Monthly Archives: April 2015

Transformation of a family under the influence of Christianity

During the period of Modernism, many authors often use literature to explore the transformations in culture, belief, lifestyle and human experience to the readers. In the story, “Chick’s School Days” written by Chinua Achebe, tells us the background of an African Child’s family in the beginning. This is where the author explores the first transformation about the traditional belief of an African family. The father, Amos insists to marry a woman Osu, who was considered to be the lowest caste in the Igbo class system. According to the passage “In the past an Osu could not raise his shaggy head in the presence of the free-born. He was a slave…to be despised and almost spat on” (828) we see how low the African society valued Osu as a slave. Amos’s mother is a character representing this traditional belief, who strongly opposes their marriage as it would degrade her son. But Chike’s father influenced by the Christian, Mr. Brown, and transformed into a more modernistic person, who doesn’t care about the caste and willing to marry her. Similarly in today’s modern society, people don’t really care about spouse’s last name as a factor of marriage.

Another transformation happens to Chike, as a child of a family of five daughters “Chike was brought up in the ways of the while man, which meant to opposite of traditional” (827). Since he got raised differently than the other traditional African kid, he refuses to eat heathen food. Chike was not even fluent in English but he is sent to a Christian school to receive Christian education. The teacher, environment and school greatly influence him in the interest of acquiring the new language. “He liked particularly the sound of English words, even when they conveyed no meaning at all” (830) this detail shows how much he loves English. Therefore, he is not a close-minded African child, he has transformed into an open-minded child who is willing to learn and sing.

The theme transformation also shows up in many other readings that we’ve read in the class. For examples, Lu Xun, “Diary of a Madman”, the madman was surrounded and raised in a feudal society, where he was able to transform himself into a moral person and differs than the cannibalism around him.  The period of Enlightenment is also a transformation in human knowledge, it transforms a person from being ignorant and lack of reason to an intellectual and rational person.

Can you relate the theme transformation to any other readings that we have read?

Achebe’s Big Message in a Short Story

“Chike’s School Days” by Chinua Achebe is one of the shortest stories Inhave ever read. Although, I enjoyed reading it, after my first read, I was clueless as to what the purpose of this story really is because there wasn’t exactly any conflict nor a climax of any sort. After reading it again with detail, I realized that this story does so much more than tell a story of one person. Achebe managed to give so much insight about his culture implicitly. Achebe used a boy named Chike to be the eyes of the readers.

Chike also has two other names, one of them being John. This is one of those examples where Achebe says so much with such little words. Chike also having a common American name, John, showed how modernized his family was. Achebe goes on forward with more detail about the marriage between Chike’s father and mother. They both came from different backgrounds, and although Achebe pointed out that society looked down upon such an action, he managed to give us a very positive feeling about this anecdote, secretly condoning such behavior.

One thing that really stood out to me in this story was the way Chike viewed the American culture, specifically the English language. Even though, he was nowhere near fluent in English “He liked particularly the sound of English Words, even when they conveyed no meaning at all” to him (Achebe 830). This fondness with American culture is something that I can relate to. Growing up in Pakistan, I was the same way. In fact, almost everyone in my grade put the English language on a pedestal. This may seem harmless, but what I came to realize is that worshipping another culture usually leads to looking down on your own. Just like how Woolf didn’t believe men were the cause of gender inequality, but still held them responsible for it because of their instinct for superiority, I believe the same applies when Chike started to fall in love with American culture, and slowly started losing his own cultural values.

“Chike’s School Days” and “Two Sisters”

In “Chike’s School Days”, I believe language, education and upbringing are major themes when one delves into the significance of this piece. From the very start of the story, the reader understands that Chike was the first son born into a family of daughters. It is because of this reason that he was given the name “Obiajulu”, one of three names given at his baptism that means he was either the only child or the only son. It is also important to note that he was raised in the manner of a white man which is interesting being he is Nigerian. However, what is more interesting is the way in which he views his own kind now as he was raised to shun old Nigerian religious and cultural practices. He even goes as far as saying that “we don’t eat heathen food” (pg. 828), as his friends mother offered him something to eat. This resulted in an outrage, as the mother could not believe that this young child had similarities to that of an old white colonist. It is also fascinating to note that his father married a woman of the lowest class in Nigeria. However, as the story continues, Chike finds a love for literature and English words fascinate him even though he doesn’t know what most of them mean. Chike studies the dictionary and quickly picks up on elaborate words such as “periwinkle” (pg. 829) Furthermore, I believe the author moves back and forth in time to show the beauty of his native language as he blends it with the English language. At the end, Chike fantasizes with a song he came up with consisting of random long words. I believe he uses the English language to find an escape from his world into something that relates to him more.

In “Two Sisters” I believe there is a contrast in the way in which the two sisters behave. Mercy is unmarried and materialistic and gets the things she wants from dating older men. However, her sister Connie is married and disapproves with this lifestyle. “They are selfish.” “No, it’s just that women allow them to behave the way they do instead of seizing some freedom themselves” (pg. 997). This shows that Mercy has no problem with this behaviour and a question is raised whether it is ok to use someone in order to get something, even if they are being used themselves. I also believe that there is a fine line between getting manipulated and being the manipulator in this context as they could both be married and know their husband is having affair or date an older man in order to get what they want.

Write Women Back into History, “A Room of One’s Own” by Virginia Woolf

As she opened the window, the narrator sensed that the city, London, “was wholly indifferent”(95), and all the individuals “seemed separate, self-absorbed, on business of their own”(96). But the sight of a couple getting into a cab, which has been mentioned back and forth, suddenly lit up the hope to reconnect this separation.

She went into deep meditation about the maintaining of the continuity of mind, which sets brain in a normal, comfortable state. The sight, again, reminded her of the possibility of cooperation of 2 sexes in the human mind, “in order to get complete satisfaction and happiness”(98).  She agreed with what Coleridge said, “a great mind is androgynous”(98) and held the opinion that, to write greats work that could be resonant, impediment-free, creative and undivided, the writer had to respect both the masculine side and female side in his/her mind. However just like women writers through history had unfortunately filled a lot of their fiction with bias and bitterness, she found that modern men were doing the same. She took down a novel by Mr.A , which was well thought by the views. However, the excessive appearance of “I” to assert the writer purely as a man, exactly represented how sex-conscious their age was at that moment. While women in history feared their inferiority, modern men were afraid of loss of their superiority because of suffrage. She felt bored about the novel, because “there seemed to be some obstacles, some impediment of Mr.A’s mind”(100). For if everyone’s mind is at peace and continuity towards different sexes and allow them to be either man or woman, they wouldn’t feel offended by maleness or femaleness, and they wouldn’t need to write books explaining or even denigrating women. As a result, she regarded women’s reading works of this kind in their age as a mistake, since women couldn’t find what resonated with their mind and “the emotion with which these books are permeated is to a woman incomprehensible”(102).

She denied to present the comparative values of the sexes of the writers, because she thought that putting values on human beings is quite impossible and unfeasible. Further more, she thought that it was wrong for any writer to give their way to judgments, reviews, subject values put over their head and encouraged writers to write naturally what was in their mind. As she said, “praise and blame alike mean nothing” and for writers “to submit to the to the decrees of the measures the most servile of attitudes”(106). So as long as one is writing what he/she wants, and “whether it matters for ages or only for hours, nobody can say”(106).

Similar to the first 3 chapters, she emphasized the importance of material things in the life of a writer again. She insisted that “it was necessary to have five hundred pounds a year and a room with a lock if you are to write fiction or poetry”(105), because “intellectual freedom depends upon material things”.  The reason why women had less intellectual freedom was that women had always been poor from the beginning of time. Again, she mentioned the sister of Shakespeare, as the tragedy of intellectual genius of women, who still “lives in you and in me, and in many other women who are not here tonight, for they are washing up the dishes and putting the children to bed”(113). But this time, she was encouraging women to strive for a chance of life for the sister of Shakespeare, or even all of the forgotten women by  getting educated and “going about the businesses in life”(112) without excuseIt means that women, to prove their necessity in the society, shouldn’t simply stick to taking care of children and doing chores, curtaining themselves behind men, but should discover any sort of importance. A kind of importance, like a play by Shakespeare, like shaking an empire or leading an army in a battle, can help them to write themselves back into history.

Man-womanly and Woman-manly,“A Room of One’s Own” by Virginia Woolf

In chapter six of “A Room of One’s Own” by Virginia Woolf, states that “Perhaps a mind that is purely masculine cannot create, any more than a mind that is purely feminine, I thought. But it would be well to test what one meant by man-womanly, and conversely by woman-manly”(98.)Woolf tried to illustrate that if writers want to create a good writing, he or she need to be looking at other different point of view which is either man or woman side. Similarly as previous chapters, instead of blame on man blindly,Woolf give out a fair point that both man and woman should think man-womanly or woman-manly in order to make permanent literature.


Why do writers should put their sex aside and then write? Woolf mentions that “is that it is fatal for any one who writes to think of their sex. It is fatal to be a man or woman pure and simple” (104) and “ And fatal is no figure of speech; for anything written with that conscious bias is doomed to dealth”(104). Woolf wants to show that man and woman should be equal treated. She think that those writing works with bias are not permanent. Works with purely man view may cater to society of that centuries. However, “ Brilliant and effective powerful and masterly, as it may appear for a day or two, it must wither at nightfall; it cannot grow in the minds of others”(104). This means that writer should forget about gender and set he or she in a equal balance of thinking in order to have chance to produce masterpieces. As Woolf also mentions that “ There must be freedom and there must be peace”(104) which says that without emotion and bias on sex when work on writing, those will be amazing and shock.


In chapter six, Virginia Woolf states the importance of having money and a own room again. “that it is necessary to have five hundred a year and a room with a lock on the door if you are to write fiction or poetry”(105). What factor can affect woman’s writing? In Woolf’ s point of view, it is doubtless and no question about the importance of material and space. Woolf says that “ it is far more important at the moment to know how much money women had and how many rooms than to theories about their capacity”(105). If women lack of wealth, then she has to make money for living. It’s very difficult and tough for woman to make money during that centuries. When making living, woman have to give up their times for writing. Also, because of poverty, woman have to endure invisible pressure such as integrate others. As the time passes, the desire of writing from woman may just disappeared.


“I should implore you to remember your responsibilities, to be higher, more spiritual; I should remind you how much depends upon you ,and what an influence you can exert upon the future”(110). In my opinion, the despise of man on woman is according to their education itself which is not right and equal on sex. That is the reason why I think Woolf didn’t blame on man from the entire text. Woolf wants to wake woman up. She want woman be ware of their one responsibilities. Only when woman realize to put passion on writing, bear all difficulties and not blame on chance, time or money, then they will succeed. Shakespeare’s sister will reborn, because literature never fall in to death. Do you think it is also woman responsibilities to higher and change their future?

Women’s Creative and Intellectual Limitations By Patriarchal System of Belief

In Virginia Woolf’s “A Room Of One’s Own” the narrator is on a quest to support and explain Woolf’s thesis that for a woman to be able to write fiction she must have financial means and a space of her own to do her writing. The narrator is not Woolf herself; in fact she could be any woman. She is representative of any and all women who embark on such a search for answers on the matter, and what obstacles she would face both literally and figuratively on that journey. In fact, the narrator’s journey is riddled with obstacles deterring her from access to full understanding on the subject matter. However, these same obstacles serve to support Woolf’s thesis in within their mere existence. Though it should be noted that although limited, the narrator’s does access to a more expansive pool of knowledge because of her financial security and independence. She is also consciously aware of this, which also serves to reinforce Woolf’s initial thesis. Any and all freedom that a woman can attain from patriarchal ideals will allow for further intellectual expansion.

The narrator goes as far as to invent the existence of an equally genius sister of Shakespeare, Judith Shakespeare, to emphasize how women are hindered intellectually by an oppressive belief system that is fundamentally rooted within a society, and is consequentially embedded into it’s politics. The rights of women are therefore controlled and delineated by a male hierarchy. Shakespeare’s fictitious sister experiences exemplify the existent inequality in the treatment of the sexes, and how women’s capabilities are stunted by it. “To have lived a free life in London in the sixteenth century would have meant for a woman who was a poet and playwright a nervous stress and dilemma which might well have killed her. Had she survived, whatever she had written would have been twisted and deformed, issuing from a strained and morbid imagination. And undoubtedly – her work would have gone unsigned.” (367)

What is interesting however is that although the narrator acknowledges the patriarchal system’s hindrance of women’s intellectual development, she does not blame men themselves for it. “Possibly when the professor insisted a little too emphatically upon the inferiority of women, he was concerned not with their inferiority, but with his own superiority.” (357) But one must ask oneself if such differentiations are possible. Can such a system exist without the active participation of an oppressive party? The narrator states that to be equals both sexes must “shoulder their way along the pavement” that it “calls for gigantic courage and strength”, and more importantly “confidence in oneself” (357). But how can self-confidence become a hallmark in the female psyche and identity when the ruling system in place perpetuates the belief of female inferiority?

Women and Literature – A room of one’s own

This reading from Virginia Woolf, A room of one’s own is about Virginia’s view, “A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction” (339), and the process she went through to conclude at this opinion. She admits that this “leaves the great problem of the true nature of fiction unsolved” (339). The whole essay is her explanation on how she concluded on the fact that women need money and that they are unequal to men. “I propose making use of all liberties and licences of a novelist, to tell you the story of the two days that preceded my coming here” (340).

She chooses not to answer to the problem of women and fiction and she instead tries to go deeper by talking about different famous writers. The “I” she uses in her story is not her. It is not important what is the name that we choose to give her, but she talks about her experiences and her thoughts so that the reader can see where her opinion started. She reviews the state of scholarship, both theoretical and historical, concerning women. She also elaborates an aesthetics based on the principle of “incandescence”. I believe that she uses the imagery of light and fire in chapter 1 because she wants to describe her aesthetic side of view.

Something that I really liked is how careful Woolf was in chapter 2, not to blame men for the unfair treatment of women. She blames the universe and its violence stating “life for both sexes—and I look at them, shouldering their way along the pavement—is arduous, difficult, a perpetual struggle. It calls for gigantic courage and strength. More than anything, perhaps, creatures of illusion that we are, it calls for confidence in oneself” (357).

In chapter 3, Woolf continues talking more about the relationship that women had with literature during the time of Elizabeth. She writes “Here am I asking why women did not write poetry in the Elizabethan age, and I am not sure how they were educated; whether they were taught to write; whether they had sitting rooms to themselves; how many women had children before they were twenty-one; what, in short, they did from eight in the morning till eight at night” (364).

I would like to raise a question on that last part. What are the differences that the relationship between women and literature in the Elizabethan years are with today. Do you think that female writers have the exact same value as male writers in the 21st century? Also, during our semester we read about female writers that weren’t wealthy but they still wrote great literature. Do you think that nowadays is more important to be wealthy than centuries before in order to be able to be a great writer?

A Room of One’s Own

“A Room of One’s Own” by Virginia Woolf, Woolf stated that ” here then was I (call me Mary Beton, Mary Setion, Mary Carmichael or by any name you please – it is not  a matter of any importance)” in the chapter one. (340) It showed the readers that the narrator was a fictionalized character instead that she was not her. The lack of identity of narrator gave the readers that everyone could be the narrator. It also made the narrator more convincing. By using “I”, Woolf emphasized the fact that women were not treated equally as men were which due to the sexism and traditional bonds.

In the chapter one, the narrator had two expulsions because of the sexism in Oxbridge College. When the narrator was warned off the university lawn, instantly a man intercepted her. After she realized that the man intercepted her only because she was a woman. The man said that “Only the Fellows and Scholars are allowed here; the gravel is the place for me [narrator]” (341) In addition, she was forbidden to enter the library. “he waved me back that ladies are only admitted to the library if accompanied by a fellow of the College or furnished with a letter of introduction.” (342) Two expulsions could explain to the readers that the narrator was treated unequally just because  of her sex; It also was a symbol of education culture which was a invasion to the women’s mind. After that, Woolf used personification to describe the library which slept forever, moreover, the narrator made decision that she would not come back to the library at all in order to show how angry she was. (342) In the of period time, Woolf described the sound of music was sorrowful to set off the emotion of narrator because she was not treated as the same as men.

Woolf was carefully not to blame men for the unequal treatments towards women in the chapter two. Instead, she considered the reasons caused the gender inequality, such as women were not independent in finance. The narrator got five hundred pounds a year by her aunt, as a result, she did not need to do hard works to earn money and survive her life.  Instead, she thought that “I need not hate any men, he can not hurt me.”(360) She forgave men for their injustices to women when she was independent in her finance. She claimed that when she enjoyed the luxury of finance, she also got freedom. On the other hand, she thought that it was a reason for a woman why they could not write well because of lack of independent finance.

Woolf also found  that how unequally women were treated in history.  First of all, she stated that “Wife beating” was a right for men; then what effect was when a daughter refused to marry the man of her parents’ choice. Even though women who lived in upper class family,  they rarely were allowed to choose their husbands by themselves.(362) She thought that women were considered as the property of their families or husbands. How could they have ability to write well in the situation?

She conjured the imaginary character of Shakespeare’s sister to show that women could not be as well as men because they were treated in two different ways. Both Shakespeare and his sister lived in the same background. For Shakespeare, he could do what he wanted to do and people would support him. Compare to Shakespeare, the sister could not get education. Even though she read books, her mother would ask her to change her mind, instead of caring about housework. Woolf also described how other people reacted when they knew that a woman wanted to be a player in order to explain why a woman could not have the same achievement in any areas.

Do you agree or disagree that a woman has to be independently wealthy in order to write well?why?



More on the Cover Artist: Tamara de Lempicka

Tamara in the Green Bugatti, 1925 by Tamara de Lempicka (self-portrait)

In case you were curious about the painter who created the image on the cover of volume F of our anthology, here’s a little bit more about Tamara de Lempicka:

“…Now known as Tamara de Lempicka, the refugee studied art and worked day and night. She became a well-known portrait painter with a distinctive Art Deco manner. Quintessentialy French, Deco was the part of an exotic, sexy, and glamorous Paris that epitomized Tamara’s living and painting style.

Between the wars, she painted portraits of writers, entertainers, artists, scientists, industrialists, and many of Eastern Europe’s exiled nobility. Her daughter, Kizette de Lempica-Foxhall wrote in her biograpy of Tamara De Lempica Passion By Design, “She painted them all, the rich, the successful, the renowned — the best.

The work brought her critical acclaim, social celebrity and considerable wealth. ”

There was also an interesting novel that came out a few years ago about her life, called The Last Nude, by Ellis Avery: