believes. For, somewhere along the line discrimination has become fairer when you attach the lord’s name to it.
But, I can forgive all that. I can forgive it all, like we have forgiven all the atrocities committed against the gay community for years and years. Maybe, because that is what we do. Because to accept those problems is something that is natural to us, something that must be accepted. We are the good kids that accept persecution because apparently by being ourselves we infringe the religious freedoms of everyone around.

And believe me, religious people had always had a reason for discriminating. Even after years of dominance, they have held that chair of “the persecuted child”, so even when they have the rod of the oppressor in their hands they need laws and laws to protect their bigotry. And this is me being rational, do not even ask me, what my anger is asking me to do right now.

Then, again I do accept it, like I accept everything.

Some person would be turned down by a vendor he has known for 30 years today just because he is not holy according to the shopkeeper. And that would have to be accepted without contest. And he would accept it because he is a gentleman, and because a legal battle would just be oppressing the religions further.

The things we do for Love (And Friendship)

This post is about a very old friend. She is perhaps not too old an acquintance for me to call her ancient, but, today, I have known her for about 4 years, and I have not even lived on this Earth for 20 years yet.

It was a blazing summer, and the day of her birthday was coming closer (it comes close for this year as I write), I was the idle Indian boy who thought birthday gifts were not really necessary and she was a girl who thought that gifts were really important. Just the previous year she had given me a set of deodorant and talcum powder (perhaps a hint to my body odour problem), and I was at a loss at what to give her.
I planned on giving nothing at all in fact. More so, because the friend had been a lover once, and that relationship had ended badly. Or, because like every teenage boy who had ever been heartbroken, I sought revenge in the most trivial of ways, because I thought that was what she deserved.

But, then we had spent some time together before.

Yes, she was a lot shorter, and thinner than me (and not my kid as the photo might suggest)
Yes, she was a lot shorter, and thinner than me (and not my kid as the photo might suggest)

And as much I would have liked to have forgotten those times, I remembered them everyday. Heck, I even wrote poems that went
“Oh, Juliet, your Romeo waits for you beyond the sea”
I however, didn’t ever resemble Romeo in any respect.

Un-romeo like hero of this story
Un-romeo like hero of this story

But, she was always my Juliet back then.

The specimen here is a beautiful human being
The specimen here is a beautiful human being

Her birthday got alarmingly close, and I had no idea what to gift her. I was planning not to gift her anything but, I thought that might be a bit rude all with the gifts she had always bought for me. Also, it was somewhat of a revenge in itself (Oh teenage poet, you would make a great drama movie someday), to give her back everything that she had given me.

The day before her  birthday (which by the way I was not sure of attending), I went to College Street, now, for those who haven’t visited College Street in Kolkata, it is somewhat like this

The painter is not responsible for any geographic inaccuracies
The painter is not responsible for any geographic inaccuracies

And I bought a copy of “Jane Eyre”. I do not recall if it was battered or new (battered would be a strong bet here) and I went home with it.

The next day, the inevitable call came quite early, and I was basically left flabbergasted when she ordered me to be there. As hard as it may be to conjure given my size, am usually the person who is commanded.

And in that last moment of epiphany I picked up the book put it in wrapping paper, and wrote her a poem (I do not recall what exactly that was, but, yeah.)

And she was happy enough, and I cherish the fact that the particular sight of her happiness is mine and mine alone.

She also asked me to explain the poem though, and that got me a bit angry.

The face of a defeated poet
The face of a defeated poet

But, then I was happy, I had after all been true to myself and followed my heart.
And she was happier, and that somehow made me more pleased than I had been in ages.

There is nothing more precious in a teenage life than the happiness of a friend.

And her happiness was more precious that anything else.

The awkward hug
The awkward hug

That moment of inspiration after her honey-dewed voice called, and perhaps a bit of heart made that day worth it. I didn’t spot the “Jane Eyre”, the last time I went to her home, but, she told me that she had read it twice already. I also asked her for the book since, I intended to read it myself, but, she still refuses.

Following my heart, probably did increase our friendship that day.

I am participating in the #DilKiDealOnSnapdealactivity at BlogAdda in association with SnapDeal . And I would love if you would follow your heart too

On Writing a Novella

This break from the blog was essentially because I was writing a novella for submissions to a contest. And therefore, I was quite busy on all fronts. I was trying to measure up my thoughts, and give them a way to express themselves out in the stage. Believe me when I say it is more difficult than it sounds and I am trying to put through my original experience here.

It is heartbreaking to finish a story no matter how small or big it turns out to be. It takes away a chunk of you as you write and you hope for God’s sake that it ends up being better. Yet, it is a hopeless journey and you make it alone at the end of the day. There is no one to be seen from the perch you sit on, there is no one to be seen at the end of the road either. Yet, you hold on because you do have a story to tell, even if it is not a story that would be read widely enough. And that is the feeling that drives you into this frenzy, this madness that tears you apart with its teeth.

I write like that, I write because I have to write, because there is no other escape for people like me who are stuck there.

And then, I have finished it