Monday, 6 February 2017

Beyonce’s Formation Music Video within Edward Said’s Orientalism Theory

Storey (2009: 167) highlights that the concept of race has been articulated through the human insist of division. He further extends that this in itself is a notion of racism because although biologically there is skin tone variety, the act of distinguishing them is placed within social and political context – having the signification mean something as opposed to just being physical difference. Gilroy (1991: xxii) argues that “race” is a virtual reality given implication only due to racism. He extends that social and political environment and ideology constructs “race” which are the sustaining components within “racialization” which have characterized capitalist development (35). This paper will explore a detailed analysis of iconic pop star Beyonce Knowles’ Formation music video using the approach of Orientalism by Edward Said.

The music video is centred on African American pride particularly the black southern side. Beyonce illustrates her history of southern identity through the cultural practice, features and issues of New Orleans. The video reflects on the images of Hurricane Katrina, Mardi Gras and the Black South. Natural hair focus, Beyonce sitting on a sinking New Orleans police car and a young African American boy dancing in front of police officers, followed by a graffiti stating “stop shooting us” are all key messages of the music video. Furthermore, typically a woman’s dancing within music videos are highly sexualised however, in Formation, the choreography focused on strong movements with Beyonce and other African American women portraying flair and confidence, reflecting black southern nightlife from parades to clubs where there are drum majors march and twerking (Robinson, 2016). She reminds the audience where she is from; her parental roots: “My daddy Alabama, Momma Louisiana, You mix that negro with that Creole make a Texas bama.” Cultural pride is represented largely within the lyrics and video – “I got hot sauce in my bag, swag,” images of women sitting in parlours fanning themselves and twirling umbrellas is all in reminiscent of the sartorial splendour of black New Orleans (Robinson, 2016). In addition to that, “Mardi Gras and second line imagery pepper the video, offering a celebration of the city that accounts for the black and indigenous cultures  that created and sustain it through their labour” (ibid).

Turner (1996: 6) argues that with the examination of popular culture and the attempt to understand it – the political aspect allows us “to examine the power relations that constitute this form of everyday life and thus reveal the configurations of interests its construction serves.” This particular popular text was chosen due its political nature in dealing with race which can be configured utilising the theory posed by Edward Said. Moreover, racial issues constitute much discussion within society and it is interesting to view it from a popular culture standpoint. From this point of view, investigation of "race" in mainstream culture would be the investigation of the distinctive courses in which it has and can be made to connote.

Said (1985: 89) asserts that “the Orient was a European invention” – whereby “Orientalism” is the relationship between the Orient and Europe particularly, the defying quality the Orient has brought towards the West via the contrast in image, idea, personality and experience. He claims “Orientalism as a Western style for dominating, restructuring, and having authority over the Orient” (ibid.). Basically, it is a “system of ideological fiction” (pg. 321) where power is at stake. Hegemony by the West over the Orients exists from the supposed difference between the two where “the West … is rational, developed, humane, superior and the Orient … is aberrant, underdeveloped, inferior” (pg. 300).

Storey (2009: 173) argues that within the context of Orientalism, Hollywood representations don’t have to succumb towards being historically accurate; ‘true’ or ‘false’ don’t carry much weight. However, in his Analysis of Culture (1961) Williams claims that a thorough cultural analysis can only happen if the historical context is taken into consideration. This is because in actual fact, what is integral is “the regime of truth” (Foucalt: 2002: pg. 131) that is practised, stating that Hollywood power is not a negative entity – in fact, it is productive (Storey, 2009: pg. 173). Caliendo and McIlwain (2011: 184) assert that “the theoretical framework of Orientalism derives primarily from Michel Foucalt’ discourse theory and Antonio Gramsci’s concept of hegemony.” Storey relates this supposed theory to Foucalt’s understanding of power to Hollywood’s power claiming it doesn’t ‘repress’, ‘censor’, ‘abstract’,  ‘mask’, or ‘conceal,’ on the contrary, “it produces reality; it produces domains of objects and rituals of truth” (1979: 194). Similarly as to how it can be applied within a Hollywood framework, it can also follow the same application within Beyonce’s Formation. Hurricane Katrina was a highlighted topic in Beyonce’s video depicting ruins of the city after the occurrence of the disaster – her video even began with a narration asking “What happened at the New Orleans?” Hurricane Katrina, the most expensive natural disaster in American history, killed nearly 2,000 people and displaced one million (BBC News, 2016). It largely affected the city of New Orleans, in Louisiana and until today George Bush’s slow response in aiding the victims remains a wellspring of profound disdain in the city (ibid). According to Sommers et al. (2006: 6) the lack of support from the government stemmed from a racist standpoint; general population of the victims are African American deeming them unworthy of help. The media is a channel that has the power to influence and shape the public minds (Happer and Philo, 2013) and hence, the media portrayal had to depict their “regime of truth,” claiming the government had helped efficiently. The coverage for Katrina was extensive, and the media was criticized for heavily proclaiming the governmental support (Carr, 2005; Kutz, 2005). Also, many public figures consciously chose to use the word “refugee” in referring to the victims (Sommers et al., 2006). Jackson and Sharpton (2005) argue that this is act is racially biased because it avoided the primarily African American victims and implied they were less than full citizens. 

Althusser (1971) claims a  problematic contains “the  assumptions,  motivations, underlying  ideas,  etc.,  from  which  a  text  is  made.” Storey (2009: 72) further explains a text structure is derived from just as much by what is absent (what is not said) as by what is present (what is said). Althusser argues that to fully understand a text, it requires awareness of text content and also the suppositions which inform it (it may not be evident in the text itself in a straightforward, obvious manner but exist only in the text’s problematic). Storey (2009: 72) mentions that as an Althusserian critical practice, it is important to deconstruct the text to disclose the problematic; the act of doing so is what Althusser calls a ‘symptomatic reading’.

Beyonce through this practice created her own “regime of truth” within Orientalism where she discusses the fall of New Orleans. This would seem contradictory to the Orientalism theory where only the West had the power to create reality. Caliendo and McIlwain (2011: 185) draw attention to Said’s ignorance on hegemonic power that exists within the Western discourse itself. Clearly, Beyonce is a true testament to his lack of exploration within non-white cultures. “Earned all this money but they will never the country out of me” is a continuous verse in her video claiming that despite all her success she still stays true to her roots. The chorus which states “I see it, I want it, I stunt, yellow-bone it, I dream it, I work hard, I grind until I own it” and “I go off, I go hard, Get what’s mine, I’m a star, Cause I slay” visibly portrays her power within obtaining what she wants. Through her hegemonic status, she has the power to illustrate key messages to send out messages to her fans and maybe even indirectly towards the governmental scrutiny. She was also strategic by intentionally releasing it during the Black History Month, particularly on African American racial victims’ birthday; Trayvon Martin’s and Sandra Bland’s to further instil her message (NPR, 2016).
Beyonce even touched on police brutality towards the African American community. Her video conjured images of a young boy dancing in front of police officers as well as hands being held up before seeing the words, “Stop shooting us.” Storey (2009) highlights a plot within Said’s Orientalism approach where there “whites, who because of the supposed power of their racial heredity impose themselves on the jungle and its inhabitants”. This is exemplary towards the police force’s unethical conduct of racial violence towards the African American community. She garnered the use of a pop platform as a powerful paradigm to bring about the necessary attention towards racism and marginalized groups, telling an important story about the black South (Robinson, 2016).
Kim and Chung (2005: 73) point out that despite Said’s primary focus on Europe’s relations with the Middle East and South Asia, the “political ideologies” and “cultural imageries” indirectly have hegemonic dichotomies that assist in deciphering the interplay of Orientalism dynamic in America – Orientalism has a notion of white power to justify its dominance. In Said’s view, many white men colonialists equated the colour of their skin with a “superior ontological status” and the power to rule the rest of the world (Jouhki, 2006: 32). Also, Hill (2000) highlights that attractiveness is culturally constructed, influenced by racial aesthetics. Charles White in ‘An account of the regular gradation in man and in different animals and vegetables’ (1795: 168) wrote that the white Europeans are the most distinguished from bring a “brute creation” and hence, considered the most attractive race of them all. In the American community straight, blonde hair is considered to be the ideal look, which is contradictory towards the natural African American features (Clayson and Klassen, 1989: 200). Weitz (2001) says that many women dye their blonde due to the perception that being blonde is more attractive. However, in Formation, Beyonce opposes this, proudly accentuating typical African American features such as afro hair and large nostrils; “I like my baby heir with baby hair and afros, I like my Negro nose with Jackson Five nostrils.” Beyonce’s daughter is seen flaunting her natural hair along with a couple other young African American girls. She also conjures images of African American men with the afro hair, holding basketballs. Within this context she challenges the supposed norm of what is considered attractive. 

Despite this, there is a contradictory factor within her music video as she is blonde while all the other women are brunettes, celebrating their black hair. Why is Beyonce blonde despite having chosen African American women with only black hair to star in her Formation music video? According to a research conducted by Advertising Age (2013) Beyonce as a blonde made for a more popular advertisement. Beyonce featured in two advertisements for fashion company Hennes & Mauritz (H&M); in one of it she is blonde and in the other she is a brunette. Although both ads feature the same song and similar dance choreography, the ad where is a blonde scored significantly higher with the targeted audience (ibid). Specifically 16% of consumers mentioned the singer by name in the former ad compared to only 7% of consumers referencing the singer by name in the latter ad (ibid, 2). In her efforts to suppress racism, Beyonce still needs to adhere to her role as an entertainer, prioritising what her fans want from her as it affects her success. In this case, a blonde Beyonce may actually pave a more successful career pathway compared to a brunette Beyonce. Despite the efforts to form an independent standpoint away from Orientalism features, Beyonce failed to do so in every single aspect in her music video. References towards Orientalism are still prevalent. For example, in the lyrics “You just might be a black Bill Gates in the making, cause I slay, I just might be a black Bill gates in the making” refers to a white counterpart, succumbing to white supremacy as a symbol of success. Gramsci (2009: 75) exercises the ‘hegemony’ term as a reference to the way dominant groups in society win the consent of the inferior groups in society. Beyonce’s reference towards a white counterpart (Bill Gates) illustrates the indirect representation of how a dominant group has gained approval from its inferior group. While Storey (2009: 11) on the other hand mentions that hegemony theory presents an opportunity to “locate the struggle between resistance and incorporation as taking place within and across individual popular texts and practices.” A large identification of resistance can be seen within the Formation music video framework however, this particular Bill Gates reference and the blond hair can signify the incorporation side of Storey’s theory, proving white supremacy and hence, Orientalism still exists on some level within the American society.
Mohanty (1989: 31) brings to attention that projects that focus on difference whether it may be of gender, class, race or other cultural context pertain a homologous relationship between one another. Applied within Orientalism, race and gender play a role in hegemonic power; white males being the most superior. Lewis (1996) points out on the off chance that we take the classifications of race, class and gender as neither restricting persecutions nor as analogies for each other, referring to Kaplan’s point of “reciprocally constituting each other through a kind of narrative invocation, a set of associative terms in a chain of meaning” we can truly understand the interplay between these features and comprehend the signification. Furthermore, Yeğenoğlu (1998: 4) explain that within post-structuralism the entity of the word “man” being synonymous towards the human race is socially constructed by hegemonic qualities of European white male within Orientalism. Beyonce takes on a feminist value in her Formation music video with African American women power entitlement and strength which oppose all these predicament featured by Orientalism. The women are seen embracing the splendour of the community (fanning themselves, twirling umbrellas in the parlour) and having strong choreography movements such as their clenched fists in the air. In fact, largely Beyonce’s lyrics consist of the chorus; “Okay ladies, now let’s get in Formation.” Furthermore, the intersection theory suggests that the multiple elements of social stratification including race and gender can mount towards multiple disadvantages for some groups of people (Macionis, 2005: 305). African American women face a “double disadvantage” within society due to being secondary in terms of race and gender (ibid). This theory is typically placed within an economical, job scope context. Despite this disadvantage Beyonce doesn’t fall prey to its drawback; “I might get your song played on the radio station,” and “I just might be a black Bill Gates in the making,” connote her power and ability to be at a position of wealth and influence. In fact, her song ends with “Always stay gracious, best revenge is your paper” when analysed connotes the defeat against Orientalism. Through her hard work, she shows that it is possible for an African American woman to conquer the supposed hegemony they face and rise above it to hold their own power.

Bennett (1986: 20) asserts that 'the people' alludes neither to everybody nor to a solitary gathering inside society however towards an assortment of social gatherings which, despite the fact that varying from each other in different regards (their class position or the specific issues in which they are most quickly drawn in), are recognized from the economically, politically and culturally different groups and are henceforth possibly fit for coming together – of being sorted out into 'the people versus the power bloc' – if their different battles are associated. Based on this theory, it could be possible that many people within the layers of the African American society could relate to Beyonce’s Formation video as a medium of ‘the people versus the power bloc’ due to their past, coming together, directly making her video a popular text in relation to the Orientalism theory posed by Edward Said.

The struggle for political African American modernity is that it “did wonderfully elevate the slave and prepare him for citizenship with the one exception that it legally denied human rights to the slave (1878).” This struggle prevails within today’s community although with the many efforts on various platforms such as the popular text presented by Beyonce helps to curb this issue. Gaines (1996) theorises that “the violent denial of black political and economic enfranchisement facilitates the Formation of cultural politics.” From the discussion it can be seen that pop icon, Beyonce has the ability to oppose many of the qualities grounded within Edward Said’s Orientalism theory, as seen in her Formation video. It encapsulates the ability of the African American community to have a higher hierarchy position within society within economical ground and having a voice.
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Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Basic Literary Text Analysis: The Prophecy


1.      Delhi, India. This story took place in Delhi as mentioned many times in the text. For example, “Are you both in the hostel?” We nodded. “So, your parents are not in Delhi?” We shook our heads. “I see.” Another example is, “Subsequently she expressed her outrage that Amrita had no local guardians in Delhi who could take her away, and her deeper outrage that I couldn’t ask my local guardians to look after her.” It is also obvious when the superintendent tried to reach Amrita’s parents to fetch her from the hostel in Delhi. “Finally the superintendent got through to Amrita’s parents. They said they would fly to Delhi the next day.”

2.      Most of the story is set in a hostel. The hostel is where Amrita and Hemulatha tried to sneak out so they can get to the hospital, gynecologist or even to make a phone call. This is also the place where Amrita had a miscarriage and she was bleeding immensely in her dorm bed.

3.      It is a very hot weather. When Amrita refused to accept a ride from the scooterwalla because he charged too much, Hemulatha changed her mind by explaining they won’t be able to stand the heat anymore. “Go to hell, you scooterwallas are all the same” said Amrita. I dragged her back. “Forget your principles today. We’ll both collapse in this heat” (466: 3).

4.      A society that believes in prophecies as their faith lies in astrology. “Chachaji, as the astrologer was called, was very popular with the girls in our college” (39: 466). This shows that the astrologer is not only known by these two girls, but also by many girls in their college. Also, these two girls believe so strongly, that they are willing to sacrifice money that doesn’t come easy to them so that the astrologer can change her fate.  [Amrita gave him twenty rupees. He took it and fingered the notes meditatively. “Chachaji, I have very little money.” He shrugged his shoulders. “If that is your wish, then. This may not suffice to negate the evil influence of Shani.” I took out ten rupees from my bag and gave it to him]. This whole text suggests that Amrita sacrificed as much as she could and even Hemulatha added more money, believing that the astrologer’s work can really come true.

5.      A strict society towards female students. The college where Amrita and Hemultha go to have very strict staff that expect the students to follow very strict rules if not drastic measures will be taken. “Patram was the omnipresent, omniscient peon-cum-bodyguard-cum-regulator-of-rules, employed by our college, who watched the boarders like a hawk and reported all our goings-on to the superintendent.” (468: 116-117).  This shows that the college hired someone that will keep a close watch on the girls so that they know each and every move of the girls so that they can keep a tight leash on them. “Just last month two girls had been expelled from the hostel after Patram smelt cigarette smoke in the corridor outside their room and informed the superintendent. The case went up to the principal. The girls pleaded with her but she would not budge. She said that she would not have girls of such loose character in her college.” This text shows that there are no second chances and that rules have to be abided. In this story, it shows that parents would want their daughters to attend a place like this as explained by Hemulatha. [“I’m going to expose this place for what it is. I’ll write about it and publish it. No one will want to attend this wretched place.” I replied, “It’ll have exactly the opposite effect—your article will reassure every middle-class parent like yours and mine.”]. Hemulatha implies that parents would want their daughters to attend a place where the rules are strict and the students are allowed very little freedom.

Point of view:

1.      This story is written in a third-person limited point of view. She uses Hemulatha who is the friend of the main character to tell the story, in which the reader enters only one character's mind, throughout the story. Hemulatha’s views, feelings and thoughts are expressed to help the audience understand how someone who is witnessing the things that are happening to the main character would feel like. “I imagined Amrita’s prolonged, bloody death at the clinic, with me left behind to break the news to her parents, to the superintendent, to the principal, to my parents. The horror. Would they hold me responsible? And then I was ridden with guilt for thinking such thoughts, for feeling not sorrow, but terror for the seemingly endless repercussions of such a death”. This text explains from her point of view that she is in fear, which helps the reader understand that even she is affected although the mishap is occurring to Amrita. The writer probably did this to show that your actions could deeply affect others who are totally not involved as well.

2.      The voice of the story had fearful and desperate emotions. As can be seen, Amrita is so afraid of how her parents would react, she would risk getting herself as well as her friend suspended or expelled in her pursuit for an abortion. [We were gated for two weeks. But the next week we sneaked out and waited for a scooter or bus that would take us to one of the clinics Dr. Kumar had suggested. Patram’s voice called us from across the road, precipitating another return. Once again he escorted us to the superintendent’s office. Our gating was extended to four weeks. Two weeks passed, then three weeks]. Moreover, when she was gated, she tried other means to have a miscarriage by eating pickles and starving herself. “One day someone casually mentioned that her sister had had a miscarriage after eating pickles. That evening I made Amrita eat half a bottle of mango pickle. The room smelled of it for days and she was violently sick, but nothing happened. She said, “If I starve myself maybe it’ll die,” and didn’t eat for three days. She almost collapsed, but nothing happened. I said, “Eat, you’ll need your strength for the abortion.” “When,” she whispered, “when?” As the days passed I felt Amrita’s rising fear”. All these actions that she took portrayed that she is in desperation to get her life back in order. She believes that this can be achieved through an abortion.

3.      The tone of this story was pitiful in many parts. There were parts where Amrita was put in difficult situations and from the tone of the story it can be seen that they were sad and were desperate for their luck to change. For example, [She flinched and lowered her eyes. Her fingers gathered and ungathered her pleats. "What will I do, Chachaji, what will I do?"]. This gives a tone of deep worry and fear. This part made me feel sorry for her and hoped that her luck would change. Another incident is when Amrita was going through a miscarriage and was making hard and loud sounds. [“Ma, I think I’m bleeding.” She was. Slowly, the white sheets were staining. Amrita began to cry, loud, harsh sounds.]. This part gives the readers a sense of what it would feel like to be there and how sorrowful it could be for her. It was pitiful for Amrita.

Protagonist: Amrita

1.      Strong personality. Amrita is very opinionated and asserted in her decisions and day to day attitudes. She doesn’t care about what people think about her and voices up her opinion when and where she wants to. For example, when the scooterwalla over-priced them she immediately said go to hell without fear of how he may react. (466: 7). Another example is when she called the lady who was judging them at the clinic a bitch (469: 184). This is also seen when she made the decision on her own to have the abortion without even consulting Rakesh, the father of her child. She wanted to take matters into her own hands and solve it her way. Moreover, Amrita wasn’t afraid of replying the superintendent with comments such as power-hungry, narrow-minded and perverse woman (471: 277-278). This again proves that she isn’t afraid of getting into trouble for speaking her mind  nor does she care about what others have to think of her. Hemulatha on the other hand got worried and gave an ingratiating smile out of fear of not even her actions but Amrita’s.

2.      Liberal in her choices. In India, it is extremely frowned upon when someone especially a girl has pre-marital sex. Nevertheless, Amrita did have pre-marital sex although she knew she could get expelled for her actions. When you compare her to Hemulatha, Hemulatha is far more traditional and can’t imagine giving herself to a man before marriage. Furthermore, Amrita does it just for the physical pleasure and there are no emotions attached to it. This is even more surprising for Hemulatha. Again, Hemulatha’s opinion on fixing the problem is to marry Rakesh but Amrita’s choice was to have an abortion which is much more drastic and shows more of a liberal and independent choice (470: 232-258). She is also liberal in the sense she doesn’t take the traditional approach.

3.      Desperation due to fear. Amrita is desperate in the sense that she is trying to get her life back to how it used to be. She is not so much afraid of what society would think of her but more of how she will be accepted by her parents. As can be seen when she was talking to the doctor, she said “Last year, our neighbor’s daughter got pregnant. She threw herself in front of a passing train. Her parents refused to claim her body. And my father said, that’s how it should be”. When she said this it shows that she is more afraid of how her parents would react than what society would think. Not once in the text, did she ever care about what people other than her parents thought about her pregnancy. Therefore, the faster she gets an abortion the faster she can put all of this behind her and her parents will never know. Her desperation can be seen when she is willing to risk getting into trouble with Patram (471: 285-288). It is also seen when she agrees to eat pickles and to starve herself in hopes that she will have a miscarriage. Even Hemulatha mentioned that Amrita got more afraid as the days passed.

4.      Private about her sex life. Amrita is usually open about her feelings to Hemulatha but one thing she keeps to herself is her relationship with Rakesh. “Normally so communicative with me, she was unusually reticent about her affair with Rakesh. Was it just the sex? My mind recoiled at the thought”.


1.      Amrita and the scooterwalla. In the beggining, when the scooterwalla overpriced the girls, she said “Go to hell” to him. (466: 7)
2.      Amrita and Chacaji. This conflict was not of violent or hatred nature. It happened when the astrologer said that with that amount of money, he can’t perform a very sufficient ritual to change her fate. This was a nature of both sides not being able to please each other. (467: 87-89)
3.      Amrita with the woman at the gynecologist. There was a woman who was being nosy about their presence and was judging them. This conflict was one sided because only Amrita was affected. She got irritated with her prying questions and ended up calling her a bitch when she went in to meet the doctor.
4.      Amrita with herself. She tries to get back to how her life was before she was pregnant. She believes that she can achieve this through an abortion. Moreover, she was really afraid and that kept her quiet and awake especially at night, probably thinking about how things could be so different if it didn’t turn out this way.
5.      The girls against college authorities. Both girls faced problems with them together and individually.

a)      The girls vs Patram –  He reported them to the superintendent when they walked outside of the college to use the public phone.
b)      Amrita vs the superintendent – When the superintendent was done lecturing them, Amrita replied her saying that she is an ignorant, power-hungry, narrow-minded, perverse woman and then stormed out of the room. After that, she was so angry she damned the college and intended on exposing it for what it is when she becomes a journalist.
c)      Hemulatha vs the superintendent & the principal – The principal scared her by calling saying she is going to call her parents and Hemulatha then begs to let her stay at this college. The superintendent wanted a written apology and then only will she decided whether or not to expel her. I kept repeating, please, please don’t expel me, I’ll never repeat my mistakes. That the superintendent said she wanted all this in writing. That I gave her a written apology, still sobbing, still begging.”.

Anjana Appachana was born in India but moved to America later on. Nevertheless, she kept on producing novels based on Indian societies. This is very prevalent in The Prophecy as she uses words such as scooterwalla, puja, mangalsutra and many more. These are all Hindhi words she uses in her novels although they are written in English. The reason why she did this is probably because there are no proper translations to English. It could also be because she wants to expose non-Indian readers to the Indian culture. For example, scooterwalla’ is the driver for a type of vehicle called the scooter that only exists in India. Therefore, she uses the word ‘scooterwalla’ to explain who is driving the vehicle. Another example is the puja. A puja is a religious ritual. “I will do a puja for you. It will negate the bad influence of Shani. After six months I will perform a second puja. Your stars will change. The shadow of Shani will no longer envelop you.” Worshipfully, we nodded. “For the puja,” he continued, his eyes fixed at the wall behind us, “you will have to give a donation.” A puja is the right word for this because it is something that is frequently done in India and is a vital part of prophecies.

Also, the writer tends to use short sentences when a character is going through a nerve-racking situation. For example, when Amrita was bleeding due to a miscarriage, Hemulatha explained the situation by saying “She was. Slowly, the white sheets were staining. Amrita began to cry, loud, harsh sounds.” This is probably because when someone is in shock or fear, they need a while to process things and then they will be able to continue normally once they grow out of the nerves. This  is probably why Hemulatha continued with “Fascinated, I watched the white sheets turning red while the room filled with the horrible sound, till I thought it would have to burst open to let out what it could not possibly contain” once she could grasp the situation.

Also, repeated words are used by Amrita when she is helpless. For example, when Amrita went to see the astrologer, she says “What will I do, Chachaji, what will I do?”. She repeated the question twice not because the astrologer didn’t grasp what she was saying but because it is a way of expressing her helplessness. Again this is seen when she tells her mother that she is pregnant. She says “Ma, I’m three months pregnant Ma. Ma, where will I go? Where will I go?”. Again the repetition is used to show how helpless the character is.


1.      Loyalty of a friend
Hemulatha was consistently loyal towards Amrita when she was pregnant. When she wanted to get an abortion she helped Amrita every single step of the way. For example, she risked getting into trouble with Patram when she followed Hemulatha to the gynecologist and astrologer. Also, she helped Amrita get some money by going around the hostel, collecting newspapers, jars and bottles (468: 135-136). Her loyalty is also seen when they both go to the astrologer and she sacrifices her own money without even Amrita’s request to ensure the puja is sufficient enough. (467: 92-93). Moreover, she is willing to follow Amrita outside of the college just to make a phone call and got into trouble with the superintendent for that. Moreover, she continues to try and sneak out with Amrita time and time again even after getting caught so that Amrita can get the abortion done (471: 271-272, 285 & 288). The most obvious part is when Patram warned her and continuously asks her to come back to the hostel, but she still goes over to the payphone to call Rakesh in hopes that he will be able to help Amrita. Her actions resulted in the superintendent threatening to get her expelled. (472: 340-344 & 473: 365-370). When Amrita was bleeding really badly because of the abortion, Hemulatha was there to hold her hand and soak up all the blood (474: 420 & 423-424). Basically, Hemulatha is a loyal friend because she could have avoided all the trouble just by telling the school authorities when she found out that Amrita was pregnant. However, she didn’t and instead she risked getting into trouble to help her when she could have just stayed out of it.

2.      Desperation to get your life back
As seen, Amrita is desperately trying to get an abortion so that she can go back to how her life used to be. She gathered as much money as she could by going around looking for newspapers, jars and bottles to be sold off at the market. This is so that she will be able to afford the astrologer, gynecologist and an abortion (468: 135-136). Also, she went outside of the college gates despite knowing that she will get into trouble to schedule an abortion. She also got into trouble time and time again, trying to sneak out to get to the hospital (471: 271-272 & 285). Lastly, she was so desperate she didn’t mind having her best friend get into trouble as well. She could have told Hemulatha that she could do this alone but she was so afraid that she wanted Hemulatha’s presence. When her attempts to go to the hospital for a miscarriage failed, she decided to take matters in her own hands by starving herself. Starving herself could be fatal for her but still she did it in hopes that she will have a miscarriage. (471: 292-293). She probably did all this also so that her parents would still accept her. Being accepted by her parents is a crucial part of her life and she is afraid if they find out she would not have this part of her life anymore.

3.      Patriarchal society.
When I say this I don’t mean it in a sense that everything is ruled and controlled by men as it wasn’t mentioned in this story. I mean patriarchal in the sense that many characters have a mentality to be dependent on men. For example, Hemulatha’s way of solving Amrita’s problem was to marry Rakesh. She believed that marrying a guy can change her luck. In fact, she couldn’t understand why Amrita wouldn’t want to marry him. [Marry him, Amrita,” I said tentatively. “Please,” Amrita replied, “you’ll never understand.” I didn’t. I didn’t understand at all.” Another character that has this mentality is the astrologer, he told Hemulatha that she would have two sons that will be very powerful. This again implies that men are the ones that will be powerful, he could have just said you will have two children that will become succesful. “You will have two sons who will rise to powerful positions in the government. They will bring you power, fame, respect.” The other character that has this mentality is Hemulatha’s aunt who said that Amrita was lucky enough to marry a man. [The following month she was married off. “That is luck, ” my aunt said.]  The aunt also said that she will have no use if she had a degree. However, I’m pretty sure she would think differently if a man were to get a degree while being married. “Isn’t she going to complete her B.A.?” My aunt replied, “What will she do with a B.A. now?”