In The Skin Of A Lion English Literature Essay

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In a multicultural society like Canada issues of race and ethnicity dominate discourse because races are constructed relationally non in isolation. Therefore, marginalisation of immigrants is a repeating subject in Canadian history. In researching issues of race and ethnicity the novels Obasan by Joy Kogawa and In the Skin of a Lion by Michael Ondaatje give voice to the disregarded history of immigrants who endured marginality and invisibleness. The writers who are immigrants themselves, used memories to retrace and renegociate a portion of Canadian history from the point of position of cultural groups they belong to. Despite claims that multiculturalism makes race impersonal, through contrasting history and fiction, both writers demonstrate that race and ethnicity remains a cardinal variable in Canada that influences people ‘s individualities, experiences and results.

Kogawa ( 1983 ) uses the Nakane-Kato household memories and diaries to retrace a disregarded history of subjugation and marginalisation experienced by Nipponese Canadians. To research the issue of race and ethnicity, Kogawa challenges the hurting and trouble of equilibrating two different civilizations. Obasan was written to give voice to the Nipponese Canadians from their ain point of position. From the oncoming, these persons were constructed as enemies which needed to be exterminated. Hence, they were placed in internment cantonments after World War II. To mask the dictatorship, the Canadian authorities called these cantonments “ Interior Housing ” . Those who resisted risked exile ( Obasan 35 ) . Kogawa uses herself as a representative of the Japanese community and makes usage of paperss produced by Aunt Emily. The events shared in Obasan illustrate the black in-migration policies that Canada used to except those deemed as “ Other ” or different.

In contrast, Ondaatje ( 1987 ) , In the Skin of a Lion, explores the issues of race and ethnicity experienced by Eastern European immigrants through giving those characters and names. Like the Japanese, their narrative was unseeable in Canadian history. The fresh portrays a different sort of exclusion perpetrated on white Europeans ; an exclusion based on linguistic communication and merely being different or inferior from white Canadians. While the Japanese where treated like slaves the Europeans were used as laborers in the building of Toronto ‘s water company and viaducts. The on the job conditions were unstable and many died in the class of building. Ondaatjes notes that “ The work forces work in the equivalent of the radioactive dust of a taper ” ( Ondaatje 111 ) which is a metaphor that points to the limited lighting in the dark tunnel were a combustion taper could non supply adequate. Like Kogawa, Ondaatje gives voice to the early twentieth immigrants who built Toronto ‘s water company and viaducts ; a community deliberately left out of Canadian history. But, as Patrick the supporter notes towards the terminal of the novel while interrogating Commissioner Harris, these heroic work forces who died during the building of the water company and the metropolis remained anon. and unseeable. When asked, Harris states “ No record was kept ” ( Ondaatje 236 ) . There was no record because as immigrants, they were considered undistinguished despite their part to the metropolis. Like the Japanese, the suppression of immigrant history demonstrates the power maintained by the dominant civilization to guarantee the invisibleness of sensed foreigners.

Kogawa engages the construct of whiteness when depicting the labelling of Nipponese Canadians as “ Other ” . Whiteness refers to cultural patterns embedded in historic systems of subjugation that sustain and legalize racial privilege ( Frankenberg 1993 ) . Whiteness is the class used to build Nipponese persons as different from Canadians. Violence against the Nipponese Canadian was a portion of the structural force and boundaries of white structural infinites. They experienced material eviction of places, concerns and fishing rights through procedures of whiteness. As a procedure of domination, force was legitimized including segregation into internment cantonments. Old Man Gower ‘s character demonstrates the power he held as a coloniser and a patriarch. He sees Naomi ‘s organic structure as an object that he can sexually mistreat without effect ( Obasan 65 ) . As a adult male he is exerting all of the unearned entitlements and privilege which are made unseeable through the lens of whiteness. In Obasan, whiteness becomes a historical tool of colonisation instituted on the immature and old resulting in the decomposition of the Japanese community. Sexual force is a metaphor used to typify the unfairness inflicted non merely on Naomi but on the Nipponese Canadians as a community. Through these experiences, Kogawa exposes the impact of white privilege as a system of domination over the Nipponese Canadians.

In contrast, Ondaatje engages the societal concept of whiteness by change by reversaling the regard. At a glimpse it may look that the issue of race is undistinguished. This is because the current normative givens about race, ethnicity and hegemonic power in immigrant communities do non include white immigrants. Ondaatje explores whiteness as a racial class that frequently gets obscured when discoursing experiences of subjugation. The absence of racialized people in the fresh displaces racial power and makes whiteness seeable. The immigrants who built the Toronto water company are white from Eastern Europe. They are treated nevertheless as colored or aliens despite their tegument coloring material which frequently offers privilege. As a consequence they work under unstable and insecure conditions with no rights and unjust labour patterns. Their race and ethnicity was defined by linguistic communication as a measuring of whiteness. In fact, Ondaatje describes one Nicholas Temelcoff a outstanding worker as deficient linguistic communication accomplishments. He notes, “ For Nicholas, linguistic communication is much more hard than what he does in infinite ” ( Ondaatje 43 ) . Language affects this group of immigrants who are populating in a dominant civilization which uses whiteness to mensurate difference.

Ethnicity incorporates linguistic communication. Kogawa portrays the Nipponese Canadians as a community that uses silence more than words. Throughout the novel, Kogawa mixes Nipponese and English to do the narrative comprehensible. The cardinal subject of silence is used as a powerful method of communicating. As Naomi reflects on the silence and grownup susurrations, she notes that, “ Kodomo no tame ” is translated “ For the interest of the kids ” ( Obasan 26 ) . Throughout the text, kids are sheltered from the injury of unfairness. It appears that the civilization of Nipponese Canadians emphasized the usage of silence as a manner to shelter them from unfairness. In western civilization, this silence could be construed as failing or passiveness.

In contrast, Ondaatje portrays the Eastern European immigrant community as unable to talk the host linguistic communication, English. As a consequence, they formed and maintained sole cultural group boundaries. They had a tightly knit community and their ain stores. Everyone knew everyone on a personal degree. They were hardworking and make bolding to achieve the “ North American Dream ” . In fact, Ondaatje describes Nicholas Temelcoff as a madcap when it came to his hard occupation ( Ondaatje 34 ) . Given a pick, Temelcoff preferred working in the unsafe dark tunnels instead than talking English ( Ondaatje 43 ) . He loved the barriers posed by his inability non to talk English and did non see it as a disadvantage. Towards the terminal of the fresh Nicholas Temelcoff owns a bakeshop. Because of this success, he imagines driving over the span with his married woman and kids and calls himself a Canadian citizen ( Ondaatje 149 ) . Lack of linguistic communication does non impede the Eastern European community from wining or staying positive under hard fortunes.

Kogawa ‘s fresh focal points on depicting the painful effects of the assorted systems of racial stratification impacting Nipponese Canadians. Racial stratification refers to a manner of categorising people based on race. The effects of ranking people in this mode can bring forth effects that affect a individual ‘s life and entree to resources. As evidenced in the Nipponese Canadian community, race became an ethnocentric manner of sing Nipponese Canadians. Interestingly, despite the hurting endured from subjugation and racism, Aunt Emily appears to be promoting the same classification of white people as she continues to be enraged and Tells Naomi to experience the same manner she does. Although, Naomi portions the same racial and cultural background she disagrees with Aunt Emily and is convinced that it is clip for Nipponese to, “ turn the page and move on ” ( Obasan 42 ) . Naomi ‘s place on racial issues reveals that immigrants do non portion a similar white/other binary position of race and ethnicity.

Unlike Kogawa, Ondaatje presents Eastern European immigrants as a civilization of working category persons. He does non concentrate on the hurting and battles, but instead he portrays them as heroes in malice of the subjugation they experienced as immigrant workers. He describes the subjugation experienced by Eastern European immigrants as a societal category struggle between the rich and hapless. The rich in this instance were Ambrose Small the missing millionaire and Rowland Harris, the public works commissioner who was recognized as the encephalons behind the building of the span and water company. Yet, the success of the undertaking should be attributed to the indefatigable work of the immigrants. They worked under rough conditions as depicted in the scene where the migratory workers resorted to unsuccessfully defy by garnering illicitly at the water company. Ondaatje describes the immigrant state of affairs as befallen with darkness and moth ( Ondaatje 111 ) . This darkness describes their exposure when working under dark and unsafe conditions. This imagination farther emphasizes the disaffection and colonial power endured by these working immigrants. Ondaatje redirects the regard and turns the immigrants into heroes as opposed to victims. In fact, the character of Ambrose Small the missing millionaire is non given much fear in the novel at all. Unlike Kogawa, Ondaatje does non prosecute in a political relations of individuality.

To map out the complex multi-dimensional individualities of Nipponese Canadian immigrants, Kogawa uses the character of Stephen, Naomi ‘s brother. Despite turning up under the strong influence of Obasan and Aunt Emily, Stephen denies his Nipponese heritage. He distances himself from his closely knit household and becomes unfamiliar with the Nipponese linguistic communication. Kogawa describes Stephen ‘s behavior as highly angry. When Uncle tries to talk to Stephen in Japanese he did non understand. Kogawa notes, “ He is ever uncomfortable when anything is “ excessively Nipponese ” ( 238 ) . Could Stephen be a loanblend who does non suit into the confines of fixed race and cultural classs? Stephen could be a merchandise of the multicultural discourse that has allowed for the forming of fluid individualities. Possibly, Stephen is an indicant of the transmutation that takes topographic point with in-migration. An thought that dispels the impression that race and ethnicities are fixed and unchanging.

Similarly, Ondaatje describes the complexness of the individuality of Patrick the supporter which is slightly unstable despite his being white and Canadian. When Patrick moves from the state to an immigrant vicinity he becomes a alien among the Macedonians and Bulgarians immigrants ( Ondaatje 53 ) . He becomes the lone English talking individual among aliens who cause him to experience alienated in malice of belonging to the dominant group in footings of race and linguistic communication. He is an foreigner ( Ondaatje 54 ) but is linked to the immigrant workers through poorness and his employment in the viaducts and tunnels. Patrick ‘s character dismantles the binary premises of a universe where there is merely white and other as he experiences marginalisation merely like the Japanese. In one scene, Patrick goes shopping in the Macedonian market and begins to cry when linguistic communication difference was a barrier which impeded his purchase ( Ondaatje 113 ) . He struggled to talk the immigrant linguistic communication, but still the community did non except him. They alternatively embraced him as one of them. He wept because of this profound gesture of love extended on behalf of the immigrants. They embraced him and give him a sense of belonging.

Kogawa explores usage of silence to depict the subjugation and marginalisation of Nipponese Canadians. Kogawa describes silence as a signifier of power and Obasan communicates her heartache through silence. In malice of Obasan ‘s silence Kogawa states that, “ She is the crossroads of the universe, the owner of life ‘s infinite personal inside informations ” ( Obasan 16 ) . While one may see this silence as subjugation, the Nipponese civilization attributes self-respect and power to those who persist in quiet endurance. The really Nipponese civilization could be the ground why the Japanese Canadians where so compliant with the order for their resettlement. However, the silence is broken towards the terminal of the novel as Naomi confronts the memories from her yesteryear.

In contrast, Ondaatje uses the subject of darkness and visible radiation to depict the supporter in changeless hunt of something. Ondaatje notes, “ He searched out, he collected things ” ( Ondaatje 57 ) . What is Patrick seeking for? Possibly the visible radiation that brightens the darkness he feels in his life? When working with the immigrants he finds an individuality with them. He is one time once more thrust into darkness when Clara leaves him. Patrick would frequently blindfold himself and travel about in the dark ( Ondaatje 79 ) . Alternatively of fright associated with darkness he found charming minutes in this unusual darkness. Ultimately, darkness is the metaphor used to depict non merely the invisibleness of the immigrants but the charming minutes that are experienced in such state of affairss. Ondaatje uses tunnels and Bridgess metaphorically to link the staccato topographic points which are symbolic of the connexion that existed among the immigrant workers. The graphic description of the dark tunnels reflects the ageless hard journey experienced by the immigrants as they laboured for the metropolis and for a profound connexion. Towards the terminal of the novel, Ondaatje speaks of “ visible radiations ” ( Ondaatje 244 ) . The visible radiations symbolize a different and positive position that can be taken from the painful experiences that the immigrants are sing. Ondaatje displaces the negative experiences by turning them into something positive.

Both writers expose how immigrants are non homogeneous but that they occupy many universes at the same time. Kogawa draws attending to the fluidness of the Nipponese Canadians individuality while Ondaatje shows us that the Eastern Europeans as a racial class were obscured in race and cultural arguments. The group boundaries found in both novels focus on communal individualities based on race, ethnicity and category. At the same clip, both Kogawa and Ondaatje acknowledge that individuality political relations is non based on a individual collective. Rather they complicate the dealingss of power utilizing different elements of individuality. Multiculturalism organizes people based on race and ethnicity forming distinguishable cultural communities. Multiculturalism perpetuates exclusionary policies that maintain power hierarchies of insiders and foreigners. The two novels demonstrate that homogenising immigrants encourages individuality political relations which is damaging to nationhood.

In drumhead, while the two writers discuss a disregarded history, race and ethnicity remains a changeless variable that influences individualities, experiences and results of immigrants in Canada.

As revealed by the two writers, the dichotomy of white and other hinders the location of shared individualities which exists among all people. Because individualities displacement, the policies of multiculturalism should turn to the transmutation of individualities that is influenced by migration.

Multiculturalism promotes cardinal political relations of individuality that can stray into dichotomies which are harmful to the advancement of a shared Canadian individuality. Identity political relations creates more jobs because frequently it appears merely every bit exclusionary as those they claim to be marginalising. However, the impression of prosecuting in us and them is planetary and non specific to Canada. Culturally the immigrants described in the two novels had their ain hierarchies before of all time coming into contact with the Canadian civilization. As a consequence, multiculturalism was merely a fertile land to implement these constructions.