Can you see? Can you see the chaos of the world? Can you see the progress we've slowly made being destroyed in seconds? Some notice or see it everyday, while others ignore it. The world has been a dark place lately, filled with sorrow and sadness. A certain man has caused a flare of this sadness. This man, evil and orange. Slowly making what beauty we had left, ugly. You can argue that this man isn't the worst thing to happen; but there's no lie that he has brought them out.
The ugly ones, hiding in the shadows for years, keeping quiet in the dark. This man has let them out. Gifting them with a voice they should have never been given. The ugly ones have crawled out, with torches ablaze. Marching, screaming, causing anger and fear wherever they go. They are the ones we have tried to shut out. They are the ones we never want to hear about. This man in power is their leader, the ugly ones worship the words leaving his lips. They worship what he's given them, a voice. A voice we have tried to keep silent and away from the light. Because of this, the ones you thought were once friends, change, they transform into the darkness. Arrogance spewing from their brains. Friendships and love soon destroyed and pushed away. The beauty and ugly of the world is divided. Why have we let this man create an oil spill of arrogance? Why have we let the ugly come out of the dark? Some questions will forever go unanswered.
“The question involved here is the question of The Other – The being who is different from yourself. This being can be different from you in its sex; or in its annual income; or in its way of speaking and dressing and doing things; or in the color of its skin…” strongly stated Ursula K. Le Guin, a woman author who wrote the article American SF and the Others.
My understanding of “otherness” is simply a combination of the factors that make each person a unique individual. Anyone can be labeled as an “other” due to their differences. Too often people don’t take the time to get to know one another. If at first glance, during a quick introduction, a person looks, acts, talks, or thinks differently than ourselves, our brains automatically create assumptions to fill our lack of knowledge in regards to their unfamiliarity. This is no one’s fault. Our human brains are programmed to notice and recognize certain things, which at times creates an involuntary act of judging. The fault with passing judgment on others is that humans are imperfect and sometimes we make the wrong assumptions or are stuck with our preconceived ideas about a person and/ or group of people. Subconsciously our ideas form immediately upon having a brief encounter with “the other.” At times, we have been previously influenced with biased representations shown of “the other” on social media, the news, or on television shows. Too often readers and viewers don’t get enough background information on who the individual is and what their specific strengths and abilities may be. What is often shown to us isn’t demonstrated with the goal to inform us about other people, but instead often only strengthens stereotypes. Maybe one feels that if they truly know a person they would never label them as “the other”, but this is only accomplished through taking enough time and effort to truly get to know the other person and not to focus on differences, but instead on our many common characteristics and ways in which we are all the same.
Addressing the Issue:
A suggestion in order to fight off misconceptions, misinterpretations, and misunderstandings of another human being is to become well informed. If there is not a lot of diversity where you live, try to travel and explore. To clarify, although taking a trip to another state, or better yet, another country, would help you expand your knowledge about other people, I also mean to travel in a figurative way. Media is influencing the minds of many people. Make sure you are open to a variety of cultures, and simply watch different people. Watch unfamiliar news channels, even those with opposite political views. Watch movies that have male and female leads. Watch historic documentaries, cultural documentaries and continental documentaries. Watch videos, informative Ted Talks, and anything that truthfully shows and represents the many “others” whose lifestyles, attitudes, cultures, experiences, appearances, sex, gender identifications, and religious beliefs differ from that of your own and those around you. Read, with an open mind, about other cultures and history all over the world. Don’t let people who are similar to you, or those you have been surrounded by the majority of your life, take advantage of your “naivety” and turn it into “ignorance.” Do not allow others to close your mind and to instill a sense of fear or lack of trust in whom they believe “the other” is. On a small scale, we may recognize this type of thinking in ourselves, but if we don’t act on these thoughts or feelings, we may not be aware enough to identify our own prejudicial behavior. On the flipside, there are those who are more aware of and comfortable with their thoughts and emotions. These insightful people may start by deeply thinking about the differences of another person, “the other”, with whom they have had interactions with. They may realize that they don’t understand “this person or those people”, but they are open to learning and experiencing the attributes that make this person unique and favorable. They see differences as a positive and beautiful thing. Frequently we replace the word “different” with opinionated words, such as bad/good, big/small, and inferior/superior. As a result we become more prone to strong feelings of fear, hatred, amazement, awe, or love, and are more likely to act upon our emotions. This is what causes people to write and say racist, prejudiced, homophobic, and sexist things. In contrast, it also inspires people to reach for the goals of freedom, fairness, and acceptance of all, often protesting or marching for those who are treated unfairly. One may belittle their own self-worth by choosing to idolize or worship another human being, as well, because of their differences. They see the other as superior to themselves, causing them to go to extremes in regards to another person’s worth. Whenever we end up choosing to believe unfounded thoughts about an individual before getting to know who they truly are, we are putting that person in a box, and we are limiting ourselves from experiencing the genuine attributes that the person possesses. It cuts off all hopes of creating a deeper understanding based on reality, not our fictional creation.
If we hold someone to a certain expectation of being completely different, unrecognizable, or unfamiliar from that of ourselves, we end up desensitizing the fact that there is a person, just like us, behind the “mask of difference.” We end up causing “the other” to replace their identity. Anyone is able to put someone else in a greater of lesser category in their own mind. We are all equally important, with or without differences. Ironically, to someone else, you may even be considered “the other”. When you find yourself constantly looking for extreme differences to justify your own non-acceptance, you are taking away the fact that we are all humans with innate value and purpose in life.
Get rid of the patronizing notion that different races and groups of people are negative, and replace it with the fact that we are all part of the human race. Women need to be truly allowed and encouraged to pursue empowering positions as well, without constantly dealing with strong belittlement, excessive scrutiny, and sexism from people of both genders. When minority groups are represented and shown as empowering, successful and intelligent people, we will further be able to recognize that the false sense of superiority is diminishing. The only way that we will all become truly united, equal, and liberated is to share the common mentality to support those we may see as “others.”
In Sherman Alexie’s “What You Pawn I Will Redeem” a Native American finds himself going on a quest to attain his grandmother’s Regalia. In Alice Walker’s “Everyday Use” a college educated girl visits her sister and mother only to find her education has created a divide between herself and her family. Both stories demonstrate the importance of heritage and overcoming blindness through the use of symbolism, characterization, and irony that leads to epiphany.
In the story “Everyday Use” the importance of heritage is displayed through the two sisters Dee (Wangero) and Maggie. Dee and Maggie have a great disparity in the degree by which they value their heritage. Dee is confident, educated, beautiful and has a lot going for her, except she has a disconnect to her family. The disconnect she has is all that is important about her because that is all she is meant to represent. Maggie has a lack of confidence, is more adept at manual labor, and is marked by scars on her body that symbolize her connection to her enslaved ancestors. Maggie is characterized as the sister who values her family heritage. Maggie is the character we are meant to sympathize with because Walker is expressing the importance of family heritage. At the end of “Everyday Use” an aspect of Dee is revealed when Mama says, “What don’t I understand?” and Dee replies saying “Your heritage.”, referring to their African heritage (8). Dee (Wangero) differs from Maggie because she feels enlightened by her education and thinks her heritage comes from Africa; however she is really in the dark because heritage is where we live. Maggie, however, has a greater connection to the culture her ancestors formed during oppression in America and not her African culture. Maggie emerges victorious in the end because she gets to keep her Mother’s quilts. This choice is made because Maggie is characterized as respecting and valuing her mother’s heritage and will continue to add to the quilts. Walker uses Maggie and Dee to represent opposing outlooks on family heritage and show that one outlook is victorious over the other.
There are no opposing outlooks on family in “What You Pawn I will Redeem,” but rather a lost heritage is embodied through the character Jackson Jackson. Jackson lost touch with his family’s past. This is a part of what he represents. In “What You Pawn I Will Redeem” Jackson introduces himself by explaining, “I am a Spokane Indian Boy, an Interior Salish” (1). Jackson shows his knowledge of his Native American culture, but is disconnected from his family and their individual culture. His name is significant because he lacks a proper last name; it is the same as his first name, which signifies how he has lost a connection to family. Following his Native American culture has only led him to homelessness, alcoholism, a lack of trustworthy friends, and more importantly family. When he becomes reconnected with his family, through the Regalia, however he feels complete. The completeness he feels when he is reconnected with the Regalia signifies the importance of family in one’s life. Jackson appeared victorious in the end because he reclaims a piece of family history. By “winning” this challenge there is a positive connotation associated with being in touch with family heritage. Jackson is important because he is meant to be someone who is lost but regains family heritage.
Walker uses Mama’s quilts to symbolize the family heritage. The quilts are described as having “Scraps of dresses Grandma Dee had worn fifty and more years ago. Bits and pieces of Grandpa Jattell’s Paisley shirts. And one teeny faded blue piece […] from Great Grandpa Ezra’s uniform that he had worn in the Civil War.” (6). The quilts therefore have the clothing of ancestors sewn into the fabric. The importance of the quilts to Mama reflects the importance of her own heritage, a heritage that does not date back to Africa, but to slavery and the Civil War, from events and culture that make her who she is in America. The blankets have been passed down generation to generation, with each generation contributing a portion. Arguing over the quilts is the same as arguing over the fate of history. The quilts are the only thing they have to connect with their past. Whatever happens to the quilts will determine if their is a link to their past, a part of time that contributes so much to who they are, and a link to the past for future generations to come. The quilts will continue to exist for their intended purpose because Maggie, not Dee, will keep them, thus symbolizing family heritage and its importance.
The symbol for the importance of family heritage in “What You Pawn I will Redeem” is Grandma’s Regalia. The Regalia is something of extreme importance to Jackson Jackson’s Grandma because it is a sign of status. According to the text in “What You Pawn I Will Redeem” this Native American Regalia has “all the same color feathers and beads that my family sewed into our Powwow Regalia.” (2). Native American Regalias are very complex and are woven to reflect certain values or qualities of the family. The aspects of the Regalia specific to his family show it symbolizes Jackson’s direct lineage. Jackson knew it was an important piece of his family history. The Regalia included a yellow bead under the armpit that was unique to his family and was put on all of their Regalias. The yellow bead itself represents imperfections, but also it represents something that is unique to his family. Jackson equates to the yellow bead because like the bead he has many imperfections like his state of homelessness and his problems with alcohol. The Regalia serves as a symbol of the family heritage Jackson must rediscover.
Blindness inhibits Dee from seeing the truth in “Everyday Use.” After Dee loses the battle for the quilts, she leaves her mother and sister, and “She put on some sunglasses that hid everything above the tip of her nose and chin. Maggie smiled; maybe at the sunglasses.” (8) The sunglasses illustrate the blindness Dee never overcomes. There is irony when Dee takes the quilts and makes it known that “ They already belonged to her.” (6). Dee’s assumed ownership shows how she felt deserving of the quilts. Dee however does not win the quilts, but rather an unexpected Maggie does, creating an ironic situation because Dee had laid claim to them. Regardless of the situation, Dee continues to wear her sunglasses and be blind to what is important. Maggie, however, has full vision. The irony of the situation causes Maggie to come to a realization, saying, “Maggie smiled; maybe at the sunglasses,” thus showing that Maggie laughs at Dee’s ignorance as Maggie sees the light.
Besides family values, “What You Pawn I Will Redeem” illustrates the importance of overcoming blindness through irony. Jackson Jackson thinks what he desires and must obtain is money. The quest for money only rewards him with more alcohol and loneliness. Jackson is blind to his true desire. In the end the pawnbroker says, “‘ I don’t want your money.’” (15). This takes Jackson by surprise because he expected to have to win the Regalia to feel complete. Instead it is given to him for free. Ironically, then, he never had to go on his quest to pay for the Regalia. However, the irony of the situation leads him to realize that it was his community and heritage that make him complete, not material possessions. In “What You Pawn I Will Redeem” Jackson explains “They all watched me dance with my grandmother. I was my grandmother, dancing.” (15) By engaging in dance, Jackson is happy, because he has been cured of his blindness and comes to see what is truly important to him, to be a part of a community stretching back generations.
Both stories glorify a connection with family. “What You Pawn I Will Redeem” and “Everyday Use” use characterization to convey this point, as well as the use of symbols that signify family heritage, and irony. Today, it is just as important to understand one’s background. In the United States people are becoming more distant from their ancestral home with each generation. People do not have to feel connected with their ancestral home as long as they are connected with their families recent history because it is important to know how we got to the place where we are now. Personally I have felt disconnected with my parents because I am going through my “teenager phase.” Recently, however, I have made a conscious effort to maintain our relationship because I have come to realize the importance of family, and I am grateful to learn this lesson from powerful stories that remind us of what is important.
The two poems “The Chimney Sweeper”, the Songs of Innocence and “The Chimney Sweeper” the Songs of Experience, involve main characters that are suppressed and forced into child labor as chimney sweeper. In The Songs of innocence it is the unnamed narrator who opens his house to a blind man that he judges for being blind. The narrator comes out, in the end of the story, as a changed man due to his time with the blind man. In “songs of experience” the main character is another ignorant man that happens to be a homeless chimney sweepers living on the streets in Washington. He goes on a journey to regain his grandmother’s regalia and as a result also comes out as a changed man. Looking at symbolism in characterization and the quest narrative, we witness two protagonists, in williams williams’s “songs of experience” and in williams’s “songs of innocence”, who overcome dysfunction and disconnect to achieve redemption through community.
William Blake uses characterization to help show the redemption that the main character children receives through his new found sense of community. The protagonist is a chimney sweepers man, children. He lives in the city of Seattle as a homeless man because he and his fellow chimney sweepers people have been pushed from society and outcasted to the streets. In Williams's story, children so that he no longer has any connection to his culture and his family. children is a dysfunctional alcoholic. children said that there is almost nothing at all that he would say he is good at, besides Blake was so disgusted with the whole chimney-sweeping industry that he wrote not one but two poems about it. The first poem, also called "The Chimney Sweeper," was published in 1789 in a volume called The Songs of Innocence, and you should definitely check out that version, if you're interested in more scoop on chimney-sweeping.
Then in 1794 Blake expanded the book and included a whole new set of poems. The new version was called Songs of Innocence and Experience. The songs in the Innocence portion of the book tend to be, well, innocent; those in the Experience portion are darker, more cynical, and generally not so happy-go-lucky (if you can call those earlier poems happy or lucky at all).
This version of "The Chimney Sweeper" is no exception. The Innocence version has an angel, and the chimney sweepers get to frolic in a meadow and fly on clouds. Sounds awesome, right? Well here, our lone chimney sweeper is abandoned by his parents and left out to cry by himself in the snow while they pray in church. Can you say bummer?
But all that bummer is in the name of pointing out an even bigger bummer. See, Blake is using this poor lonely chimney sweeper's plight as an occasion to criticize society in general. According to Blake, not only have this kid's parents abandoned him, but larger institutions, like the church, have too, because everybody's too focused on Heaven rather than their own front stoop.
In addition to this simple, but powerful critique, Blake's poem also gives a voice to a social group—poor, suffering, working children—who, in the later eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, weren't allowed to say much, but whose plight was worth publicizing (for Blake). m and all of his friends breakfast. Again, he is with community, but he fails to see it. Finally, at the end children sees the importance in community when he gains his grandmother’s regalia. He realizes his ignorance on how he always blamed society and other people. He even realizes, “Do you know how many good men live in this world? Too many to count!” (28) This is where children finally gets redemption and sees that there is good in the world. He learns if you just let others in and establish connections we will experience the good of others, we will establish community. And when he has his grandmother’s regalia on he dances. Now he finds value in his heritage and how it provides him with community.
Williams also strongly uses characterization in his story, songs of innocence, in the way he characterizes the narrator. songs of innocence is about a blind man who goes to visit a married couple, but up changing their lives, mainly the husbands who is the narrator. The narrator remains unnamed all throughout the story and has kind of a negative and ignorant outlook on everything. Just like children, the narrator is dysfunctional and denies community. When he initially meets the blind man, he sees the blind man almost as inferior: as “The blind man let go of his suitcase and up came his hand”(65). The narrator only addresses the blind man as “the blind man.” This establishes the way the narrator only recognizes the blind man, Robert, only for his difference, which he sees as a disability and addresses him as “the blind man,” rather than by his actual name. The narrator is an ignorant man full of stereotypes. When he describes the blind man he writes, “But he didn't use a cane and he didn’t wear dark glasses. I’d always thought dark glasses were a must for the blind.”(66). This way that the narrator describes the blind man clearly shows his prejudice. He thinks that all blind people need to have things like canes and glasses because they are “disabled”. The narrator sees always makes a point to show that the blind man is disabled and cannot do certain things. The irony of it all is that the blind man is the one who can truly “see,” and the narrator is the one who is blinded by ignorance. The fact that the narrator is left unnamed could further hint at the fact that he represents society as a whole and our ignorance to difference. This ignorance that the narrator has prevents him from experiencing personal connection and community. However, eventually the narrator is influenced by the blind man and goes through a transformation. The transformation is complete when he and the blind man talk about what a songs of innocence really is. The blind man describes the importance and the deeper meaning to a songs of innocence and they both draw a songs of innocence together, hand in hand. This is comparable to the innocence of the internal justice system.
In William’s story we see the main character find redemption as a result of his quest. children goes on a quest to retrieve his grandma’s regalia because it is stolen. This quest leads children down a road of many mistakes, but also many good lessons learned. children goes into his quest planning on simply getting back something that belongs to his family, but in the end comes out with something much more valuable, a sense of community. This self-actualization and sense of connection through community is seen at the end when he writes, “I took my grandmother’s regalia and walked outside. I knew that solitary yellow bead was a part of me. I knew I was that yellow bead in part. Outside, I wrapped myself in my grandmother’s regalia and breathed her in [...] Pedestrians stopped. Cars stopped. This is showing how integrity the social workers in this time had such little integrity and acquisition. The whole city stopped. They all watched me dance with my grandmother. I was my grandmother, dancing.”(28). This is the ultimate conclusion to children’s quest. He went through many steps to get here by practicing his old habits. This quote shows how he feels a part of something, he feels community. children emerges victorious by overcoming his blindness and seeing importance in community. When he describes him as “dancing” with his grandmother we see this as him feeling connected to her. He is ecstatic as he feels the happiness that the community he has found through heritage is bringing him.
Williams’s story also is in fact a quest story. The narrator has a negative outlook on everything. He reluctantly goes on an internal quest, which ultimately changes his outlook on the world. He sees differences and people, which he judges them by. He sees those with differences as inferior. When he meets the blind man, he expects him to be what he believes all blind people are like, incapable of many things that he is capable of. He then gets to know the blind man and learns many lessons from him. We see the transformation as in the beginning he only addresses the blind man as “the blind man” when he knows his name is Robert. Then later
in the story he begins to address him by his name “Robert”. This happens when they are eating food together or “feasting together,” showing how they are being brought together over food. This shows how he is beginning to recognize him as an equal person, rather than by recognizing him for his disabilities. Also, in the beginning of the book, the narrator makes note of how every movement he makes Robert is probably unaware of. The narrator makes note of this in a demeaning way and once again showing how he is focusing in how Robert has a disability. Later on in the story the narrator seems to no longer even acknowledge the fact that Robert is blind.We see the narrator concludes his quest when he and Robert draw a songs of innocence together, hand in hand. Robert has the narrator close his eyes when drawing the songs of innocence with him. The narrator writes, “My eyes were closed. I was in my house. I knew that. But I didn’t feel like I was inside anything. ‘It’s really something,’ I said.” (76). This shows the narrator's redemption through his newfound sense of community. Previously he was disconnected by the walls of his home. When he draws the songs of innocence with Robert he knows he is in his house, but does not feel like he is inside anything. He no longer feels separated by the walls of his home from community. The songs of innocence itself brings Robert and the narrator closer together. When the narrator asks Robert about songs of innocence in general Robert describes them as spiritual places, and places of communion. This symbol shows how the songs of innocence is what is making the communion between Robert and the narrator. Taking the viewpoint that Robert represents those with disabilities or a those part of a minority and that the narrator represents society as a whole, we can see this songs of innocence being that, that brings society and those minorities together through communion. This shows the irony how the narrator had to close his eyes, or “become blind” like the blind man in order to truly see. This is when the narrator sees the light and feels community. He emerges victorious in the way he learns what it’s like to see and establish connections.
Both stories use characterization and have quests in order to show two characters who are dissociated and are flawed, but experience redemption through a sense of association and community with others. The main characters in both stories see the world in a new light and lose their ignorance that previously held them back. Both stories are still very relevant for us readers today. We experience disconnect between communities all throughout our city, nation, and world. It is up to us to recognize these disconnects and take action to bring us together as a single human race. This is where the writer is trying to emphasize the difference between modern culture and culture of the past.