Epiphany according to David Lodge
- Literally: a showing (pg. 146)
- James Joyce: The process by which a commonplace event or thought is transformed into a thing of timeless beauty à “when the soul of the commonest object seems to us radiant” (pg. 146)
- Now loosely applied to: a descriptive passage in which external reality is charged with a kind of transcendental significance for the perceiver (pg.146)
- Traditional fiction vs. Modern fiction: (pg.147)
- Traditional fiction: providing a climax or resolution to a story
- Modern fiction: the function performed by a decisive action
- Structural layout of Epiphany: (pg. 148)
- Epiphanic description is likely to be rich in figures of speech and sound
- Before getting to the main section/idea – the author sets the scene
- After setting the scene the language generally takes a metaphoric turn
- Often times this is paired with intense emotion
Epiphany in Paradise of the Blind
- Sudden realization of the extent of the material corruption which has crept into Vietnamese society
The majority of the book is a series of flashbacks however two decisive events which are parallel in chronology provide for this instance of epiphany:
Throughout the novel however the development for this realization takes place, for example Hang becomes increasingly aware of the blind obedience of her mother to Chin in spite of his incoherence with moral standards. This is a build up to the realization that communist ideologies have further blinded the already blind followers of Vietnamese custom. This realization is a progressive one which ultimately leads to the actual instance of Epiphany.
“A life deprived of youth and love, a victory born of the renunciation of existence” (pg. 248)
“I’m going to sell this house and leave all of this behind. We can honor the wishes of the dead with a few flowers on a grave somewhere. I can squander my life tending these faded flowers, these shadows, the legacy of past crimes” (pg. 257)
While Hang is sick and exhausted she is called to visit her supposedly ill father in Moscow only to realize that she is actually called to help him with his black market deals. Hang returns to Vietnam to visit her actually dying Aunt Tam and refuses her legacy of being tied to the ancestral estate. At this exact moment she reflects on the blindness of generations of Vietnamese and she becomes fully aware that they consciously made the decision to be blind; this is why she says in reference to their memory: “the legacy of past crimes” (pg.257). She is now fully convinced that she must leave behind what her culture deemed custom in order to be free from cultural bias in order to truly cure herself from blindness.
- Epiphanic description of Hang’s progressive disillusionment with the notion of time
The author sets the scene early on in the novel in two instances before getting to the main idea. She introduces the notion that time brings sorrow as supposed to joy when the old man in the village sings: “Hail autumn and it’s procession of dead leaves” (pg. 43) (pg.90)
After she sets the scene the actual epiphany takes place; Hang looks out at the night sky as she ponders upon her life. She realizes that if she chooses to live her life according to fulfilling cultural ideals it’s like putting herself in the grave; both communism and Vietnamese cultural mandates kill the dreams of women. She expresses a great deal of symbolism in communicating this idea. She sees the moon that shines on Vietnam as freedom; no matter how hard she tries to grasp it she cannot, furthermore it is hard to see through the dense forest which block it’s glow. These trees are the evils which are rooted in Vietnamese culture and tower over the people. She identifies certain characters in her flashbacks as stars which shimmer; they are few and scattered, the ones that managed to cure themselves to an extent of the blindness and therefore retain their existnce. She calls those who choose to blindly follow Vietnamese culture, commets; they fall out of the sky of existence into nothingness.
“A full moon shone through the dark crown of the trees. A few stars shimmered. I stood there motionless, staring at them. Never in my life had I felt, with such sharpness, the passing of time. Like watching the tail of a comet plummet and disappear into nothingness. Like the span of my life.” (pg. 258)