The Mourning Calendar

The short haired girl in front of me was the first one; the rest followed her furiously: they decided the best thing was to decorate – a chemist’s fancy, an engineer’s minor alteration and an architect gathering of shade.

Tumio jodeo kone kichu koro na tumi fashba, her voice pounded, Karon juboner kotha Manush lekhe ar tara shundorjo shogo kore na – shundorjo mane paap oh ache ar eta ak bora paap.

In Bangla, my cousin-sister Deepika, who was known to run away with the Catholic, had taught me this. She was not older than me it was vice versa (I sprung forth a few months earlier in the summer and she the winter-child). Winter must have prepossessed breadth and volume for it is the deepest white – she possessed more wisdom. I had not thought about it until they had cornered me.

It was they with their cunning fangs and out of baggage p[ride that insulted me that I in my prepossessed naivety had insulted them:

“ You stupid little bitch! How dare you complain!”

Well, it was a human right – they had decided to lock up some other girls in the room of electric wires –  that could have led to an accident. And it was my duty to protest.

As they stripped me I felt no shame; rather, I felt liberated – at that moment I realized their were greater devils than myself. When they pushed me into the lake and I felt the cold lungs of the water collide with mine, for four lungs in one ribcage meant the clashing of vessels and air, the suffocation began and I felt horribly mutilated.

“ That bitch could show all her pride now!”
“ Let’s go! Let’s leave right now!”
“ Do you see anyone coming?!”

And this was January…

++++++++++++

 

“ Are you thinking of sex?”
“ Yes, every modern person does so – Freud has blessed us with his vulgarity; his own perverse walk-out has made us realize that we have perversions too.”
“ I wouldn’t give Freud all the credit though – he had just reincarnated what medieval people idolized – a sexual sphere. He has refined the invention and to that I salute him – it is true as it says in the book The Modern Companion To Modernism that sex walked out of the closet with Freud.”
“ Are you a virgin?”
“ Yes, does that excite you, does it give you something.”
“ Well, yes, I am equally virginal.”
“ But, you are –“
“ Interested in the sexes – yes, you are the first person I confessed.”
“ And naturally.”
“ Would you do it with me and another boy – our own personal threesome?” 
“ I do not know but maybe…”
“ I really like you Anita.”
“ Likewise Hassan.”
“ Listen, it’s not only Lust. It’s –“
“ Borderline, between Lust and Love, close to touch..”
“ Somewhat. Oh by the way how is the pack?”
“ I don’t know and I really have no intention to care.”
“ Why does she bother you?”
“ Because I embody things she hates. Such as naivety…”
“ Well…then there is innocence as well…”
“ Do you think she likes you…?”
“ Could be…she wanted to date me before…don’t you remember…?”
“ Yes…but then we were still in High School…”
“ So what…I believe she just wanted consolation…”
“ Why…?”
“ Her father was caught remember…?”
“ Oh, yes, that is WHY?”
“ Yes, the mother was horribly angry…”
“ But don’t you think it was better out -:”
“ …In the open? Anita it is embarrassing isn’t it?”
“ True, True.”
“ And I think she hated me as well.”
“ Why would she hate you Hassan…she adored you?”
“ Yes, but, maybe I’m right. I am like her father.”
“ Hassan you are the only friend I have…”
“ I know…”
“ Does it bother you…?”
“ No, because you are also my only friend…the other guys are just a façade. But, I’m not deceiving them they know it.”
“ I think Deepika was aware of it.”
“ Your cousin is very insightful – did she say anything?”
“ Only that you had the makings of my potential lover.”

And I think I deflowered him as he peeled my bud.

++++++++++++

The Callous schoolteacher had said that she and I could become friends but that in actuality her misinterpretation could not weighed more. Friendship was a sphere of universality of an understanding – as comets crash to earth in a misalignment of direction the bruises she tried to inflict on me found their own craters. I wonder why I didn’t fight back? Possibly, because I knew bruises were wrong but it was also her negativity because its roots were thick but buried like an ancient tree’s: it frightened me many a times but got my fancy as well.

“ And what can you do?”

Many things but the sorceress need not wave to the peasant – I know this factum to be egotistical but how can I repair the human model? How can I repair the hidden anger? But also because she was not filly a peasant – her sorcery was white, A Snow-White type whose pureness was mandatory – mine was dark and flawed in a black that was practical to my identity.

Also, what can be done to a soul who neither wishes to perceive or calm down?

“ I can do many things Kaiya, but I’m afraid you will not understand…”

This time she actually managed not to slap me and I felt awfully irritated. Because I was so used to seeing her as a tempestuous calamity that the human helplessness in her (her lack of knowing of what to do) was quite unannounced.

So was the next move she picked up some scissors and sprang on my hair – “ Why do scum like you have hair?!”

She actually managed to cut her locks – after which she dyed her hair brownish-blonde – my hair was only cut an inch and normal trimming saved any questioning.

Kaiya tried to make my life worse as she always does but it helped nothing on her part. It was May…I had other things to do like writing a few lyrics so Hassan could be interested in playing his guitar. He hadn’t touched it for a while as his ex-older boyfriend probably may tried to do something unruly and disturbing to him with it

++++++++++++

Hassan is crying again and I know why – his mother must have cried and so he cried.

His mother had recently become aware of his bisexuality and as all Bangladeshi mothers panicked at the first sight of it: the kissing of the ex-older boyfriend in a sensuous tongue-serenade that lasted approximately fifty minutes with the ex-older man rubbing furiously his front against Hassan: the erectile tendency of the excited man as they say.

She screamed and screamed and fainted.

She, immediately, arranged a young girl but that girl liked Hassan and encouraged his affairs with his beau. Hassan’s mother now felt ruined.

Hassan’s father lived with his second-wife her two former boys and their four new children. The boys were older than the new children by many years but younger than me and Hassan. The previous sons of the widowed, new wife were named Joi and Nasib and they were friendly with us. The four new children, consisting of three girls and a boy, were not. One of the girls admired Kaiya and found ample pleasure in attacking me:

“ You are not as pretty as her – you’re so ugly no wonder she hates you so much!” This was Anika and then the two other two were Phul and Kanta.

Phul thought it wrong for Hassan to visit because, “ He is a child so separated from our father – he’s so different, he doesn’t obey Abba so what’s the point in him coming?”

Kanta’s deduction, “ Women are teased for their second marriages. Our father was nice enough to keep our step-brothers from my mother’s side – you are obviously your mother’s burden now, so, that is why he didn’t take you; it should stay that way.”

“ Please I rather turn a prostitute then stay with my father twenty-four seventh.” Hassan snorted.

Hassan’s father used to be a gambler; he drank, lost money, beat his wife and had wanted Hassan to be a girl. Because girls were born to be servants and not masters (in his beliefs) and so he hated the idea that Hassan would one day manage him. When Hassan was younger he had taken him to a drive and put him on a park, on an isolated outskirt of the city, Dhaka. He was abandoned without knowing it until his bloody and bruised mother came to his rescue. Nowadays remember that incident makes him slap his father, anytime, anywhere: so, it was his father’s best interest to keep his son satisfied.

Anika’s reaction to Hassan was admiration, “ I want to see you bully Daddy – teach me how to bully men so I may extort them from all their needs and make them my slaves.”

Hassan disliked her because she had become just like his father’s new wife: she beat his father and was one of the reasons of his docility. Though before the divorce his father had given up philandering, gambling and petty crimes; he was afraid of his new wife because she had strong connections and her male playthings were also quite possessive of her. Hassan said once he found his father naked, with his penis bleeding and his back bruised – his “special” area had had a certain amount of blood.

Hassan chuckled, “ Divine retribution for what he did to Amma…”

Anika had laughed, “ And it takes a lot to satisfy a widow.” Unfortunately, I thought Anika had become more crude and unbearable than Kaiya, and it disturbed me to see this at a girl of fourteen when I was eighteen.

Now I am older and Anika may be pregnant. She says she will run away from school this April…

++++++++++++

The first time I met Hassan’s older boyfriend he had made the innuendo of a threesome; ever since then my efforts were best spent in keeping away from him.

I had complained to Hassan and he had laughed, “ You expect such behaviour from a frustrated, depressed married man.”

But truthfully, it seemed his sexual behaviour was very much unsafe. Possibly this is what Hassan had discovered. Yet, he hasn’t told me at all what had happened to make him finally leave this boyfriend. I didn’t think he ever would tell me.

“ I have something to tell you…” Hassan started, “ It isn’t something anyone would want to hear.”

“ What is it…?” there was a mixture of urgency and indifference in my voice: urgency for care and indifference to muffle panic.

“ My ex, he, had wanted to break in a woman’s house and rape her, with me.” Hassan slowly started crying, “ He also started hurting me while…while he had sex…the guitar…he found it kinky…when I told  ‘no’ to both of his requests he got angry. He almost hurt Mamma, he almost hurt…umm…I can’t say anymore…”

I embraced him… It was a cool day in August…

+++++++++++++

Anika had decided to stay close to Kaiya: at first Kaiya felt like a ruler to have such a devout follower. Now, Anika’s own bitchi-tential was coming out and it could have engulfed Kaiya’a.

There was a constant war between the two in their bond of power-play-friendship.

Anika compained to me one day, “ I don’t see how she held on for so long. If I were on her place I would easily manipulated to my side or blackmail you to be my servant by now.”

“ And which would you prefer Miss Anika?” I said with incitement.

“ The former because you have more worth than that maggi Kaiya gives you…” her result bewildered me.

Hassan’s anger was immense, “ Why are you so disturbingly bitchy Anika, Phul and Kanta aren’t like you?”

“ That’s why Kanta got dumped by her rich boyfriend.” Anika laughed, “ Fucked her to the bone too.”

Hassan raised his hand and Anika screamed. I rushed forth but Hassan controlled himself. He looked sad and angry, and – and looked as though a meteorite hit him.

“ Don’t…don’t speak that way about Kanta…” he panted in disbelief, “ She’s yours sister dammit!”

“ How…How dare you try to hit me?!” Anika screamed, “ I’m the only one who cares about you and you wanna hit me?! You care about those sluts when they don’t give a shit about you!”

“ That’s because they have a personality unlike you!”

Anika fell quiet and she started crying, “ But Kanta did get fucked by an richer fuck! She aborted his kid!”

The sound of falling things…

We turned around and see Anika’s mother…she looks shocked beyond anything…

The next day I saw Kanta and she had bruises. She confessed to Hassan and me, “ Yes, I did get an abortion and unfortunately I took Anika along with me…” she started crying, “ Now Phul won’t even talk to me – she thinks I’m a whore but it is she who has had a horde of boyfriends! And Anika, that little slut! She thinks she’s an angel!”

“ Calm down.” Hassan advised, “ You don’t want our brothers to know.”

“ Joi knew – he was supportive during the abortion.” Kanta explained, “ But Nasib was upset – he wanted to keep the child. He said we could love him but you see what my mother did Hassan? And your father also called me a whore!” then she with angry howled, “ They want me to get married to some associate of my stepdad’s but I will kill myself before that happens!”

“  Don’t do anything irrational.” I advised.

“ What am I to do when I have such irrational blood relations?” she looked at me fiercely.

Kanta did marry the associate but he then with prison for assaulting Kanta. Kanta got property-ship of his assets. But…then she almost went to jail…for trying to kill her mother with a kitchen knife and after that Kanta left for the States and married an Arabian man. She finally found peace…

I heard of her last in December…She was expecting the first child she would keep…

++++++++++++

When I remember the last night I saw Phul, before she eloped with the homeless boy turned drug-dealer, I found her as an impractical portrait – exuding maturity and strength: her latter actions kind of broke that for me.

Joi was angry enough to bring his sister back but she had to be put in Rehab. Later it was found out that she had left the drug-dealer and had become school teacher. She was married later to a successful business but found him boring enough to divorce him. She now works as a teacher though she has many sexual partners. She wants to get married to one of them soon.

Joi is humble enough to chase after a girl of personality though he was disappointed. He then took to drinking and dating prostitutes until he got a STD. He now looks for a woman who would understand him. He has become more gentle now because he has seen the death of his step-father before his eyes: killed by one of his mother’s obsessed lovers.

His mother, after all these strains, had left the children to themselves. The Youngest boy, the sole boy born out of her second marriage, Eisaan, has had grown a tendency to treat Joi and Nasib as his parents. However, when he got older he was sent to live with Kanta and from them got to think of her as his mother. Of all the siblings of that household, Nasib and Eisaan were the most stable: Eisaan now studies hard, learns art and is engaged (in his deepest feelings) to a Persian woman older than him. Their relationship is actually beautiful.

Nasib is still an enigma. We hardly talk as he is mostly out and he does not talk much anyway. He has a good sense of innocence in him and he looked as the virgin he was. He was very hurt that their mother had decided to walk out on them but consoled himself with:

“ She is a complex woman with a complex life; I think she needed a breather.”

Their mother got married a third time but did not stay long there. She came back hoping to see her children but only found Anika and Nasib. All the others were gone.

She had a mental breakdown but is recovering. She is trying her best to fix her life.

I think most of my life had passed seeing the lives of family members not my own. It seems odd.

I last heard of Anika in July but it seems their mother is now alone…

++++++++++++

The moon looked glorious underwater; I forgot about everything and just stared at her. I then got out with a gasp and shivered: it was a gloomy night.

I was about to swim back when I saw someone, standing, waiting for me – It was Kaiya.

I didn’t want to pay any attention to her because it was worthless to but she looked intensely at me, but she didn’t look angry but…sad…

“ I’m sorry.” She looked as though she was about to cry, “ It went way overboard this time.”

“ I’m glad you noticed.” I was really going to speak to her. This was the last straw – I couldn’t walk back naked, so I screamed, “ Where are my clothes?!”

But my answer was received by a horrible sight of seeing my clothes were ripped and covered in mud. I sighed; the pain, the anger and the exhaustion made me stay silent.

I was about to go when Kaiya confessed something:

“ I love you Anita.”

I spun around, half-naked now as I had worn some of my altered clothes, and there was a shock then furiously commented, “ What the fuck does that supposed to mean? Are you fucking out of it?”

I was readying myself, knowing how aggressive she was, for a fight but she laughed merrily, “ I mean it. I love you – I always have…”

But this did not quell my anger, in fact the opposite emerged as victor, “ Well if all this shit was your love I don’t wanna see the fucked up side of your hate!”

“ Anita…Anita…please…” she was all over me and trying to embrace me, “Please…please listen to me…”

“ Would you fuck off!” I pushed her off and then I did…

…I beat her

…I kicked her everywhere while she screamed

“ I HATE YOU! YOU FUCK!”

Then, with tears in my eyes I was about to leave, when she got up and grabbed me:

“ DON’T LEAVE! DON’T SAY YOU HATE ME! SAY YOU’LL LOVE ME ANITA! SAY YOU’LL LOVE ME! I PROMISE TO MAKE THINGS BETTER WHEN WE’RE TOGETHER! I PROMISE I’LL MAKE IT UP TO YOU!”

“ GET OFF! GET OFF NOW!”

I was scared. What was she talking about? How can she be serious?

“ I have always loved you…” she was crying, “ But I was angry that you didn’t want to be like the other girls because then I thought we could be friends. But, I realized it was your difference that made me love you. I was so upset that you thought me a bitch and that Hassan was always your own confidante. You –“

“ Just let me go Kaiya. I can’t love you back I’m sorry.”

“ No, you gotta listen, if you do, you’ll forgive me and then I’ll –“

“ This is not about forgiveness Kaiya…” I calmly freed myself from her, “ I just can’t love you that way. You had become my enemy: someone I kinda hate. Now I hate you for not being true to yourself.”

She suddenly slapped then grabbed me, “ But I wanted to be! Can’t you believe me?!”

“ Have you done anything for me that I should believe?”

“ Please…please…Anita…let…me…let me…love you…” Kaiya was sobbing horribly.

“ I can’t love you back but I will definitely stop hating you. Please Kaiya don’t get upset, please, you have to understand. This is the way I feel.”

“ Is it that prick Hassan?”

This is when I slapped her, “ You got no right to curse Hassan! He’s been my friend through thick and thin!”

“ But, he dated me! Though I made fun of you he –“

“ Did it ‘cause I said it was alright…”

“ Anita…”

“ I’m sorry if I said I hate you…” I apologized, “ I was just overwhelmed with anger. Listen, just be yourself more.”

I didn’t understand why Kaiya had loved me and I didn’t understand why she committed suicide either.

That was in September…

++++++++++++

Looking at the pictures of Joi and his new wife made Nasib happy.

“ Too bad Mom couldn’t see it…” their mother had passed away recently.

“ Well, she did even her presence wasn’t known to us…” I said and looked at Hassan, he looked peaceful as he slept in the sofa.

“ You know Big Mom comes around now. When Mom got ill she used to come. I think she never came before because my stepfather was around. If only she knew that he wasn’t violent anymore.”

“ Nasib, you know she knew that; it’s just odd to visit if you understand what I mean.” I explained.

“ Well, I never thought it out like that…” he giggled, “ I guess I have much to learn.”

“ No, it isn’t like that at all – you understand more than all the others in your family. I think you were just not focusing on this matter.”

“ Hmm…he looks peaceful doesn’t he, Hassan.” Nasib looked intently at Hassan.

“ Yes.” I smiled, “ He does.”

“ He deserves this peace – he had it rough when his father was around and even his ex-boyfriend.”

“ So.” I said amused, “ You know?”

“ Yes, and I was happy…” Nasib closed his eyes, “ I want him to be happy.”

“ Well, you are very open about it.” I giggled but stopped when I saw Nasib looking quiet.

“ I may have to hurt him and the others very soon.” Tears were falling, “ I wonder if I’ll be forgiven.”

“ Nasib what are you talking about?” I looked urgently at him.

“ When I think about it now I know it’ll have to be this way.”

I thought about Kaiya and her hasty marriage, “ Don’t do anything foolish.”

“ No, I won’t. I won’t do anything that will hurt anyone like suicide but I may try to run away.”  Nasib closed his eyes.

“ Don’t talk like Anika now…” I chuckled and hugged him, “ You can talk to me about it.”

“ I can’t talk of it now Anita…” he looked peacefully at me, “ But it will appear very soon.”

I know understand how hard it was for him: they are happy now

I think they ran away in October…after Kaiya’s suicide…they were both strong…

++++++++++++

Anika’s disappearance did not shock Hassan’s mother but it didn’t make her calm:

“ Why are all these children disappearing out of the blue?”

“ She probably had to go somewhere…” I looked sadly at her distress.

“ Is she pregnant?”

“ I think.”

“ Is…Is the father…?”

“ I don’t know…”

After two more days a sickly and pale Anika came home to be slapped by her Big Mom, “ You stupid girl where have you been?! We were –“

“ I am pregnant…” Anika cried, “ I am pregnant!”

“ Oh my God.” I quietly said.

“ I wanted him to come home…I wanted him to take care of me…he doesn’t, he did not…why doesn’t he…It should have been your child…” she now was talking to herself, “ It should have been your child…why didn’t you want me…It should have been your child…”

“ Anita, what is she talking about?” Hassan’s mother was strangely horrified.

“ I don’t know.” I was worried as well.

Then she answered us with one Horrendous scream that shattered our senses:

“ IT SHOULD HAVE BEEN YOUR CHILD HASSAN!”

We looked, petrified, it was so…so unbelievable,…

“ Why are you looking at me?” Anita looked at us angrily, “ What are you looking at?!”

Hassan’s mother got enraged, “ What are you saying?! Do you understand what you’re saying?!”

“ Yes I do! I have loved Hassan for a long time!”

To that her Big Mom slapped her, “ This is sinful! He’s your brother!”

“ Stepbrother…” she almost spat it out, “ He didn’t think twice about it when he ran away with Nasib!”

Hassan’s mother stopped…she froze…then she looked at me, “ Anita, is…is this true?”

“ Yes.” I looked solemnly at her then looked at Anika, “ But Nasib isn’t biologically related to Hassan – you are.”

“ SO WHAT HE SHOULD HAVE CHOSE ME!”

Then she fainted…the heat of July must have gotten to  her…

++++++++++++

“ Anita…”
“ I came.”
“ I’m glad.”

This was the first kiss and we embraced as though we were lovers.]

“ Nasib is out and he’ll come back soon.”
“ Where did he go?”
“ He went to do some shopping.”
“ Are you going on cheat on him by using me?”

He looked at me and smiled:

“No. I am merely going to let out my real feelings.”

It was a nice August night…

++++++++++++

The child that rests in my hands now is so beautiful. She has her father’s eyes and I have named her Samiya. Her mother was gone now – running away as soon as she could.

I sighed as I remember how Nasib said he would look for her.

“ Is that my little nephew?”

Kanta looked so radiant and looked quietly at me, “ This child, can I take him.”

“ Only if Nasib and Hassan allow – they have right to him too.” I said the facts.

“ Anika shouldn’t have run away.”

“ It was difficult for her.”

“ If we don’t find her it’ll make me sad though.”

“ How is Eisaan?”

“ Excited for his new nephew, though I have children now as well.”

“ I think also it’s best if you take care of Samiya.”

“ Listen, about Nasib and Hassan – are you going to, I mean, are you going to do anything?”

“ Nasib found us but he seemed less angry as he said he expected it.” I laugh, “ He said Hassan has really loved me. He also told me that if Hassan  wants to be with me it’s fine.”

“ And you…what do you think?”

“ I’ll give Hassan to think about it. I don’t mind if he doesn’t choose me. I won’t let that stop me from moving forward.”

I remember Kaiya.

After I told her of my feelings concerning hers she was sent to an asylum. She couldn’t handle the fact I didn’t love her. After she got well she married…

…but, she ran away with her husband’s sister.

She called me and said that she won’t hide her homosexuality ever again. I told her that was the right thing to do.

But one day she came back home to find her partner kissing another woman. Angered by this betraral she killed that woman and then she killed herself as a punishment to her lover. After much time that woman was able to forgive herself…

I was not gonna be like Kaiya and neither was Nasib nor Hassan. We would move forward.

The December breeze made me shiver with an eagerness for life…

++++++++++++

When Hassan came home I asked him about Nasib…he laughed and said Nasib’s new boyfriend was younger than him and was the lead singer in a rock band.

I smiled as he embraced – he asked if we should go for a walk – I said yes.

The Lake we approached was filled with memories of Kaiya and me and that moon underneath the water. He smiled at me and I knew.

We both embraced and jumped into the water…we were giggling…

The Moon underneath the water was beautiful

It was a breezy August day…

And it seemed so nice…

The Moon mating with the wind…

++++++++++++

Author’s Note: I was inspired by my experiences, friends, family and a special crime show I saw on Sony Television once and some other TV shows; this story comes from them.

++++++++++++

The Me Of Me

“The unnormal me
sprang from virtue-disobedience
treacherous-kindness
and the heart-heartlessness of isolation

The unnamed me
was born before me
aborted-reborn when I had seen
freedom in the ecstasy of peaceful turmoil

The real me
is in a glass
The glass reflects
reflects iridescently
But secretly smiles at my curiosity”

The Dance Of Discordance

“The memoirs are fleeting
hushed are the wings of wind
her feathers plucked and eaten by sun
scorched to be made pickle-thick.

The mirrors are more liquid
clashed against them are ice-rocks
faded are the oxygenated melodies}
Of one ripe life between the next

The deserts all became wet sand
muddles became jostled skin
pondered the cactus as it suffocated in water
The last thin glimpse of a bright-less sun

The Apocalypses all mounted white
No night in the sky, no stars in anger
All the bedfellows read lullabies
And toying with puppet-Earth as she dies…”

The Narrative Of The Lotus

“The Lotus sprang beneath the mouth;
its tail forgotten in the air
The Lotus screamed in tyranny
its beauty, its face smouldered by mud.
The Lotus attempts to break the hymen of repression
controlled by the frigidity of delay
The Lotus emerges in bathed-blood-birth:
Until its tears shine to create the day.

The Lotus
went walking
in silence
Moon allowed no one
to see
The Lotus
came forward
To talk of
Annihilation
The Lotus was rubbed
Into a sense of decay

And I the Lotus in the gallant night
Leaf upon the glorious twilight
Dawn and Dusk ever made
forged into one serenade
The Eve and Morn gossip with midday and Midnight
Conversed in tongues and tongues
forgotten in the ruptures –
waves of something in the brew

Lotus, Lotus
where are thou?
Upon the grass…
Why, what hath –
Oh! The Bruised
The Lotus cries
Then shouts
The Lotus
Must
Wage
The
Plated
Oblivion of belief.”

 

Modern Day Fairytales (My ENG 301: Research Methodology, Term Paper)

Modern Day Fairytales

The art of storytelling is a phenomenon ancient as time itself. Beginning with the oral traditions since the dawn of civilization and evolving and manifesting itself in the written word, which has become its most prominent medium in the present; the modern novel is a fusion of different styles and different eras. This means the modern novel does not always depict contemporary issues such as technological culture and the stereotyped minorities; they may also reinstate issues from a variety of other spheres such as politics and even reinstate the problems of the last era as the fight between conservatism and emancipation.  The fairytale, as we know it, existed also initially as an oral tradition; however, due to the efforts of individuals as Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm[1] they have been compiled as a written collection. A fairytale primarily exists as an allegorical story that promotes some moral code but modern criticism of fairytales show that there seems to be latent content in fairytales. When explored these latent content bring about arguments or conflicts that still persists even today. In fact the Grimm Brothers themselves have said that fairytales are “irrational, monstrous unnatural.” Modern Day fairytales explore the possibilities of fairytales thus they actually solidify the latent content of these traditional stories. Modern day fairytales are not exactly retellings of the exact story; they can borrow ideologies from the traditional story or interpret them in different ways thus they serve also as stories in their own right[2]. This paper aims to explore the various attributes that make the modern day fairytale as a deeper exploration of psychology, role reversal, the possibilities after “the happily ever after” and the individualism that exists in the pursuit of identity (Irigaray). To understand the fairytales deeper the paper will also look at the movements of modernism and postmodernism. Thus the modern day fairytale prove that fairytales are a poignant, omnipresent phenomenon.

I remember how, that night, I lay in the wagon-lit in a tender, delicious ecstasy of excitement, my burning cheek pressed against the impeccable linen of the pillow and the pounding of my heart mimicking that of the great pistons ceaselessly thrusting the train that bore me through the night, away…into the unguessable country (Carter 1)

And so begins Angela Carter’s The Bloody Chamber, a modern day fairytale that is Carter’s way of retelling the traditional fairytale Bluebeard’s Egg. These lines also depict the “odyssey” one takes when one ventures into the world of the fairytale. As mentioned before the fairytale is an allegorical tale, which possesses magic, anthropomorphic characters and the binarism of good and evil. Though this world is considered an exaggerated one as children one found them to be believable. However, fairytales do possess that latent content and so this shapes their realism that modern day fairytales draw out. To explore the various qualities that exist in the modern day fairytale (as mentioned above) I will be using various texts; the first is The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka which is akin to the fairytale The Frog Prince or The Frog King or Iron Henry[3]. Then I will be using stories that were meant to be modern day fairytales by Angela Carter as The Bloody Chamber, The Tiger’s Bride, The Erl-King, and The Company of Wolves. The Novel I have chosen to illustrate the fairytale archetypes is The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera. I will also use the Japanese Animation Revolutionary Girl Utena by Chiho Saito as a reference to my research, which has been called the postmodernist fairytale[4].

Revolutionary Girl Utena has three primary incarnations: manga (comic), anime TV series and an animation movie called Utena The Movie or Adolescence Of Utena or popularly known as Adolescence Apocalypse. It also has a stage-play, but this incarnation played out by real-life actors (all female cast), was not really promoted outside Japan to that extent. In all the incarnations the basic plotline remains the same but the character’s personalities and the progress of the story usually gives each incarnation its own respective ending. However, the main protagonist is always Utena, the wannabe-prince, and the antagonist is always Akio, the fallen prince. Both are bound to Anthy, the princess of the Roses, but who is also called the witch in disguise. 

The storyline of Revolutionary Girl Utena portrays Utena Tenjou as an adolescent, fourteen year old girl (though due to the design methodology she appears older and even her real life actress was a young woman) who desires to be a prince. This wish was formed when she was young; orphaned at a tender age, she got into the coffin with her parents hoping to die as she felt she had nothing to live for. At that moment a beautiful prince appeared named Dios (who seems to come from Indian origins as he wears a bindi on his forehead and has a darker skin tone) and kisses away her tears; he explains that if she remains just and pure as she gets older then they will surely meet again. He also gives her ring with a rose signet on it to signify their bond. Utena is so impressed by this prince that she decides to be a prince herself. In Ohtori Academy, when Utena is beginning her junior high, she gets accidentally involved in a duel by an upperclassman, Saionji, who also wears a ring like Utena; he is a member of the student council and all of the members are duelists possessing the same ring. They duel for Anthy Himemiya, referred to as the Rose Bride – she gets engaged to the victor of the duels and practically becomes their possession doing only their bidding. Utena is horrified by such a ritualistic duel in where master and slave relationship occurs thus decides to win the duels as to free Anthy from her role. But the mystery remains, why do the duelists seek Anthy?  She is said to perform miracles and hold the power to revolutionize the world. The enigmatic Akio Ohtori (adopted name as he is engaged to the principal’s daughter and must have their family name to succeed as Chairman) is also Anthy’s brother but he seems to be the mastermind behind the duels. The series focuses on incest, sexuality, transformation and emancipation of identity: all elements of the modern day fairytale. It also possesses the fairytale archetypes of prince, princess and witch – I will further explore the series as I make comparisons with the other texts so as to give a clearer idea of the modern fairytale.

To understand the modern day fairytale two literary movements must be given special attention to: modernism and postmodernism. These two movements are hard to define due to their hybridity but can be understood by the fact that both engage in “creative violence” (Levenson) to which people have not escaped from. The philosophy of these movements does not restrain oneself with the waiting for something to happen but encourage individuals to take action; this serves as one of the reasons to the movements’ hostility. These two movements emphasized on freedom, sexuality and even a change of form – the literary periods are marked by myriads of styles evoking various perspectives like the “stream of consciousness” style of writing that represents texts in the way in which are thoughts appear in our head. “Creative violence” is then also a part of the modern day fairytale, so is the Freudian concepts of psychoanalysis. Modern day fairytales are noticeable as they are either considered as rewritten versions of an existing fairytale or are analogous to a certain fairytale.

The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka is analogous to the story of The Frog Prince. However, the story reverses character positions and the anthropomorphic beetle does seem to gradually fade away from humanity unlike the frog prince who retains his humanity and “ascends” by becoming human again. The Metamorphosis, as Martin Greenberg pointed out in his article “Gregor Samsa and Modern Spirituality” that Gregor’s ascension cannot happen as a human being thus the story begins with the climax and proceeds into a beginning of something else[5]. The story illustrates the human significance and insignificance – meaning, how purpose and rationality operates in society. It is an unfair and mechanical world and Gregor unfortunately realizes this in a bad way. To understand the fairytale concepts of The Metamorphosis we must analyze its role reversals, psychology and the emancipation of identity.

The frog answered, “ I do not care for your clothes, your pearls and jewels, not for your golden crown; but if you will love me and let me by your companion and play –fellow, and sit by you at your little table, and eat off your little golden plate, and drink out of your little cup, and sleep in your little bed – if you will promise this I will go down below and bring your golden ball up again.”

(Grimm 4)

The sentences above are from The Frog Prince and they actually make up the backbone of the story. Can a non-human creature demand to be humanized in a human society? The answer of both The Frog Prince and The Metamorphosis are the same: No. The Metamorphosis was written in 1915, the booming period of Modernism and now its analogy to The Frog Prince can make it a modernist fairytale, however, it is the reversal of The Frog Prince. The man does not become human again but he becomes what he believes he is not supposed to be: an insect. The nature of transformation is both crucial to the art of fairytales and also modern spirituality (Greenberg). The role reversal here is that by becoming an insect Gregor has now become an exile from the human sphere; so, the reverse transformation actually liberates Gregor. The medium of “happily ever after” which works as a dissatisfying anticlimax to most fairytales do not usually happen in modern fairytales and the reversal of Gregor’s transformation proves just that. He must remain non-human to liberate himself from himself – as Greenberg states – he was like a clockwork machine before serving only his family by being their breadwinner; as an insect he need only to serve himself.

To go further into the role reversals in The Metamorphosis the story of The Frog Prince must be consulted. The Frog Prince tells the story of a beautiful princess who loves playing with a crystal ball.  However, one day the ball falls into a well. A frog decides to help her but makes her promise to grant him his wishes in return. The princess complies but only because she believes that the frog will not be able to get out of the water. However, the next day the frog does come along and demands the princess honour the promise that she made. The princess is reluctant is to do this but the King orders his daughter to stay true to her words. The girl, with utter displeasure, does everything the frog wanted but in the end she gets furious. She is unwilling to share her bed with him and he threatens to complain to her father; this makes her pick him up and throw him at a wall only to become transformed to a beautiful prince. This prince has her father’s approval to be her companion. It is after this transformation that the princess allows the prince to sleep with her (this is obviously implied). The next day they meet the faithful servant of the prince who is called Henry. After the prince was turned into a frog by a witch Henry was so unhappy that he put three iron bars in his heart to stop it from exploding with sorrow. However, as they enter the carriage the prince thinks he hears sounds that suggest the carriage is breaking but instead it is the bars from Iron Henry’s heart. The fairytale possesses many unanswered questions: first why doesn’t the King protest at all to the demands of the Frog? Even though the princess committed a crime of believing she did not have to stay true to her words it seems comically unrealistic that the king allows a talking, male frog to go and sleep in his daughter’s room. Also, as he turns into a human the King wants him to be the princess’s companion. Why does the witch turn the prince into a frog? And why does Iron Henry stay faithful? In fairytales many important questions are left unanswered with the Deux Ex Machina of the “happily ever after” – this technique is omitted from the modern day fairytale.

The reversal of transformation is only the first reversal role; the second is one of the most prominent: it is the role of the princess handed down to Gregor’s sister, Grete. This immediately creates a contradiction, which is a usual phenomenon in modern fairytales, how can the princess be biologically related to the potential prince of the story? In modern fairytales sexuality is explored as deeply accompanying Freud’s theory of psychoanalysis. Gregor does not suffer from the standard Oedipus complex; what he does have is called the sister complex during modern times. He has an incestuous love for his sister and that is why she is the princess of the story. Grete Samsa’s behaviour gradually changes through time to indicate how she cannot accept Gregor anymore. As the frog prince could only attain the princess after his human transformation Gregor could only have the abundant love of his sister when he is still human. Like in The Frog Prince the princess cannot accept her companion when he is a Frog and only complies to fulfill his wishes when her father’s angry commands state that she must repay her benefactor. The princess is scared of the frog and despises him and hates the fact that he is attempting to be in an equal position with her:

“Lift me up beside you.” She delayed, until at last the King commanded her to do it….The Frog enjoyed what he ate, but almost every mouthful she took choked her… (Grimm 5)

In the same way despite what Gregor thought of his sister Grete he has to revise his perception. Grete cannot completely accept his insect form; when he thinks she has gotten used to him but at one point her reaction makes Gregor realize the mistake in his assumption:

On one occasion – perhaps a month had now elapsed since Gregor’s transformation, so his sister had no special reason to be astonished by his appearance any more – she arrived a little earlier than usual and discovered him propped up at the window, motionless and at his most terrifying, gazing out. It would have been no surprise to Gregor if she had not decided to come in, since the position he occupied prevented her from opening the window at once, but not only did she not come in, she actually leapt back in alarm and shut the door; a stranger might well have thought that Gregor had been lying in wait for her and meant to bite her. (Kafka 100)

The rift between brother and sister is now complete but Gregor does not understand this. It is natural for the prince to pine for his princess but he is only allowed to do so when he is a human not when he is a creature. For the princess, Grete, Gregor becomes a pet to her whom she has exclusive rights to (as seen in the rage directed against her mother when she cleans his room), thus their relationship is forever perverted in a master and slave one, a power-play[6].

We see this gradual deterioration from the archetypical princess who is the embodiment of altruism to a person who may be as an archetypical witch. – but my interpretation is that she is not really a witch but a cusp of haughty princess and young girl who only mistreats Gregor because she can no longer relate to him. In the beginning of his transformation Grete is the absolute princess:

But never would he have guessed what his sister, in the goodness of her heart, actually did. She brought him a whole selection, to find out what he liked, all spread out on an old newspaper. There were old, half-decayed vegetables; bones from last night’s supper, covered with a solidified white sauce; a few almonds and raisins; some cheese that Gregor had declared uneatable a few days before; a slice of dry bread, a slice of bread-and-butter, and a slice of bread-and-water with salt. In addition to all this set down the bowl, now presumably reserved permanently for Gregor, into which she poured some water.

(Kafka 84)

 Initially, the love his sister feels for him is abundant. But, as time moves on and Gregor stays as an insect, the respect and love she feels for him is rejected and she treats him as a forlorn pet. She cannot care for him that much anymore:

Without any longer considering what Gregor would might specially fancy, his sister now hurriedly shoved any old food into his room with her foot before she ran off to work to the morning and at midday; then in the evening, regardless of whether the food had been barely tasted or whether – as was most frequently the case – it had been left completely untouched, she swept it out with a swish of the broom. The cleaning up of his room, which she now always attended to in the evenings, could not have been done more hastily. Streaks of dirt ran the length of the walls, here and there lay balls of dust and filth. At first Gregor, when his sister came in, would station himself in some corner of the room that was particularly striking in this respect, so as to make his position there a kind of reproach to her. But he might have easily have stayed  there for weeks without achieving any improvement in his sister; she could see the dirt as well as he could, of course, but she had simply made up her mind to leave it.

(Kafka 112)

Grete, no longer identifies with Gregor as her brother, and Gregor cannot share his love with his sister anymore. What is worse is that when the boarders come to stay in their house and they accidentally see him one night and cleverly to refuse to pay their wages, it is Grete who states they can no longer live in the “illusion” that the insect is Gregor and must get rid of him. It is in this moment that Gregor realizes that his sister-princess no longer associates him as her princely companion as he is no longer human.

The role reversal is also seen in the father, the King in The Frog Prince seems to be justice incarnated as he wants his daughter to pay back what she promised to the frog, but, in the end it seems that he wanted the prince to be his daughter’s husband: Gregor and Grete’s father also impose on them obligations that need not be there or even just, so, he is injustice incarnated as a hedonistic and domineering man. To Gregor, he had never told he had saved money but instead made him sacrifice his days working for the financial support of their family; in the end Gregor is repaid by his father’s cruelty when he becomes an insect – his father pushes him back to the room twice, first by wounding Gregor enough to make him blood and the second time throwing apples at him where one of them embeds into his flesh and remains there. Even to Grete he gives the sole responsibility to take care of Gregor when he becomes an insect without any care of his disposition. Gregor’s mother seems also to care for him when he is a human but becomes alienated from him as he turns into an insect – scared to death almost just by the sight of him. There is no servant as faithful Iron Henry either – the maid begs to let go after seeing the situation of Gregor’s metamorphosis. There is however, a charwoman, who is better than Grete and the parents as in she tries to make a bond with the dung beetle (as no one tells her it is Gregor). But Gregor believes she is condescending her as a pet (not knowing how his own family is treating her as one) and dejects her advances.

Gregor’s transcendence and psychology deepens as his days pass by as an insect. As Greenberg he is able to reject his weak and pandering persona, his pathological altruism[7], to finally live for himself. But, at first even when he is transformed he can only think of going to work – this displays the bondage he is put his own mind into. His room gradually portrays himself – first full of work documents and humanly furniture to a dirty prison. However, as a dung beetle he becomes more demanding, assertive and liberated. His days are for himself and his wish to move around in his room is only impeded when he thinks he will lose his humanity (as his furniture is getting replaced). Thus in the reversed metamorphosis Gregor also starts to pine for the things he once got bored of in his human life, like the view of the hospital building outside his window[8]. Just in the fairytale context metamorphosis from animal to human liberates the prince, Gregor is liberated by his reversed metamorphosis. In the end, his death is the culmination of his bondage and oppression and is his transcendence to live for only his soul and not just a petty object of society and family[9].

A modern day fairytale writer is undoubtedly Angela Carter. Her book The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories was first published 1979 and the stories do focus on the latent content of fairytales. It depicts what Jeff VanderMeer wrote on Angela Carter:

Angela Carter was, without question, a 20th Century original. No matter what one thinks of her writing, no one can argue that she was ever less than unique. Magic Realism, Surrealism, Fantasy, Science Fiction, Gothic, Feminism, Postmodernism – all of these categories apply, and yet all are one-dimensional in their application to Carter; none of them, with the possible exception of Surrealism, encompass the full spectrum of her accomplishments.

(VanderMeer: Introduction)

The Bloody Chamber, The Erl-King and The Company of Wolves, and The Tiger’s Bride orchestrate a female independence; instead as staying as damsels the girls quickly navigate through their situations to emerge victorious. But their victories are not perfect nor are any in the real world, yet it emancipates them. It is good to examine the female psychology and liberation in these stories.

In The Bloody Chamber our female protagonist, a young girl, gets married to an odd and perverse man who gets stimulated by strange fetishes and pornography. Of course due to his princely charm and debonair attitude she had married him without the knowledge of his perversity. He lives isolated in his own castle but he is detached and strange, and does not possess true gentleness (this is shown as he takes her virginity). The Bloody Chamber is a modern fairytale capturing what was once written in Bluebeard’s Egg. So, in the style of the Bluebeard Egg, when he leaves her and she is all alone, she finds the dead brides. However, her battle with her enemy begins at the time when her virginity is “devoured” by her enemy:

I was brought to my senses by the insistent shrilling of the telephone. He lay beside me, felled like an oak, breathing stertorously, as if he had been fighting with me. In the course of that one-side struggle, I had seen his deathly composure shatter like a porcelain vase flung against a wall; I had heard him shriek and blaspheme at the orgasm; I had bled. And perhaps I had seen his face without its mask; and perhaps I had not. Yet, I had been infinitely disheveled by the loss of my virginity.

(Carter 14)

The battle of the sexes in traditional fairytale exclusively makes men the victor but in Carter’s eyes either neutrality or a woman victor is needed for the men in these tales are too iconic thus artificial. In this case the protagonist has lost the battle in which virginity was the prize but the war has not ended yet. She, however, at first demands passively for her right to which he responds rather egotistically; this is seen when he hands her the keys before leaving:

‘What is that key?’ I demanded, for his chaffing hand made me bold. ‘The key to your heart? Give it to me!’

He dangled the key tantalizingly above my head, out of reach of my straining fingers; those bare red lips of his cracked side-long in a smile.

‘Ah, no,’ he said. ‘Not the key to my heart. Rather, the key to my enfer.’[10]

(Carter 18)

When curiosity does get the better and she visits the room to find the corpses of his previous wives she is obviously fear-stricken and horrified. She decides that she must rid her feelings for him and do something before she meets the same fate. When he does return she exudes potential power – the same power in which her virginity was devoured she uses it to manipulate him, and she is almost successful:

I forced myself to be seductive. I saw myself, pale, pliant as a plant that begs to be trampled underfoot, a dozen vulnerable, appealing girls reflected in as many mirrors, and I saw how he almost failed to resist me. If he had come to me in bed, I would have strangled him, then.

(Carter 35)

Though the seduction does not work as he planned to kill her, the blind piano-tuner, who had stayed as the protagonist’s confidante, and stayed while the other servants in the house are told to leave, attempts to save her. He is overpowered by the demonic prince-pretender[11] but ultimately the protagonist’s husband is shot by her mother (contradictory to Bluebeard’s Egg where young brothers of the heroine come to save her). In the end there is happiness for our protagonist as she marries the piano-tuner, but it is not the Deux Ex Machina of the “happily ever after” – there are repercussions to the situation she endured:

No paint nor powder, not matter how thick or white, can mask the red mark on my forehead; I am glad he cannot see it – not for fear of his revulsion, since I know he sees me clearly with his heart – but, because it spares my shame.

(Carter 42)

The same thing happens in The Erl-King where the girl, charmed by the Erl-King realizes, that though he seems like an incarnation of the forest – and thus beauty – he is not. The Birds he keeps engaged in his bird cages seem all like fair damsels that he seduces. Instead becoming one of them she decides to strangle him though she knows that the murder will obviously strain her and that is why there is also disturbing imagery in the end:

The bow will dance over the new strings of its own accord and they will cry out: ‘Mother, mother, you have murdered me!’

(Carter 104)

In The Company of Wolves, we see the latent content of the classical fairytale, Little Red Riding Hood come alive. The girl is seduced by the wolf to take of her clothes and finally tries to dominate her sexually only the simplicity in this game of sexual domination is a fairytale. In the end it seems that the wolf (or werewolf) is tamed by the girl – they are now at an equal wavelength – as they lie in bed with one another.

The Tiger’s Bride show how a young girl is sold by the reckless gambling of her father and the Beast who receives her only wishes to see her naked (her father loses to the Beast in a card game). This is one of the Carter’s story of writing Beauty and the Beast (The other story was The Courtship of Mr. Lyon) where beast transforms the beauty (Carter xii).  However our beauty ridicules our Beast’s request and thus the Beast shows passiveness not really associated with the original tale. The Beauty finally does undress for him near a river and asks him to do the same. He reveals himself to be a giant Tiger – in the end rather than going back to her father the girl lets the tiger lick her, and she is metamorphosized into a tigress, thus his bride.  

The Female Psychology and liberation in these stories show how woman are assertive beings and instead of being stereotypical damsels they have chosen to be bold thus escaped a rather horrible fate. Their “princes” were not perfect; some were even the dragons that wanted to slay them. Yet, though do not receive their “happily ever after” in the traditional context of the fairytale they are content as what they have received is the real.

Fairytale archetypes are seen in The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera and can thus be compared to the animation Revolutionary Girl Utena. The male protagonist Thomas is an imperfect prince – he is once looked upon like Dios to Tereza, perfect and immaculate, but then when she finds out about his philandering she is traumatized. The same failure is seen in Franz, one of Sabina’s lovers, who embodies a lot of Dios’s qualities but in the end he cannot escape from the memory of Sabina (he tries to think he is physical strong to handle his assaulters, as Sabina liked his strength).  Sabina is like Anthy (from the movie) as she is sexually provocative but though her independence might have classified her as a witch she is more likely to be the most independent character. So, to contrasts to fairytales the modern shows how people are dichotomous rather than perfectly stereotyped.

In conclusion, I would like to say the modern day fairytale is a great blend of that which is psychological, deep and stimulating. It cannot be stereotyped as it is an amalgamation of different era and themes thus it is realistic as it delves into human psychology and explores what is beyond the surface.

Works Cited:
Primary Sources:

Kafka, Franz. Metamorphosis and Other Stories. England: Penguin Books Ltd., 2002.

Kundera, Milan. The Unberable Lightness Of Being. New York: HarperCollins, 1999.

Carter, Angela. The Bloody Chamber and other stories. London: Vintage Random House, 1995.

Grimm, Jacob and Wilhelm. Brother’s Grimm: The Complete Fairy Tales. UK:  Routledge Classics, 2002.

Secondary Sources:

Bell, Michael. “The Metaphysics of Modernism.” The Cambridge Companion To Modernism (2003): 9-33.
         Talks about the various philosophies that emerge with modernism and helped me to focus on my texts.

Connor, Steven. “Introduction.” The Cambridge Companion To Postmodernism (2006): 1-19.
 Allowed me to explore the various aspects of postmodernism.

Philosophy, Postmodernism and. “Postmodernism and Philosophy.” The Cambridge Companion to Postmodernism (2006): 20-42.

Allowed to me the various aspects of modernism

Trotter, David. “The Modernist Novel.” The Cambridge Companion to Modernism (2003): 70-100.

Explored in detail the modern novel

Cixous, Helene. “‘Sorties’.” Modern Literary Theory (2001): 229-235.

Gender Binarism explained in this article allowed me to look deeper into fairytales

Dekoven, Marianne. “Modernism and Gender.” The Cambridge Companion to Modernism (2003): 174-193.

Gender and Modernity was explained by Marianne

Levenson, Michael. “Introduction.” The Cambridge Companion To Modernism (2003): 1-9.

A great introduction to understand modernism

Irigaray, Luce. “Sexual Difference.” Modern Literary Theory (2001): 236-238.

Was a short informative essay on the identity of individuals and gender parallelism

Wikipedia. Revolutionary Girl Utena. 1 April 2009 <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Revolutionary_Girl_Utena&gt;.

Information on Utena

Wikipedia. The Bloody Chamber. 4 April 2009
< http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Bloody_Chamber&gt;.
Information On Carter

 

Dmoz. Open Directory Project: Revolutionary Girl Utena. 3 April 2009
<http://www.dmoz.org/Arts/Animation/Anime/Titles/R/Revolutionary_Girl_Utena/Fan_Pages/&gt;
A repository of all the fan-sites I visited for Utena.

 

Scriptorum. Angela Carter. 3 April 2009
<http://www.themodernword.com/SCRIPTorium/carter.html&gt;

Jeff VanderMeer’s introduction

 


[1]  In The Routledge Classics Edition of Brothers Grimm: Complete Fairy Tales, the folkloristic commentary has included the ways in which the Grimm brothers got their stories; it was taken as spoken by respective individuals who knew the legends or tales.

 

 

[2] In The Vintage Edition of the Angela Carter’s The Bloody Chamber Helen Simpson writes an introduction on Carter’s fairytales. Upon reading the other texts I see them to be similar to the explanation given by Simpson upon the Carter’s fairytales being their own stories and not merely versions. She also explains the latent content by quoting what Carter herself has said

[3]  The name Iron Henry is given in Routledge Classics edition of Grimm’s fairytales. I had not known of it before.

 

[4] Fans of the site “Empty Movement” have described Revolutionary Girl Utena in such a way. My reading on Postmodernism from The Cambridge Companion to Postmodernism has validated this claim. Utena (the abbreviated form of this anime) does have the elements to justify this claim.

[5] In Modernism and Postmodernism the concept of demise and ascension remain prevalent. However, to categorize them is hard as we in the case of Gregor Samsa, to become an insect (presumably a dung beetle) is obviously an unhappy situation, but is it? In Kafka’s story and Greenberg’s essay the answer contradicts the general belief.

6 All the fans of Revolutionary Girl Utena (or as most fan sites depict) relate the relationship of Akio and Anthy as a power-play in which Akio is always winning or dominating. Once, before Akio was a fallen prince, he was Dios, the true prince of the world (ironically this name is the Spanish word for God). Anthy and Dios had a loving relationship and they shared this bond throughout the time Dios was Dios. As Dios was once the true prince he always spent days and nights protecting princesses; but, that was he would always be – an ideal image, a deity to the eyes of the people who admired him. But, no one really loved him except his sister, Anthy, the true princess. He was worked to exhaustion and near to his death but he no one cared and wanted him to still save their daughters. Surrounded by people while they were in a barn house (a palace in the movie version), Anthy steps out and says to the people that the prince, Dios, is dead and that she has killed him so that he would belong only to her. In actuality, Anthy could not find justice in the way people treated Dios and wanted him to be safe. The anger of the mob is horrible – they brand Anthy as a witch and their anger become the swords of hatred and they impale Anthy. Dios disappears and in his place comes Akio (it should be noted that Dios usually appears as a child of around twelve to fourteen years but Akio is represented as a virile, seductive and manipulative man). Akio dominates over Anthy physically and mentally; Akio subjugates Anthy by having sex with her while Anthy (with her body impaled and her real self confined to a coffin) can only comply (this story runs true in the manga and anime, in the movie it is somewhat different). The relationship of Gregor and Grete is becoming like them – they, like Akio and Anthy, shared a loving relationship. Now, Grete has become the mastermind and she dominates Gregor’s life: she is now literally seeing him as an insect to be moved in any direction. The swords of hatred are obviously the society to whom now Gregor will be ousted for Gregor is no longer a useful cog in the machine that needs to operate it.  

[7] As even shown by Dios – it did not help him but sent him to his “death” – likewise, Gregor’s humanity literally dies within this self-sacrificing form and he becomes an insect to gain what he could not as a man: his freedom and identity as stated by Greenberg.

 

[8] As stated by David Trotted in his essay “The Modernist Novel” Naturalist (the progression of things) and symbolism (the representation of objects as deeper philosophical models of thought) merge in the modern novel. The hospital is Gregor’s human life, methodical and unnaturally rigid, it needs to be alienated from him so as to liberate him.

[9] My reading of “Beginning Theory” by Peter Barry suggests this philosophy almost to be Marxist in nature.

[10] Carter actually illustrates something here that is present even in the nobler princes of the traditional fairytale. It is their nobility as a savior that is given not their true selves: they do not incorporate weakness for to them that is the job, the female, the princess.

 

[11] Coincidentally, this is also what Anthy says to Akio, before finally gaining freedom from him thanks to Utena. She says that if he wants he can stay in his coffin and play as a pretend-prince and that is all he will amount to (as The Bloody Chamber’s protagonist’s husband): he can only seduce and manipulate, and be a paragon of perversity, never be what he artificially emulates – a daring, bold prince. Like Utena, who has her flaws and failures but can still succeed as a real prince, the piano-tuner, though blind, is also a real prince as he tries to do what is right and he is not physically strong as the traditional prince but becomes a better prince than the masculine, stereotyped one.

Colonial books: “Oroonoko” by Aphra Behn and “Robinson Crusoe” By Daniel Defoe: The comparative study on colonialism (My ENG 214: Survey Of English Literature II, semester assignment)

Colonization is a familiar word in modern times though its actual bulk lies in the past. Many cultures and traditions that are present today have many ties to this past. Many modern day novels now portray colonization in its actuality – harsh domination over the natural race of a particular land. However, it is important to note that during this period of colonization there were people writing of it and their opinion were quite different. Two such novels are Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe and Aphra Behn’s Oroonoko; both are considered to be eighteen century novels dealing with the issue of colonialism. This paper aims to show the aspects of both Oroonoko and Robinson Crusoe that make them colonial novels.

Colonialism is the major theme for both the novels, however, when dealing with colonialism a number of subthemes emerge: Adventure, domination (especially by slavery), subjugation, detachment, and finally profit. Though both authors leave us the impression that they both believe colonization and slavery are just facets of the natural world, Behn and Defoe do not completely follow the same methods of describing it. Defoe makes Robinson Crusoe, his fictional character; possess a calculative and stoic mind bent on enforcing the Protestant Work Ethic in every situation but Behn, with her character Oroonoko, show that despite slavery being a common practice in the world it is not just to be taken lightly. Defoe decides to make Crusoe a practical and rational ‘white’ human being while Behn, despite the popular belief of that time, attempts to ‘humanize’ Oroonoko in the context that he is just not another slave. Both novels are differentiated by this significance, Robinson Crusoe treats colonialism as an adventurous and necessary action for the progress of humanity while Oroonoko is about the one who is enslaved and implicitly questions the whole structure of slavery.

Adventure is one of the central themes of any colonial novel; as Professor Firdous Azim pointed out in a lecture concerning Oroonoko, the new lands to the white man are seemingly awaiting virgins to be ravaged and exploited. Robinson Crusoe, as a novel, embodies this concept; Crusoe’s eagerness to seek other lands and become an explorer is the ideology of the colonizers. As Edward Said expertly stated in the Introduction of his popular book, Orientalism, that the Other (meaning those who are not white) are the Exotic and it is their lands that must conquered along with them. Crusoe, as my friend Robina presented in her lecture about the novel, is a guide and his biography can be considered as a sort of a guidebook to other colonizers. This is quite true if the novel’s events are followed chronologically; despite Crusoe’s best efforts to abandon his ideas of being an explorer for the disasters that overtake him at sea, he always gets lucky enough to reap the benefits of his situation. The first time he is shipwrecked he managed to escape and start anew, the second time he ventures out to sea he is captured and enslaved yet eventually escapes to start life anew once more. It is important to note that when he escapes from slavery he enslaves the boy Xury, who was already the slave of his former master, and fares quite well in the boat that he escaped with. There is a sense of adventure in this despite his claims of being in a ‘dilemma’ in which ‘[he] was very pensive’ and feared ‘[he] must perish’. After he is rescued he is able to go to Brazil and make a fortune in being a plantation owner. Though he was marooned in the island afterwards he is seen to make fairly good progress in keeping himself alive and even those details are somewhat glorified with how he makes his home, his bower and establishes his faith once more. All these are explicit colonial techniques – firstly, one must be white to be a good colonizer and leader, secondly, one must accept Christianity to be successful and lastly, he must manipulate everything around him to gain supremacy. These, as Defoe implies, are the rites of passage that make a man fit for adventure. In my opinion they are elaborately fictitious accounts that only seem to elevate the white man. For Crusoe’s companionship with Lady Luck seems too exaggerated and only benefits him, not those around him.

Oroonoko is the different perspective; Oroonoko is the one enslaved, he had been colonized, and for him, unfortunately, it is not an adventure. To him the Other will most definitely be the colonizers and their way of life, and Behn sympathizes this account by saying “ he finds diversions for every minute, new and strange.’ He too is in a foreign land, that of Surinam in the West Indies, but despite his superior qualities at adaptability (which are strangely more realistic than Crusoe’s) he cannot ravage these virgin lands as an adventurer. Though Behn coins his life as ‘adventures’ it is obvious by his need to rebel and be free that he found all his exotic surroundings a constant reminder of his oppression. Even marriage to his beloved Imoinda does not soothe the aggression he feels for being a slave. He knows he is a slave and though he has learned new ways, they are not his own, naturally, this would frustrate anyone. His actions show that colonizers idea of a romantic adventure is horrendously flawed as one must become “Europeanized” to achieve it. This is both unjust and diabolical. 

Domination and Subjugation work hand in hand in both the novels. With Crusoe’s voyage we see how white men are becoming ubiquitous; they can be found in various parts of the world in which they seek new lands to conquer and make their own. This is made evident by Crusoe himself for both the times he is cast out at sea he wishes to see a White trade ship in which he knows he will find safety. When he is finally marooned on the island he decides to colonize himself and does that easily as he is the only permanent inhabitant. The introduction of the cannibals and Friday does not really change that. He has taken the throne in this island and the Other are now the tribes that come occasionally to make sacrifices. It is his interaction with Friday that show how he has the upperhand in everything. Firstly, Friday is a willing prisoner for he is been abandoned by his own people thus it seems wiser to him to befriend the strange white man. Crusoe, from the very beginning, wants Friday as his slave as to him every coloured person is a creature who must become a slave (he seems to have forgotten the ‘friendly Negroes’ who had saved him when he was rebelling from his own slavery). He does not bother to learn Friday’s language, nor does he bother to learn of Friday’s real name. To him his only wish is to save:

 The Soul of a poor Savage, and bring him to the true Knowledge of Religion, and of the Christian Doctrine, that he might know Jesus Christ, to know whom is Life Eternal.  I say, when I reflected on all these Things, a secret Joy run through every Part of my Soul, and I frequently rejoyc’d that ever I was brought to this Place…

It is obvious by these statements that Crusoe from before wished to impose his beliefs on Friday, his noble ‘savage’. It is quite an colonial aspect from the start, Friday must call Crusoe Master and cater to his every need. To Defoe all is right in the world.

Behn is more of a teacher than an enslaver of Oroonoko; though she objectifies him as well with describing his physical beauty in a European manner, she actually still acknowledges that he is beautiful and highly intelligent. She goes even far on saying:

The perfections of his mind come short of those of his person, for his discourse was admirable upon almost any subject; and whoever heard him speak would have been convinced of their errors…and would have confessed that Oroonoko was as capable even of reigning well…

Though these attributes are considered common to a prince Behn acknowledges them which is far from what Defoe does. She even believes that the indigenous people of Surinam are morally superior than White people and thus implies that enslaving them would be a blatant sin. She only thinks Oroonoko people can be enslaved as they buy and sell their own people as a contract with the White merchants. Oroonoko treating her as his confidante and telling her about his wish to rebel actually makes her ponder on her own social beliefs. Crusoe, in isolation, despite his claims at Providence, remains the same.

Crusoe and Behn both, however, do follow the need to be detached. To Crusoe, anything can become a commodity – the slavery of himself to which he bore no real grudge (as my classmate Robina established in her lecture) proves that the making of profit (the Christian work Ethic) remains supreme thus he does things with a calculative mind. But Behn only stays detached when she describes Oroonoko’s death as it would be dangerous for her, she being a white and a woman, to explicitly state the injustice to the prince. To her Oroonoko is like the ‘mighty river Oroonoko’ (ironically this line is from Robinson Crusoe) who is supposed to be remembered and respected.

In conclusion, though both Behn and Defoe write on colonization their approaches are different. Defoe believes it is the natural state of things and a whole new adventure. To Behn, however, she makes us think both ways, sure, slaves are possibly a necessity but is it truly alright? I believe both books do an excellent job as colonial novels.

The Modern Woman (My ENG 355: American Literature End of Semester Assignment)

The Modern Woman

 

What is a woman? What are the differences between a man and woman? To be frankly put, the latter question will have a myriad of answers but the former would need time to define. In actuality, both questions are universal Pandora’s boxes able to generate both positive and negative answers. To say that the differences between man and woman are that one exhibits all the characteristics of strength and dominance, and the other exhibits frailty and subservience is actually ridiculous. Most people are hermaphrodites in personality if the gender “axis” of society is perceived; masculinity, in this axis, means assertiveness, aggressiveness and dominating tendencies whilst women exhibit passiveness, indecisiveness and subordination. If this is the gender axis of common “civilized” society than obviously we can see its flaws. The flaws are in the characterization of individuals – most never fit this axis completely and the original minds seek never to pander to it as much as possible. This gender axis is also broken apart by the phenomenon of the modern day woman. Though feminism has something to do with it the evolution of the modern day woman it is beyond one specific era: This paper aims to explore, by using several texts, the qualities of a modern day woman which can be defined as assertiveness, awareness and individuality. The texts I am going to use are The Awakening by Kate Chopin, The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller and The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway. I will be using Emily Dickinson’s poetry and life cultural as a reference to illustrate the modern women.

Firstly, the modern day woman does not belong to one specific era as she can be defined as an emancipated individual. This evidence is proved by the poet Emily Dickinson and Edna Pontellier the protagonist of the novel The Awakening by Kate Chopin.

The soul selects her own society,
Then shuts the door;
On her divine majority
Obtrude no more.

Unmoved, she notes the chariot’s pausing
At her low gate;
Unmoved, an emperor is kneeling
Upon her mat.

I’ve known her from an ample nation
Choose one;
Then close the valves of her attention
Like stone.

The lines above are the poem by Emily Dickinson called “XIII. Exclusion” in her published Poems, Series 1. The lines can be the very slogan of individuality but these lines are from a woman who lived in a world subjugated for her gender. So, she is one of the first identities that we can call as the modern woman. She observes the world and has chosen to define it; her words are blasphemy to her culture but it is freedom – the very core of modernization which begins with the freedom to choose one’s self. In her timeline women showing this amount of bravery (Chivalry as Adrienne Rich may have called it) is obviously unwelcomed; knowing this Dickinson lived an isolated and introverted life. She didn’t want her work to be published because she knows the criticism of her society towards women. Her gallant display of her ideology in this poem is beautiful; the original individual will obviously not care what “the divine majority” cares about in respect to what they feel about her and neither will they bar her from having her own estate. The true emperor will respect her for her unimpeded style of identity but the world may ostracize her by “[closing] the valves of her attention/Like Stone.” But, the modern woman will not be discouraged to be herself – she will not withdraw herself from her-self because of people’s opinion. This exact attitude is shown in Edna Pontellier as she awakens to her true identity.

Edna Pontellier is the wife of one Leonce Pontellier and that is how she is acknowledged; like merchandise she is shown to the world as the faithful possession of one Mr. Leonce Pontellier. The person who is Edna is not born until later in life and her awakening, her metamorphosis is consequently the path of exploration, observation and ultimately the death of her oppression. Edna cannot accept society’s objectification of women; she wants to be treated as an equal human being but the society she is in does not let her. Moreover her husband is a merciless personification of the patriarchal society who gets puzzled and frustrated by the changes in Edna. Though Edna starts out as the traditional wife she grows into a mature and liberated individual who no longer wishes to play with her children and please her husband.

In the beginning Edna is the complete archetype of the traditional woman. Full of subservience and humbleness she can only act silly to please her husband. Even when she tries her hardest her husband rebukes in his calm, cool and condescending manner (as shown initially when Edna protests that the boys don’t have fever) making Edna miserable enough to weep horribly. But, she must do this in silence for the patriarchal society she lives in cannot accept her taking offense to anything her husband has done. However, this slowly changes when Edna realizes her attraction towards Robert Lebrun, a married acquaintance. He too seems to possess an interest in her and Edna experiences a sensuousness and wholesomeness of life she had not find accessible to her:

In short, Mrs. Pontellier was beginning to realize her position in the universe as a human being, and to recognize her position and to recognize her relations as an individual to the world within and about her. This may seem like a ponderous amount of weight to descend upon the soul of a young woman of twenty-eight – perhaps more wisdom than the Holy Ghost is usually pleased to vouchsafe to any woman.

(17)

This statement is meant to be both insightful and sarcastic by Chopin due to the fact that the Church to Edna is an exhausting mechanism that influences patriarchal dominance: with the imagery of God as The Father, The Son and The Holy Ghost. It is also insightful because many women cannot possess this transcendence as Edna; they remain caged in their unsatisfying roles like Madame Ratignolle, Edna’s friend, who always seems to get pregnant or Mademoiselle Reisz who are so rebellious that they become deformed in character and are ousted by society. It is first the sensuality of Edna that makes her want to make an artist and have a atelier and be more honest with herself. She realizes her husband’s condescending behaviour towards her and decides to argue with him then just appease him. When her husband leaves for business she even gets her own house to spend her time.

Robert Lebrun and she begin a budding relationship but it interrupted by his need to leave and go away for some business. Edna gets anxious and depressed and by this time she is seduced by the notorious flirt Alcee Arobin, who is enthralled by her emerging sexuality. Though it is implied that Arobin has sex with Edna she does not care and pursues Robert. By this time Robert realizes the intensity of Edna’s attraction and tries to distance himself from her. Edna is still determined to have him and does not care that they both are engaging in an extramarital affair. She wants a relationship that is hers and not produced to her by a societal need. However, in the end Robert abandons her and Edna cannot accept going back to the role of traditional society, so, she unconsciously kills herself.

Edna’s death is symbolic and occurs only after Robert rejects her and it is too painful for her and is her realization of facts: this society was a patriarchal one and it exists only for those virile men not women. Edna’s observation of the world prior to her awakening is limited but it is full blown and rope after her metamorphosis to an independent woman as she becomes more aware of her desires and decides on doing nothing

It was so late; he would be asleep perhaps. She would awaken him with a kiss. She hoped he would be asleep that she might arouse him with her caresses.

Still, she remembered Adele’s voice whispering, “Think of the children ; think of them.” She meant to think of them , that determination had driven into her soul like a death wound – not not-tonight. To-morrow would be time to think of everything.

(152)

The characteristics that Edna displays in the sentences above are usually considered to be masculine. However, her assertiveness towards her sensuality is quite natural for any emancipated individual: the modern woman cannot suppress her sensual cravings, her address to her needs and her ability to be upfront of her feelings just by “[thinking] of the children.” She needs to be her-self and not some ideal image imposed on her. However Robert’s timid withdrawal and his impatience at not waiting for her as she goes to see Mrs. Adele Ratignolle’s giving birth is actually quite frail. He himself encouraged the relationship but he breaks it with the words: “ I love you. Goodbye – because I love you” when he realizes that Edna’s passion and intensity surpasses his – he is weakened by her command of her sexuality; the perseverance she shows towards their affair scares him. Yet isn’t frailty a “womanly” quality? In the battle of individualism Edna is victorious as she is gallant enough to grasp at what she wants but instead of being applauded by her society she knows she will branded as a whore – Adele’s forewarning of thinking of the children may have been also a reminder of her position as a woman and patriarchy’s suppression of being human while you are a woman.

Edna feels the annoying weight of all these superficial and artificial obligations, and we see her peeling away these extra skins before her suicide:

She put it on, leaving her clothing in the bath-house. But when she was there beside the sea, absolutely alone, she cast the unpleasant, pricking garments from her, and for the first time in her life she stood naked in the open air, at the mercy of the sun, the breeze that beat upon her, and the waves that invited her.

(156)

Edna’s retreat to the sea is justified – if she cannot be the way she wishes to be in her society then she will have to be herself somewhere else and this place she chooses is in the sea, the wider universe compared to the confined spaces of a patriarchal society. Like Dickinson who decided her room best described her world Edna chooses the world of death so she can be who she is: though it is tragic it is natural for modern women who were born before their time to escape into other avenues where their identities could be appreciated.

The female character present in The Great Gatsby and The Death of a Salesman are in contradiction with the modern woman though they are born during modern times. They are either incomplete as modern women or they are traditionally subservient despite the need to be more straightforward and strong. First is Linda Loman, wife of Willy Loman from The Death of a Salesman, who does everything to please Willy though Willy treats her unkindly and is even unfaithful to her. He condescends and rebukes her for things that are his fault but she lacks the spirit to do anything but pander to him and the ludicrous thing is that she wants her sons, Biff and Happy, to be subservient as well. Instead of taking charge when she realizes Willy’s mental health she believes him to be the best man around; and when he kills himself she is left lonely and confused at as to what happened. The same sort of pandering attitude is seen by Daisy in The Great Gatsby: she only loves Gatsby because he is wealthy and continues to do so with an illusion and though she is her old beau, James Gatz:

‘Make us a cold drink,’ cried Daisy

As he left the room again she got up and went over to Gatsby and pulled his face down , kissing him on the mouth.

‘You know I love you,’ she murmured.

‘ You forget there’s a lady present,’ said Jordan.

Daisy looked around doubtfully.

‘ You kiss Nick too.’

‘ What a low, vulgar girl!’

(74)

Daisy’s sensuality is not like a modern woman as it lacks the determination and passion of women like Dickinson and Edna Pontellier; it does not help to mould her identity neither is it a promiscuous attitude, it is but flimsy and meant to die away.

  Wild Nights! Wild Nights!
Were I with thee,
Wild Nights should be
Our luxury!

Futile the winds
To a heart in port, —
Done with the compass,
Done with the chart!

Rowing in Eden!
Ah! the sea!
Might I but moor
To-night in Thee!

The poem by Emily Dickinson above is definitely a good definition for a modern day woman who is present during modern times. Like The Great Gatsby and The Death of a Salesman the book The Sun Also Rises is written during the 20’s and 30’s the period that marked the advent of the modern woman.  Brett Ashley is promiscuous, headstrong and even attempts to dress in a neo-masculine trend made by women. Her indifference towards her affair with Cohn show an approach that was once considered masculine and Cohn’s pursuit of her even after the affair is over is a frailty once thought to be in women. She exudes confidence and is the most emancipated woman as seen in her choices and even her ability to decide who she will pursue next. Her only flaw is that she lacks direction but that is the “The Lost Generation” phenomenon that all Americans exiled from their homeland seems to experience.

In conclusion, the modern woman is a woman who is independent, strong and able to seek her identity. We see this in the real-life poet Emily Dickinson and the fictitious characters of Edna Pontellier and Brett Ashley; not, in the characters of Linda and Daisy. In all these women I find Edna Pontellier to be the perfect example of a modern woman – a person who knows what she is passionate about and isn’t afraid to seek it – a woman with direction and strength.

(2, 406 words)

Note: I took Emily Dickenson’s poems from this site
http://www.online-literature.com/dickinson/