Commentary on a passage taken from "The Blindfolded Horse"
This passage, taken from The Blindfold Horse: Memories of a Persian Childhood written by Shusha Guppy, is a memoire that mainly revolves around the narrator’s recollection of “the Blindfold horse”. The plot revolves around the narrator’s memory of a blindfold horse that turns unceasingly in a circular path in order to perform a task. The setting takes place in “a narrow, muddy street “ in which the narrator walks with his mother during the time of winter that is described as gloomy and lifeless. The blindfold horse becomes a symbol of the narrator himself and thus, a symbol of humanity and its metaphoric blindness towards the cyclical meaninglessness of life. There are three important categories in the given excerpt. The first is the reader’s first impressions formed by the passage which resolve around setting, character, title and point of view. The second one is language and structure of the excerpt that deal with the imagery, symbolism, and diction. Finally, the excerpt reveals the author’s attitude and the use of irony. All of these reflect the thematic significance of the excerpt and thus raise the themes of illusionary content despite life’s hardships and the theme of reality versus illusion.
The reader’s first impressions towards the excerpt resolve around the title, setting, characters, and point of view which manage to portray a place filled with darkness. The excerpt’s title, “The Blindfold Horse”, creates the first impressions towards the excerpt since it is the first thing to be seen. The title forms a dark impression on the reader’s mind and might foreshadow a dark place or setting since a blindfold horse can’t see anything but blackness. Furthermore, the excerpt begins with visual imagery that is gloomy and unpleasant in order to convey the setting and in order to create a dark and melancholic tone. For instance, the narrator uses words such as “muddy” and “dirty” in order to create an image of impurity and darkness. The writer uses auditory imagery as in “rutted deep” and “crunches the underfoot” in order to add a hostile effect towards the setting. Moreover, the narrator’s vividly described flashback gives the reader an impression that certain significance lays behind that memory since it is well remembered and described in the excerpt. In addition, the mother creates a first impression of irony because she claims the horse is “quite happy” whereas he doesn’t see anything except darkness throughout the day and that for sure does not lead to any happiness. Finally, the first person point of view allows the reader to go inside the narrator’s mind and understand the differences between his ideas and thoughts when he was a child and when he grows up.
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The language and structure used which involve several literary elements such as imagery, symbolism and diction help in contrasting between moments of illusionary hope and moments of harsh reality. The excerpt begins with a short sentence structure that consists of only three words, “It is winter”. Winter is a season in the life cycle of the year and here it is being described in a very short way without providing any descriptions. This might mean that the narrator describes life as short and relates winter to death. Likewise, winter creates a cold and frigid atmosphere. The effect of choosing winter to describe the setting is to create a dark uneasy image in the reader’s mind that shows life’s hardships and unpleasant moments, and even more importantly to symbolize lifelessness. This lifelessness corresponds to the later description of the horse. Moreover, the narrator uses a repetition of words with negative connotations such as “dirty” and “muddy” in order to create a symbolic image of impurity. For example, he presents the visual image of “dirty patches of snow”. Snow, which appears to be a symbol of purity, becomes an indication that there is a murky atmosphere to the text that must be paid close attention to. The writer uses auditory imagery as in “rutted deep” and “crunches the underfoot” to add unpleasant effect to the overall description of the scene and create a gloomy mood to show the harshness of life. Similarly, the metaphor “like a single spot of color on a fawn canvas” serves to portray the fact that despite all this darkness that prevails, there is a spot of color. The spot of color becomes a symbol of hope in all of the dark descriptions. These dark images all string together in order to create an unsettling atmosphere and emphasize a negativity that later draws attention towards the notion of illusion. Furthermore, the child has a really important role as a character since the passage, which when in flashback, is told through his eyes and that might symbolize a child-like naivety—or a metaphorical blindness—that symbolizes a state of illusion. Thus, the image of the curtain described in the passage could symbolize the barrier shielding the child from the reality of life which is filled with darkness. . In addition, the first person point helps the reader contrast between the narrator’s thoughts and ideas when he was a naïve child and when he grows up and realizes the darkness in life. Likewise, the author uses diction in the word “apprehensively” because the child is uneasy and does not want to be exposed to life’s hardships. He also uses imagery appealing to the sense of smell such as “spicy”. Spicy here refers to the difficult nature of life that is filled with hard labor. The writer uses an oxymoron of “yellow” and “dark”. Yellow—which is constantly repeated in the text— is a symbol of light and hope and is contrasted with the dark. The writer places this contrast to in order to set apart illusion from reality. What is more, the “dark room” in which the narrator encounters the blindfold horse is filled with “clouds of yellow dust”. This image of the yellow dust filling the dark room could be symbolic of the cloud-like illusion that the narrator had when he entered the room. Moreover, the writer uses diction such as “emaciated” to make the horse look lethargic. This adds to the overall “worked out” mood of the passage as a result of life’s labor. Furthermore, despite the “mustardy yellow flour” pouring from under the horse, the horse ironically only sees the blackness of the cloth. Thus, the horse does not even catch a glimpse of this actual happiness, but instead remains blind to it. Therefore, the horse becomes a symbol of nothing but illusionary happiness.
The narrator’s tone and attitude appear to show an epiphany and the effect of this is to raise in the theme of reality versus illusion, as it becomes a metaphor for humanity itself and irony of its pursuits. In the passage, the horse is fooled into imagining that he is walking into straight lines where in fact just turning around endlessly throughout the day. The narrator uses diction such as “rotates” and “monotonous” to symbolize the endless mechanical routine that the horse must follow. This endless routine is only met with a mere “bag of oats” that, according to the narrator’s mother, the horse is “happy really...” The mother here becomes an element of irony as her comment entails that the horse appears to be happy and content with his bag of oats, when in fact it is clear that his life is nothing but an endless routine filled with darkness. This darkness, as well as the horse’s endless struggle to receive such a simple reward might be a metaphoric criticism in which the narrator is likening the horse to humanity itself and its meaningless struggle through life. He might want to portray that humans prefer to accept lies in their life in order to be comforted just like the horse whom is fooled by a comforting lie which keeps him working till the end of the day. Moreover, the horse is blindfolded so it does not get dizzy and is given the illusion that it is walking in a straight path. This dizziness could be a symbol of reality and how facing this reality would throw the horse into disarray. Therefore, one can say that the cloth acts as a symbol of the humans’ attempts to escape reality into illusion in order to console themselves. Moreover, the writer uses the diction “lovely” to portray the oats as something positive that gives the horse hope, when in fact it is quite ironic. The final line, in which the narrator refers to the horse as “mon frère” indicates that he believes the horse was a metaphor for himself in the sense that his journey in life is just as futile and meaningless. Thus, the alternation between reality and flashback—as well as the irony of the blindfold horse could symbolize the narrator’s epiphany regarding life. He entered the room as a child in awe of the “yellow clouds of dust” and as an adult he comprehends his mother’s sarcasm, thus coming to realize that much like himself the horse is blindly trotting through life with nothing to show for but a simple bag of oats. Taking off the cloth symbolizes the return to reality whereas the oats symbolize the thread of hope in that bitter reality.
The excerpt might contain subliminal messages such as a criticism of religion through describing the dome in order to show the circular path religion leads to. The “single glass eye in the domed ceiling far above” that shoots light might be considered as a symbol for religion since a dome is the shape of several religion places. The dome stands right above the horse that is turning around in endless circular path. This might imply that religion itself is just turning around and around without getting to any path or direction in life. The author might want to portray religion as something that does not give answers to life because it does not really get anywhere in explaining itself. Furthermore, the yellow light formed by the dome might stand as a symbol of illusionary happiness because some people follow religion thinking it will lead them to the right way in life and provide them with all of the answers they need. However, the author might want to show the readers that religion doesn’t provide any happiness or light in life because it is just like the blindfold horse, it thinks it’s going in the right direction but it is just in fact turning around without getting anywhere.
In conclusion, the writer uses the element of flashback effectively in order to convey the notion of an epiphany brought forth from child-like curiosity and naivety. Furthermore, the memoire acts as a criticism of humanity through the narrator’s eyes, and thus through the symbolism of the horse.