I mean the ending is almost the exact same as the Shawshank Redemption. But since I would assume almost everyone is familiar with this story, perhaps the Rao wanted to play on the idea but only tell it from the warden’s point of view (Bandra) and how she, despite her cruelty, was not able to get Zubaida to fear her – she should have known when the girl challenged the snake without fear.
Zubaida (the girl) keeps repeating her name – perhaps so she doesn’t forget or out of defiance, as if speaking a name brings it into existence.
Bandra’s cruelty is not just to keep the girls in line, she’s actually full of hate and jealousy and malice – she hates these girls. And that’s odd because to hate them means she’s not indifferent to them (which would be crueler), she has an attachment to them.
The violence is so matter-of-fact, so cruelly common – she just grabs the girl, tackles her, binds her up, and nobody does anything about it – not even the women. And then they way she’ll deal with the girl’s father, by sending her thugs to beat him as a lesson and not even giving him the agreed upon money. Her cruelty is banal – she doesn’t even let the girls have windows – no hope. No wonder she’s tired.
Quite a leap to go from being married to a man 27 years old than you who dies and leaves gambling debts to deciding to just sell what’s left and start a brothel. Nobody just ups and does that so something else was going on that made her even consider it let alone actually carry it out. And that she thinks the girls actually like her means Bandra is really good at lying to herself.
Sad to think this is still going on in the world where children as young as 4-5 years old are “bought” from their “impoverished” parents and then sold into sexual slavery. Interesting how Bandra is on the outlook for the girls’ mother or sisters and that she transacts with the father, not the women. She knows what she’s doing would probably get her killed if the women caught her.
I was reminded of Marie de France’s lais, Laüstic (the one where the jealous husband kills the nightingale to keep his wife from standing at her window to see her lover and throws the bloody corpse at her chest where it leaves a bloody mark). The killing of the bird in this story is like the death of any love she might find, as if Cupid has been replaced by a sniper who only kills.
“It got to where I didn’t know if I was trying to prove them wrong, or to prove them right” = slut / un-slut – stuck somewhere in between? Strange to be defined by language like that, especially in a language that is not native to your country. It’s like being stabbed with language, like a stem piercing the heart, or like the image of Meena’s abortion, or having Sean force himself in their mouths when they were kids
So many poems have been written about flowers being given to lovers with which to poetically ‘pierce’ their heart like cupid, yet here it’s a flower stem that literally turns out to pierce someone’s heart. So if cupid shoots us in the heart with an arrow to make us fall in love, whoever the god of affairs and divorces is stabs us in the actual organ heart with a flower.
The scene where she jokes with her husband about how to pronounce her name, Anju is like “un-like” an the “un” is telling since she might be a sort of un-person, someone without a centered / grounded identity, as if an un-ness is baked into her un-name and un-identity. Thus ‘Unleashed’ is An-leashed. No wonder she’s a linguist – she’s trying to make sense of her own name.
The scene where she jokes with her husband about how to pronounce her name, Anju is like “un-like” an the “un” is telling since she might be a sort of un-person, someone without a centered / grounded identity, as if an un-ness is baked into her un-name and un-identity. Thus ‘Unchained’ is An-chained. No wonder she’s a linguist – she’s trying to make sense of her own name.
That is a disturbing image of the boy, Sean, raping the girls even though they are all still in elementary school. And then he tells everyone what he made them do to him and so now they have a reputation as being other lesser / dirty. Interesting how she describes the word “slut” as being “so perfect in its way,” “It was a wave pounding a shore.” She then describes the tearing of virginity.
Though they are technically free in America, “Here , all the dirt and noise and crowds of India were gone, and we could lie on a wide expanse of grass undisturbed, the sky spinning around us blue and empty and feverish with light”, but they really aren’t free on this land – they are a people without a home no matter where they go.
“You still can’t have the gun” is pretty mush what the British who controlled India were saying to the Indians the whole time – those who have the guns have the power and those who didn’t have the power were no different than the American “Indians” who were oppressed as well.
It’s the 1980’s which we learn from Jenkins who seems to have become a hotel doorman in New York and, obviously, hasn’t forgotten a thing about India. I wonder if this is a story on which the central character has forgotten and lost touch with being Indian, which would contrast with Jenkins who is white, unlike Anju, but hasn’t forgotten anything at all. Thus who is “more truly Indian”?
Right away there is a decadence to the lives in this story where someone can get drunk and pass out in an elevator and have a British servant help you back to your room. No wonder this story takes place in New York, not India – none of the lives we’ve seen thus far would have been able to experience not only the lifestyle, but even having a dream that they are late for school seems beyond their experience
The word “puzzled” is a remarkable adjective to use at the end of this poem because it implies that Charlotte Brontë will continue to be “This bird – observing others”, though who now will be applying her craft as a writer and observer in “Heaven”. Emily is suggesting that Charlotte will live forever and that her works will continue to inspire even though she is no longer with us.
Emily is quite bold in making a connection between Charlotte and Jesus, however I would assume that Charlotte was an incredibly important figure in Emily’s life, not just as a writer, but as a successful woman writer. Perhaps this is why Emily includes Charlotte’s pen-name, “Currer Bell” because she wants to recognize the struggle for female writers who work in a field dominated by men. The middle portion of the poem is dominated with the image of “anguish” which she compares to Jesus’ “anguish” in the Garden of “Gethsemane” (a topic Emily has written about in “I like a look of Agony“) to Charlotte’s struggle with her illness but also as a female writer.
In fact, Emily is keen on exploring the notion of “anguish” as it relates to the loss of one’s name and identity. “Currer Bell” was the name chosen so that Charlotte could publish without the public knowing she was a woman, but imagine the pain involved in such a decision, to spend so much of one’s self in the act of creation only to have born into the world as an orphan without its rightful mother. Emily would likely have felt the same way if someone had tried to separate her from her work, but as Christ agonized at “Gethsemane”, so too must have Charlotte who also wanted to be published and to allow her art to take flight but at the same time would most likely have been conflicted about having to change her name to make that happen. Which is the right choice? Allow your child to go of into the world without the protection of your name attached to them, or keep them at home in the nest never to fly? The parallel to Emily’s decision to remain anonymous is thus greatly illuminated.
But Emily is also concerned with transformation. The poem is structured so that by the end “Currer Bell” is rightfully identified as Charlotte “Bronte”; she no longer has to hide behind a false name, yet she is like the “Nightingale” who, though her song can still be heard, she remains hidden from mortal view in the next life at Elysium among the “Asphodel”. And as transformation involves growth, Emily uses the imagery of gardens (Elysium, “Gethsemane”, and “Eden”), and “cunning moss” and the “weed” to infuse the poem with a vitality of life that when cultivated has the potential to grow riot all over not just the mortal earth but also in the afterlife. Barren fields where “When frosts too sharp become” are reseeded the next season by “This bird” who seems to migrate between the gardens of this world where the cages of the dead artists gently fertilize the soil with art’s potential and the next world where the “Asphodel” grows and the dead listen with a “puzzled Ear” at the “soft” “sounds of Eden” for all eternity.