In A Stench of Kerosene I understood that Guleri and Manak loved each other but North Indian cultural traditions made things harder for them. Due to her culture Guleri’s life seems very dull. She does the same things every day of her life. “She counted the days to the harvest”. Shows how counting the days would make time go by and gives her something to look forward to. Guleri is different to Manak because she won’t let things get in her way. She’s more out spoken. She knows what she wants. “Your mother said nothing so why do you stand in my why?” demonstrating her outspoken character in this story. Her character is far different to Manak’s. Manak has a weaker but equally important character. He doesn’t stop his mother from arranging another marriage. He doesn’t speak out like Guleri. He lets Guleri leave with out telling her anything about his second marriage. “Manak wanted to retort, you are a woman; why don’t you cry like one for a change” demonstrates how he truly feels but is too scared to face the matriarch that is his mother. Due to the roles of men and woman in North Indian culture Guleri spent lots of time cleaning the house, feeding the animals and making food for her parents that she and Manak must have rarely seen each other. What can interest the reader is the symbol of his flute as what can be perceived as his undying love for her. When Guleri tells him to take his flute he says “you take it”. This demonstrates his feelings towards her. He’s willing to give her something of his that is so valuable. The Hindu act of marriage was made illegal in 1955 as it was causing young people to commit suicide. Woman would burn themselves if they were divorced or because they were being hurt by their husband and his family. There are many cases like Guleri’s in North India. In A Stench of Kerosene Amrita Pritam never mentions where they are. How I know the story is set in North India is because she uses words found in that region in the world like charpoy, chillum/hookah and dupattas. Also arranged marriages take place in Arab countries as well as India. The story is set in third person so the reader gets to interpret every ones emotions rather than one person’s emotion. The author tells the story as it is. She talks about what they do and their expressions which can let us decide whether how they feel at that moment. The reader gets to see the story in so many different angles. This method of writing gives the reader the chance to become a second writer.
In Veronica the friendship between Veronica and Okeke is to do with how comfortable they are with each other. They don’t squabble or argue but are at peace with each other. They are true friends. “But for all the misery in her own life she never seemed to envy mine” demonstrates how they are casual together. They are best friends. They don’t need to show each other up. Okeke is the type of person to seize life with two hands and not let go. “I had won a scholarship to the university” shows how he grows academically. He wants to see more of the world. His ideas of life compared to veronica are totally opposite. He seizes any good opportunity in life useful to him but Veronica is a fatalist. She waits for things to come her way. This is due to her cultural upbringings. In the story it doesn’t really mention whether being a fatalist is a bad or good thing because that is for the reader to decide. Her culture may have taught her to accept what life gives so she must think it’s a good thing. My culture has not taught me to be a fatalist therefore in my opinion I don’t think it’s a good idea because if we let things come our way and just let it go then we will have nothing to make history with. Veronica’s views on life are just to do what job life gives you and accept everything you are given. In my opinion I see this as giving up and being week but that is how I see fatalism due to what my culture taught me. Veronica’s ideas of the role of man and woman are extremely out dated in English culture. Her beliefs are a man provides the food while the woman cooks, cleans and has children. “Don’t talk foolishness” explains how farfetched she thinks Okeke is when he offers money to take a correspondence course. “I have to go and cook, my father will be home soon” demonstrates her beliefs on women as an object to cook food. It’s a typical female role especially in her culture. She feels there is no need for a woman in a big city. It goes against everything her culture has taught her. What I’ve noticed about this story is although Okeke and Veronica live in the same village they have different cultural views due to their class. Okeke comes from a richer family so he is freer but Veronica comes from a poor family and they have typical ideas in culture which are very out dated. This story tells me that culture varies in class of family. In the story Veronica it doesn’t mention where they are so the reader has to try to get an idea of where in the world this story is set. I believe that the story is set in Nigeria in Africa. This is because the name Okeke is a Nigerian name and also Veronica mentions standard six which is like a qualification used in Africa. On top of that it’s a male dominated society and so is Nigeria. I think the reason why it’s not mentioned is because Adewale Maja-Pearce, which is a Nigerian name, wants the readers to research more on Nigerian culture so they could understand the story more clearly and get a more insightful view on it.
In Country Lovers the relationship between Paulus and Thebedi has really affected their relationship as they realised it was wrong for black and white people to have a relationship during the apartheid. They knew having sexual relations was wrong but they couldn’t control their sexual needs. “He did not tell her about school or town any more. She did not ask questions any longer. He told her each time when they would meet again” which demonstrates how they only wanted a physical relationship and nothing else. They couldn’t even talk to each other any more but they loved having their physical relationship. Their culture has taught them what they are doing is dirty and horrible. “He was a popular boy. He was in the second then the first soccer team” demonstrates although he progress to become educationally better inside he’s becoming morally worse (due to the emphases he may receive from his upbringing in becoming more dignified in order to altar his social prestige) . From this quote I’ve also noticed things only get better for Paulus as he learns to drive, he studies at university, he looks after his fathers farm, he becomes popular at school and he’s in the football team but as for Thebedi things only get worse as she loses her only white friend, she’s forced to lie to her family, she’s forced to get married, she gets pregnant, no one believes her case, the man she thought she trusted betrayed her and she was in a dead end job so while he progresses forward she progressively gets worse. But they obviously can’t control these inexplicable and dark desires they have for each other. Their forbidden relationship has made the physical side, which is the only real side to their relationship, more attractive and luring. The innocence in two, young children became tainted as they became young adults. “The young man Njambulo asked her father for her” demonstrates how traditional Thebedi’s family is, so it would be a shock if they find what she’s been doing. Her culture holds her back from what she wants to do or say. It also demonstrates that black people of South Africa during the apartheid were more traditional then the white people. I believe this is because the white people ruled at the time so the black people were left never to develop their ideas on tradition. They couldn’t change their culture just like the UK has since the early nineteen hundreds where women were seen as to clean the house and look after children where as in now women have the same rights as men. “She was calm; she said she had not see what the white man had did in the house” demonstrates her giving up knowing that the white man will always win. The South African apartheid has taught her that black people are unimportant in the eyes of white people. Also, she refers to Paulus as “the white man” and not her sweet heart any more. This demonstrates how she realised Paulus was just another white mane and to him she was just a black woman. It was as simple as that. I think that Njambulo played a huge role in Country Lovers because he supported Thebedi and he didn’t care whether the baby was his or not. He just wanted to be there for her. He had true feelings for her and the baby. “Out of his farm labourer’s earnings he bought from the Indian store a cellophane-windowed pack containing a pink plastic bath, six napkins, a card of safety pin, a knitted jacket cap and bootees, a dress and a tin of Johnsons baby powder for Thebedi’s baby” which demonstrates how he cared for the baby and how he wanted a good life for her and Thebedi. I also realise that he knows it’s not his baby as the quote says “Thebedi’s baby” and not their baby. His culture has taught him to be a hard working man who needs to provide for his family to stay alive. Even though he wasn’t provided with a good education he still knows the basic rules of survival like how to build a house which is something that can’t be taken away from him. In Country Lovers Nadine Gordimer never mentions where the story is set. But it was obvious as there were white people in the black native people’s land and Thebedi and Paulus’ relationship was hidden which told me that what they were doing was wrong. After some research I discovered the immorality act in South Africa which prevented black and white relationships. Also the white people owned the land and the black people worked on the land for the white people which demonstrated what happened to the black people during the apartheid. The story Country Lovers is written in third person. I think Nadine Gordimer used this method because there are so many different ideas that can be perceived in this story so it enables the reader to analyse the story from so many angles. The reader gets to give an opinion of the character. For example in Veronica Okeke tells the story in first person so he gives his opinion on people but in Country Lovers the story is told in third person so the reader can give his/her own judgment.
In Veronica the attitudes towards education from Okeke were that education was important and needed to succeed in life. Okeke was richer than Veronica so he had a better education. It’s obvious his culture has taught him you need education to succeed. “I had won a scholarship to the university” tells me he pushes himself and values education. He takes things quick and doesn’t let go. The attitudes towards education from Veronica are simply hopeless. She feels it’s not a woman’s place to work due to her culture. “When I have qualified I will send you money to a correspondence course” explains that Okeke knows how Veronica feels about women and work so he offers her money for a correspondence course as it’s thought of as a female role but she still rejects his offer. She thinks life has given her a specific job which is to look after her family. She comes from a small tight-knit community and she has no education. She has really low expectations of herself and hasn’t got a lot of confidence. “Okeke, I won’t live to see tomorrow. Nor do I want to. My husband is dead and my child also. There is nothing left for me in this world” which definitely demonstrates how weak she has become. She thinks if she stays in this world she would have nothing to do. She thinks she was put on the world to look after her family not to go out and accomplish something great. Due to her culture her friendship with Okeke has drifted away because all her life she was taught that her job is to look after people while Okeke was taught to accomplish amazing things. What’s different about the story Veronica is all the characters show that they disagree with their cultural rules through their actions but Veronica accepts everything. She did what she was told until the end of her life where she could be forgotten. She won’t be remembered for something great. She was just a woman who looked after her family. In her point of view she might be happy as she is doing her job just as a doctor does his. Her ideas are a doctor can’t be a house wife but a house wife can’t be a doctor. In my opinion she thinks every one is given a role to play by and once they have done their job there is no point of them being in this world. What I find interesting about this story is it’s in the first person so we as the readers have to try hard and interpret what Okeke feels as he tells the story. We get to explore his emotions and what he thinks Veronica feels. Because Okeke tells us his story we get to see the difference between the city culture and country culture and how it distracted his thoughts on what country life looks life in Nigeria. “I was shocked by what I found. Either I had forgotten about the squalor of village life, or it had worsened during my absence. The place was crawling with disease and every body was living-surviving- in acute poverty” demonstrate how clean city life must be compared to country life. He obviously is in disgust as he uses a lot of negative correlations. This tells me that City culture has made a huge impact on his life.
The attitudes towards marriage and the role of wife in A Stench of Kerosene are so old and out dated. The point I’m making is that women in North India were perceived as objects. I can tell by Guleri’s actions. “She went about her daily chores – fed the cattle, cooked food for her parents in law” demonstrating how bored she must have been of her life. She does the same thing every day. Her daily life is the same as a servant’s life. During the time of Hindu marriages women were seen to do three main jobs which are to cook, clean and carry children. The most important is to carry children. What is unsurprising in the story is why Manak married again but I know it was due to parental and cultural teaching. “Manak and Guleri were married for seven years and she had never borne a child and Manak’s mother had made a secret resolve that she would not let it go beyond the eighth year” which blatantly points out that the whole point of a Hindu marriage is to have kids. Manak dared not to speak to his mother about this. As I analysed the story it seems to me that she makes the decisions and is the head of the house. She is the matriarch of the family and if he retorts to her it could make life harder for him. Manak and his mother don’t have a strong relationship. Their relationship is based on his fear to her and she uses it against him by pushing him about. Manak is adapting to his culture as it teaches mainly to have children. He is being taught that the woman’s job is to cook, clean and carry children while the man provided. Muslim Arabs thought that the Quran, which is the Muslim holy book, suggested arranged marriages but after scholars had studied the Quran hard they realised that marriage or arranged marriage is not the big issue. What is important is that the man and woman are both Muslims. But due to this error arranged marriages have become more traditional and are preferred by the parents of a family. Hinduism has a strong belief in arranged marriages. The bride and groom would not dare refuse to the marriages due to honour killings. If they do refuse they would be a disgrace to their society and their family so they would be erased from existence and would be forgotten from their family and society. In North India the Hindu act of marriage was seen as religious and traditional and was taken very seriously until 1955 where it was made illegal.
By reading these three stories I have realized that culture can be easily changed by the person who passes it on to their child. Culture is so different and we can’t judge other people on this. They could easily do the same to our culture. Our minds are molded by our culture which is why, as we grow, we prefer what ever culture we have and what it has taught us in life. As I compare my culture to Veronica’s I realised hers is a bit farfetched and much different compared to mine but different cultures can be seen in different angles. Our minds adapt as we grow according to our culture. Of course some people would like a freer culture but their ideas in culture change as they grow. An example of this is Manak’s life. In A Stench of Kerosene Manak didn’t like the idea of marrying again but maybe as he grows he might decide to change his mind on arranged marriages. There is a huge difference between English culture and the cultures in the three short stories. We do not have the right to judge other people on their cultural beliefs as they could do the same to us. We all have different cultures and when we have adjusted ourselves to them we get used to them and keep them. In these three short stories it is clear that culture plays the biggest role and is put before love. In every story culture was victorious at the end. This doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing because, for example, if a middle aged woman from North India had read A Stench of Kerosene she is most likely to think it had a good ending. At the end of A Stench of Kerosene Culture came before love, at the end of Veronica culture came before personal options and at the end Country Lovers culture came before free will. I would like to finish off saying we all have different cultures and we can all adapt to it as we grow but we shouldn’t judge other peoples cultures because our culture could easily be judged.