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Explore the conflicts of culture that can be seen in the poems 'Presents from my Aunts in Pakistan' and 'An unknown girl', both by Moniza Alvi

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Introduction

Explore the conflicts of culture that can be seen in the poems 'Presents from my Aunts in Pakistan' and 'An unknown girl', both by Moniza Alvi In both poems 'Presents from my Aunts in Pakistan' and 'An Unknown Girl' by Moniza Alvi, contrasts in cultures are heightened by the perspectives of the respective characters in the poems. In the case of both poems, the characters appear to have an insight into both cultures that they are part of but not sure which one for which they feel a connection. The two cultures explored are that of the western, generally more free and liberal culture, and that of the eastern, Asian part of the world, where freedom is not so openly encouraged and where women or suffer from prejudice from males and are considered to be less worthy. This can be seen in 'Presents from my Aunts in Pakistan', where there are "sweeper-girls", not boys, or just sweepers. Since both characters in the poems are apparently female, there would seem to be more of diversity in cultures for them rather than males. This conflict in cultures can be seen in 'Presents from my Aunt in Pakistan' , when the girl's salwar kameez "didn't impress the schoolfriend", indicating that items that would be seem as valuable and appealing in one culture (the eastern one) ...read more.

Middle

In 'Presents from my Aunts in Pakistan', a "salwar kameez, peacock-blue" was sent to her. The fact that the colour was described as the colour of the Indian national bird suggests that the girl in the poem still relates western articles with eastern adjectives, showing her connection with both cultures. The reference to peacocks is also seen in 'An unknown girl' where "a peacock spreads its lines", and more significantly, "I am clinging to these firm peacock lines". The latter suggests that the woman in poem is trying to cling to her culture through some eventually insignificant "dry brown lines" which she sees as a peacock. She does however, realise this, as in her view, "It will fade in a week", which shows that she knows her link to Indian culture will soon be gone with the lines on her hand. A distancing from Asian culture can be see in 'Present from my Aunts in Pakistan', which clearly outlines the separation the girl in the poem feels from her Asian background and culture. She finds that "each silken-satin top-was alien in the sitting room", indicating that she finds it difficult to be a part of her Asian culture whilst living in a western society. She realises that she could never be as lovely as those clothes", emphasising how she does not fit into the eastern culture and how one culture cannot be lived as the same time as another. ...read more.

Conclusion

However, in 'Presents from my Aunts in Pakistan', there could be an unwanted connection with the eastern culture, as the girl's "costume clung to (her)". In this context, the word 'cling' could be interpreted negatively, which tells us that maybe she does not want to be associated with any other culture apart from the one that she is living in, the western one. Perhaps another sign of the cultural differences which exist between countries in the eastern part of the world and the western part of the world are the aunts from 'Presents from my Aunts in Pakistan' who "requested cardigans from Marks and Spencers", a distinctly British company which is probably held in high regard in Pakistan but would not be considered so in England itself as it is seen as normal, humdrum sort of clothing. The two poems show the divergence of cultures between the two parts of the world. It consists of social differences, along with religious ones that culminate in an immeasurable contrast between the two parts of the world. These contrasts can be seen through the different channels which explore the contrasts, such as clothing and the disparity in tastes and desires. The difficulty of absorbing two cultural influences is also emphasised throughout both poems with a lack of knowledge of the eastern culture as well as a preference for the western one which further stresses that the characters are aware of the need for a firm cultural identity. Bhavin Merchant ...read more.

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