Thursday, April 14, 2011

Finding the Real Jasmine; Finding Self- & quick note about the course!

When I began reading Jasmine, my immediate reaction was that several of the characters (Jasmine and Du primarily) seemed lost, or possibly better described: trying to escape some aspect of themselves while finding their true person. They distanced themselves from their homelands in more than just physical movement, almost like excluding the original culture and homeland would somehow reveal to themselves where they truly belong. Du had experienced unspeakable trauma in Vietnam and wished to leave his past behind him as he started over in America. Yet at the same time, in trying to rediscover himself he also makes a kind of peace with his culture in making fellow Vietnamese friends in Banden. Jasmine I found most intriguing because she was on a fervent quest to escape her own destiny of : “widowhood and exile”. It occurred to me that this was a predestined life determined by her culture and it really made me wonder. Both in the context of the novel and of homelands- but also of our world in general and how an individual might be bound to a certain fate whether by family or cultural powers. It made me think of myself as well. Throughout the novel Jasmine is a wanderer. She is a woman out of place in her homeland. She fights the cultural bonds that serve to keep her restrained- whether they be her prophesized destiny or by the constraints on women. She takes abroad to the world to find herself, similar in a sense to Gilbert in Eat Pray Love. She even changes her name (not originally Jasmine) in order to not only explore her being but escape what her culture tries to forcibly mold her into. Even at the end of the novel she is still uncertain of who she is, she again takes to the road saying: “I realize I have already stopped thinking of myself as Jane. Adventure, risk, transformation: the frontier is pushing indoors through un-calked windows. Watch me re-position the stars, I whisper to the astrologer who floats cross-legged above my kitchen stove.” (240) Years after her initial encounter with the prophesy of the astrologer, she still challenges her fate, still challenging what people are trying to see her as. Even while seeking a true place to call home, Jasmine still retains her inner-homeland: of controlling her own person. Thus I find Jasmine to be story of an individual finding their individuality, in some sense an echo of Gilbert’s work, but far more in depth. What this really got me thinking though was how our own homeland tries to conform its young to a certain life or standard. I know it’s a common standard that kids must get the best grades to go to the best college to get that high paying job. Even as America ‘the land of freedom’, we still try to put a certain destiny on others. Looking at my life it was to be a Dental Technician, like my dad. That or be a lawyer or a doctor, a profession guaranteed for the big bucks. I consider myself vastly different from the Jasmine character, but what we have in common is that we both stuck to our guns and created our own identity (inner-homeland). And we persevered even when others denounced it. -Shifting gears- In reflecting on the entire Post-colonial lit class, it was both as expected and very surprising. I knew I was going to glimpse different worlds, different peoples but the stories were somehow so much greater than I had originally thought. What I take away most from the readings and curriculum most is the concept of the individual in a homeland. I never imagined that a course studying cultures like this would focus as much on the individual in the effort to convey a broader story- but it did- and more! Through the individual the homeland was illuminated in many angles, as many perspectives as there were characters. Each book we read became a canvas painted of the story’s world with such vividness one can physically grasp it. And with it, a character’s portrait as well. I learned that a homeland can be internal just as much as it can be a physical piece of land. A homeland is a person’s perspective. It’s their soul whether external or internal.

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