Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Cultivating Gardens and Changing Expectations

            All of the stories today (minus Candide) had the common thread of pride in nationality. In the Kasaipwalova story, the pride that comes with chewing the betel nut and standing their ground for their native culture instead of backing down in the face of the big bad white man. Similarly in Grace’s story, Billy and his family sought to bring back their native roots by renaming areas of land and streets to reflect their cultural pride. Once again this theme continues in King’s short story by not getting through border control because his mother stubbornly refused to see herself as a Blackfoot only and not as a Canadian-Blackfoot, or American-Blackfoot, not putting her country in front of her culture.
            But I think that this theme stretches beyond just cultural pride to make an otherwise non-humorous discrimination humorous through incongruity and changes of perception throughout the stories. Kasaipwalova’s character, in the way he speaks and describes things makes him seem uneducated. This stereotype through his words and choice phrases is perpetuated throughout the whole story until he begins to speak to the cop in perfect, advanced-phrasing, English. This moment of change makes the reader laugh and find humor in the fact that this man seems to  be keeping his secret knowledge quiet. His funny phrases such as “puppies” when describing the officers, “dimdims,” and even “the important man” make us laugh but the unexpected language twist in the story not only makes us laugh harder for being ignorant towards this character but also combats and defeats the issue of racial or culture discrimination perpetuated in the story: we come to realize, as the cops should but don’t, that our stereotypes and assumptions are not always right.
            The general notions of laughter visibly described as “hee hee” and “har har har” in Grace’s story make the reader laugh almost as an effect made by a laugh track in TV shows. It is through reading the story to the end however that we realize the issue at hand and that the laugh track we followed earlier in the story were a coping mechanism for Billy throughout his cultural issue. Similarly in in King’s story, we are amused with the Blackfood intentions by the mother and while it does change in the end and she is let through it is only for the media: and we, as readers, realized through our satisfaction that this issue is serious and not humorous. Changing expectations is what Candide is all about and these stories relate to the last line of the book where he tells back-from-the-dead-Pangloss that we must “cultivate our garden”—we must be in the moment and then reflecting realize that we must only focus on one thing at a time. We must worry about the small things in life—a cultural difference—and address it (through humor in the case of these stories) in order to make a change, rather than trying to fix all the problems in the world. 

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