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Spell out the name of centuries: nineteenth-century morals; the twentieth century is gone.
Troubling a Ghost: Agency and Ancestral Guidance in “No Name Woman”
Was the imperialism of the British Empire in Burma evil, oppressive[,] and tyrannical? Did the imperialism of the Empire not bring development and education and increase the quality of life to the people of Burma? Or was it merely a selfish attempt to dominate and manipulate people to the good of the British Empire?
Motive: why write? New Question? Old Question, New Answer? Challenge to common thinking?
While Jonathan Swift’s A Modest Proposal is often viewed to be satirical for the purposes of creating empathy for the poor, I believe a deeper agenda addressing the world’s poli-economic stance on mercantilism is hidden behind the mockery of his words.
Thesis: SCAR? Swift intended his essay to invoke not only a more powerful response than a mere plea of sympathy, but also to present a solution, albeit one masquerading behind the ludicrous.
The careful objectivity of Swift’s proposal forces us to feel detached from the situation and then disgusted at his solution, which mimics the exact sentiments the English had for the Irish at the time. Swift uses objectivity and disgust to satirically shock us into emotional sympathy for the Irish.
AQ, Motive, Thesis
Yet, how does Kingston’s agency affect not only the memory of her aunt, but also the author herself? Rather than liberating her aunt’s denied memory, Kingston’s redefinition of her aunt as a broker in her own fate, a conscious decision-maker, supplies fresh rationale for the blame and rejection that caused the very silence Kingston attempts to break. For the author, re-imagining a relative who broke cultural norms does not offer clear guidance for her own duality as a Chinese-American; instead, Kingston remains ambivalent as she participates in, while attempting to overcome, years of familial denial.
Paragraph Construction and Close Reading
1. Yet, Kingston gradually conceives of her aunt as an active agent in her own downfall. In the following passage, this agency becomes evident:
To sustain her being in love, she often worked at herself in the mirror, guessing at the colors and shapes that would interest him, changing them frequently in order to hit on the right combination. She wanted to look back. (243)
First described as the victim of rape, doing what “she was told,” Kingston progressively allows her aunt to act, rather than be acted upon (241). A subtle movement that is almost apologetic and excusatory (she was the “precious only daughter, spoiled and mirror-gazing”), Kingston now uses verbs that show her aunt’s active involvement: “looked,” “liked,” “contrived, “lured” (243-244). Even the role of the man shifts from the attacker to the one “my aunt loved” (244). Kingston also grants her aunt a measure of sexuality. Certainly, even she cannot imagine her aunt “free with sex” (243). Nevertheless, in a culture where “no one talked sex, ever” and people “had to efface their sexual color and present plain miens,” to envision her aunt as “working herself in the mirror,” paying attention to her looks, paints her aunt as a subtly sexual being, a willing party in a damaging sexual diversion (242, 243, 245).
Paragraph Construction and Close Reading
2. By saying that the truths are “self-evident” (215), it supposes that the reader should also be aware of these truths, and therefore completely empathetic to the colonists’ perspective. In these beginning statements of the Declaration of Independence, Jefferson simply proposes that the Americans are acting in the same manner any person in their own right would, and this will allow him to become more candid when presenting his evidence of oppression to the British. Moreover, this statement provides the implication that if English rule should continue in its current position, that the natural Creator-given rights of the colonists would be denied, and if the British should challenge the Americans in their quest for independence, they would also be challenging a higher power that has endowed them with the precise right to be free.
The missing perspective thus far is how the feelings we have in response to the proposal are the same feelings the English landowners had toward the Irish. Swift has evoked two very strong emotions in us as readers, detachment and disgust.
Sentence Revision A young woman in the 21st century questioning ancestral history and tradition seeks to negotiate fact from familial lore as Kingston demonstrates a quasi-acceptance and mysterious fear to examine her parents’ generational disapproval of a dishonored relative in “No Name Woman.”
A similar fate is possible she reasons, “don’t let your father know that I told you. He denies her. Now that you have started to menstruate, what happened to her could happen to you. Don’t humiliate us. You wouldn’t like to be forgotten as if you had never been born.” (240)
In a heavily Catholic and nationalistic nation like Ireland, when Swift says "... and therefore it will have one other collateral advantage, by lessening the number of papists among us." (Swift 390) , his intention was to remind the poor that the prejudices against them did not stop at their income and standing.
Swift, Jonathan. "A Modest Proposal." Cohen, Samuel. 50 Essays: A Portable Anthology. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin's, 2011. 387-395.
Orwell states, “All I knew was that I was stuck between my hatred of the empire I served and my rage against the evil-spirited little beasts who tried to make my job impossible” (Orwell).
The narrator comments that the individual is not important[:], “The Chinese I know hide their names…”(223).
Beginning is the family’s attempt to deny the aunt’s very existence, “She has never been born”(232).
It’s interesting to see as the narrator approaches the end of the story there is an allegiance with the family and villagers, “…her infidelity had already harmed the village.”(229).
Kingston, Maxine Hong. “No Name Woman.” 50 Essays. Ed Samuel Cohen. 3rd ed. Boston: Bedford, 2011. 219-233. Print.
The draft calls upon “…life & liberty & the spirit of happiness…”(Jefferson 187).
Happiness is the most important right to be pursued as a nation and a right that the government has to make sure is available to each of it’s [its] citizens.
Here is a man that doesn’t particularly care for the British Empire, yet protects the villagers out of his empathy for them.
George Orwell in ‘Shooting the Elephant’ asserts that imperialism is evil.
Swift denounces that the Irish workers are unable to do so under the exploitation of English landowners, who seize from their tenants the produce of the land, in payment for rent, and export it away from Ireland.
As the crowd around him grows, Orwell begins to feel the pressure to fulfill the desires of the gathering mass, “suddenly I realized that I should have to shoot the elephant after all” (306).
In the early 1700’s, Ireland was a country with little to offer its people; in part due to a political system that didn’t care and a people that no longer had the will to fight against the regime due to countless failures.
Throughout the writing, Swift uses fantastic imagery to capture the reader’s attention and bring them into his view of Irish society; he tells of the city of Dublin by stating “It is a melancholy object to those who walk through this great town or travel in the country, when they see the streets, the roads, and cabin doors, crowded with beggars of the female sex, followed by three four or six children, all in rags importuning every passenger for an alms” (page 408).