Postcolonial Egypt in “The Beginning and the End” by Mahfouz

Egypt was known as the “Mother of Civilization” for its great landmarks and great hold of culture and tradition. However, colonization started as early as 332B.C., by Alexander the Great. Egypt endured a lot of hardships through different colonizing powers, such as the Greek-Roman colonizers, Islamic Arabs, Turks, French and British Empires. As an effect, Egypt had withstood all of this but it left a great impact on the mentality and personality of the Egyptians.

These different effects of colonization are depicted in Naguid Mafouz’s The Beginning and The End through the family of Effendi Kamel Ali.

The novel opens with the death of Kamel Effendi, the father of the Kamel family in Cairo, whose death leaves his wife, daughter, and three sons to survive in near-poverty. The family not only grieves the loss of their patriarch, but also the loss of the income he earned as a low ranking government official. While the sons finish school, Nefisa, the daughter, must become a paid dressmaker, and Samira, the widow, struggles to make ends meet. It is not dignified for women in this society to work outside the home, a truth the family is well aware of. Though the reader is never introduced to Kamel Effendi as a character, the significance of his death haunts the rest of the novel.

The different members of the family represent the colonial mentality of the Egyptians as a whole. Such representations, though meager as the members are, are still a good way of opening the eyes of the readers on the current state of the Egyptians after the different colonial powers in their mother country.

One of which is the death of Effendi Kamel Ali. In this story, Effendi Kamel Ali, the breadwinner of the family, represents the colonial power present in Egypt. With his death, this clearly shows how the colonial power left the colonized country as similar as the breadwinner, the one the family usually depends on, left the family decrepit from all forms of misfortune. This parallels the relationship of Egypt from its colonizer, as a nation dependent on the colonizing power. Thus, those who were left in the family represents how Egyptians struggle with the “loss of” if not “freedom from” the colonial power. Moreover, the family, with Effendi Kamel Ali’s death, lost their “roots” because they don’t belong to a certain culture since they are not natives of Cairo and their mother’s homeland had already severed all ties from them. Just like in a colonized country, it is locked away from other countries or it is restricted to interact and have affairs with other countries while under the colonial power, but once the colonizers set the colonized country free, the latter is alienated from its neighboring countries. How the different family members react to and cope with their sudden loss is likely similar on how Egyptians react to their sudden freedom from the colonial power.

Another is through Samira, the widow of Effendi Kamel Ali , which represents the stoicism and strength of women despite the cruelty of life. Because of her husband’s sudden death, she now has to act as a pillar of strength for her children by embracing a new role – like a man, expected to endure the hardships and misfortunes her family is suffering. She had a firm hold on all of the family’s financial decision ever since her husband died. She also had to endure the discrimination of other people against her family. Egypt being a traditional and conservative patriarchal society was seen as similarly capable of governing her people in a matriarchal society.

Furthermore, Samira depicts Egypt as a “mother” country. After the colonial power left, the colonized country now has to adapt to the immediate changes brought by the sudden loss. In Egypt’s case, she has to take care of her children. In the novel, Egypt is symbolized through Samira as much as Effendi Kamel Ali symbolizes the colonial power. At this point, definite differences between Effendi Kamel Ali and Samira Kamel Ali are clearly shown in the novel. Effendi Kamel Ali was seen as a doting father to all of his children he protected his ugly daughter, Nefisa, from the harshness of reality; he pampered Hassan up to the point that he is totally intolerable; and he constantly supported financially the whims of Hassanein and Hussein. On the other hand, Samira had to be tightfisted on everything she is very frugal on their money; she is very distant on her relationships with her children; and she is very firm on her decisions even though she knows that her decision is heartbreaking for her children.

These distinct differences between the parents are the distinct differences between the colonial power and the colonized country. The colonial empire would definitely pamper and nourish the colonized country so that the colonized country would feel how important is the empire. But the ulterior motive of doing so is too implicit that the colonized would be paralyzed by the sudden pull out of support from the colonial power. Thus, the colonial mentality exists among the people of the colonized country for they would compare their former way of living to their current way of life. A good example of this is the situation of the Kamel Ali family. The colonial power had been feeding the children with all the delicious and exquisite food they could have but when the support had suddenly left, the children are unable
to move on even with the guidance of their motherland.

Binary Oppositions in “The Ambassadors” by Henry James

Contemporary critics known as Structuralists have been arguing that binarism is fundamental and indispensable to human language, cognition and communication. Through binary ideas, man categorizes the seemingly chaotic world and imposes the notion of system on it. Therefore, binary oppositions help us to shape the entire world-views and to mark differences in an otherwise unorganized universe (Selden, 1989). This paper aims at discussing the novel The Ambassadors by Henry James in view of binary oppositions.

The Ambassadors tells about the journey of Lewis Lambert Strether to rescue his fiancée’s son, Chad Newsome from the clutches of a presumably wicked woman, and bring him back to the family business. On his way to Paris, Strether stops in England and met with Maria Gostrey, an American woman who has lived in Paris for many years. Her cynical wit and worldly-wise opinions start to rattle Strether’s preconceived view of the situation.

In Paris, Strether meets Chad and is impressed by the much greater sophistication he seems to have gained during his years in Europe. Chad takes him to a garden party where Strether meets Marie de Vionnet, a beautiful and gracious woman separated from her husband, with her daughter Jeanne. Strether is confused as to whether Chad is more attracted to the mother or the daughter. Strether’s impressions of Parisian culture bring him to confide with Little Bilham, a friend of Chad, that he might have missed the best that life has to offer. Strether starts to delight in the loveliness of Paris and actually stops Chad from returning to America. Mrs. Newsome, Strether’s fiancée and Chad’s mother, soon sends out new “ambassadors” to bring back Chad. Strether takes a small tour in the French countryside to escape these troubles, and accidentally meets Chad and Marie at a local motel. After he returns to Paris, he advised Chad not to leave Marie. Strether, then, finds himself no longer comfortable in Europe anymore. He decided to cancel marriage from Maria Gostrey and returns to America.

Lambert and Sarah: Success and Failure

The very title of the novel – The Ambassadors – refers to the game of strategy that is central to the story’s plot. The ambassadors are Lambert Strether and Sarah Pocock, namely. Though other characters play auxiliary roles in the story, like Jim and Mamie Pocock, and Waymarsh. These two ambassadors have been expressly assigned to the task of recovering Chad Newsome from the dangers of Parisian bohemia. In Mrs. Newsome’s service, both Strether and Sarah must use strategy if they are to succeed. Strether fails and Sarah succeeds.

Setting aside the questions of idealism and motive, the argument remains that Strether fails due to lack of strategy – he fails to do Mrs. Newsome’s instructions and then, when he has decided to advocate for the opposition, Strether fails again. When Strether argues for Woollett, Chad wants to remain in Paris. When Strether comes around and begins arguing for Paris, Chad is hesitant and cautious, eventually returning home despite Strether’s advice.
Sarah arrived in Paris determined to return home with her brother, Chad. While Strether dabbled in French high society and enjoyed his time with Chad’s new friends, Sarah took the strategic position referred to as “parti pris” (an obstinate position based upon a prejudgment). Sarah refused to compromise; she would not budge; her position was fixed and her demeanor was hard. Her demeanor matched her determination.

Strether, on the other hand, thought that he might perform so well in Parisian society that his newfound popularity and influence would allow him to press upon Chad. Instead, Strether was charmed and easily won over. Bilham and Miss Barrace were successful in their strategy: Strether anticipated a positive change in Chad – having been told that, in his time in Paris, Chad had changed for the better. Chad does such an expert job of bringing Strether to his side that midway through the novel, when Chad is at last ready to return home, Strether relinquishes the victory and bids Chad to enjoy Paris for a while longer – for Strether, himself, now wants to enjoy Paris.

In a limited sense, Madame de Vionnet is strategic. She knows that Chad must inevitably return home. She caused Strether into committing to “saving” her alongside Chad. This is an impossible mission, of course. De Vionnet is already married; furthermore, it is unlikely that she could ever join Chad in Woollett, Massachusetts. When Strether commits to helping de Vionnet, he puts himself in the unfortunate predicament of serving two unfriendly masters: Mrs. Newsome and Madame de Vionnet. De Vionnet knows that she cannot win in an ultimate sense – but she is able to buy more time with Chad. At a certain point, given her success with Strether, de Vionnet hopes to charm Sarah Pocock in a similar way. Perhaps in this manner, the Countess De Vionnet might have charmed each ambassador that was sent, and having done this, she could have kept Chad in Paris indefinitely.

The irony of the strategic outcome is that the Countess de Vionnet has lost despite her ‘home-court advantage.’ Even with the “Francophile” an admirer of France and everything French (Webster, 2001) and bohemian Americans to help her, even with Strether at her side, de Vionnet cannot win. When Sarah Pocock arrives, she is relatively unfamiliar with Paris but she has been to Paris before. Sarah is not charmed by the place, nor does she perceive a change for the better in Chad, nor does she intend to be unnerved by the fact of the Countess being a countess.

In contrast to the Countess, Mrs. Newsome is essentially an invalid, stranded at home in Woollett, Massachusetts. She has to send ambassadors because she cannot come to Paris herself. And when one considers that Mrs. Newsome has sent Mamie, Jim, Sarah, and Strether to fetch Chad – one sees that Mrs. Newsome is extremely vulnerable. For all her strength, she remains alone on one side of the ocean. In a sense, Mrs. Newsome has made quite a gamble, but then, Mrs. Newsome insists upon having what she wants.

Young vs. Old

An archetypal image of an old or aged one always connotes superiority, wisdom and stature over the young or the youth (Jung, 1990). However, this is seen differently in the story, particularly in the character of Strether and Chad, the former representing the old and the later representing the young. In Henry James’ fiction, the ideas of youth and age are often developed within the context of the New World vs. the Old World. This remains true of The Ambassadors, where we find a contrast between the Parisian scenes (Old World) and the American town back home (New World). The young Americans in Paris – Chad, Bilham, Miss Barrace, and Mamie Pocock – are in danger of being “spoiled” by Europe and Europeans. Worldliness, leisure, aristocracy, bohemianism, and in a subtle sense, religiosity, are among the most potent social forces that threaten to undo American identity. Chad’s rejection of Madame de Vionnet is a rejection of an older woman, a rejection of Paris and the Old World. Chad returns home to become a man of business. The business model flourishing in Woollett, Massachusetts is modern in comparison to the feudal and aristocratic Parisian high society.
For Strether, a man in his late middle age, Paris is developing. Strether recalls his earlier trip to Paris as a young man. His time in Paris is a time of nostalgia and reflection. Strether looks at his own history, senses regret, and hopes to intervene in Chad’s life. The older man does not want to see the young man become a “man of business” and remain unfulfilled in Woollett. Woollett is the New World but it does not promise eternal youth. Paris is archaic, but still capable of inspiring or rejuvenating the disillusioned or exhausted.

Chad and Strether undergo a major reversal. By the end of the novel, it is Strether who has articulated and acted upon youthful and naive principles. Chad has gone in, on his own, for a future in business. Indeed, the very fact of youth, the very fact that Chad has a longer life ahead of him causes him to behave conservatively. With a long life behind him (including a deceased wife and a buried son), Strether gives up the possibility of a wealthy future as Chad’s stepfather-in-law. With little left to lose, Strether is able to play his hand more freely. Having arrived on scene to rescue Chad, Strether remains in Paris – somewhat stranded at the end of the novel, hence a reversal of hierarchy, making the young triumph over the old.

Europe vs. America

Another very important structure of the novel is the role of setting or location in relation to the lives of the characters. In the novel, there are different significant settings such as Woollett, Massachusetts, Cannes France, London, England and other cities. However, there are two main places that highlights the change is most of the major character’s lives: Paris and America (Woollett, Massachusetts). These two signifies binary oppositions through the following:

Paris symbolizes the social, intellectual, and imaginative freedom of Europe. IAt the time, Parisian culture was thought to encourage sexual misconduct and vile relationships. Mrs. Newsome assumes—and fears—that Chad’s time in Paris will expose him to these forces. Strether remembers his first visit to Paris as a young man—and he fears that his return to the “vast bright Babylon,” as he calls Paris, will negatively affect him. He correctly realizes that his delight in Paris will permanently change him. But, as the novel progresses, Strether discovers that the trade-off is worth it. He enjoys Paris, and he welcomes the subsequent changes in his personality. In Woollett, social proprieties and a timid, young culture make people anxious and preoccupied. In Paris, however, Strether learns that he is able to live in the present moment, fully enjoying life. On the other hand, Woollett, Massachusetts, represents close- minded provincialism, and James contrast the small American town with the cosmopolitan European city.

Throughout the novel, the city figures as a symbol of the close-minded provincialism of small-town America. Initially, Strether is embarrassed to report to Miss Gostrey that he is from Woollett, because he identifies Woollett with all those things that oppose Parisian openness. Woollett,in the heart of New England, symbolizes the immature American cultural landscape. Timid, young American culture is so unsure of itself that it fears the influence of all outside forces, including the culturally rich Paris. Eventually, after Strether has experienced the positive effects of Parisian social freedom, he declares that Woollett has as a “female” culture—one characterized by gossiping, fearful women, like Sarah Pocock and Mrs. Newsome. He realizes that if Chad returns to Woollett, Chad will lose the refinement he has gained in Paris and become just one thing: a man out to make money. In this way, Woollett also represents the coarse, capitalistic nature of America in contrast to the artistic, aesthetic Parisian sensibility.

The Lived vs. Unlived Life

Strether represents the struggle to live life to the fullest extent. When he first met Miss Gostrey, he articulates his inability to fully appreciate the moments of his life. He feels as though he has suffered from this inability throughout his entire youth and adulthood, and he regrets having missed out on significant life experiences. Now middle-aged, Strether fears that he will never be able to live fully in the moment. But in Paris, he begins to experience truly saturated moments. In this way, Strether embodies the theme of the full, richly lived life versus the boring unlived life that is central to The Ambassadors. Strether originally goes to Paris with the intention of helping Chad fulfill his potential—as a businessman in Woollett. Yet, Strether eventually feels that Chad would lead a richer life by staying in Paris.

Strether further embodies the theme of the lived versus unlived life through his interactions with other characters. Once Strether realizes the benefits of truly living life, he begins to lecture such characters as little Bilham about enjoying their youth. In Gloriani’s garden, at the end of the first part of the novel, Strether corners little Bilham and tells him, with earnest optimism, to live life to the fullest. Strether believes he has missed his opportunity to experience all of what life has to offer, and he wants his young friends to learn from his mistakes. Nevertheless, Strether fails to convince Chad to stay in Europe with Madame de Vionnet. He blames Chad’s lack of imagination for his desire to return to the United States and take over the family business. Ultimately, Strether leaves Europe as well, having decided that life has in fact passed him by.


When it comes to literary studies, the discovery of thematic binary oppositions within literary texts is one of the central reading and interpretive strategies. The thematic significance of the whole text can be seen through the help of binaries (Selden, 1989). In the reading process of the novel The Ambassadors by Henry James, it is common for the reader to think in binary terms, spot fundamental binary oppositions, integrate them to form a framework, and decipher the meaning of the text suggested by such a structural system. This helps the reader to dig deeper in the novel through considering the different underpinnings of the text brought by the different binaries, not to mention the reversal of hierarchy of such binary patterns.


Carl Gustav Jung, Analytical Psychology: Its Theory and Practice (The Tavistock Lectures), (Ark Paperbacks), 1990

Guerrin, Wilfred,, A Handbook of Critical Approaxhes to Literature, 5th Edition, Oxford University Press, 2005

Jacques Derrida, Afterword: Toward An Ethic of Discussion, Limited Inc., 1991

James, Henry, The Ambassadors, Barnes & Noble Books, Inc., New York, USA, 2007.

Selden, Raman. Practising Theory and Reading Literature. Lexington: The University Press of Kentucky, 1989.

Webster, Merriam, English Dictionary, Chambers Harrap Publishers, Ltd. 2001

Russian Formalism in Emily Dickinson’s ‘The Soul Selects Her Own Society’

The soul selects her own society,
Then shuts the door;
On her divine majority
Obtrude no more.

Unmoved, she notes the chariot’s pausing
At her low gate;
Unmoved, an emperor is kneeling
Upon her mat.

I’ve known her from an ample nation
Choose one;
Then close the valves of her attention
Like stone.


The first feature that any reader notices about Emily Dickinson’s poetry is the uniqueness of its style and the surface oddities of her syntax and punctuation. Because of these features, and because of the fact that they make her a frequently difficult and at times an obscure writer, much of the critics on her work has taken a formalist approach, seeking to explicate the meanings of her texts, as well as to analyze the ways in which her stylistic strategies contain and communicate those meanings. Recent critics have also been interested in Dickinson’s own arrangement of her poems into separate groupings or “fascicles,” seeking to discover the connections that she presumably perceived among the poems in each group. (Martin, 2002)

Form and Style

Emily Dickinson’s “The Soul Selects Her Own Society” is a revealing poem describing the process of emotional compartmentalization. This personification driven poem uses the actions of the soul as its primary way to illustrate how the human selects its loved ones and emotionally disconnects itself from other people who are of lesser importance. Emily Dickinson allows the audience to imagine the poem using precise vocabulary and establishing a solitary mood.

In “The Soul Selects Her Own Society” the speaker uses the soul to explain her current circumstances. The soul is personified as something that selects its own society, which means the soul chooses its companions in life and mentally blocks out those who are not held as dearly to the heart. This is referenced in “Then shuts the door;” The soul is then approached by a chariot that is supposed to win over the soul because of its higher position in society. It is clear Emily Dickinson wants to illustrate that the soul cannot be obtained through social status or wealth. The emperor is kneeled before the speaker but remains unmoved. In the final paragraph the audience observes that the soul makes one choice rather than the aforementioned choice of choosing lives companions.

Emily Dickinson’s “The Soul Selects Her Own Society” is a twelve-line poem composed of three stanzas. The poem does not emphasize a rhyme scheme in the slightest and is considered a free-verse poem. The poem is iambic trimeter in form and has a somewhat episodic structure. The poem lacks flow but the breaks after each line add a dramatic effect to the poem and allows the mind to absorb what the speaker is attempting to get across.

With that being said, it is the simplicity of the poem along with its application to everyday life that makes “The Soul Selects Her Own Society” a compelling read. It is through personification that the author establishes her point that the soul selects her own society and supports this point by using a real life example and what she feels defines the soul. Emily Dickinson does a great job of describing how the soul goes about excluding some from its life while soul searching for the ultimate soul mate.


“The familiar act of flogging is made unfamiliar both by the description and by the proposal to change its form without changing its nature….Tolstoy uses this technique of ‘defamiliarization’ constantly….it is the horse’s point of view…that makes the content of the story seem unfamiliar.”

The quote above by Shklovsky discusses the literary theory of Russian Formalism, and the specific technique popular in Russian Formalism, known as “defamiliarization”. “Defamiliarization” seeks to change the perspective or point of view, thereby changing how we see an object. Shklovsky describes an example of “defamiliarization” written by Leo Tolstoy, who changed how we understood flogging by writing in the point of view of a horse. As his readers are human beings, we are forced by Tolstoy to look at the action differently. The nature of the action, like Shklovsky writes, does not change, but the portrayal does (Shklovsky, 1965).

Emily Dickinson does something very similar in her poem, “The Soul selects her own Society”. The poem, I believe, is about moving on, showing a person growing up and discovering her own divine truths. She “shuts the Door” on the popular beliefs of her time, and is no longer among those who hold them – indeed, she is “Present no more”. I feel as though Dickinson is demonstrating the act of the self “defamiliarizing” itself from the society in an unusual way – through the perspective of the soul. Dickinson chooses language, which personifies the soul, as if it were acting instead of the human. The soul is who “selects her own Society” and then “shuts the Door”, rather than the human. Because of this choice of language and different point of view, Dickinson is exhibiting “defamiliarization” in her poem.


Compared to her other poem, “I’m Nobody! Who are you?” which takes a playful tone to the idea of reclusiveness and privacy, the tone of “The Soul selects her own Society” is quieter, grander, and more ominous. The idea that “The Soul selects her own Society” (that people choose a few companions who matter to them and exclude everyone else from their inner consciousness) conjures up images of a solemn ceremony with the ritual closing of the door, the chariots, the emperor, and the ponderous Valves of the Soul’s attention. (Martin, 2002)

Essentially, the middle stanza functions to emphasize the Soul’s stonily uncompromising attitude toward anyone trying to enter into her Society once the metaphorical door is shut—even chariots, even an emperor, cannot persuade her. The third stanza then illustrates the severity of the Soul’s exclusiveness—even from “an ample nation” of people, she easily settles on one single person to include, summarily and unhesitatingly locking out everyone else. The concluding stanza, with its emphasis on the “One” who is chosen, gives “The Soul selects her own Society” the feel of a tragic love poem, although we need not reduce our understanding of the poem to see its theme as merely romantic. The poem is an excellent example of Dickinson’s tightly focused skills with metaphor and imagery; cycling through her regal list of door, divine Majority, chariots, emperor, mat, ample nation, and stony valves of attention, Dickinson continually surprises the reader with her vivid and unexpected series of images, each of which furthers the somber mood of the poem.

Martin, Wendy, The Cambridge Companion to Emily Dickinson, Cambridge University Press, 2002
Scklovsky, Victor, Russian Formalist Criticism: Four Essays, University of Nebraska Press, 1965

Post-Colonial Africa in Chinua Achebe’s “Things Fall Apart”

In Things Fall Apart, Chinua Achebe uses his vivid imagery and symbolism as a guide to portray a postcolonial African society. Post Colonialism is the social, political, economic, and cultural practices, which arise in response and resistance to colonialism. In some cases of the postcolonial theory, resistance became a major concept. Resistance in many colonized countries leads to the new ideas of “human freedom”. This independent ideology had never been an issue before. Many cultures became a hybrid, an integration of cultural signs and practices from the colonizing and the colonized countries. Postcolonial literature is often self-consciously a literature of otherness and resistance, and is written out of the specific local experience.

To illustrate the chaos when the African system collapses due to the rise of the British Empire in Nigeria, Achebe opens his novel revealing the protagonist in the novel Okonkwo. He is a young, wealthy and respected warrior who is a prominent man of the Igbo society. His father, Unoka, was a poor man and a “failure” in the minds of Okonkwo and the fellow villagers. This substantial fact led to Okonkwo’s striving to never become like his father. To achieve this, he ruled his household with fear and saw femininity as weakness. These drastic traits distinguished him so differently from his father, that he believed he had achieved masculinity. At a meeting of clansman, it is decided that Okonkwo will travel to Mbano, to make an offer of peace to prevent the outbreak of war. He chooses to receive a fifteen-year-old boy named Ikemefuna, onto his household. As time passes, Ikemefuna builds relationships with family members and eventually comes to call Okonkwo, “father.” Later, Okonkwo is informed that the Oracle of the Hills has decreed the death of Ikemefuna. This sends Okonkwo in a deep depression, beginning his downward spiral of flaws. At the announcement of the death of an elder tribesman, whom was a great warrior, Okonkwo accidentally fires his gun resulting in the death of Ezedue’s sixteen-year-old son. By this abominable act, Okonkwo is forced to exile and is stripped of his titles he has worked so vigorously for. After his seven years in exile, he returns to Umuofia in hopes to salvage his superior status. Upon his arrival, he is surprised when he finds that strange, new people have inhabited the area and have began to express their ideas upon the villagers. The converts to this new way (Christianity) increase, and soon came to include Okonkwo’s own son, Nwoye. These events spark a further depression in Okonkwo as he realizes his society is falling apart and all the achievements he has worked for have diminished to nothing. This forces him to commit suicide by hanging himself on a tree.

Achebe transforms the language throughout the novel to, in turn, distinguish between his writings, from other English novels. All through the novel, Achebe keeps a sense of Nigerian tradition by translating Ibo proverbs into English words and connects them throughout his writings. Achebe deliberately introduces the rhythms, speech patterns, idioms and other verbal nuances of Ibo to give readers a sense of understanding behind African’s background and culture. He uses the language through the novel to describe the relationship between the society, the individual and the destruction of their culture. In the novel Achebe provides an example of the differences between African languages. The villagers of Umuofia make fun of the translator for Mr. Brown, because the language in which he uses is slightly different from their native tongue. This is a very strong postcolonial way of reversing the hierarchy from the colonizers being the privileged one, to the colonized; through the way language was used and regarded.

The struggle between change and tradition is also seen through the novel. The reality of the change affects different characters in different ways. As seen throughout the novel, Okonkwo resists the new political and religious changes once returning from exile. In turn some of Okonkwo’s resistance to the changes are due to his social status among the clan.

Things Fall Apart is indeed a classic study of cross-cultural misunderstanding and the consequences to the rest of humanity, when a belligerent culture or civilization, out of sheer arrogance and ethnocentrism, takes it upon itself to invade another culture, another civilization. The government of Umuofia is not made up of kings or chiefs but is a highly democratic and respected government. This in turn is something that the outsiders, in this case the British Empire, do not seem to see. The British culture calls for a leader among the people or an anarchy and they insist on influencing that upon the African culture. One of the main reasons for such a cultural clash is the lack of social interaction and understanding between the two cultures. In this case the British culture does not speak the same language as the Nigerian people in the novel. They have different religions and ideas. At the end of the novel, this misunderstanding between them did not in fact end, it continued on because we see that by the history itself it was the colonizers who wrote the history of that area. Achebe portrays the Nigerian society, especially the Ibo society before colonization by the white man.

In conclusion, Achebe extraordinarily portrays the impact of a European society on the way of life in an Eastern Nigerian village and through his use of language and cultural perspectives. He successfully uses his vivid imagery and symbolism as a guide throughout the novel to portray the postcolonial African Society.

Post-Independent Indonesia in “The Fugitive” by P.A.Toer

Pramoedya Ananta Toer’s The Fugitive is concerned with examining Indonesia’s struggle for independence, the impact of Dutch colonialism and Japanese occupation, and the author’s frustration and disillusionment with post- independent Indonesia. The story is set in the days of World War II, which depicts the repercussions of political dissent. Hardo and two of his compatriots, Dipo and Karmin, had previously served as platoon commanders in the Indonesian Volunteer Army, which was aligned with Japanese forces during the war. The three men, seeking independence for their country, plan a rebellion against the Japanese, but Karmin withdraws his support at the last minute, jeopardizing the lives of the other insurgents.

Hardo’s first encounter with his future father-in-law is positively operatic, resembling a duet between wooden characters, their dueling voices swirling around almost like a canon. “Come to the house,” the traitorous father-in-law says, echoing the invitation more than fifteen times, offering Hardo, disguised as a beggar, a variety of enticements, each of which he refuses. In the second encounter, with his own father, the operatic style dies, more communication takes place, and a narrative emerges. The third section, a meeting with co-conspirator Dipo, several others involved in the rebellion, Japanese officers, and the father- in-law is a fully developed theatrical scene, tying together the narrative and themes through dialogue.

Hardo’s father might be pretending that he doesn’t know his son by asking almost ten times “Are you my son? I don’t know you.” This can be a way so as the authorities will not discover their relationship as father and son. Hardo also renounces being the fiancé of the girl and the son of the father, which is a psychological effect of the war. In the course of running away, he discovered himself and finds “real freedom”.

The use of the language is also noticeable in the whole novel. There are some words coined in the novel, which is obviously Indonesian in nature, but the problem is, there are no English translations to some of them. This can create an attitude of being lost while reading the text. In this way, the writer can confuse the reader about the text, which is somehow common to other postcolonial writings the Latin American literature. This can be intended so that the colonizers can have no way of fully understanding the literature of the one they colonized. It can also reflect the author’s confidence in using the language as a better one than the colonizer’s language.

Published in Indonesia in 1950, this novel by Toer depicts a postcolonial Indonesian society. Hardo, and two soldier friends had aided the Japanese in ousting the Dutch colonials who had ruled the country for years, their ultimate goal being the independence of the country. After becoming disillusioned by the Japanese, they had attempted a coup, only to have it fail because of betrayal by one of the men. The novel focuses on Hardo, running for his life as a fugitive, which shows the hardships and pains of a person in prison from society’s cruelty – war. But Hardo’s running has led him to a continuous search for his own identity.

A Post-Colonial look at “The Farming of Bones” by Edwidge Danticat

The Farming of Bones by Edwidge Danticat is based on the events surrounding the brutal slaughtering and massacre of Haitians in the Dominican Republic during the rule of Rafael Trujillo in 1937. The novel tells the story of how Haitians migrate to the Dominican Republic to escape poverty and to work as laborers in the sugarcane fields, an experience which constructs their social identity. They are alienated and devalued in their native society because of their poor economical condition. They do not have enough opportunity in Haiti to avail even the common means of life. That is why they migrate to the Dominican Republic crossing the boundary that symbolically makes them nothing but ‘other’ and ‘inferior’.

The novel has a lot to say on the subject of identity construction. It deals with the embodiment of pain and pleasure, past and present, and dream and reality of an individual who experiences the complexities of her social and national identity in a post-colonial society.

The narrative of the novel presents an analytical reflection of the character Amabelle who experiences the attacks and devastating effects of massacre longing for her self and identity. At the border between Haiti and the Dominican Republic, Danticat invites her readers to explore the intersections of Ambelle’s trauma, who undergoes a lot of toils and turmoil to construct her identity. The post-colonial condition is depicted in this novel by means of the examination of issues raised by the characters’ crossing and re-crossing of national, which discusses some issues surrounding the dynamic connections between identity and boundary construction in post-colonial context.

Danticat presents the nature of Amabelle’s post-colonial identity by showing her diverse position as a settler, maid-servant, woman and beloved; also by showing how location or displacement limits Amabelle’s understanding of identity. Her painful description and her position as a traumatized survivor epitomizes the homeless and stateless condition of many Haitians. Amabelle says, “To them we are always foreigners”.

Amabelle imagines herself as ‘Other’ as she does not belong anywhere in terms of her national identity In times of trouble and upheaval there is a strong tendency for an individual to seek secured place where he/she can experience her root. Though she is by birth Haitian, she does not possess any official document to prove it. Amabelle states:
!“I wondered who had our house now and if I could still claim the land is my inheritance. I had no papers to show, but it was probably recorded some place that the land was once my father’s and mother’s and—even I hadn’t been there for a long time—was still my birth right”.
Here we see the role of authority, which constructs individuals’ national identity. In the midst of a war-ravaged situation, she experiences a crucial complexity about her identity and need to represent herself, which is quite common in every post-colonial society.


Everyone wants to be great but only few would stay late and practice.

I was writing this while my friend is busy playing guitar at 3am… practicing his skills, not for an expected performance but for whenever season calls for it.

It has always been the secret of the few humble and seemingly “seasoned” ones: diligence and hardwork.

Some people might be just gifted, and I admire them for being such. But that doesn’t mean we cannot be at par with them. In fact, someone can start worse but can, along the way, become even better than the gifted. How? Again, diligence and hard work.

Diligence means persevering determination to perform a task. It keeps one focused and motivated. While everyone else is done, a diligent person pushes through and adds more effort.

I wish I was the most intelligent person in the class when I was younger. But I wasn’t. And I would always envy those who are bookish and teacher’s favorite, simply because they are admirably intelligent in my eyes… But one thing it has taught me is to be diligent. Because I don’t have the braincells of a nerd, I have to double effort. I have to study more. I have to stay late and wake up early. I have to do the hard work. I have built that discipline, which led me to where I am now… still studying. Still pushing through.

In any discipline, the diligent can always surpass the gifted. The key is hardwork.

Now, imagine the potential of being already gifted, and still wants to improve? That is absolutely amazing!

God has given each one of us gifts of skills and talents. And in the same way, God has given us the grace to continue to improve and hone it. The downfall of a person is when he pridefully just relly on gift, without the desire to take care of it and to bring it to the level of excellence.

May we take time to acknowledge the gift God has deposited in us, and may we take care of it, grow it, hone it, and honor the Lord through it.

Everyday faithfulness has greater impact than few big shots.

Confession of a 3rd Year High School Student Who Wants to Change the Philippines.

It was around 3rd year high school when I realized I wanted to be an educator, just like my parents. My dad and mom are both serving as public high school teachers, trying to meet ends and carry on the challenge of raising 6 boys with the salary of, well, a public school teacher.

My dad is a frustrated lawyer. This is just my way of saying he did not have the opportunity to study law, which is his dream; and end up being a history major at Arellano University, of which is by his own ‘diskarte.’ He is a self-made man. He told us of his story on how he managed to work at a young age, selling newspapers and doing side jobs, just to be able to study in college. He was completing his Masters degree when he decided to focus on raising us and continue serving in the Department of Education as a teacher.

My mom’s family is our opposite. They were 4 girls raised, for the most part, by her mother (my lola) alone. She finished her college degree in sociology at the University of the East. She decided to be a social science teacher in a public school in Malabon City, where their love story started, and until now, is still being written. Because of that, fast forward today, 6 Paras boys… well, men now, are going through life.

Among us, I (number 5) and my brother, Kuya Remus (number 4) followed the footsteps of our parents, molding the minds of the next generation.

Prior to meeting my English teacher in 3rd year high school, I wanted to be an Actor. (Don’t judge me… I really thought of being one to influence this nation hehehe). But it was in that specific English class during 3rd year, when Miss Riva (She already passed away due to cancer… or maybe the lack of financial support from… anyway…). I don’t exactly remember what our specific literature lesson was that time but on the motivation part of the class (you, teachers, know what I’m talking about), she asked us to be silent, listen to a song, and get the message. And so it plays… “What is life to offer me when I grow old… what’s there beyond sleep, eat work… (goes on… goes on…) for in this cycle that we called life, we are the ones who are next in line…

My world stopped for a moment. For a short time, the happy-go-lucky, loud, arrogant me started to think… “What do I really want to do in my life?” Then I realized I wanted to inspire people… I wanted to be, like my parents, in their own way, serve people beyond what they are supposed to give. I wanted to change this nation.” Miss Riva has made an impact in my life that I decided to be, just like her, a literature teacher.

I entered college, few years after, in The Philippine Normal University, wanting to change this nation through education. It was during 1st year college in PNU when someone introduced Christ to me. The dream of wanting to be a teacher to serve progressed to desiring to be the next Department of Education Secretary of the Philippines. I learned that in Christ, I can dream bigger and I can serve in a bigger capacity. I learned that if I want to change this nation, the key is to reach the next generation for Christ. To allow them to see their God-given purpose in life. To raise a generation of young people who will be nation-builders and world-changers.

After college, I made a decision to serve as a full-time campus missionary, which initially was a decision to give my first fruits of labor to the Lord for a short season, which has not ended yet. But along the way, I’m still preparing for something big in the future. Pursuing graduate school and investing on skills and trainings might look aimless for others, but I just know in my heart that someday, the Lord will open that door to me… The one I set aside for a season… The public office of the department of education… or maybe more than that, who knows. But wherever God would call me, I will make sure that I will come prepared. I want to be the best, and to give my best, in whatever calling God has for me.

Looking back… I was sitting on that rusty public school armchair, listening to that song and thinking of what I want to do with my life… until today… one thing is still burning in my heart… I want to change this nation! But one thing is certain: This nation will surely change! God is in the business of transforming this nation. So you might as well join God’s agenda of changing The Philippines to a nation that honors Him, and where righteousness prevails.

Thank you, teachers! Your impact is way beyond what your lesson plan and sleepless nights can dare imagine.

MMFF 2015 Review

It’s Metro manila Film Festival season again. It’s the time of the year when Christmas and New Year celebration are made colorful by Filipino movies in major cinemas in the Philippines. While many would give negative comments on the quality of movies our industry can offer, It is still a part of our holiday tradition during December. Many would still look forward and watch with their families and friends.

This year, we have seen the usual comedy, romantic, horror and drama, among many. What’s new are the line up of actors, although some are still familiar big names.

Topping the gross are My Bebe Love and Beauty and the Bestie. The first one features the sensational AlDub (which I suppose is the main reason why it went as an explosion). Good part of the story is how it caters to family. It is wholesome and has minimal to zero explicit language, action or material shown. It is good for family viewing, even with kids around. A better improvement would be the barrage of advertisement, both deliberate and subtly shown. Although this would be the condition of Filipino Film fest entries due to the lack of budget (So we need to support our own to level up the quality and not to depend much on ads). image

On the other hand, Beauty and the Bestie is also a nice comedy movie, featuring Vice Ganda, Coco Martin and the popular JaDine (James Reid and Nadine Lustre). This is a story of two friends trying to reconcile with one another through an interesting separate individual adventures, but ending up helping each other. Good side of the movie is the strong family and friendship values. It is also a “Good Vibes” kinda one! If you are expecting a logically cohesive plot, this is not for you. But if you just want to enjoy and laugh the day out, this can be recommended. However, you need to be watchful of foul language, sarcasm and the typical “Voce Ganda” punch lines (You know what I mean) Kids might not be ready to see such. There are also some “skin” shown.

Moving forward, here’s my TOP 3.
(Disclaimers: This is review by a Literature major and an avid movie goer, not a professionally trained movie critic. This is also carefully written as to not SPOIL the story, as if you guys are really interested LOLs)

#3 – All You Need is Pag-ibig
Story of different people finding their ultimate connection in LOVE. The movie is not just about romantic love but also, as the intro narrator said, “Different Kinds of Love.” It also highlights the value of loving your family, Father-Daughter reconciliation, High School reunion, and helping others find their way to love.

😁 The language is plain and clean (with minimal foul words only, mostly on expressions).
😁 Shows strong family values.
😁 Cleaner fun
😁 Realistic plot (Not far from what typical Filipinos are going through)


😭 Dereck’s quick show of skin. (Not appropriate for Kids)
😭 Some sexual undertone.
😭 Minimal Foul language (Cursing)
😭 Advertisement. Thank you, SM Malls, for being the star LOLs

Overall, It’s my 3rd best one this year. With all due respect to the 2 Top Grossers, this is a better story, casting, and setting than those. While the comedy the other 2 offer is as “expected” as that of a usual yearly entry, this one is better. It’s a mix of big cast (I would say the most number of BIG artists combined) and although individually they are already well read by people, It brings something new when they are combined. Remember: *clap clap clap* Powerful!!!

#2 – Honor Thy Father

This one is made differently. While most MMFF entries would give you a “Pinoy Film” effect (You’ll get one if you see tons and tons of Tagalog Movies), this one is kinda different. It is internationally ready and, just like those indie-films-made-big-internationally, this one is one of the best so far (Of which my 1st is Heneral Luna)
The title “Honor thy Father” is a biblical allusion of the 5th Commandment (Honor your Father and Mother – Exodus 20). It depicts the use and abuse of religion, and how one can fall to religious fanaticism in the name of “the Father.” It is also because of the father of the wife of the protagonist that made them struggle, and the rest of the story is about how they tried to survive from that. It also shows the “Coming to Age” of the Protagonist, trying to get the honor he deserve as the Father (and head of the family), which got lost when he previously disobeyed his father (now that’s another father), and live separately from his family in Bontoc.


😁 Very interesting plot twist. Not the typical predictable plot
😁 Cinematography is superb. It’s internationally ready, like what I’ve said.
😁 John Lloyd Cruz. (What else can you say? LOLs) He’s consistently good on heavy drama.
😁 Gives you the feeling of wanting to be involved and change the story. It means it is effective.
😁 Courageously bannered some of the blindspots of our nation.

😭 Morbid. Not for kids.
😭 Too many cursing and foul words.
😭 Violence.
😭 Might be sensitive for “religious” people.

Overall, We heard of the controversies this movie faced, including being disqualified for best picture and some political assaults, not to mention religious assaults from some denomination). While I agree with the quality of this movie, I also want to respect the decisions of those who screened it. Some strong evidences of violation were shown, including being played in different cinema and sent as entries prior to MMFF. I Placed it as my 2nd (only) not because of those controversies but for some other reasons, which I will partially explain below on my #1 spot.

#1 – Walang Forever

The story of a writer (Played by Jennylyn Mercado), finding her way to inspiration again as she reclaims her title as the ‘most acclaimed popular movie writer’ parallel to significant events in her life, which mainly is affected by her “forever” – played by Jericho Rosales. Her movie scripts are marked by their highlights as a couple, which was greatly challenged because of a sudden twist in their love affair. Towards the end, a shocking revelation (Not the typical “May ibang babae” or “It’s not you, it’s me” kind of twist) will make audience cry. It’s a bitter sweet story. In as much as I want to spoil it, I respect those who are still planning to watch.

😁 Very realistic story. It can be happening to some people you know, who are afraid to talk about it.
😁 Shift and flow of the story. The plot is well arranged. The conflict is well laid down. The choice of setting is realistic.
😁 Well written script. Daming quotables as well =)
😁 Combination of reality and documentary feels. (see what I mean when you watch the movie)
😁 The acting is amazing. While some of the entries are straight drama or comedy, this one shows strong versatility in changing roles. At one point you are laughing heavily, and on a split second you will burst into tears. It is probably the reason why both lead stars got the Best Actor/Actress respectively. I appreciate other big names in the industry opposite them, but most of them (although very good) show only one side of acting. These two are very mature and promising in what they have shown. And of course, the signature Jericho Rosales tears!!!


😭 Bed scene and other (minimal) sexual undertone.
😭 Foul words.
😭 They started in “Campus Ligawan” Might not show good values for students, but definitely depicts what really is happening in the campuses. (Don’t worry, It’s just a very quick scene)

Overall, It is my number one, heavily because of how the actors move the story, and the audience for that matter. The twist and turn of events, the unpredictable ending, the puzzle it will give you, trying to connect every event and having a moment of “AAAHHH THAT’S WHY!!!” towards the end of the movie. It also kinda redeem the value of love for one another. What you can do because you love the other person. It is Comedy, Romantic, Drama and Suspense (Not the horror kind of suspense, but the anticipation on the turn of events) in one.

What else can I say? Filipino movies are getting better and better. Hopefully you will consider supporting it. We will only go to the level we desire if we support it, and not just compare and complain.
Mabuhay ang Peliculang Filipino!

Yes, I received Christ… So what’s Next?

The After Altar Call Journey.

Last weekend was a blast. We started our new preaching series titled “Live Free” all over Victory Metro Manila Youth Services. In our local youth services in Victory Malate, we’ve seen a lot of students gave their lives to the Lord, clearly not because of peer pressure, but because of a challenge to respond to the finished work of Jesus on the Cross. A challenge, in all our 3 youth services, was given, and yet students were asked to not respond if they are not serious about it, or if it’s not clear to them… still a lot stood up, raised their hands and walked in front to receive Jesus as personal Lord and Savior.



You might be one of those who did that. And your are asking, “So, what’s next?”

It is always refreshing to see students respond to the challenge that will forever change their lives. I did that 11 years ago. Gave my life to Christ, and my life was never the same again. Yes, because of the grace of God that is still at work in my life until today. But it wasn’t as easy as receiving the Lord and living a perfect life. No one does. Nobody will. So, how did I, and several others, follow through that decision to receive the gift of salvation?


First thing is to own a Bible and start a lifestyle of devotion. This might be a heavy concept for you, but it simply means having a personal time reading and meditating on the Word of God, and praying. Prayer doesn’t have to be memorized nor formal. It is simply talking to God like that of talking to a friend. Since we were reconciled to God through Jesus, we can now approach Him with the confidence like that of someone with a close relationship with Him. In any relationship, communication matters a lot. Same is true with our new-found relationship with the Lord. We will develop healthy communication through reading the Bible and Prayer.



Next, is to make sure you are part of a smaller “community” of believers who can help you walk through the “basics” of the the faith you receive. In our local church, we call this “Victory Groups.” This is an environment where we hear the Word of God and have people stand with us in prayers, learn from one another’s experiences and walk with God, develop healthy Biblical relationships, ask questions about the Christian Life, and get impartations on how to walk this relationship with God. We also have a personal follow up called “One to One.” This is a seven-lesson personal follow-up and discipleship that explains the basic, yet, essential teachings on Christianity. This is a one lesson per week coffee moment, mostly lasting between 30 minutes to an hour (depends on the “kwentuhan” part), which also gives you a chance to ask questions you would not ask on a bigger setting like Victory Groups.


Also, it is important to still attend the worship service and learn and be inspired from the preaching of the Word of God. Bringing your friends and classmates will not be of harm =)
We are excited to see you again and share lives together. I personally pray that you will continue to grow in the Lord and live a life of freedom.


The State of the Philippines in “The State of War” by Rosca

Rosca’s novel State of War (1988) recreates the diversity of Philippine culture as they look back at our country’s history, particularly during the Martial Law, highlighting personal contingencies and cultural choices. As the term postcolonial “does not imply an automatic, nor a seamless and unchanging process of resistance, but a series of linkages and articulations” (Ashcroft) this writer’s primary focus — the two colonial experiences undergone by the Filipinos, the political upheavals that took place during the Marcos dictatorship, and the country’s history of migration to the West — converts the telling of Philippine history and culture into a resource for fictionally constructing a discourse of nationalism.

Post-Colonial Influences in Rosca’s Festival

Throughout the more than seven thousand one hundred islands comprising the Philippine, hundreds of festivals are celebrated annually. They dramatize the conflicting histories, influences, and myths that have shaped our post-colonial identity as Filipinos: Spanish Catholicism and indigenous religions combined. The rhythms of tribal drums and American pop music assert post- colonial influences; and street spectacles showcase cultural icons and symbols. Engaging nearly all aspects of Filipino cultural identity from religion to language, folklore to politics, these festivals are all post-colonial in nature.

Rosca’s festival in the novel establishes the novel’s connection to Filipino tradition and identity. Just like the novel as a whole, Rosca’s festival is a celebration born of rebellion and bequeathed through language and memory. It is the locus where anything is possible-where peasant farmers transform into ancient warriors in tribal costumes, guerilla fighters feast and dance with enemy soldiers while transvestites parade through the streets with sawed-off shotguns under their skirts.

The festival’s unpredictable, multifarious topography reflects the problematical nature of identity in the Philippines, where there is always a conflict between the social orientation of the bedrock culture and the fragmenting effect of colonialism.

The segments of the novel set in the present focus on Eliza Hansen and Anna Villaverde, the “laughing princess and the princess who could not laugh”, and on Adrian Banyaga, the son of a wealthy landowner who is their friend and lover. By chronicling the imaginary but emblematic histories of her protagonists, Rosca envisions a matrix of communal identity founded on (but not limited to) shared experience. Familial and colonial relations, the reader discovers, link Eliza, Anna, and Adrian’s histories. The emphasis here is on continuity and reconciliation, as the novel self-consciously contributes to an ongoing dialogue among voices and influences past and present, pre-colonial and postcolonial.

In the novel’s final moments, Anna’s pregnancy suggests the prospects of cultural renewal: Anna’s child, “nurtured by the archipelago’s legends,” will become “a great storyteller”. The text’s last words, “Time passes,” carry the promise of another day, another story. They hold the assurance that long after this festival, others will reenact “stories of love, of abuse, of kindness, of betrayal. But of kindness above all, which enabled them to survive, which in turn allowed the archipelago to keep on dreaming its history”.