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I walked into The Dead Poet’s Society and question the conformity and conservatism of the era, society and institution; by the evening I walked out of Mona Lisa Smile partaking a major subversion of the ideas of the orthodox society. Webbed together with a star cast of Julia Roberts, a star renowned for her awestriking smile and glamour, apart from of course her acting credibility, paired with strong female actors such as Kristen Dunst and Julia Stiles, who best embody their respective strong female voices in the movie Mona Lisa Smile, foregrounding progressive ideologies for the female in a conservative world.

Katherine Watson (Julia Roberts) plays a novel art teacher who left her job in California for a position to teach (or rather radically reform) the most conservative educational institution, Wellesley in the old country, England. With Watson’s advent in Wellesley, she is greeted by the snobbishness in the elitist and conforming girls studying in her art history class. The 1953-54 society as showcased in Mona Lisa Smile portrays the female voice of the patriarchy, in a female character power-packed sensation. The movie progresses with Watson subsequently realizing that Wellesley is less of a school imparting radical formal education, but more a finishing school for girls, whose final project is to get married. Watson proposes her ideologies to her students and helps the girls empower themselves and rise above the shackles of conformity and married life. Through the end of the movie we see a transformation in Betty (Kristen Dunst) who earlier having had played a conforming female of the era, rises above the constructions of an ideal female and ideal wife in order to find true happiness in a society and environment that doesn’t restrict one’s identity and happiness.

While watching the movie, if I were to infer that the audience of the mainstream media would find the historical representation of an art teacher reaching out to the students to break the core of conformity within them in her philosophical and social manner “entertaining”, thenI would be kidding myself. However, if I were to say that it reaches out to a radical film lover, or a feminist with its portrayal of an individualistic feminist fight and subsequent subversion of conformity and the patriarchy, in the era of 1954, it would be an accurate remark.

Kristen Dunst plays Betty, a character who embodies the generational product of conformity and conservatism and is highly opposed to subversion. Betty by the end of the movie, breaks through conformity as imposed by her mother and her married life and subverts the image of a model woman constructed by the society.

Mike Newell, in Mona Lisa Smile dexterously recreates the history, society and setting of the conservative old country in 1953-54. Newell is able to grasp the audience in making them experience the feminist spirit embodied by his plot and characters, and finally is able to draw the audience to a state of catharsis by showing them the troubles of the female society before the liberation of women.

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Mona Lisa Smile

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Posted in Literature

Rowling Bakes A Sinister Pumpkin Pie

Servings – 1.

Served to – Children.

Harry Potter and the prisoner of Azkaban is the third book in the Harry Potter series penned down by the widely acclaimed British author J.K. Rowling.  The third book of the series takes on a dark and sinister theme embedded in Harry’s past as a child and in the magical universe of Hogwarts. The Harry Potter series revolves around the supernatural elements of the wizarding world of Harry Potter in its eccentric take on the magical world with the existence of a magical curriculum, sport, types of food and drinks, animals and so on. However, regardless of the presence of such entities in the series, this particular book deals with the theme of criminalization of the innocent and subsequent marginalization of such agents in its plot and characters.

 Such a theme is categorically dark because the intended audience for the book are children. Most texts constructed around and for children are didactic in nature, they might from time to time take up complex, realistic and particularly dark themes, but such is rare in terms of literature for children. Rowling’s adaptation of the theme of criminalization in her book, particularly educates children about a spectrum of realistic sinister characters offered by the world, as it takes on the theme of Sirius and Azkaban.

Sirius Black plays a major role in Potter’s backstory. He was James Potter’s best friend all through his years in Hogwarts, and by the end of his life, Sirius was amongst the couple of people who could be accounted for as Potter’s confidant. However, in the present day Sirius is a lunatic breakout criminal of the Azkaban asylum for criminals, and a defiant of the magical world and also, Harry’s beloved Godfather. At the moment the connotation of the word “love” between Sirius and Harry stands problematic in the novel for throughout the novel Harry is in constant contempt and fear of his Godfather, while Sirius is in search of his Godson and acts always for and towards his protection.

The larger theme of deception in this case isn’t foregrounded by Sirius’s actions but by that of a backgrounded character. Sirius was the black sheep of the famous Black family of pure bloods of the wizarding world. Their infamous affiliations with Lord Voldemort, Slytherin legacy and an anti-mud blood sentiment isn’t something that was passed on to Sirius, who remained innocent despite being incriminated for 12 years in Azkaban.

However, it was Pettigrew, a shrewd friend of the Potters’ who was partly responsible for Voldemort murdering the Potters, and fully responsible for the deception of his friend and allies on, which was then, a war ground. Moreover, Rowling creates the theme of deception into an enigmatic play within the text. Throughout the text, Black is foregrounded as the criminal, whereas the real criminal was in hiding the whole time in the background. Peter Pettigrew, throughout the text is present in all the events, however he remains in hiding as his Animagus – Wormtail, also Ron’s rat. 

Through the image of Azkaban, Rowling puts forth Foucault’s concept of asylum in Harry Potter and The Prisoner of Azkaban. The criminalization of the innocent, and the subsequent marginalization of all that is criminal, or ‘Other’ to the Power in an asylum for criminals – Azkaban. The book titled around the asylum, personifies Black as a Prisoner apart from the others, mainly because he was the only one capable enough of escaping the asylum, which is located at a far distance from the Wizarding World. What’s ironical with the title isn’t the exception of Black being innocent, but him being the only escapee. This points towards the ambiguous system of justice within the World, which as per Rowling’s representation in subsequent novels isn’t particularly ideal.

Secondly, Azkaban is Rowling’s intertextual derivative of Alcatraz – of Hebrew origin, meaning depths of hell and place of destruction. The image of the prison constructed in the book was that of a horrific, gruesome asylum, infested with Dementors. Moreover, due to the conditions of the prisoners, the fear of the dementor’s kiss, and the security system of magical charms, escape from Azkaban was nearly impossible, if not fatal. Alacatraz, too is described as an inescapable prison situated in a distant island, and various narratives have been set around the prisoners’ attempts to escape the asylum.

In conclusion, Harry Potter helps embark children and young adults into a vibrant world of fantasy through its setting up of the wizarding world, in the universe running parallel to our own. This creates a sense of awe and admiration for the audience for all that is magical and fantastical, a feeling that far beyond the rigid structure of the world, there exists a universe, quiet similar to one’s own, but full of a million more opportunities. This promise is of control of the individual’s power as asserted by the use of magic, which in the real world lies in the hands of the Power. However, at the same time, while painting a promising picture for the children, Rowling includes a realistic tone in the text. This tone is represented through Harry’s traumatic childhood, criminalization of the innocent, and a deep underlying theme of deception which highlights the realities of the world order.

Posted in Death, Existentialism, Literature, Poetry

Rune

Everybody has their own personalized monster,

weaved by the needles of their experiential Traumas,  

living under their beds,

clutching onto their deepest repressed

Silences;

or

hovering over their Consciousness

akin to the Pall

over their non-existent bodies,

being carried

for one last time

towards their awaiting

Deathless Caskets.

In my Story,

the Monster that glares down at my body,

incarcerated in its Lair

is the nefarious

Invincible Time.

Inescapable,

just like its phallic ticks

at the curb of every fleeting hour.

I sit aghast,

entrapped

and

mute;

my limbs

cut

by the sharp pace of Time.

Since the day my temporary body entered the world,

it has been at War

against Time.

My essence beats against

the entrapping Ribs every day.

The clock never fails to strike Twelve

every darkling night,

with an unnerving reminder

of its inescapable grandiose.

A gentle Reminder

that the

Run of my Soul

shall never match up to

the

Running Time.

Radhika Pradhan Ó