Author: nrj236

“It couldn’t find them here”

Philip Roth’s Nemesis gives us a glimpse into the lives of the residents of the polio-stricken neighborhood of Weequahic. We are introduced to several characters in the course of the story, each displaying a unique relation to the world on the basis of their understanding of polio.

Indian Hill was a means of escape for Bucky, a safe haven to be with his love, Marcia and far away from the contagion. Everyone in the story appears to be running away from polio. It almost makes it seem like polio is hunting them down. Polio becomes a hunter, out in search of its next victim. Marcia even exclaims “How could it possibly hunt them down here?” ( 229).

I imagine that polio takes on an avatar of the grim reaper. No on escapes from death. One is never aware of the arrival of death. In the same way, no one knew when they would become a victim of polio. This probably made it an even scarier ordeal for the residents in the story.

The idea of the hunter is particularly interesting, considering that the nation was in a state of war. Soldiers are almost like hunters, entering foreign territories with the aim of hunting down the enemy, and the prize of the hunt being the victory in battle.

The American polio epidemic was a difficult time in medical history. This is the link to a 1940s Polio Epidemic Fundraising Film which recounts the difficulties of treating the multitude of ill and the use of iron lungs.

Just imagine if we did not have the polio vaccine in the present day? What horrors would we be witness to?

Happy reading!


“I died because my dad was the biggest blood merchant”

Dream of Ding Village is a fiction based on the AIDS crisis in Henan Province in China. Before writing the book, Yan Lianke, the author had visited the AIDS village seven times and lived with the locals for a while. After the first edition was sold out, the book was banned by the Chinese government with the allegation that it “exaggerated the harm and horror of AIDS with the gloomy way of description”.

In this book, we get a unique perspective from a dead narrator at the beginning of the story, who narrates the acts of his father and grandfather and the consequences faced by the villagers. The commodification of blood is an interesting aspect of the story. Blood is the vital fluid that courses through our veins. The irony is, that the blood that is intended to give life, in the context of Ding Village, takes it away.

Although most of the people who moved into the elementary school are nearing the end of their lives, the corruption of human nature never stops. Though on the verge of dying, people still attempt to steal grains and money. Rather than helping each other and making the rest of their short lives more pleasant, they fight for position and power. When Li Sanren died, he can’t close his eyes without having the official seal, the representation of power, in hand. What does power and position mean to people? Aren’t we also like the characters in the fiction? We all know that we are dying within a hundred of years, yet aren’t we still having the “the more, the better” mindset, striving to pursue something we can’t bring away after we pass away?

Three-Character Classic is the material every Chinese children learn. It teaches them the basis of Confucian morality, especially filial piety and respect for elders. Grandpa Ding has been teaching Three-Character Classic as a teacher throughout his life. However, it’s ironic that both of his sons aren’t behaving well, not even having the basic respect to their father. People start to look down on him because of what his sons have done. When parents have done their best to teach the children, are they to blame for the children’s misconducts?

Dream of Ding Village illustrates the important aspects of human nature. Ding Hui becomes committed in his pursuit of money, not considering ethics whilst doing so. In order to maximize profit, he sold blood wherever it was needed, meaning that he is to be blamed for the spread of AIDS in his country. At the same time, he profited from the government’s weak efforts to aid those diagnosed with AIDS. His approach to this economic opportunity can be compared to those by tobacco companies who profit from selling their tobacco products as well as profiting from the medication to help stop tobacco addiction. Faced with their own mortality, the inhabitants of the village stop caring for one another and the future of those not infected. Instead, they care solely on coffins and “face”. The book is a significantly effective reminder of the negative consequences of placing our financial benefit before the long-term burdens that haunt us down the line. Ding Qiang, Ding Hui’s son, was murdered, using poison, by the villagers in retaliation of his father’s actions. Like the case of Ibsen’s Ghosts, sons are punished for the sins of their fathers.

The majority of the readings that we did dealt with looking for the cause of a plague to find something or someone to blame. Whether it was supposedly caused by the LGBT community or as punishment from God to those that have constantly sinned people always looked for someone to blame. In the case of Dream of Ding Village by Yan Lianke, The grandfather of the narrator is pinning the blame on his son, Ding Hui, for becoming a blood merchant. Ding Hui’s pursuit of a better life turned him into a heartless man, he did not shed any tears when his Son died but lashed out at the other villagers for the murderer to show himself. Ironically, Ding Hui himself is looking for someone to blame for the murder of his son as well. It is possible that Ding Hui is to blame for the spread of AIDS in their village because of his cheap ways of extracting blood, however nonetheless the villagers still consented to his business. Furthermore, we believe that the Grandfather himself is also looking for someone else to blame for the spread of disease, as he himself was the person that said blood would always flow. In the case of Dream of Ding Village, what would pinning the blame on someone for spreading AIDS bring? Apologies would not bring back the dead nor cure the people currently carrying the disease.


— Lateefa, Abdullah, Kai-Wen, Neha

There is a little bit of devil in her angel eyes

Kushner’s Angels in America is a thought-provoking play,that encourages the reader to confront the challenges of living in a broken society.

Throughout the play, we are introduced to several Angels with various intent and personas. The Angels of Heaven are meant to be guardians of those on earth. They possess powers that are superior to those of human beings, however, they are in a situation where they must lower themselves and seek help from lowly human beings. They appear to be jealous, that the earth is what it is when Heaven is a wreck without God.

The two Angels that stand out, in my opinion, are Angel Bethesda and Angel IIII. The latter visits Prior and places on him the responsibility of spreading the message of being stationary to human beings. She appears to care less about providing a solution or healing Prior. It is unusual for an Angel to be self-absorbed. The Angel Bethesda ,on the other hand, creates a fountain of healing where she touched the earth. Both are Angels of Heaven , but each with a uniquely different motive.

Here is the Epilogue where Prior discusses his interest in the Angel Bethesda.

The world continues to move forward, despite the wishes of the Angel IIII. It continues to change and progress. The hope that the Bethesda fountain brought, would once again be restored in the world. In a crumbling world of ailing souls.

Happy reading!


Mother Knows Best

This week we read Ibsen’s ‘Ghosts’. This play has several underlying messages and forces that try to compete to get the viewers and readers attention. For me, the one character that stood out the most was Mrs. Alving. I always found my sympathies shifting in her favor.

She is a strong-willed woman, who knows right and wrong. However, due to social restrictions, she is unable to use her voice. She is a strong female character who takes over her husband’s household after his death. Mrs. Alving’s most outstanding trait is her motherly love and instinct.

All through the play, she makes several decisions out of love and concern for Oswald. She displays strength as a mother.  She returns to her husband’s house where he committed adulterous deeds for the sake of her son. She sends him away to protect him. Which mother can bear to be parted from her child? But she does everything to ensure that her son is safe from the vices of his father.

Mrs. Alving has several overlapping identities in this play. She has to play the different roles in relation to herself, her husband, her son, and society.

Only a mother’s heart will know the pain of a child’s illness. She is distraught and in disbelief when Oswald reveals that he is ill. At the end of the play, he asks her to assist him with suicide to end his torture and pain. What should a mother do? Should she help her son kill himself? or should she help ease his pain?

Here is the dialogue exchange between mother and offspring as performed by the Almeida theatre.

When reading about Mrs. Alvings choices of sending her child away to protect him, I thought of mother Gothel from Rapunzel. She tries to hide Rapunzel from the dangers of the outside world by locking her up in a tower. In a way, Mrs. Alving was hiding Oswald from the reality of his father’s sins by sending him away. Both are maternal figures to the children they care for. Yet they both have varying intentions within the context of their respective stories. Maternal instinct, it seems, can be displayed by masking reality.

For your viewing pleasure , Mother knows best


Happy reading!