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Chapter Division

David lodge introduces his perception on chapter division by stating, “Breaking up a long text into smaller units has several possible effects. It gives the narrative, and the reader, time to take a breath, as it were, in the intervening pauses. For this reason, chapter breaks are useful for marking transitions between different times or places in the action.” He later discusses the effect of surprise and suspense on the concluding line of a chapter and the rhetorical effect of an opening statement. Lodge’s perception on chapter division correlates with the strategic chapter breaks, expressive introductions, and suspenseful concluding statements in Duong Thu Huong’s Paradise of the Blind.

The most prominent and powerful elements Huong uses throughout Paradise of the Blind are the shifts in time and place. Due to these constant transitions, the rhythm of the novel ultimately depends on the strategic textual organization. The conclusions of majority of the chapters in the novel are lead by a certain emotion or object that sparks a memory in the protagonist, Hang. This memory marks a transition to the past, serving as an introduction to a flashback and a chapter break, which ties in with Lodge’s perception. An example of this can be seen as early as in the conclusion of chapter two. A Russian song Hang had heard sparked a memory of her mother’s inability to revolt, introducing a flashback and marking a shift to the past. Another example of this can be seen in chapters three and four. The feeling of humiliation sparks a memory as she says “It was the humiliation, the feeling of injustice, that had haunted me since my neighbors had mocked me.” This leads to a time shift in the beginning of chapter four. Hang says “Unable to bear the injustice or the humiliation, my father fled.” Hang and her father both have a feeling of intense humiliation. This link of diction between both chapters displays an emotional link between Hang and her father.

After discussing time shifts in chapter breaks, Lodge shares his views on concluding sentences by stating, “They should act as a curtain line for a play to heighten an effect of surprise.”  The suspenseful concluding statements in the chapters of Paradise of the Blind do just that and more. The intriguing conclusions spark curiosity and captivate readers. An example of a suspenseful closing statements can be seen in chapter ten as Hang says, “Tears streamed down her swallow, blotchy cheeks. Her thigh, covered with bandages, stopped at the knee.” This conclusion stirs a pot of emotions within the reader as Hang describes the first time she lays eyes on her mother’s newly amputated leg.

The opening statements of chapters in Paradise of the Blind stimulate an overflow of deep emotions within the reader causing a rhetorical effect, coinciding with Lodge’s notion of expressive introductions which states, “Beginning a new chapter can have an expressive or rhetorical effect.” Huong uses the beginning of a chapter to entice the reader and create a connection between the audience and Hang. The opening statements of chapter ten, “In spite of everything she stood for, everything I was trying to escape, she was still my mother. And in spite of it all, I love her.”, exude powerful emotions from the readers and allow the reader to connect to Hang on a deeper level.

Lodge states, “We tend to take the division of chapters for granted, as if it were as natural and inevitable. But of course it is not.” After further analyzing the chapter division of Paradise of the Blind, the statement above has a new meaning. Huong’s use of climactic conclusions, time transitions, and emotional introductions are what separate Paradise of the Blind from other novels. These aspects constantly evoke several emotions, creating a bond between the reader and the novel. Thus, when comparing Lodge’s points with the significance of chapter division Huong’s work, the connection between the two is impossible to miss.

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