Literature, Language, and Life

“Beginning” – Lodge’s Idea – Paradise of the Blind Link – Sadeem F

The book by Lodge has many interesting ideas and insights to the choices authors make in literature. The chapter I had was titled ‘Beginning’; at first I thought it would be a simple chapter on how beginnings are written, but I was surprised at how much it made me think about things I’ve never thought about before. It made me realize that so much of a book is due to interpretation of the reader, the author can only do so much. Much of the way a book is understood, is based off of how the reader chooses to understand it. It also made me realize the significance of the way a book is started, how the author choses to grab a reader’s attention. 

The main points of this chapter were based off of questions, the questions, “when does a book really begin?” and “how should a book begin?” were two main ones that the chapter revolved around. Lodge gives examples of books being started different ways, one way being in Ford Madox Ford’s book The Good Soldier. He started this book very abruptly, the first sentence being, “This is the saddest story I have ever heard.” (Ford, The Good Soldier) Lodge describes this beginning sentence as a glove, a glove with a very captivating intention. Ford intended to grab your attention, making you question things like, “What is that sad story? Is he sure this is the saddest? Have I been through something more sad?” etc. (Lodge, 6) Lodge gives many more examples as to ways a book could open up: describing of setting character and other main aspects, during a conversation, mid-sentence, etc. 

What related to Paradise of the Blind by Duong Thu Huong the most, and caught my attention, was the couple sentences where he discusses whether or not a book ever genuinely begins; and where a book begins if if does have a beginning. With help of Lodge’s work I discovered four possible beginnings to the book by Huong: the first chapter, the translators note, the flashbacks, the birth of the main character [not specifically written about].  

Paradise of the Blind by Duong Thu Huong has a chapter one, therefore first thing I thought was, it begins there. Starting off simple, chapter 1 is the first possible beginning. Huong opens the book mid-conversation, which is significant because she chose to throw the reader directly into the story with no introduction, “She looked at me and said: “Poor little one. You really don’t have much luck.”” (Huong, 11) This is the first possible way to think of the book starting, a great way to make the reader pressured into being a part of the book. Authors do this to get you attached, their goal is to write pieces and have the reader feel with the characters, Huong chose to start off this way to make you feel obligated to find out who the poor little one is, what’s wrong with her, who even is speaking.

Another place I feel the book “began” would be the translators note. I doubt any of you even took a look at the translators note (good job if you did), but it really adds on to the novel itself. When authors put background information or notes in the beginning of books, they’re usually there for a reason. In this case, if I didn’t read the translators note before starting the chapters, I would have not been able to understand what was going on. This book was originally written in Vietnamese, so the translators note basically explains the context. For example she states, “Like hundreds of thousands pf young Vietnamese… who came to adulthood after the end of the Vietnamese War in 1975, Hang has been forced…to cut short her education and become an “exported worker” in what was the Soviet Union.” (Huong, 5) I feel as though without the translators note being in the beginning, the book would have not been complete; and also would have been hard to get emotionally involved into, which is all the author wanted. 

Books aren’t typically written from the birth to the death of the main character, and a character has to grow and develop. Ever question how a character turned out a certain way? Why they chose a certain path versus the other? If you have these questions about a certain character than one could argue that the book is not complete; therefore the beginning is at the birth of this characters life. Even if this information isn’t written in the text, the things that developed/made the character who they are, are significant. A beginning of a book could possibly be an imagined-beginning of a character’s life. The book could have actually began at Hang’s birth [that wasn’t even discussed, although we know it happened]. 

Sort of tying in with the last type of beginning, there are flashbacks that we have to take into consideration. Huong puts in many flashbacks throughout the novel, even flashbacks dating back to before Hang was born. During Hang’s trip to visit her sick uncle, Hang remembers a story about her mother during the Section for Land Reform. A flashback to her mother after the Vietnamese war ended was shown, so this brings us to the question, did the book begin at the current location of the conversation in Moscow, or from the flashbacks? Huong scatters many flashbacks throughout the book, each one giving you another piece to the past; with all these flashbacks you can somewhat form a beginning to the story. 

So the question is, where does Paradise of the Blind begin? The answer to this question is honestly, wherever you think it begins. Each person is going to understand the book differently based on the way they take it in.

 

 

Bibliography

Hương, Dương Thu. Paradise of the Blind. Trans. Phan Huy Duong and Nina McPherson. New York: Perennial, 2002. Print.

Lodge, David. The Art of Fiction. Vintage, 2011. Print.

 

 

Lodge’s Idea of Irony Applied to “Paradise of the Blind”

 

Lodge describes the figurative element of irony as saying the opposite of what you really mean and also “inviting an interpretation different from the surface meaning of your words.” It makes the reader think deep into the work and be open to a range of interpretations. In his chapter, Lodge explains two types of irony: verbal and dramatic. Verbal irony is basically sarcasm while dramatic irony is when the reader knows more than the characters do.

The very first time I noticed irony in the novel was reading the title. Since the novel is based on a Vietnamese family struggling to live under the corrupt communist regime, it seems ironic for it to be called a paradise. Which is why the author adds the word ‘blind’ to show that the leaders of this regime are blind and cannot see the damage they are causing to their country.

As mentioned earlier, dramatic irony is revealed when the reader knows more about the facts of the situation than the character does. Uncle Chinh believes that communism will help his country of Vietnam and that it is the best government to live under in terms of development. In a dialogue with Que he tells her to “choose: a future with the revolution or the life of an outcast among the enemies of the people.” (32) He is convinced that this regime is the only way for Que to actually help Hang and her family, “it is precisely because I worry about Hang’s future.” (51) This is ironic because although Uncle Chinh believes living under communism is their best decision, the reader is more aware of the terrors and negative impacts that arise. Therefore the overall concept of communism is used very ironically in the novel. Although this regime was supposed to provide equality and freedom for all citizens, it actually took away these rights. The Vietnamese were against communism since they were struggling economically and could not live a good life. However, it is ironic that even though Uncle Chinh was Vietnamese, he went against these beliefs and still supported their corrupt government no matter what.

One of the most valued characteristics of Vietnamese culture is respecting the importance of family. Therefore in the novel, Hang’s mother Que cared very much for her brother and was willing to do anything to help him out. However it is ironic how she cares so deeply for him that she was willing to sacrifice her happiness and even starve rather than care for her own daughter and sister in law. It is also ironic how she continues to support Uncle Chinh although he was just making their lives harder by accepting the corrupt regime. Hang’s mother would always say when they were put in a difficult situation, “to live with dignity, the important thing is to never despair. You give up once and everything goes away.” (14) Hang learned from her mother to be selfless and care for others especially when it came to family. However, it is ironic how Hang was “preparing to abandon her uncle” (14) and even at the end of the novel, she leaves Vietnam after her mother and aunt had done everything they could fighting for their family.

Lodge’s interpretation of irony is also demonstrated in the novel, when Hang talks a lot about how she hates her uncle but still goes to visit him in Moscow. She says, “my cheeks burned and the heat I felt for my uncle rose in me.” (16) In the very beginning of the novel Hang receives a telegram from her uncle saying that he is “very ill. Come immediately” (11). Hang immediately goes to visit him but then finds out he was never really sick, and this was all just a trick for her to come to Moscow. It is ironic however, that at the end of the novel, Uncle Chinh becomes terribly ill and dies from his sickness.

Irony adds to the novel Paradise of the Blind since it helps the reader further understand the meaning and develop suspense. It also helps in understanding the characters’ choices and motivations and why they did these things. This allows the reader to have an insight towards the characters’ personalities and the basics of Vietnamese culture. It also helps develop one of the main themes behind the novel, that communism had a negative impact on Vietnamese society in which it abandoned traditional values and tore families apart.

Chapters

Yasmeen H.

David Lodge’s “The Art of Fiction” gives a selection of short essays and tips as a guide to fiction. One part of his book about fiction is about the importance of chapters in books. The main argument in the chapter was that breaking up long texts into chapters give the reader and the person writing it a time to take a breath. The break up of long texts also play a role in marking significant transitions. He also mentions that they give an expressive or rhetorical effect. Another point that Lodge mentions is how the beginning of a chapter (chapter-headings) entices the reader with the promise of exciting action. Those small chapter headings “give away” just enough information to get the reader hooked but not enough to spoil it completely. One last important point made by Lodge was one about the significance about the last parts of the chapter. Those last couple of sentences are vital to keeping the interest of the reader. All of these suggestions made about fiction can be seen in Duong Thu Huong’s novel, “Paradise of the Blind.”

In Duong Thu Huongs “Paradise of the Blind” the long texts are broken up in a way that keeps the readers interest and builds up suspense. The break up of texts, as stated by Lodge, in the book play a vital role in marking shift between real life and flashbacks. The first time we see the shift between real life and a flashback was the transition from the first chapter to the second. In the end of the first chapter Hang’s mother begins to talk about her husband which is continued on in a flashback about him in the following chapter.

Also the idea that the last chunk of a chapter is important since it is the part that makes the reader want to read the next chapter. Just like in the last paragraph of chapter three where Hang says “..tell me about her husband, the father I never knew..” the reader already knows by now that Huong is jumping from flashback to reality so once the reader reads that line they would know that in the next chapter that information about Hangs father would be revealed.

The points that were taken from Lodge’s book about chapter divisions were also seen and implemented in Duonge Thu Huong’s “Paradise of the Blind.” Chapters play an important part in Huongs novel since their main role was to separate the present from the past and by doing that cause less confusion and more suspense for the reader.

 

Surprise

Zahra Ibrahim

Lodge Chapter: Surprise

Book: Paradise of the Blind
Surprise is an element, which is found in literature that twists the plot and adds shock. Surprise is found everywhere in paradise of the blind. It can be experienced by the characters of the book, or it can be a sudden event that has the characters and readers surprised. As lodge says, in order for surprise to work it “ must be convincing as well as unexpected”. ( Lodge, P. 71)  Surprise is peripeteia, “ the sudden shift from one state affairs to its opposite.” ( Lodge, P. 71)

The first thing that came as a surprise was communism, in the beginning communism wasn’t apart of the world. Communism failed the country and its people, it was the cause of splitting Vietnam into two. When communism hit in Vietnam during the period of the book “ paradise of the blind” many people were forced to enter the army.

Freedom and civil rights began to fade, and people lost their rights. Suddenly having communism appear is a surprise to both the reader and the characters. It was hard for everyone to deal with the changes, and it took a while.

The ending of the chapter was a huge surprise for the reader, and it was also very shocking and sad. Hangs actions were surprising when she decided to sell all of Aunt Tam’s jewelry, the house, and leave the village. Aunt Tam’s wish on her deathbed wasn’t what hang ended up following. This was something I wouldn’t have expected from Hang, because she was really respectful.

 

David Lodge’s “Point of View” applied to the Paradise of the Blind.

Point of View is bearing in mind a matter with a certain attitude. It could also mean having your own opinion and beliefs. For this assignment, I have selected “Point of View” as my chapter. It was a little confusing but hopefully after numerous times of rereading it I will explain what the main idea is and how it applies to Paradise of the Blind.

In my opinion, the main point of the chapter was to explain in depth what the point of view was in David Lodge’s book The Art of Fiction. In this section he mentioned how the choice of point of view from which the story is told is the most important decision a novelist must make, for it affects the way the readers will respond, emotionally and ethically, to the fictional characters and their actions. For instance, in Paradise of the Blind, if this story was obtainable primarily from the point of view of Que, Ton, Aunt Tam, or observed from a fourth party it would surely affect us differently. You see if these characters were to narrate from the point of view of the Paradise of the Blind it would obviously be a very different story from the one we know.

I believe the first paragraph was a page out of the book, while the next page talked about point of view and how it applies to the book The Art of Fiction. This section did a really good job at breaking apart the language in the first sentence. That’s when I knew that this chapter is giving you an explanation of why the point of view is what it is in the book. But I also think that this part can be used as a reference when wanting to find the right usage of Point of View.

“But she was a person addicted to extremes- sometimes barely speaking to her child…” (Lodge, 25). In this sentence it talked about Maisie (From the Art of Fiction) sometimes forgetting about her child or not even speaking to them. Which reminded me of Que, Hangs mother in the Paradise of the Blind. You see Que is someone who places family duties extremely high. She’s willing to starve her only daughter, Hang, to feed her nephews. This situation occurred mainly after Aunt Tam started giving money to Hang for being the first to go to college. Now we’re not sure why Maisie acts like this around her child. But you could tell both characters have some type of similarity in their opinions and beliefs towards situations like this.

Moving into language for both books. At the start of the chapter for Point of View, you can tell the language used isn’t coming from a child. It even says, “The very first sentence of this paragraph contains most of the features that place its style at the opposite pole from the language of a child.” (Lodge, 27) And in the novel (Paradise of the Blind) the story is coming told from a child. However, in my opinion the language used sounds more like it’s coming from an adult. Mostly because an adult did write the novel but the story was told mainly in first person (by Hang). Nevertheless, both books had somewhat the same viewpoint when writing.

In Conclusion, Hangs mother valued her extended family over her daughter and that affected hangs life view and the way she talked about her past. This is shown through the tone of voice she uses throughout the book. I believe the main point of this chapter is to explain the right usage of showing a Point of View in any novel, and in this case The Paradise of the Blind.

-Ameera Ali

Works Cited:

Lodge, David. The Art of Fiction. Vintage, 2011.

Dương, Thu Hương. Paradise of the Blind. Perennial, 2002.

Symbolism in Paradise of the Blind

In Lodge’s chapter “Symbolism,” he defines a symbol as anything that stands for, or represents, something else. He also claims that symbols are objects or actions that suggest a subtle hidden meaning. Lodge states that symbols are usually generated through metonymy and synecdoche. All the main points of Lodge’s chapter can relate to, and are found in, “Paradise of the Blind.”

“Anything that stands for something else is a symbol…In most literary works a symbol tries to be original” (Lodge 139). Some symbols in “Paradise of the Blind” are original and aren’t found anywhere else. An example from the novel is the scene in which she visits her friend in Kiev. Hang’s friend symbolizes a true communist woman; who is not under the control of a patriarchal figure. This can be compared to Hang and her relationship with her uncle. Hang follows a patriarchal figure due to her customs. Hang also looks up to her friend; “My friend, who was older, more mature, and more self-possessed than I.” (Huong, 35.) Huong is comparing how a true communist woman should act, with the way a Vietnamese communist woman would act. In doing so, she shows how the Vietnamese version of communism is not true communism.

 “It is worth noting that symbolism is generated in two different ways in this passage. The Nature/Culture symbolism is modelled on the rhetorical figures of speech known as metonymy and synecdoche” (Lodge, 141). Synecdoche is a figure of speech that substitutes the whole for a part. An example would be using the word bread instead of all food or money. This figure of speech is used throughout the novel. Both Hang and Chinh are examples of synecdoche. Chinh symbolizes the struggle between communism and Confucian ethics. Chinh is very pro-communist and attempts to instill communism in Vietnam, but he also believes that he is able to control his sister and niece because of the patriarchal nature of Vietnamese family.

Hang is a symbol that represents Vietnamese culture and their communist regime. She is used to compare Vietnamese communism to Russian communism in the story. An example is found in the first chapter of the book, where Hang brushes with a Russian lady, The Russian lady glares at Hang while she apologizes. (Huong, 15) In this case, the Russian lady represents the Russian communist regime, while Hang represents Vietnamese communism. Hang acts passively while the Russian lady acts in a strong demeanor. This shows how the author thought Vietnamese communism is inferior to Russian communism.

Metonymy is basically a figure of speech that consists of using a word as a substitute for another word which it is associated with. Weather is used to symbolize the feelings a certain character was feeling at the time. The emotion the character is feeling is associated with the weather. For example, if the character is feeling sad; the weather would be rainy. An example of this in the book is when Hang is betrayed by Thu. After Thu’s mother insults Hang’s fatherless fate, the weather is described as windy. “I stood in the courtyard still swirling with dead leaves. The north wind was whistling in gusts through the sky” (Huong, 46). This weather symbolizes the loneliness that Hang is feeling at the moment.  This also relates to one of Lodge’s other points, in which he says “The rich brew of symbolic suggestion would, however, be much less effective if Lawrence did not at the same time allow us to picture the scene in vivid, sensual detail” (Lodge, 140). The imagery used in this scene empowers the symbolic elements of the weather. The scene’s symbolic meaning would not have been as clear, or as strong, without the imagery providing the details very vividly.

 “The whole scene is prophetic of the passionate but mutually destructive sexual relationship that will develop late on in the story” (Lodge, 140). Some of the symbols that appear in the story foreshadow events that will happen later on in the story. One instance would be the weather before Thu convinces Hang to play with her. The weather is very cold; “a cold spell that could have frozen over the earth” (Huong, 42). The cold represents a heartbreak and the feeling of a cold heart. This foreshadows the moment in which Hang faces the reality of her fatherless status, which breaks her heart. The foreshadowing leads to an important epiphany that changes Hang.

The symbolism in “Paradise of the Blind” enhances the emotion felt while reading the novel. It also helps suggest the underlying meaning and theme of the novel, that aims to insult Vietnamese communism. The author emphasizes some aspects of the book through the use of Symbolism, in order to show their importance. This helps appreciate the choices made by the author.

-Moaath Algaz

Works Cited:

Hương, Dương Thu. Paradise of the Blind. Trans. Phan Huy Duong and Nina McPherson. New York: Perennial, 2002. Print.

Lodge, David. The art of fiction. Vintage 2011.

Unreliable Narration & Paradise of the Blind

In David Lodge’s work, The Art of Fiction, Lodge describes and explains certain aspects of fictional writing and how they impact the story as a whole. One of the chapters of the book discusses the impact of the unreliable narrator, which I will discuss in the following paragraphs.

An unreliable narrator is a narrator whose credibility has been compromised, and their narration can not be taken at face value. Lodge describes the unreliable narrator as an effective and creative tool to illustrate the contrast between face-value appearances and reality. He believes that unreliable narrators add an interesting viewpoint to the story, add a sort of flavor, and may add story/ character depth to those unreliable narrators.

However, Lodge puts forth one main restriction on the unreliable narrator: unreliable omniscient narrators cannot have 100% of the things they say be false. This is because if 100% of what they are saying is a lie, then it is fiction within a novel of fiction. Lodge points out the issue with this by stating: ”…That only tells us what we know already, namely that a novel is a work of fiction. There must be some possibility of discriminating between truth and falsehood within the imagined world of the novel, as there is in the real world, for the story to engage our interest.” (Lodge, 155) So though the unreliable narrator is an exciting tool at the hands of an author, it should be utilized with this information in mind.

The concept of the unreliable narrator can be seen in various works of fiction, such as Paradise of the Blind by Duong Thu Huong. The novel is in first person and is from the point of view of a young Vietnamese woman named Hang.
Hang can be argued to be an unreliable narrator because of two aspects: her method of narration and naivety.

Hang’s unreliable narration is noticeable in the way she discusses communist society. She utilizes stories from her mother’s past or what she observed as a young child. However, for much of the novel she is describing her mother’s experiences, thus she is describing an experience that is not her own and one she was not present for. For example, in the beginning of the novel Hang recounts her mother’s suffering when she was forced to leave her husband Ton as he was part of a landowning family which conflicted with her family‘s communist ideals. (Hang, 19-24) Hang tells the story with great detail, dialogue, and emotion, however at the time Hang was not even alive. For example, she says “But Uncle Chinh only nodded and gave a grunt. There was something odd, condescending, about his behavior.” (Huong, 22) This is a very specific instance she recounts even though she did not experience any of it, see any of it, or hear any of it in person. This is significant because it means that she may not know the exact context or the exact feelings evoked, leading to a possibility of false truth, either by omission or ignorance of events. The full picture may not be given to us, and thus the audience cannot accept Hang’s words as the full and complete truth, effectively characterizing her as an unreliable narrator.

Additionally, as she recounts her experiences with communism, she does so with an air of naivety. Throughout the novel she discusses her past in communist society, but she is not aware of how communism or other life factors around her affect her. She is unaware of the circumstances surrounding her very own story/ her mother’s and thus may be considered to be an unreliable narrator. This unreliable narration of naivety adds interest to the story because a child provides a story that is raw, unfiltered, and hard-hitting. If Hang was to be totally knowledgeable and show no innocence, the ability to feel for Hang’s character would be reduced, as her naivety and innocence as a child is what makes her endearing and her suffering that much more painful. For example, in the very first chapter of the novel, Hang hears her neighbors talking about a man named Ton and laughing at her mom about her relationship with this man. Hang is a young child, only ten, and very innocently asks “Who’s handsome Ton?” (Huong, 18) She states the neighbors mocked her after they heard her question and runs off, only to find out from her mother a while later that ‘handsome Ton’ was actually Hang’s father. Chapter two informs the reader that Hang’s mother left Ton because Ton came from a landowning family, which conflicted with her family’s communist ideals, as stated earlier. Hearing this story, the audience feels for naive, young Hang because she is a young child who lost her father due to harsh communist beliefs. (Huong, 19-24) Quotes from the situation such as “I was almost ten years old once I learned about my father,” (Huong, 18) display the power of her unreliable narration, because this child is innocent yet still suffers, and she does not even know why it is happening or what the cause is. Her naivety— the very thing which makes her an unreliable narrator—allows readers to connect with her. She may be categorized as an unreliable narrator, but as Lodge himself says, “If (s)he had been reliable, the effect would, of course, have been incredibly boring.” (Lodge, 157)

The unreliable narrator creates twists to the story and keeps readers constantly intrigued. Huong executes this to her advantage, creating a character with lessened credibility, but strengthened emotional value and sympathy as well, who remains memorable and unique in the minds of readers.

Lodge’s Idea of Irony Applied to “Paradise of the Blind”

Lodge describes the figurative element of irony as saying the opposite of what you really mean and also “inviting an interpretation different from the surface meaning of your words.” It makes the reader think deep into the work and be open to a range of interpretations. In his chapter, Lodge explains two types of irony: verbal and dramatic. Verbal irony is basically sarcasm while dramatic irony is when the reader knows more than the characters do.

The very first time I noticed irony in the novel was reading the title. Since the novel is based on a Vietnamese family struggling to live under the corrupt communist regime, it seems ironic for it to be called a paradise. Which is why the author adds the word ‘blind’ to show that the leaders of this regime are blind and cannot see the damage they are causing to their country.

As mentioned earlier, dramatic irony is revealed when the reader knows more about the facts of the situation than the character does. Uncle Chinh believes that communism will help his country of Vietnam and that it is the best government to live under in terms of development. In a dialogue with Que he tells her to “choose: a future with the revolution or the life of an outcast among the enemies of the people.” (32) He is convinced that this regime is the only way for Que to actually help Hang and her family, “it is precisely because I worry about Hang’s future.” (51) This is ironic because although Uncle Chinh believes living under communism is their best decision, the reader is more aware of the terrors and negative impacts that arise. Therefore the overall concept of communism is used very ironically in the novel. Although this regime was supposed to provide equality and freedom for all citizens, it actually took away these rights. The Vietnamese were against communism since they were struggling economically and could not live a good life. However, it is ironic that even though Uncle Chinh was Vietnamese, he went against these beliefs and still supported their corrupt government no matter what.

One of the most valued characteristics of Vietnamese culture is respecting the importance of family. Therefore in the novel, Hang’s mother Que cared very much for her brother and was willing to do anything to help him out. However it is ironic how she cares so deeply for him that she was willing to sacrifice her happiness and even starve rather than care for her own daughter and sister in law. It is also ironic how she continues to support Uncle Chinh although he was just making their lives harder by accepting the corrupt regime. Hang’s mother would always say when they were put in a difficult situation, “to live with dignity, the important thing is to never despair. You give up once and everything goes away.” (14) Hang learned from her mother to be selfless and care for others especially when it came to family. However, it is ironic how Hang was “preparing to abandon her uncle” (14) and even at the end of the novel, she leaves Vietnam after her mother and aunt had done everything they could fighting for their family.

Lodge’s interpretation of irony is also demonstrated in the novel, when Hang talks a lot about how she hates her uncle but still goes to visit him in Moscow. She says, “my cheeks burned and the heat I felt for my uncle rose in me.” (16) In the very beginning of the novel Hang receives a telegram from her uncle saying that he is “very ill. Come immediately” (11). Hang immediately goes to visit him but then finds out he was never really sick, and this was all just a trick for her to come to Moscow. It is ironic however, that at the end of the novel, Uncle Chinh becomes terribly ill and dies from his sickness.

Irony adds to the novel Paradise of the Blind since it helps the reader further understand the meaning and develop suspense. It also helps in understanding the characters’ choices and motivations and why they did these things. This allows the reader to have an insight towards the characters’ personalities and the basics of Vietnamese culture. It also helps develop one of the main themes behind the novel, that communism had a negative impact on Vietnamese society in which it abandoned traditional values and tore families apart.