Who has it better than us? NOBODY!!!
Who has it better than us? NOBODY!!!
“The Silence” from The Elephant Vanishes is one of Haruki Murakami’s more realistic short stories. By using a serious and believable scenario, Murakami uses “The Silence” to warn of the dangers of people that are followers and refuse to think for themselves. The main character is a young man named Ozawa who is accused of bullying a classmate named Matsumoto to the point in which he killed himself. Ozawa struggles with the fact that he was not the cause of his classmate’s death yet the entire school believes he is responsible due to the fact he had hit another classmate named Aoki when they were much younger. By the end of the story, Ozawa no longer blames Aoki for spreading the rumor of him bullying Matsumoto but rather blames everyone for so easily believing the lie.
The story begins with Ozawa being asked by a co-worker whether or not he had ever “punched a guy out in an argument.” This leads to Ozawa telling his co-worker an elaborate story in which he defends the only time he had ever hit somebody. Ozawa said, “To be honest, I did hit someone. Once. I was in eighth grade…And the thing is, I didn’t even mean to throw a punch. I just got mad, and my hand flew out ahead of me. I couldn’t stop it.”(pgs. 293-294) Ozawa goes on to tell his co-worker that from then on he and Aoki never spoke a word to each other again, even though he never liked him to begin with. This scenario is very believable as young boys get in fights quite often. This is strange for Murakami’s work yet had he used a surreal scenario such as an elephant making factory, the story wouldn’t be as effective.
Ozawa’s story escalates when he enters his final year of senior high when Matsumoto killed himself. He left a letter behind saying nothing other than the he didn’t wanted to go to school anymore. Ozawa felt sorry for Matsumoto but didn’t think there would be any personal implications. However, he was totally wrong as he found that things were very different after returning from summer vacation. Ozawa said, “After summer vacation ended and school started up again, I noticed something strange in the air. My classmates seemed to be keeping their distance. I’d ask somebody about something and only get these cold, curt replies.”(pg300) Ozawa was confused because he had never been asked by any of his classmates if he had ever bullied Matsumoto, yet they were assuming he did. This was all the doing of Aoki as he was finally getting his revenge from their fight when they were in the eighth grade.
Ozawa escapes any legal ramifications and finishes his final year in silence. He was happy to achieve graduation however he was forever hurt by the actions of his classmates. Originally he was upset at Aoki for being petty enough to spread such a serious rumor. However, Ozawa comes to the realization that the real problem and the real “monster” are the people like his classmates that will believe anything they hear without thinking for themselves. Ozawa states, “No, what really scares me is how easily, how uncritically, people will believe crap that slime like Aoki deal out….They think nothing of hurting someone, senselessly, permanently. They don’t take any responsibility for their actions. Them They’re the real monsters. They’re the ones I have nightmares about.”(pg.306) One person can start a rumor, but it takes a group to spread it.
In the novel Woman at Point Zero, by Nawal El Saadawi, Firdaus unveils the truths behind how Egyptian woman are treated by men. By telling her life story of living in Egypt, it becomes unbelievably obvious as to how locked up and caged the women are to the inferior males.
Firdaus lived with…
In the novel Woman at Point Zero by Nawal El Saadawi, the character Firdaus goes through many personal “rebirths”, however it is not until she kills her pimp that she is finally reborn as a new person. Firdaus was only nineteen years old when she ran away from her uncle’s house to escape a pre-arranged marriage with Sheikh Mahmoud. This was the first time Firdaus had been alone in public with no particular destination or motive in mind. This was a major deal for Firdaus because she could now see a world that had never been visible to her before. Firdaus states, “A new world was opening up in front of my eyes, a world which for me had not existed before. Maybe it had always been there, always existed, but I had never seen it, never realized it had been there all the time.”(pg.42) Firdaus could have seized this opportunity to start a new life, but instead she got scared at nightfall and returned to her uncle’s house where she married Sheikh against her will.
After abandoning her marriage with Sheikh, Firdaus befriended a lady by the name of Sharifa Salah el Dine. Firdaus was immediately taken back by how freely Sharifa lived and instantly began admiring her. Sharifa recognized the hardships that faced her in a cruel world and was willing to fight back. Firdaus was impressed by the life she had created for herself because she lived on her own in a nice apartment and supported herself financially, not needing to rely on a man. Firdaus says, “Everything around me had this smooth, soft quality about it. I closed my eyes, and abandoned myself to the softness of things. I felt like my body was now like that of a new-born baby, soft and smooth like everything else in the flat.”(pgs. 56-57) This new free environment that Firdaus had been introduced to was making her realize that she could in fact be successful without the help of anyone else. However, what Firdaus failed to realize was that Sharifa was a prostitute and was not free after all. Firdaus quickly became a prostitute for Sharifa in which she was taken advantage of by the one person she truly admired. Firdaus thought she had been re-born into a new world when in fact she was just as oppressed as before.
Firdaus eventually becomes a successful prostitute in which she was able to support herself much like Sharifa. However, a pimp barges into her life and forces her to be his prostitute. Firdaus was now under the control of another man, but this would be the very last time. Firdaus eventually sticks up for herself and strikes her pimp in his face, whereupon her pimp reaches for his knife. Firdaus was able to grab the knife first and she stabbed him multiple times until he was dead. For the first time in her life Firdaus had overcome the oppression in life and gave herself freedom she had long desired for. Firdaus states, “I have triumphed over both life and death because I no longer desire to live, nor do I any longer fear to die. Therefore I am free.”(pg.110) It is ironic that the first time Firdaus feels free is when she commits a crime that will surely end any freedom she ever had, including the right to live. However for Firdaus, the fact she is going to die and enter a world no one on earth knows is freedom enough.
In Woman at Point Zero by Nawal El Saadawi, male dominance and female oppression is a common theme. Firdaus lives in a patriarchal society in which she is constantly treated as a lesser individual because she is a female. Firdaus’ life was depicted at an early age by her father due to the lack of value her put on her life. Firdaus states, “When one of his [her father] female children died, my father would eat his supper, my mother would wash his legs, and then he would go to sleep, just as he did every night. When the child that died was a boy, he would beat my mother, then have his supper and lie down to sleep.” (pg.17)
This quote shows the way women are seen in Firdaus’ society. Her own father puts a higher value on his son’s lives than he does his daughters lives showing the lack of compassion Firdaus had been given her entire life. Her father sees his children as a commodity, not people he needs to care for. Firdaus’ brothers could provide labor to help their father whereas her sisters were seen as a hindrance because one day they would be married off to another family. I chose this quote because it reminds me of the character Nyasha from the novel Nervous Conditions. Firdaus and Nyasha are alike in that their families value them less than their brothers. At some point in their youth both characters question if an oppressed lifestyle is all they have to look forward to in life.