Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Joyce's Severe Case of Homosexual Panic

"Since Stannie has been identified as the beast and since he also served as the model for Duffy and is the source for his admission of homoerotic desire, Duffy also becomes a beast that Joyce must drive before him. Joyce must repel the beast. He must claim that the beast speaks a language he does not understand, because knowledge would implicate him in ways that his homophobia cannot permit. As Colleen Lamos observes, to "know about homosexuality is to be its accomplice."" (330)

Joyce, James. Dubliners. Ed. Margot Norris. New York: Norton Critical Edition, 2006.

The above quotation comes from Roberta Jackson's "The Open Closet in Dubliners," where she critiques James Joyce's "Painful Case." I found this particular excerpt to be very interesting as Jackson notes several things that never crossed my mind while reading the story. In the above quote Jackson notes the distinct "homosexual panic" that Joyce seems to be experiencing as he wrote this story. She evaluates it through the words he uses in his work and playing with the often used metaphor of the "beast" that Joyce goes to time and time again throughout his works. Such an analysis never crossed my mind until I read what Jackson had to say. After going back, I agree completely as Joyce uses descriptions such as, "prey to habits," "exotic," and "redeeming instinct," all of which play along with the beast metaphor. However more interesting than this is the notion that Jackson presents that Joyce must "repel the beast." He must do this in order to keep from being seen as a homosexual, because if he were to claim to speaking the same language as the beast, or in the case of the story Mr. Duffy, then he would be admitting to knowing the language of homosexuality which he fears. This again became very prevalent to me as I returned to the story for another look. Joyce does in fact push Mr. Duffy away with the way he portrays him in the text. He outcasts him within the society, and pushes him away from others. Doing this is his way of pushing the beast away, and as Jackson notes, his expression of his own personal "homosexual panic." I found Jackson's article to be very insightful, as she presented many ideas about the story, that I had not originally thought about when initially reading it.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Duffy as an Incorruptible Man

“For Charles H. Peake, Duffy is simply an ‘unhuman egoist,’ a ‘voluntary celibate,’ an ‘upright and incorruptible man’ who freely chooses the ‘cold, dark, silent world of his isolation’” (Jackson 331).

To an extent, I agree with Peake’s characterization of James Duffy, but I disagree with the idea that Duffy “freely chooses” to be isolated. Duffy is “incorruptible” in a sense that he does not make motions towards Mrs. Sinico. Before Sinico’s death, it can be interpreted that Duffy does not make motions either because of his sexuality or his respect for Sinico’s marriage. Duffy views Sinico as someone he can talk to, not a lover. Sinico accepts the role as his confessor, but she thinks beyond this role, looking for intimacy. Duffy stays true to his sexuality, but the aftermath of Sinico’s death shows that he is unwilling to choose his isolation, but rather that he is trapped. Jackson makes several arguments as to why Duffy cannot come out of the closet, mainly focusing on the social pressures Duffy faces.

Jackson does not focus on the symbolism of “an overripe apple which might have been left there and forgotten” (Joyce 90). Joyce does not mention the apple beyond this line. The apple is hidden in Duffy’s desk drawer. I interpret the apple as a way in which Duffy proves to be “incorruptible.” Biblically, the apple represents sin. Duffy does not participate in sexual intercourse because he is trapped by society’s interpretation of sexuality. The rotting of the apple supports what he writes in his diary: “Love between man and man is impossible because there must not be sexual intercourse and friendship between man and woman is impossible because there must be sexual intercourse” (Joyce 94). All in all, the rotten apple smell symbolizes Duffy’s lack of sexual intercourse and his sexuality.

By not having intercourse with Sinico, he upholds his beliefs. Through her death, we see that Duffy is at the expense of society’s view on sexuality and is therefore trapped in the same way that the overripe apple smell demonstrates his inability to commit heterosexual sin.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Pilkings and the Other

When Pilkings is first introduced in Death and the King's Horseman, he is adorned in a death mask for an impending costume party. Amusa, a native administration policeman, approaches, but is horrified at the specter of the mask and what it represents. He is unwilling to discuss the impending death of Elesin with the District officer while he is wearing the death mask, as he respects and fears the local religion even though he himself is a Muslim. Pilkings and his wife Jane mock and disparage the man as being superstitious and for having his "big pagan heart" shocked (19-20). In another passage Pilkings is talking to his servant Joseph and facetiously asks the man if "that holy water nonsense also wiped out [his] tribal memory (24)." Joseph is very insulted, as he has adopted Christianity as his religion and Pilkings is slandering it.
These passage are interesting because in the first case it would not be surprising for the two colonizers to react to the alien religions in the that they do. Imperialism was often rationalized by declaring that natives must be "saved" from their pagan faiths with Christianity. However, the way that Pilkings talks about Joseph's religion reveals that the preceding insult of Amusa was not just cultural insensitivity, but disrespect and condescension towards the Nigerians. He disparages a religion that the colonizers, people from his homeland, have brought to the area, and in effect he others Joseph as well. Pilkings subordinates those over whom he has power regardless of their views or loyalty because they are black.

Destroying Lives, Disregarding Traditions

Elesin: The night is not at peace, ghostly one. The world is not at peace. You have shattered the peace of the world for ever. There is no sleep in the world tonight.

Pilkings: It is still a good bargain of the world should lose one night’s sleep as the price of saving a man’s life.

Elesin: You did not save my life, District Officer. You destroyed it.

Pilkings : Now come on…

Elesin: And not merely my life but the lives of many. The end of the night’s work is not over. Neither this year nor the next will see it. If I wished you well, I would pray that you do not stay long enough on our land to see the disaster you have brought upon us. (p. 50)

From Soyinka, Wole. Death and the King’s Horseman: A Norton Critical Edition. Ed.: Gikandi, Simon. W.W. Norton & Company: New York, 2003.

This excerpt comes towards the end of the play, after Pilkings has stopped the ritual from being completed. In this conversation between Elesin and Pilkings it is shown how important the ritual is to Elesin and his people. He tells Pilkings that his stopping the ritual will be bad for the future of his tribe and their culture. However, Pilkings, though he thinks that he has done right by his stepping in, is portrayed as ignorant towards the traditions of Elesin and his tribe because his mind is never changed, but instead he feels confident that he made the right decision. He tries to make small talk with Elesin and console him, but also to make him realize that his life is more important than his tribes traditions. Through a post-colonialist perspective, Soyinka uses the character of Pilkings to show the reader what imperialism was like, and in doing so showing how the outside people had no respect for the indigenous population or their traditions. Instead he shows how they would just come in thinking that they are more superior and that their ways were better, and expect the natives to bow down and follow them.

Those Bloody Drums

PILKINGS: You're quite right of course, I am getting rattled. Probably the effect of those bloody drums. Do you hear how they go on and on?
JANE: I wondered when you'd notice. Do you Suppose is has something to do with this affair?
PILKINGS: Who knows? They always find an excuse for making a noise... [Thoughtfully.] Even so...
JANE: Yes Simon?
PILKINGS: It's different Jane. I don't think I've heard this particular - sound - before. Something unsettling about it.
JANE: I thought all bush drumming sounded the same.
PILKINGS: Don't tease me now Jane. This may be serious.

Soyinka, Wole, and Simon Gikandi. "Section 2." Death and the King's Horseman: Authoritative Text : Backgrounds and Contexts, Criticism. New York: Norton, 2003. 21. Print.

The most apparent and interesting aspect of this passage is the Pilkings' attitudes towards the drums that they hear off in the distance. Obviously, they show that they don't understand the drums, as is apparent by Jane's comment that all bush drumming sounds the same. The British visitors to the land are ignorant of the connotations that the drums carry and what is being conveyed in their simple rhythm and pattern. Furthermore, we can see the Pilkings' short temper when it comes to the natives. Simon exemplifies this when he says that the drumming is rattling him. The drums, entirely representative of the native culture, show Simon's lack of respect and understanding when it comes to other cultures. Rather than immerse himself in the native land and peoples, he and his wife choose only to exploit them, trying to use their traditional garb as costumes rather than seeing their intrinsic value. The superficial lack of respect that the Pilkings' show is representative of the lack of respect that England as a whole was showing to the entirety of Africa. England, just like Simon, wants nothing more than to exploit Africa and it's resources on a scale much grander than simply the theft of ceremonial garb. The Pilkings' show that they understand just enough to feel when there is trouble afoot, mentioning how they hear that these drumming are different from anything that they had ever heard before, and Jane in particular when she mentions that she thinks 'this may be serious.' The point remains, however, that the Pilckings' (England) saw no value in the native culture (Africa) and were simply looking to exploit them (It) for whatever they could, without being killed. 

Sunday, March 27, 2011

"The Color Thing"

Olunde: Don’t think it was just the war. Before that even started I had plenty of time to study your people. I saw nothing, finally, that gave you the right to pass judgment on other people and their ways. Nothing at all.
Jane: [hesitantly] Was it the…color thing? I know there is some discrimination.
Olunde: Don’t make it so simple, Mrs Pilkings. You make it sounds as if when I left, I took nothing at all with me.

Soyinka, Wolfe. Death and the King’s Horseman. New York: W. W. North & Company, 2003. Print.

This part of the conversation between Olunde (an educated Nigerian native) and Mrs. Pilkings (a European woman living in Africa) shows some of the more subtle underlying ignorance in the Pilkings’ outlooks. Simon Pilkings’s outbursts at African natives quite clearly show his ignorance, but in those instances he is well aware of his ignorance. He of course still believes he is superios and correct, but he knows that he does not understand African culture. In the above lines, however, the reader can see that the scant ideas Mrs. Pilkings about cultural relationships is insufficient: she is ignorant of her ignorance.
It is easy to proclaim a belief structure for a group of people, but we must realize that no one is entirely aware of his or her own belief structures. Mrs. Pilkings is the most sympathetic European character in the play, but this hesitance to face an issue she believes to be at the crux of the colonization issue shows that she does not understand the relationship. Another interesting aspect is that the reader does not know what Olunde took with him, so we too are left in the simple and misunderstanding role of colonizers.

Soyinka's Message

Death and the King’s Horseman by Wole Soyinka is a telling story of culture and tradition among a Nigerian tribe. There is a message at the beginning of the play where Soyinka has “avoided dialogue or situation which would encourage” a post-colonial interpretation (Soyinka 3). We have discussed in class the difference between the intended message vs. the interpretive message of the text. I feel that Soyinka does a disservice to his audience by trying to persuade them towards a different interpretation. It was also discussed as to whether or not it was Soyinka’s intention to want the audience to see that he “wasn’t” writing towards a post-colonial interpretation to help persuade them toward that interpretation. Regardless of whether or not Soyinka’s intention was towards this interpretation or not, it ultimately comes down to what the reader interprets the text as. When I read the story, there are parts that show a clear influence of post-colonialism and race theory that helps break down and interpret the text. Soyinka should understand that it is ultimately up to his readers to interpret his story in whatever way they choose. Literature like this is written specifically for an audience to enjoy and interpret. If Soyinka decides to try and force the reader to look at the text in a certain light, then he is ultimately taking the roll of the white, westernized European that he is trying to portray in a bad light. He indirectly is trying to force the audience to read the text, something I don’t think is fair to the audience.

Soyinka, Wole. Death and the King's Horseman. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2003.

Culture Control

JANE Honestly, Simon, I’d trust Olunde. I don’t think he’ll deceive you about their intentions.

PILKINGS He’d better not. Alright then, let them in Bob. Warn them to control themselves...

AIDE-DE-CAMP Very good, sir.

PILKINGS [to Iyaloja] I hope you understand that if anything goes wrong it will be on your head. My men have orders to shoot at the first sign of trouble.

From Soyinka, Wole. Death and the King’s Horseman: A Norton Critical Edition. Ed.: Gikandi, Simon. W.W. Norton & Company: New York, 2003.

This dialogue in the play focuses on the man Simon Pilkings, a British district officer in colonial Africa, who attempts to prevent the occurrence of a violent Yoruban ritual. On the surface, it could be argued that Pilkings has a right to stop the tradition, as he aims to prevent the ritual suicide of the Yoruban king’s horseman. In this specific piece of dialogue, we see Pilkings giving his soldiers “orders to shoot at the first sign of trouble.” From a post-colonial perspective on this part of the play, his aggressive plan to halt the suicide ritual brings about the ever-present concept of imperial power. This disparity in beliefs of the British officer and his soldiers, and the Yoruban natives, illuminates the imbalance of power that exists between the two groups. Iyaloja, considered the leader of the local market, asks Simon “To prevent one death you will actually make other deaths?” Set in his stubborn British beliefs, Pilkings shows us his insensitivity to the tradition of the Yoruban people through his willingness to resort to violence through the power of his soldiers and weaponry. In a post-colonial analysis of this excerpt in Death and the King’s Horseman, the behavior of Pilkings in response to the traditions and rituals of the African people emphasizes the control the British forces maintain over the local African population. In stating “warn them to control themselves…” it can be realized that he will use whatever force is necessary to prevent the sacred ritual from taking place. His need to maintain control over the Yorubans shows us his ignorance of their culture and their valued traditions.

Postcolonial Analysis: The Power of Names in Death and the King's Horseman

OLUNDE: By all logical and natural laws this war should end with all the white races wiping out one another, wiping out their so-called civilization for all time and reverting to a state of primitivism the like of which has so far only existed in your imagination when you thought of us. I thought all that at the beginning. Then I slowly realized that your greatest art is the art of survival. But at least have the humility to let others survive in their own way.
JANE: Through ritual suicide?
OLUNDE: Is that worse than mass suicide? Mrs. Pilkings, what do you call what those young men are sent to do by their generals in this war? Of course you have also mastered the art of calling things by names which don’t remotely describe them.

Soyinka, Wolfe. Death and the King’s Horseman. New York: W. W. North & Company, 2003. Print.

The above excerpt from Soyinka’s play takes place Olunde, a native of Nigera, and Jane, a European living in Nigeria. Olunde, who has been schooled in Europe and has returned for his father Elesin’s death, argues with Jane about the nature of WWII. He claims that the whites, with their gigantic war, are no less “barbaric” than the Nigerian natives’ ritual suicide—in fact, he states, war is worse—it’s mass suicide. His sardonic invective that Jane has “mastered the art of calling things by names which don’t remotely describe them” sums his sentiment up neatly.

But his statement also hides a deeper statement on the nature of colonized peoples. A postcolonial analysis of the text reveals the power inherent in the colonizer’s ability to control the names of things. The European’s define “primitivism” and the transparent line dividing “war” and “suicide.” By controlling the names of things, the colonizers also control the identities and self-perceptions of the colonized—the Europeans define “civilization.” Here, Olunde, a medium of both the Nigerian and European cultures, forces Jane to question her pre-conceived notions of Nigerian savagery by forcing her to view European customs and ideals through a new lens. In this way, he is able to subvert her European ethnocentrism and offers a retaliation to her accusations of primitive ignorance by shedding light on her own biased ignorance.

The white...

"For I confess to you, daughter, my weakness came not merely from the abomination of the white man who came violently into my fading presence, there was also a weight of longing on my earth-held limbs. I would have shaken it off, already my foot had begun to lift but then, the white ghost entered and all was defiled. " (Soyinka 53)

Soyinka, Wole, and Simon Gikandi. Death and the King's Horseman: Authoritative Text : Backgrounds and Contexts, Criticism. New York: Norton, 2003. Print

It seems strange that Soyinka would ask us not to impose a post-colonial theory to this text while he places lines such as this throughout his story. This line comes from Elesin during a conversation with Pilkings, Jane, and Elesin's new wife. There is a deliberate move by Elesin to refer to the whiteness of his oppressor. This word, 'white', reaffirms the black/white binary, placing it's power in the text. The text is speaking for itself and building its story and value on the use of this word. Lines such as this have exposed it to Post-colonial analysis by building on the colonization plot being developed. The treatment of death may have been Soyinka's intent, however the blatant power struggle taking place in the story is too critical to the text not to be considered.

Post Colonialism and Intentional Fallacy

“The bane of themes of this genre is that they are no sooner employed creatively than they acquire the facile tag of ‘clash of cultures’, a prejudicial label which, quite apart from its frequent misapplication, presupposes a potential equality in every given situation of the alien culture and the indigenous…” (3) From Soyinka, Wole. Death and the King’s Horseman: A Norton Critical Edition. Ed.: Gikandi, Simon. W.W. Norton & Company: New York, 2003. In this passage from the author’s note the reader is warned against reading the play through a post-colonial lens because it cheapens the intended message of the play. While this calls into play the concept of intentional fallacy, I think we need to explore this concept more and see what role it actually plays in interpreting text. My point is this: intentional fallacy claims that the author’s intentions when writing a text are deemed irrelevant once the text is complete because the text speaks for itself. I agree, but since the text speaks for itself it is because the author taught it to speak. Therefore , I feel we should heed the warning in the author’s note and ask ourselves not about the relevancy of the text in a post-colonial context, but rather the way the play deals with the universality of death.

Cultural Struggles

Praise-Singer: Our world was never wrenched from its true course.

Elesin: The gods have said no.

Praise-Singer: There is only one home to the life of a river mussel; there is only one home to the life of a tortoise; there is only one shell to the soul of a man; there is only one world to the spirit of our race. If that world leaves its course and smashes on boulders of the great void, whose world will give us shelter?

From Soyinka, Wole. Death and the King’s Horseman: A Norton Critical Edition. Ed.: Gikandi, Simon. W.W. Norton & Company: New York, 2003.

This line that comes early on in Death and the King’s Horseman sets the tone for the significance that the villages culture has. It shows how the tradition of their culture goes back a significant time and is not welcome to change. In specific, “great void” refers to the traditions that the village has when it comes to death. The village has gone through many struggles but they have never given up on their culture and the traditions and rituals that come with it. They have continued with this strict appliance to tradition because they think that if they did not their culture would crumble like a river mussel without a home. Their firm adherence to the rules and rituals of their culture makes sure that their culture survives and does not get swallowed up by any other culture, such as Jane and Pilkings’. This passage shows how volatile their culture is and how much of a threat Pilkings interfering with their rituals could be. They take their rites so seriously that if one does not go according to plan their entire culture would be in chaos and the future of their village would be in doubt. Pilkings represents a great threat and conflict to the culture because, though he tries to get along with the villagers, he wants them to follow his orders. The conflict between the villagers trying to follow the traditions of their culture while Pilkings’ tries to keep them under his control persists throughout the story and leads to many struggles between characters. This struggle between the cultures is what leads to Elesin and Olunde’s downfalls.

Run and tell that... Amusa

AMUSA: [shouting above the laughter] For the last time I warn you women to clear the road. WOMAN: To where? AMUSA: To that hut. I know he dey dere. WOMAN: Who? AMUSA: The chief who call himself Elesin Oba. WOMAN: You ignorant man. It is not he who calls himself Elesin Oba, it is his blood that says it. As it called out to his father before him and will to his son after him. And that is in spite of everything your white man can do. WOMAN: Is it not the same ocean that washes this land and the white man’s land? Tell your white man he can hide our son away as long as he likes. When the time comes for him, the same ocean will bring him back. AMUSA: The government say dat kin’ ting must stop. WOMAN: Who will stop it? You? Tonight our husband and father will prove himself greater than laws of strangers. AMUSA: I tell you nobody go prove anything tonight or anytime. Is ignorant and criminal to prove dat kni’ prove. IYALOJA: [entering from the hut. She is accompanied by a group of Young Girls who have been attending the Bride] What is it Amusa? Why do you come here to disturb the happiness of others. From a post-colonial perspective, I thought that this short section of the play was imperative to post-colonial analysis. Post-colonialism refers to people responding and reacting to colonialism. In this passage, we are a given some evidence of anger and disagreement. Amusa is an important figure because he is an African American working for white British colonists. He is not trusted by the villagers because of his colonial perspectives and actions. The post-colonial reaction comes into play through the women. In the first line, it is evident that Amusa tries to assume control over the villagers (particularly the women) and believes he has this British colonial authority. However, the woman begins arguing with Amusa about Elesin. Amusa is order edby the government to stop Elesin and the women seem to argue against that. Iyaloja then questions Amusa about his presence. This passage exemplifies the clash between the colonizers and the colonized and the reaction is quite negative. This represents post-colonial theory because the women do not let Amusa do as he wishes. I also thought it was interesting how all of the women were grouped together to make it appear more intimidating so that they could get their point across. The language that was used such as “blood” and “white man” was quite strong because it showed that the women were serious about their argument. I thought that their stance against colonial authority was quite courageous and it definitely caught my attention when I was reading through this passage.

Native Identity in Religion

JANE: Is that really true, Simon? Did he really curse you good and proper?
PILKINGS: By all accounts I should be dead by now.
JOSEPH: Oh no, master is white man. And good christian. Black man juju can't touch master.

From Soyinka, Wole. Death and the King’s Horseman: A Norton Critical Edition. Ed.: Gikandi, Simon. W.W. Norton & Company: New York, 2003.

This interchange between a colonist official (Pilkings), his wife (Jane), and their native servant (Joseph) displays the views of both submissive natives-- and by extension, the colonizers-- toward power dynamics between the varying groups involved in the process of colonization. Joseph claims that Elesin's curse against Pilkings is completely impotent, but his reasoning behind this claim implies that he believes that under other circumstances it would be effective. Joseph's wording, listing characteristics of Pilkings directly after his denial of the curse's power indicates that the curse is powerless only because of these characteristics-- that Pilkings is "white" and "a good christian." We know from earlier dialogue that Joseph is himself a Christian, and he seems to be assimilating to the Western culture and norms of the colonizers, in religion, language, and adherence to their social structure. This idea of a white Christian's unique immunity to the spirits worshiped by the natives shows an interesting complexity, however, in this relationship. While adopting the colonizer's religion, Joseph still respects the power of native religion. This phenomena is also seen in Pilkings' and Jane's conversation with Pilkings' Muslim subordinate Amusa, who is mortified by their vain use of pagan relics, seeming to fear some sort of divine retribution. Although the presence of Islam in Africa was present before the British colonization, this retention of indigenous practices and beliefs in spite of conflict with religions of colonizing and immigrating religions shows the immense power of religion as a bastion of native identity in resisting external influences.

The Heartless Conqueror..

PILKINGS: I don’t have to stop anything. If they want to throw themselves off the top of a cliff or poison themselves for the sake of some barbaric custom what is that to me? If it were ritual murder or something like that I’d be duty-bound to do something. I can’t keep an eye on all the potential suicides in this province. And as for that man—believe me it’s good riddance.

JANE: [laughs] I know you better than that Simon. You are going to have to do something to stop it—after you’ve finished blustering.

(Soyinka 25)

Before this passage, the Pilkings’ servant Joseph is speaking with Jane about the meaning of drumming. After Simon overhears the conversation, he orders Joseph to go away and stop preaching. Simon and Jane begin arguing about the culture and tradition of this particular tribe in Nigeria. Simon Pilking is a white police office in the village and from the passage he doesn’t care about the indigenous people at all. This is the problem when someone tries to colonize a country that already has its own culture. That person usually rejects or bashes the culture simply because he or she doesn’t understand. In turn, Simon doesn’t think he has to stop the deaths because they are due to a “barbaric” custom. Simon bashes the culture for who they are and he doesn’t care that people are killing themselves. By him saying ‘good riddance’ it implies that he is glad these people are killing themselves because of a ritual. This emphasizes the lack of knowledge the conqueror usually has for the established culture within a country.