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Repetition: Lodge’s ideas applied to ‘Paradise of the Blind’

In the chapter ‘Repetition’ in Lodge’s book, he states some key details in noticing the technique in which different authors implement the literary device of repetition in their writing. He states that there are only two kinds of words used; lexical and grammatical words. Lexical words are words like cold, dark, wind, fall and grammatical words are words like of, in or and. These are better known as articles, conjunctions and prepositions. Lodge has also stated that the main purpose of using this specific literary device is for emphasis.

Before I begin, here are a few details about the book that will help understand this post

Characters:

  • Hang: Main character
  • Que: Hang’s Mother
  • Chinh: Hang’s maternal uncle
  • Aunt Tam: Hang’s paternal aunt

These ideas are demonstrated throughout the entire book. In chapter 1; Huong begins the book with the unfortunate feeling of homesickness, felt by the main character Hang. This is shown on page 12:’Drained by fatigue and homesickness’, and page 14:’I miss home…something terrible.’ This begins the story with the sad feeling that our main character Hang is not in her hometown. These quotes also demonstrate the theory of lexical words that Lodge spoke about. The same ideas are stated using different wording and are expected to evoke a reaction from the reader.This idea also contributes to one of the themes of the novel which is the failure of communism. It shows that the failure of communism displaced so many of the citizens of Vietnam, including Hang. In chapter 2, there is more discussion of the communist revolution that is taking over Vietnam. Hang’s mother is struggling to make a living for herself and Hang. Her brother is part of the army that is enforcing communism. Throughout this chapter and throughout the rest of the book, her brother Chinh, speaks to Hang’s mother with lots of contempt and rudeness. Despite this,Hang’s mother treats him with utmost respect and is always ready to help him. Whenever Chinh speaks to Que in this way, it is when Hang is talking about the communist revolution. Whenever Que attempts to say anything, good or bad, about the communist revolution, Chinh immediately snaps at her. This can be found on page 31:’Uncle Chinh interrogated her’, ‘Uncle Chinh was furious’, and on page 32 ‘Uncle Chinh came home one day in a fury’, ‘You realize that you’re sabotaging my authority. You know that, don’t you? No other section chief for land reform in this entire province has been as prompt, or as radical, as I have. You’re undermining my efforts.’Since this has been repeated so many times, it shows just how much importance Chinh places in the communist revolution. He loves and values it so much and really believes it will improve the condition of Vietnam. The fact that Que is so respectful and never turns away from Chinh demonstrates the patriarchy in their culture. Since her brother is the only male present in this family, he automatically becomes the head of the family, according to Vietnamese culture. This case of repetition is also the lexical word type.This instance further clarifies the theme that had been stated earlier. Communism is failing in Vietnam but Chinh is in denial to this reality. He is blind to what is actually happening and just ants to enforce the the ideology of communism.The next concept repeated throughout this book is the repetition of the description of different Vietnamese foods. Just a few examples of this are shown in chapter 3: on page 53: ‘Here, they made tiny sticky-rice cakes and hemp cakes small as jackfruit pits and wrapped in five or seven layers of banana leaves….’ This is just one example of the countless decadent descriptions of food that Hang provides in the book. The constant discussion of food in the book displays how important food is in this culture. It provides them all with a sense of community and something to look forward to at all times of the day. Especially with the communist revolution going on, food has become scarce. The characters in the story aren’t sure what their next meal will be or when they will get their next meal at all.Another theme of the novel is the coming of age for Hang. Throughout the novel, she flips back and forth between her current life and her childhood. Food is seen to be a large part of the Vietnamese culture and community.The constant description and detailed illustration show how important and prominent food was in Hang’s childhood. The last main point of repetition in the story is the repetition of a specific song. In Hang’s childhood neighborhood, there is a cripple that lives near them. He is  often heard singing a specific song. It is heard for the first time in chapter 3: ‘Hail autumn and its procession of dead leaves, The rows of barren poplars stand silent on the hillside.’ The cripple is heard singing this song multiple times throughout the book. Ironically enough, Hang always has conflicted feelings. She is always feeling upset about something and thats when she hears the cripple singing this song in the distance. This instance relates to the theme of Hang’s coming of age.She can vividly recall the cripple singing the same song whenever she is distressed. Now, whenever Hang hears this song, she will immediately recall the undesirable events of her childhood. Similarly, whenever she thinks of the sad events that took place in her childhood, she will hear this song playing in the background.  These were just a few of the main examples of repetition in this book. Lodge was right about his concept of repetition in literature and it is demonstrated in ‘Paradise Of the Blind’ by Duong Thu Huong.

Freena Chaudhry


5 Comments

  1. randaaaaaaa says:

    I agree that the use of repetition as a literary device to convey the ultimate failure of the communist regime is the true subject within the novel. As Hang serves to be the main character and innocent, immature narrator of the story, she works to reveal more about the oppression in her family’s past. As she recalls this information, the author Huong not only assures that the reader realizes the effect of the regime throughout the novel, but Hang as well. As it was repeated to her as a child that she is “unlucky”, she believed that she would consequently lead a life of perseverance, working to honor her immediate family and ancestors. However, with the knowledge that she is currently more mature physically and mentally,her awareness drives her to take a final and unpredictable decision. This choice was to break away from the past of hardship she witnessed and was told of, largely due to the enforced communist regime.
    Randa

  2. sibelbarzinji says:

    I completely agree with the point that states repetition adds emphasis on a certain idea/theme. While reading this blogpost i immediately recalled Hang’s repetitive description of the sky. While describing the sky in multiple chapters she referred to the color as an “icy blue”. I believe this is fairly significant in terms of understanding Hang, as it a conveys a sadness she may have not intended on showing.

  3. Jude says:

    This blogpost was really interesting. It was nice to get an inside look on how the author used repetition to emphasize specific details throughout her story that could have an impact on the reader later on. This impact won’t happen unless the reader is aware of the “trick” and understanding the author’s use of repetition to emphasize a specific point in the book that could symbolize something later on. I really thought that the example using the song in chapter 3 was great because it starts out with someone else singing the song, but it becomes a repetition later on when Hang starts to recall it in “distressed” moments. Another great example of repetition was the repetition of the description of food and culture through different types of repetition such as “Lexical” words. This was very important because the Vietnamese culture, food, and family are extremely crucial to understand and have a good emphasis of when reading the novel. I thought this was a very insightful and attention-grabbing post because the use of repetition throughout the novel is extremely crucial for the impact on the reader!
    Jude Abdel-Latif

  4. lanakheir says:

    Very interesting examples Freena. I noticed as I was researching my own topic that the duration of events was extended when Hang discussed communism, family, and her childhood. After reading your post I realized that these topics were also repeated throughout the entire book. The author tends to increase the duration of events when discussing these topics because she is emphasizing their importance. I believe that these repeated ideas throughout the novel highlight Hang’s biggest struggles in life. She repeats the failure of communism because it has broken up her family and devastated her country. Hang brings up family relationships multiple times in the novel because of the pressure Vietnamese culture places on family bonds. It is something she doesn’t always understand especially when dealing with her uncle. Lastly, she repeats stories of her childhood because she is trying to make sense of her past. Repeating these ideas and extending the duration of events that include these topics help the reader understand the purpose of Paradise of the Blind.

  5. shadiajrab says:

    I agree with many of the points you spoke about. You gave great examples with the page numbers and quotes. This really helped me make a connection and it also helped me remember the thoughts evoked when I read that particular scene. The repetition within the novel really does emphasize on the failures of Communism leadership. The repetition of the song the cripple sang also helped convey sadness and nostalgia of past memories. What really resinated with me was when you spoke about how each time the cripple would sing Hang would ironically be feeling sad. I never made that connection before. You also highlighted on many repetitions I didn’t not pick up on. Thank you for sharing!!

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