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How does the theme of alienation feature in at least three of the set texts? Compare the ways they address this theme. …

How does the theme of alienation feature in at least three of the set texts? Compare the ways they address this theme.

By Belle Lam, Tang Ka Wong and Tiffany Wong

Published in Education
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  • B: In “Seventeen Syllables”, the alienation is imposed because of the oppression imposed on Tome by society and culture. Culturally, her interest is very Japanese. It is not appreciated by westernized people around her, such as Rosie. She has language barrier with the Americans, as she knows “less English, no French”. Socially, the expectation that women have to listen to men makes her repress in expressing her own views. When Mr Hayashi decides to leave the Hayano’s, Tome has to obey even though she wants to continue her discussion with Mr Hayano. Therefore, she escapes and isolates herself in her world haikus, where she is appreciated.
  • K: For Mr Hayashi, his domination accelerates his alienation towards his relationship with Tome. He does not allow her to write haikus and smash the painting which is the prize of a haiku competition. His lack of appreciation to Tome’s artistic sense leads to the alienation.
  • T: Secondly, we will discuss about how alienation affects the characters. All characters gain autonomy in the alienation but in different ways.
  • K: In “The Chrysanthemums”, Elisa has control over the chrysanthemums in her garden. In her garden, everything is in order, such as the “square sandy bed” and “parallel trenches”. She is confident when she is with her chrysanthemums. We can see it from the quote, “Her face [is] eager and mature and handsome; even her work with the scissors [is] over-eager, over powerful”
  • B: In “Everyday Use”, Dee changes her name and is no longer “being named after the people who oppress her”. By moving to the urban area, she no longer lives with her family and is independent. She gains autonomy through being different from her family..
  • T: Tome gains autonomy in the alienation by indulging herself into her world of haiku, where she is not oppressed or isolated in any form there. In this world of creativity, Tome can be independent to her thoughts and actions. She could even transform herself into another person “Ume Hanazono”. It is seen that her involvement to the world of haiku from the description about her when she was writing haikus, she has transformed into “an earnest, muttering stranger who often neglected speaking when spoken to.” From this description, we can see that Tome has fully indulged herself into the haiku, and basically ignored and alienated herself from the real world. As she couldn’t possibly have a chance to express herself in reality, therefore, her alienation to the haikus also serves as a place of escape from the oppression she is facing.
  • K: Mr Hayashi also gains autonomy from his alienation. However, he doesn’t go writing poems and songs and get himself involved into his world of creativity, like Tome does. Being a traditional Japanese man, Mr Hayashi is more to the subtle kind of alienation. Rather than doing something to isolate himself from the reality he is facing, he remain silent to avoid any unnecessary interaction with his family, though he is, at the same time, the dominant one of his family and is free to give commands to the members.
  • B: Our characters in our texts also gained pride in our alienation. Elisa have to be a leading figure for this point. To a certain extent, Elisa alienates herself from the outside world because of the chrysanthemums she took pride on. It is the chrysanthemums when Elisa can emotionally connect to something. Some people may say it is because of her “gift of things” which made Elisa being so proud of her Chrysanthemums. From how she teach the tinker about planting chrysanthemums, we can see that she is an expert in planting chrysanthemums and she takes pride in it. Furthermore, her passion and excitement to the topic on her chrysanthemum and on how to grow them is shown between her conversation with The Tinker, a complete stranger.
  • T: Dee also gain pride through her alienation. Dee takes pride on her better education and her chance to be able to live in the city and be exposed to the modern trend. She takes the pride that she can establish a sense of superiority to herself and place a sense of inferiority to her family; she puts herself into a high-mighty position, squishing her family members into bug-sized. For example, she claims she has the ability to appreciate the quilts made by her grandmother, while Maggie can’t appreciate them. Because of her education level? This could be a possibility. Nevertheless, Dee has successfully used her pride to crush Maggie into a position way lower than she does
  • K: Tome takes pride in her haiku. Haiku is the only source of her relieve, when she is free to do whatever she wanted to do, and she likes to do it, a lot, to an extent that she introduce her work to her daughter, who she thinks will understand her the most, after she finishes with one and read it aloud to Rosie. Think about it, if you are not proud of what you’ve produced, would you go and read it to someone else? Or would you even send it to a competition. When Tome sends her haikus to the competition and they’ve returned with a first prize, she is so “pleased and overwhelmed” and bobbed her head up and down numerous times. Those with the experience of winning will know that when you have won, you will be jumping up and down.
  • B: The last area we are going to discuss is how the alienation affects the character’s relationship with others. When you alienate yourself, you will be, either, cut off from the world, or, in some cases, you will be even more connected to the world. We would discuss on how the alienation deepens the disconnection between the characters and the others and how this alienation can actually strengthen the relationship of the character with certain individuals.
  • B: With the “Chrysanthemums”, the barrier placed by the ‘fenced garden’ is the ultimate disconnection between Elisa and the world beyond. With her inside the garden and people outside, she has cut off herself from anything outside. For example, Elisa cuts off herself from the outside world firstly by emotionally disconnecting herself with others, with her husband, Henry, to be the most representing figure. Her conversation with Henry lacks emotion and excitement. This shows that she is not emotionally connected with others.
  • K: Furthermore, Elisa’s masculine clothing also acts as an armor and barrier from interaction. This armor is also acting as an armor for protection against any external harm. This double battle-formed protection separates Elisa from anything outside the fenced garden which, she thinks, will harm her. Moreover, her scissors acts as a weapon, which holds a warning sign to anyone who tries to even get near her that she’s not to be connected with anyone except her chrysanthemums. Compared to the other two alienation shown from the other texts, Elisa’s is the only to impose a physical barrier between she and others.
  • B: For Everyday Use, Dee makes attempts not to be alienated from the current urban trend. Well, she lives in the city and thinks of herself as an urban chic. That means, she doesn’t want to be left out of the urban sphere and therefore tries to do everything to keep herself in. One of the ways is to lift herself up to a supreme position in her family, while she is the hip and trendy one, her family is the ‘backward’ people in society. For this she not only cuts off her linkage to her family but also breaks her relationship with her mother.
  • T: While trying not to alienate herself from the urban sphere, Dee alienates herself from her family. She alienates herself from by changing her name. This name change is significant to the alienation as she disconnects herself from those she thinks “oppresses her”, however, these people are actually her family members. The name change now has turn into a disconnection and denial to her family background and thus she isolates herself from it and lead a new life herself.
  • K: Tome’s full indulgence to her haikus has also deepens her disconnection with others, in the story, is her family. Tome has neglected speaking unless she is spoken to when she is writing, which, in a sense, she has cut herself off from the real world and disconnects herself from it. Tome is so fond of haikus that she can talk about it endlessly with others. There is no harm to this act but when you are too indulged into your interest. But not for Tome, she is so engaged to it that she even forgets about dinner during the Hayashi’s visit to the Hayano family. From this, we can see Tome’s unintentional disconnection with her family.
  • T: Mr Hayashi’s silence and Tome’s enthusiastic engagement with her haikus, these so-called married couples has formed a bubble around themselves. Their lack of interaction and communication certifies that both of their alienation has contributed to the fact there is emotional disconnection between Tome and Mr Hayashi. They basically ignore each other, or so suggests from the minimal conversation between them; and kept their silence throughout the story. This phenomenon continues, then the deepened disconnection with continue to happen due to the alienation of both characters.
  • B: Interestingly though, alienation doesn’t only disconnects people, it always enhancing relationship gaps. In “The Chrysanthemums”, Elisa’s alienation from emotional connection enhances her marital gap with her husband. She keeps a distance between she and Henry, while one is in the garden, the other can only lean over the fence outside it. Elisa doesn’t make hearty conversation with her husband, not like other married couples, instead, she only gives short and crude answers, or even using a defensive attitude like “what do you mean by ‘nice’”, which enhances her alienation from any emotional connection.
  • T: For Dee, whose alienation enhances a generation gap, she asserts a superiority on herself and inferiority on her family. She has made this gap clear that she has a higher education level and lives in the city, so she will basically despise those who are not as educated and lives in the countryside. Furthermore, as she is living amidst the times when the Black Power Movement is firing up. When Dee has absorbed the way of thinking of heritage from the movement, she refuses to understand the value of heritage from her family, thus disconnecting herself from her elders like her mother and all those before her.
  • K: While the alienation in the other two stories only enhances either one of the gaps, Seventeen Syllables has introduced two gaps in the story, both the marriage gap and the generational gap. Firstly, Tome’s burial into her haikus in her world of creativity and isolation actually creates a generational gap between her and Rosie, while Tome has tried so hard to introduce this form of art to Rosie, Rosie only “pretended to understand it”. Rosie’s lack of interest to the haikus has enhanced the generation gap and thus driving Tome further down into the alienation and isolation.
  • B: The Marital gap introduced in this story is actually a two-way contribution between Tome and Mr Hayashi. Firstly, these two are met through an old japanese match-making custom called the “picture bride”. Both of them never had a chance to know each other before getting married, and when they are, its too late to turn back. This lack of synchronization starts the marital gap. Secondly, Hayashi’s silent disapproval to Tome’s love for haikus limits him to express himself to his wife, and in the end, leading to the ultimate disapproval which caused a permanent scar in their marriage. Mr hayashi’s alienation in the end forms a huge relationship gap between him and Tome.

Transcript

  • 1. Alienation in The Chrysanthemums, Everyday Use and Seventeen Syllables
    Belle Lam
    Tang Ka Wing
    Tiffany Wong
  • 2.
  • 3. Alienation
  • 4. Imposition of the Alienation
  • 5. How is the alienation imposed?
    The Chrysanthemums
    Elisa self-imposes the alienation.
    “Fence[d]” herself around the garden with her chrysanthemums.
    Masculine “gardening costume”, scissors as a weapon
  • 6. How is the alienation imposed?
    Everyday Use
    Dee self-imposes the alienation.
    Lives in urban area while mother and sister live in rural area
    Never asks before taking something e.g. benches, dasher
  • 7. How is the alienation imposed?
    Seventeen Syllables
    Tome self-imposes the alienation
    She is in the world of haiku  a space of autonomy. She is “neglected speaking when spoken to” (p.209)
    The alienation was imposed on Tome by society
  • 8. How is the alienation imposed?
    Seventeen Syllables
    Mr Hayashi self-imposes the alienation
    He remains silent and expresses himself minimally when interacting with others
    The alienation was imposed on Mr Hayashi by society
  • 9. Why is the alienation imposed?
    The Chrysanthemums
    Does not want to be let down, seeking a sense of security
    Wants to stay in her comfort zonegarden (where she is in control of everything)
  • 10. Why is the alienation imposed?
    Everyday Use
    Alienated from her family
    Higher educational level
    Prevents herself from being alienated from city / urban life
    Follows the Black Power movement
  • 11. Why is the alienation imposed?
    Seventeen Syllables
    The oppression imposed on Tome by society and culture makes Tome escape and isolate herself in her world of haikus.
  • 12. Why is the alienation imposed?
    Seventeen Syllables
    Mr Hayashi’s domination and lack of appreciation to Tome’s artistic sense accelerates his alienation from his interaction with Tome
  • 13. How Alienation affects the Characters
  • 14. How the characters gain autonomy in the alienation
    The Chrysanthemums
    Has control over the chrysanthemums in her garden
    “her face was eager and mature and handsome; even her work with the scissors was over-eager, over powerful.” (pg. 160)
  • 15. How the characters gain autonomy in the alienation
    Everyday Use
    Dee changes her name, being different from her family
    ‘couldn’t’ bear it any longer being named after the people who oppress her.” (pg. 348)
  • 16. How the characters gain autonomy in the alienation
    Seventeen Syllables
    Tome is independent in her world of haiku
    “an earnest, muttering stranger who often neglected speaking when spoken to.” (pg. 209)
  • 17. How the characters gain autonomy in the alienation
    Seventeen Syllables
    Mr Hayashi gains autonomy in his alienation,
    Remains silence as he is free to give commands on his family members
  • 18. How the characters gain pride in the alienation
    The Chrysanthemums
    Elisa takes pride in planting chrysanthemums
    passion and excitement when illustrating the process of planting chrysanthemums to the tinker, a stranger. (pg. 165)
  • 19. How the characters gain pride in the alienation
    Everyday Use
    Dee takes pride as she establishes a sense of superiority to herself and a sense of inferiority to her family
    when she can appreciate the quilts and Maggie “can’t”. (pg. 351)
  • 20. How the characters gain pride in the alienation
    Seventeen Syllables
    Tome takes pride in her writing of haiku
    “finished one and read it aloud for her daughter’s approval”, introducing her work to her daughter. (pg. 208)
    When Tome receives the “first prize”, she is “pleased and overwhelmed”, “bobb[ing] her head up and down numerous times”. (pg. 217)
  • 21. How Alienation affects the Characters’ Relationship with others
  • 22. How alienation deepens disconnection with others
    The Chrysanthemums
    “Fenced garden”
    a barrier from the outside world
    emotional disconnection with others  i.e. Henry has talk to Elisa outside the garden
  • 23. How alienation deepens disconnection with others
    The Chrysanthemums
    Masculine clothing
    an armor and barrier from interaction
    protection against external harm
    scissors as a weapon
  • 24. How alienation deepens disconnection with others
    Everyday Use
    Dee makes attempts not to be alienated from the current urban trend
    Spread the urban trend into her family and calls them “backward”
    Breaks her relationship with mother
  • 25. How alienation deepens disconnection with others
    Everyday Use
    Dee alienates herself from her family
    Changes her name  which is “named after the people who oppresses [her]”
    Disconnection and denial of her family background
  • 26. How alienation deepens disconnection with others
    Seventeen Syllables
    Tome is fully indulged in haikus.
    “Neglected speaking when spoken to and stayed busy at the parlor table”
    Creating disconnection with others
    She can talk about haikus and “forget[s]” about dinner in the Hayano family
  • 27. How alienation deepens disconnection with others
    Seventeen Syllables
    Emotional disconnection between Tome and Mr Hayashi
    Minimal interaction and communication are seen throughout the story
  • 28. How alienation enhances marriage / generational gap
    The Chrysanthemums
    Elisa bars herself from being emotionally connected with others
    A distant relationship with her husband Henry
    Short and crude answers
    Defensive attitude “What do you mean by ‘nice’?
  • 29. How alienation enhances marriage / generational gap
    Everyday Use
    Dee asserts superiority on herself and inferiority on her family
    Dee has a higher educational level
    Looks down on those who live in the rural
    Refuses to understand the value of heritage in the view of her family
  • 30. How alienation enhances marriage / generational gap
    Seventeen Syllables
    Tome is buried in her world of haiku, in her world of alienation
    Creates generational gap between her and Rosie
    When she introduces Haiku to Rosie, Rosie only “pretended to understand it”. (pg. 208)
  • 31. How alienation enhances marriage / generational gap
    Seventeen Syllables
    Mr Hayashi alienates himself from Tome
    Picture bride: never had a chance to know her in person before marrying her
    Enhances marriage gap