Sunday, November 15, 2009

Comparison of Breath, Eyes, Memory with Their Eyes Were Watching God

At first glance, the novels Breath, Eyes, Memory by Edwidge Danticat and Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston do not seem to have much in common. However, with a little bit of deep diving into the text, one can easily see some very similar themes and ideas between the two novels. Both novels put a heavy emphasis on the traditions of the main characters’ backgrounds, but also the journey of the main characters to shed those traditions.
The emphasis on the traditions of the main character’s heritages is easy to see in both novels. In Breath, Eyes, Memory, many of the events, often horrifying things, which happen to the main character Sophie are a direct result of the traditions of Haiti, where her family is from. A good example of this is when Sophie questions why her mother did some of the strange and sometimes horrible things that happened to her as a young girl. “’I did it," she said, "Because my mother had done it to me. I have no greater excuse’” (Danticat, 1994). The only reason she gets is that it is the way it has always been. That is a clear example of tradition in the novel. In Their Eyes Were Watching God, the main character Janie experiences the same thing. Her grandmother wants to marry off Janie right away when she kisses a man (Hurston, 2006). This shows a deep root in the old traditions and beliefs of her ancestors. While some of the time these traditions help to define the characters, most of the time these traditions hinder the character and provide obstacles that they need to overcome.
This is another theme we see in common with these two novels. Sophie and Janie both struggle against their pasts and the traditions of their ancestors in order to discover what their true identities are. In Breath, Eyes, Memory, Sophie does not become a complete individual until she tries to break free from the traditions of her ancestors. She does everything that her mother would disapprove of from living with a man to homosexuality. All the while she is put with the question “’Ou libere? Are you free my daughter?’” (Danticat, 1994). She seems to not know the answer till after her mother dies. Likewise, in Their Eyes Were Watching God, Janie doesn’t know who she is until she has tried everything. “‘So Ah’m back home agin and Ah’m satisfied tuh be heah. Ah done been tuh de horizon and back and now Ah kin set heah in mah house and live by comparisons’” (Hurston, 2006). Janie realizes that her experiences while trying to break tradition have made her who she is today.
In conclusion, while these two novels come from two very different people, their themes are very similar. The idea of tradition and breaking the mold are ideas that drive us as people today as well. Almost every action we take is following a tradition or breaking one. It is interesting to see how the traditions in these two characters’ lives affect the outcome of who they are.

Works Cited
Danticat, E. (1994). Breath, Eyes, Memory. New York, New York: Vintage Contemporaries .
Hurston, Z. N. (2006). Their Eyes Were Watching God. New York, New York: HarperCollins.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

The Character of Nathan in the Poisonwood Bible

The Poisonwood Bible is by far one of the more interesting novels that I have ever had the pleasure of reading. The development of the characters, the interesting setting, and the multiple narrators that give multiple points of view make this novel a truly unique experience. Of all the interesting characters in this novel, one of them really stood out to me as by far the most fascinating. The crazy thing is that this is also probably the most hated character of the novel by both other characters and readers. I am of course speaking of the character of the father, Nathan. The character of Nathan is fascinating because he is the only character that does not change at all throughout the novel.

At the beginning of the novel, we are introduced to the character of Nathan. Nathan is a Baptist preacher who is planning to take his whole family into the middle of the Congo in Africa to minister to who he thinks of as savage, wicked people. Nathan’s first prayer with the people of the Congo shows his position on the people. ‘“O Lord, let us pray,’ he concluded, landing abruptly back down on earth. ‘Lord, grant that the worthy among us here shall rise above the wickedness and come out of the darkness into the wondrous light of out Holy Father, Amen’” (Kingsolver, 1998). This prayer sets Nathan’s stance that these people are living in sin and darkness and that he is the only one that can bring them out of their wickedness. The crazy thing about Nathan is that, while his family’s view on the people change drastically, Nathan does not change at all.

Through out the novel Nathan treats the people of the Congo like lesser people than himself. He talks to them like children, he always looks at them as inferior, and all the while he tries to convince them that his way is the only way to go. Nathan is steadfast in these views and refuses to change for anyone. There is one interesting scene in the book that really shows the way that Nathan views himself as higher than the people. Nathan is trying to convince the people to except western customs, like voting. The people use this idea of voting and vote that Jesus is not going to be the savior of their village. Nathan throws a hissy fit at this and basically condemns the people. “‘Man, you understand nothing! You are applying the logic of children in a display of childish ignorance” (Kingsolver, 1998). Nathan’s stance never changes and he winds up losing his family because of this.

In conclusion, the character of Nathan that you both dislike an feel sorry for at the same time. His rock hard stance that he is above the people of the Congo and that his message is the only thing that will bring them from pit of darkness drives people away from him instead of toward him. He ruins the chance he had to bring the gospel to the people by treating them like inferiors. That is why he fascinates me.

Works Cited
Kingsolver, B. (1998). The Poisonwood Bible. New York, New York: Harper Perennial . Pgs 28, 332