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Final Defamiliarization -Naba

Defamiliarization is a literary technique used to present something familiar – an object, person, or situation – as unfamiliar. By deviating from the conventional ways of representing reality it provokes thoughts and forces the reader to delve deeper into the meaning of what is being shown.

In Paradise of the Blind, the setting is essentially founded upon the concept of defamiliarization, from the introduction of Communism — which is initially a foreign and alien concept to the characters — to Hangs unpredictably shifting relationship with her mother. Due to the presence of so many different elements, here is a quick rundown:


Defamiliarization happens through Hang’s eyes since the book is written from her point of view and so we see it with: –

  • Characters closest to her Her mother Que- A gradual defamiliarization: At the start of the novel the relationship between Que and Hang is extremely close (Textual evidence: ”She looked at me tenderly, with a sort of admiration in her gaze. It frightens me. The other women in our neighborhood never looked at their children this way.”)  but as the book progresses a subtle rift begins to form and divide the two until at the end the relationship is almost unrecognizable from the beginning. (Textual evidence: “Suddenly she jumped up, screaming like a mad woman, ” No! Shut up! I said NO!”  She had never looked so terrifying, never spoken to me like this, with such violence.”)
  • Aunt Tam- Sudden defamiliarization: Hang experiences certain intervals in which she looks at her aunt Tam and sees her as someone unfamiliar. It’s almost like she ages backwards and is seeing her aunt for the first time once again, but these moments are short-lived and usually afterwards she snaps back into reality.
    • Textual evidence: “She looked like a statue hunched over like that, or pointy shoulders framing the two sides of her tiny school. As I watched her I finally understood… No one was closer to me, yet no one could have been a stranger.”
  • Concept/situation
    • In the novel a situation as simple as relatives saying goodbye to their loved ones while crying tears of joy at an airport or train station is portrayed through Hangs eyes as grotesque and sad because it shows how any place other then where they are living is good.
      • Textual evidence: “…you could see, on the faces of those left behind, the relief, the joy, the pride of the vicarious success. The vision of a happier future elsewhere, anywhere but here.  Smiles of contentment, faces radiant with happiness. Nowhere else in the world does separation bear the hideous face of joy. This was a grotesque face, a deviation from all rules of human nature.”

To conclude, defamiliarization is used constantly in various ways for a multitude of reasons. It creates a distinction between reality and perception so that audiences can better understand the emotions of characters or the depth of a situation. It helps create a better narrative for a story as the reader is able to understand more.


  1. sameehakhalil says:

    Great analysis Naba! When I read the novel, I did not notice how much of a major role defamiliarization played in the characters. I actually found that defamiliarization is similar to time-shift, due to the excellent example that you gave regarding Aunt Tam. Through time-shift, I interpreted that Aunt Tam was at first one of the closest people to Hang following breaking her relationship with her mother. However, toward the end of the novel, Hang came to the realization and shifted to the thought that Aunt Tam may have only wished for Hang to fulfill the bloodline.

  2. habebayoussef says:

    This was a very insightful blog-post! I like how you explained what defamiliarization was, and then broke it down and showed how it was done to certain characters, and situations. It was interesting that you pointed out how with her mother there was a gradual defamiliarization, while with her aunt it was sudden. This definitley allows the reader to think deeper about the relationships in Hang’s life and how they changed throughout the novel. I can relate this to the topic I discussed “Showing and Telling” because I can see from the example you used with the interaction between Hang and her mother that “showing” was used so that the audience could see how Hang was feeling and could imagine exactly what happened. Overall good interpretation!

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