At the beginning of our last class, we tried to summarise what a black hole is and how it is formed. Much to the astronomers’ and physicists’ frustration, we could not fully comprehend the phenomenon of the black hole. It is necessary to understand how a black hole works and therefore, it is only right that I share whatI have discovered about black holes.
A Black hole is a region of space having a gravitational field so intense that no matter or radiation can escape. On Nasa’s Website, they go into further detail about how a black hole is formed and whether or not the Earth will be destroyed by a black hole. They write:
Stellar black holes are made when the center of a very big star falls in upon itself, or collapses. When this happens, it causes a supernova. A supernova is an exploding star that blasts part of the star into space.
The video below also lends us a visual on the formation of a black hole is formed.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=80HkL3EF2tc (here is the link because for some reason it will not let me add the video)
Now that we understand what a black is, what do you think the black hole is in the story? Do black holes kill us or transports us to another universe?
So when you think you can escape the gravitational pull of adolescence, just remember, nothing or no one can escape the black hole.
During our class discussions, we have come to the conclusion that there are not many adults in the story. The author had focused on the world of teenagers. This is probably because adolescents are known to take chances and sometimes irrationally take decisions. The characters continuously take chances and try new drugs without thinking of the consequences. In the video below, Dr. Adriana Galván explains how the teenage brain functions. She also implies why teenagers are more likely to get addicted to a drug at a young age.
This video, perhaps, justifies the choices the teenage characters have made. Do you think the characters (who were affected by the STD or addicted to drugs) are to blame? Are they responsible for what has happened to them?
Sinha’s Animal’s People is a novel that is composed of a collection or a series of tapes recorded by a 19 year old boy, the protagonist of the novel identifies himself as an “Animal.” He does not really remember the days before the horrible incident caused by the poisonous smoke and chemical leakage in the Kampani’s factory, resulting in many diseases and death of people living in Khaufpur. One of the victims of “that night” (4) incident is the protagonist, Animal. He got the disease at the age of six. He “could not even stand up straight. Further, further, forward [he] was bent. When the smelting in [his] spine stopped the bones had twisted like a hairpin, the highest part of [him] was [his] arse” (15). Ever since then, Animal was teased and called, “‘Animal, jungle Animal!’” (16) by other kids and recognized that he was different from the normal people in appearance, differentiating himself from others and calling oneself, “Animal,” and therefore, going through an identity struggle.
Identity is one of the major themes in Sinha’s novel. From the very beginning of the novel, Animal addresses the issue of his identity: “I used to be human once. So I’m told. I don’t remember it myself, but people who knew me when I was small say I walked on two feet just like a human being” (1). In this first statement, he says “used to be,” signifying that he no longer sees himself as a human after his appearance got distorted. The fact that Animal convinces himself to be viewed as an animal is evidently portrayed in the novel, especially in the earlier part of it. He says, “I no longer want to be human” (1). The following conversation between Zafar and Animal illustrate that Animal does not really know his origin and identifies himself as “Animal:”
“What’s your real name?”
“Animal’s a nickname, na? I mean your born name.”
“I don’t know.”
“My name is Animal,” I say. “I’m not a fucking human being, I’ve no wish to be one.” (23)
The conversation above suggests that Animal has convinced himself not to be viewed as a human. While he is a human being, he denies his human nature and calls himself “Animal.” Do you think Animal is trying to run away from reality by seeing himself as Animal? Doesn’t this remind you of Walsingham who created the feast during the plague?
Animal’s identity struggle is further explored later in the novel, during the conversation between him and Zafar and Farouq, Animal says,
Zafar and Farouq have this in common, I should cease thinking of myself as an animal and become human again. Well, maybe if I’m cured, otherwise I’ll never do it and here’s why, if I agree to be a human being, I’ll also have to agree that I’m wrong-shaped and abnormal. But let me be a quatre pattes animal, four-footed and free, then I am whole, my own proper shape, just a different kind of animal from say Jara, or a cow, or a camel.
“I’m the only on there is of this type.”
“You pretend to be an animals so you can escape the responsibility of being human,” Farouq carries on.
“And I’m an animal, why?” I retorted. “By my choice or because others name me Animal and treated me like one?”
“You’re well enough looked after now,” says Farouq. “We are your friends. … To be accepted as a human being, you must behave like one. The more human you act, the more human you’ll be.” (206-208)
Do you agree with Zafar and Farouq that Animal should see himself as a human being? What does it really mean to be a human? What is the difference between a human and an animal? What does the title of the novel, “Animal’s People,” suggest about identity and difference between men and animals? Moreover, what makes and creates one’s identity? Is identity inborn, shaped by one’s experiences, or determined by other people’s point of view? (We asked this question in FYD, remember? ;))
Other than calling himself, Animal, due to his appearance, it is significant to note that he does not know his origin. While he was given a name when he was in the orphanage, he claims that he does not remember his born name. In order to understand one’s identity, it is crucial for one to know where one originates from. This seems to be a recurring theme in many novels. Even before the conversation between Zafar and Animal, Animal talks about his origin:
On that night I was found lying in a doorway, child of a few days, wrapped in a shawl. Whose was I? Nobody knew. Mother, father, neighbours, all must have died for no living soul came to claim me, who was coughing, frothing etc. plus nearly blind, where my eyes had screwed themselves against the burning fog were white slits bleached on the eyeballs. (14)
Not knowing his parents influences Animal to undergo inner struggle. While he shows hatred toward being called a human, the inner side of him illustrates that he yearns to be a human being, creating further inner struggle. This is explicitly seen when he desires and regains hope to stand on two legs when Elli, the American doctor comes and builds a health laboratory or clinic.
Another important aspect of this novel is the languages that it is composed of. The characters of this novel all speak different languages: English, Hindi, French and in some cases we could consider the sounds of nature as a language of its own. All these languages were combined in one novel for the Eyes to read. What is the purpose of this combination? To start with, the editor explains (at the beginning of the novel) that some idioms could not be translated into English, and that is why French is used throughout the text. And, since the story is based in India then it would make sense why Hindi is used. But, what if the combination of languages has an implicit meaning? It might be that, what has happened in Khaufpur was the responsibility of global governments? Language is also strongly linked to identity, the French nun (Ma Franci) forgot all the languages she has learned other than her mother tongue. On another note, Animal is taught different languages. He he could understand the language of nature, and is taught other languages to blend in the community. Why does the author incorporate different languages? How does language affect one’s identity?
Along with all the language spoken throughout the novel, Animal seems to hear voices. These voices that are trapped in his head do not only speak to him, but also influence his actions and tell him the future. Surprisingly, Animal doesn’t see his situation as a problem; he embraces it. This is depicted when the French nun takes him to the doctor, and he asks the doctors about the possibility of walking on two legs rather than mentioning the voices. At that momment, he meets and speaks to Kha-in-the-jar. Are the voices Animal is hearing real or is he suffering from a mental illness? To what extent do these voices influence Animal’s actions?
Another significant theme of the novel is justice. The novel is not only the first book where the victims are not victims of a biological disease but a chemical one, but we are, also, informed of the group that is responsible for the cause of this plague. We know who is to blame for the cause of this story that Animal narrates; it is the Kampani factory and its workers. All the people of Khaufpur want justice. Zafar is the leader of their hope for justice. He is battling an on-going case of eighteen years in the courts against the Kampani group. Zafar is the symbol of hope for the people of Khaufpur. They trust that under his guidance, they will be compensated for the effects that they have lived with from that night. However, Zafar knows that the Kampani group has more power, connections and resources on their side but he still keeps his thoughts positive. He says,
“Friends, the Kampani sitting in Amrika has everything on its side, money powerful friends and the government and military, expensive lawyers, political masseurs, public relations men. We people have nothing, many of us haven’t an untorn shirt to wear, many of us go hungry, we have no money for lawyer and PR, we have no influential friends… The Kampani and its friends seek to wear us down with a long fight, but they don’t understand us, they’ve never come up against people like us before… having nothing means we have nothing to lose. So you see, armed with the power of nothing we are invincible, we are bound to win.” (54)
The people of Khaufpur had tremendous faith in Zafar and they knew that he could bring them justice. He reassured them with his actions and his devotion towards them. Should the people of Khaufpur have so much faith in one person or should they take justice into their own hands? What does justice mean to the people of Khaufpur? Do they really want justice or is a dream that Zafar has convinced everyone to believe in?
Ma Franci on the other hand does not believe that the cause of the night was the Kampani factory. She believes that it was the hand of god. She says, “this is his work, he’s up and running again, this time there’ll be no stopping him.” Animal thinks that Ma Franci is crazy to think that god would have this happen to his people. But Animal also does not like this god figure that Ma Franci refers to because he is always silent. Ma Franci thinks that the end of the world had begun that night but Animal tells us, “Sanjo was wrong. F****** world didn’t end. It’s still suffering” (64). Is it fair for the people of Khaufpur to suffer like this? What can be done to reduce the effects of the aftermath of the poisoning that occurred on that night?
The ideas about identity, languages and voices, and justice are discussed throughout the novel. They all influence the actions of individuals and their beliefs regarding the cause of the chemical incident. We hope that we have provided interesting questions to discuss. Hope you guys enjoy the reading and the post!
p.s. We found an interesting video about the novel!
(Can you embed this again pls professor? Thank you. :))
I found this really interesting article on The Economist about China’s biggest health scandal: the AIDS Scandal. I feel that it’s written very much from the western perspective. However, it provides a great insight into the China’s biggest health scandal. The article also quotes Yan Lianke, the author of Dream of Ding Village, in the second last paragraph on issues about censorship of his book. It’s a interesting read. I highly recommend you to read it. It is just about 1000 words long:
It is not just local officials who are sensitive. The party’s propaganda department, which is under the supervision of Li Changchun (the former Henan chief), is just as prickly. Yan Lianke, a well-known writer who wrote a semi-fictional novel based on visits to an AIDS village in Henan, says his work was banned in a secret order issued by the propaganda department and the government’s General Administration of Press and Publication as soon as it reached bookshops a year ago.
Mr Yan says that he had even deleted some details of official involvement in the blood business. The publisher, in Shanghai, submitted a court claim in September arguing that it was no longer bound by some of its contractual obligations, including a donation of 50,000 yuan ($6,400) to the victims. The book, said the claim, had “harmed the country’s reputation”. The court’s decision is awaited.
For most people, the idea of witchcraft is absurd. However, the novel Welcome to Our Hillbrow depicts how traditional societies in Africa believe in witchcraft and use it to understand the certain events such as the spread of diseases and sudden deaths of individuals. An obvious example would be Refentse’s mother who was tortured, shunned and murdered by her own community, based on sympathetic assumptions.
The following video, outlines how witchcraft (today) is perceived and handled in several African countries. Laws have been placed to limit and control black magic. Also, organizations that aid witches who have been chased out of their own communities are in arranged to facilitate change.
To be honest, I’m not a big fan of movies and I haven’t watched The Wizard of Oz or A Streetcar Named Desire to better understand this play. However, Prior’s makeup and lines in the clip that we watched in class on Monday did remind me of Norma Desmond, the main character in the old but famous movie Sunset Boulevard. Here are two pictures for you to visualize their similarity:
Sunset Boulevard is a 1950 American movie directed by Billy Wilder and won three academy awards at that time. In the movie, Joe Gill is a screenwriter who accidentally rushes into an old mansion and meets Norma Desmond, a forgotten silent film star. Norma Desmond is working on a script for a film in which she plans to be the main actor and she wants Joe’s help. After Joe starts to live with Norma, Norma falls in love with Joe but Joe refuses because he falls in love with Betty, another girl. Soon, Norma looses her hope to return to the stage because Paramount is clearly indifferent to her film script. At the same time, Joe plans to leave her so she kills Joe. In the end of the movie, Norma is detected as the murderer and her mansion is surrounded by police and reporters. When she steps out of her house, she dreams that she finally comes back to the stage and says “All right, Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my close-up”. Here is the final part of the Sunset Boulevard:
Prior is similar to Norma in many ways. They are forgotten and abandoned by their lovers and society; they put on lots of makeup to hide their weakness; they both use hallucinations to soothe their pain or depression. Most importantly, they rely too much on hallucinations and dreams, so they may be confused between dreams and realities. Different from Louis, Prior suffers the most but he acts as a stronger figure though we can clearly see his struggle. As a “homo” with AIDS, Prior is definitely belittled and isolated by the mainstream conservative society. However, he wishes to be like Norma, who arrogantly and elegantly walks to the sunset of her dramatic life.
In Angels in America, the author of the play, Tony Kushner, explores many issues such as homosexuality, identity, religion, politics and ghosts. Part One of the play, “Millennium Approaches,” deals specifically with how people, especially those in America, react to homosexuality. Generally, the response is quite negative. While we all know that Joe is a homosexual, in the initial part of the play, he denies that he is gay. This first scene of denial is seen when Joe and Louis talk about Republicanism. When Joe says, “I voted for Reagan,” Louis calls Joe, “A Gay Republican” (Act I, Scene 6). In response, Joe quickly says, “I’m not—,” thereby showing that he’s denying his true self. He continues to deny whenever the topic of him being gay comes out. When Joe declines to have sexual intercourse with Harper, Harper asks, “Are you a homo?” (Act I, Scene 8). At first Joe hesitates but then replies that he isn’t. These two scenes show that there’s a possibility of Joe being gay. While he denies the fact that he is gay because such an idenity is degraded and discouraged both by his religion, Mormonism, and American society at large, in both scenes he shows hesitation before denying: “I’m not—” and takes some time before replying to his wife, Harper. The reactions in these scenes bring up specific questions. How do people generally act or react toward homosexuals? Is it right to criticize them? What is the right or moral way to react or respond to homosexuals? How is the idea of homosexuality explored in the play? Did the play change your mind about homosexuality?
The inner or identity struggle that Joe faces is clearly depicted in Act 2 Scene 2, in which he describes Jacob wrestling with an angel:
I had a book of Bible stories when I was a kid. There was a picture I’d look at twenty times every day: Jacob wrestles with the angel. I don’t really remember the story, or why the wrestling—just the picture. Jacob is young and very strong. The angel is … a beautiful man, with golden hair and wins, of course. I still dream about it. Many nights. I’m … It’s me. In that struggle. Fierce, and unfair. The angel is not human, and it holds nothing back, so how could anyone human win, what kind of a fight is that? It’s not just. Losing means your soul thrown down in the dust, your heart torn out from God’s. But you can’t not lose. (Act 2, Scene 2)
Through the metaphor of the angel, Joe implies that he is struggling with homosexuality. Because he is a devout Mormon, his religious beliefs repress his homosexuality. In this metaphor, the angel symbolizes Joe’s difficulty in understanding God’s will or purpose. The battle seems to represent his struggle to overcome or deny his character or the nature of his homosexuality. Losing in this battle also seems to foreshadow that he will eventually accept his sexuality. What do you guys think of this wrestling scene? What’s the significance of this scene? What do you think the losing of the battle symbolizes or suggest?
Eventually, in Act 2, Scene 8, when Joe talks to Hannah, his mother, Joe faces and admits that he is gay: “Mom. Momma. I’m a homosexual, Momma” (Act 2, Scene 8). Unfortunately, his mother’s response is negative and quite hurtful. At first she does not say anything. Afterwards she says, “You’re old enough to understand that your father didn’t love you without being ridiculous about it… You’re ridiculous. You’re being ridiculous” (Act 2, Scene 8). The repetition of the word “ridiculous” emphasizes that the mother does not accept Joe being gay and that it is something very wrong and against the rules or laws in both Mormonism and the larger society. The stage directions also show that Hannah was quite upset and she warns him saying, “Drinking is a sin! A sin! I raised you better than that.” While she was referring to drinking, she was also referring to his confession. Once again, through his mother’s response, we can see that homosexuals are degraded and looked down upon in American society. If you were the mother, how would you have reacted?
Through homosexuality, Kushner also introduces one of the greatest health issues from the 1980s to the present, AIDS. The disease is first introduced in the play as Kaposi’s sarcomas in Act I, Scene 4. During the conversation between Prior and Louis, Prior says, “K.S., baby. Lesion number one. Look it. The wine-dark kiss of the angel of death” (Act I, Scene 4). The angel of death signifies that K.S. is detrimental. But, what does wine-dark kiss suggest? Why was the disease compared to a wine-dark kiss? Does the color of red wine suggest blood, signifying death? We find this comparison quite interesting. What do you guys think? Moreover, how does the disease, AIDS, affect the lives of the characters in the play?
Another theme which the play outlines is movement. Movement, whether it is physically from one location to another or psychologically from one state to another usually symbolizes new beginnings. It provides a second chance, a new beginning with nothing from the past to hold you down. In Angels of America, we see that Harper is struggling with her life and when Joe asks her to move with him to Washington she refuses. A new place, new job and a new neighborhood would give her a chance to start again. Yet,with change and new beginnings also comes fear. That is the reason Harper decides to stay. At the very beginning of the play we witness the funeral of an old lady called Sarah, who has moved from Eastern Europe to America for a better life. Despite her fears, she was capable of building new future for her sons. Is movement always a positive change? Does movement always symbolize new beginnings? At this stage in the play America is portrayed to be the land of freedom, equality and new beginnings. It is the land where dreams come true. Is this how America will be portrayed throughout the play? Or is the ‘American Dream’ merely propaganda?
Similar to Ibsen’s Ghosts, Millennium Approaches also addresses the idea of ghosts. In the play, Prior is confronted by two ghosts also called Prior Walter. In conversation, Prior 1 and Prior 2 explain that they both die of the same plague that the resent Prior is about to die from. They explain the process of their death but tell Prior that they had their wives and children with them because they were married. Prior explains however that he will die alone because he has no wife and children since he is gay. The idea that Prior is dying of the same disease as his predecessors coincides with Mrs. Alving’s claim that ghosts haunt us. These ghosts that are the behaviours of our those that came before us. Prior could not run from his fate, he was going to die of the plague. None of the previous Prior Walter(s) could have escaped their fate just as Oedipus could not escape his. Do you think that if Prior had met his ghosts earlier he could have saved himself from his fate? What is the significance of the ghosts in the play?
The themes discussed in this play are still topics discussed today. The idea of giving human rights to gay people is a topic debated by politicians, church congregations, and the average man across the world. The topic of AIDS and finding a cure is mentioned in every medical conference. Issues of democracy, racism and religion are debated everywhere. They all promised us that change was coming. How much have we really changed?
While thinking about these questions, perhaps you may enjoy this trailer for Angels in America as presented by Signature Theatre Company.
As Evgenija mentioned in her post, Professor mentioned in class about the nazism theory behind the novel, and it relation to the world wars but we never had the chance to talk about it. I attached a video made in xtranormal, that aims to describe the philosophies of Albert Camus. There is also some comparison between his other novel Stranger and the Plague. It brings up some interesting ideas about Albert Camus not believing in God and blaming the religion. Do watch it!
While I was researching interesting things related to the novel, “Pale Horse Pale Rider,” I came across some articles that this novel was somehow autobiographical. It said:
“It simply divided my life, cut across it like that. So that everything before that was just getting ready, and after that I was in some strange way altered, really,” said Katherine Anne Porter about her nearly fatal encounter with the Spanish flu. “It took me a long time to go out and live in the world again.” Years later, in a thinly disguised autobiographical novel, she laid out not just her own traumatic run-in with death, the pale rider, but also a rare literary account of the 1918 flu pandemic in the United States and the unprecedented human loss.
Like the setting in the novel, Katherine Anne Porter has lived in the early 1900s. During World War I, Porter was a reporter in Denver, where she met a lieutenant, whom she fell in love with. Furthermore, “Pale Horse Pale Rider”is a short story that reflects her experience during World War I, when the dreadful Spanish flu killed about 30 million people. Porter, herself, also was diagnosed with the 1918 flu pandemic, which nearly killed her. While generally, it is important to know the author’s biography in order to enhance our understanding of the novels or writings that the author wrote, I think knowing the biography of Porter is very interesting and significant because “Pale Horse Pale Rider” is an account of her life experience in 1918. These are three short biographies of Porter, which you can take a look at. Two of them relate mention somethings about the novel itself too: Biography1, Biography2, and Biography3.
I also thought that having some knowledge on Spanish Flu is crucial too because our course is “Contagion.” 🙂 This link is an article that gives an overview of the influenza. And, here are two short video clips that you can watch about the 1918 flu pandemic: