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House Opposite by R. K. Narayan

House Opposite by R. K. Narayan

The short story, House Opposite by R. K. Narayan is an example of a man and his struggle with his own humanity. The basic plot of the story includes a holy man (only referred to as “the hermit”) that is living along with the traditions of an Indian lifestyle. He considers himself to be a very good man, not succumbing to temptations or as it is put in the text, “He rigorously suppressed all cravings of the palate and punished his body in a number of ways.” It is indicated that the hermit really did not understand why he was doing any of this however, barring his selfish interest in “spiritual liberation.” The conflict in the story is internal; the hermit becomes aware of a prostitute living across the street, and cannot ignore her presence. Throughout the story, the hermit complains about the “awful monster” and regards her as the “personification of evil.” This is not the root of the problem however.

The hermit’s preoccupation with the prostitute served to destroy him, but unfortunately for him, the blame cannot be aimed at her. Throughout the middle of the passage, the hermit described the features of the prostitute with a particular contempt, yet he continued to look, even leer at her. He continued to think about what went on behind the closed doors, the men that waited around outside the house “smoking, chewing tobacco and spitting into the gutter – committing all the sins of the world according to the hermit.” In fact, after the story unfolded, the hermit was so upset that he was “forced” to leave behind his shelter to look for a new place, thinking that he would rather not have a roof at all rather than live near the woman. He could not tend to his proper thoughts, and was not able to keep his gaze on the tip of his nose, as was proper, but only could see the woman.

The interesting thing is that he did not blame himself at all for his problem. In one line the hermit thought to himself, “Difficult to say whether it was those monstrous arms and breasts or thighs that tempted and ruined me…” and then proceeded to call the woman names. Why had she ruined his “tapas: all the merit he had so laboriously acquired…” The truth of the matter, however, is that not only was the hermit weak-willed, he had no idea why he would even be against this woman’s practices, other than it was once said by someone.

The House on Mango Street Feminist Elements

The House on Mango Street Feminist Elements

Sandra Cisneros reveals her feminist views through her novel The House on Mango Street. She does this by forcing the reader to see the protagonist as an alienated artist and by creating many strong and intelligent female characters who serve as the protagonist’s inspiration.

The idea of the alienated artist is very common in feminist works. Esperanza, the protagonist, is alienated from the rest of society in many ways. Her Latino neighborhood seems to be excluded from the rest of the world, while Esperanza is also separated from the other members of her community. Members of other cultures are afraid to enter the neighborhood because they believe it is dangerous. Esperanza seems to be the only one who refuses to just accept Mango Street, and she dreams of someday leaving it behind. She is considered an artist because she has an extremely creative imagination which creates a conflict with the type of liberal individuality she seeks. This creative “genius survives even under the most adverse conditions…” (Gagnier 137). To escape the pain of this division, Esperanza turns to writing. She says, “I put it down on paper and then the ghost does not ache so much” (Cisneros 110). Gagnier sees a “distinction of the writer who nonetheless sees herself as somehow different, separate…” (137).

Mango Street consists of mostly female characters. These characters are strong and inspirational, but they are unable to escape the suppression of the surrounding environment. According to one critic, “The girl’s mother, for instance, has talent and brains, but lacks practical knowledge about society because, says Esperanza, Mexican men ‘don’t like their women strong’ ” (Matchie 69-70). It is Esperanza’s mother who tells her to never be ashamed because shame can only hinder her dreams. In “The Three Sisters”, the women tell Esperanza that she is special and remind her not to forget where she came from when she finally makes it out of Mango Street. This inspiration makes Esperanza understand that she must help others who aren’t as fortunate to leave as she is.

Esperanza is a very strong woman in herself. Her goals are not to forget her “reason for being” and “to grow despite the concrete” so as to achieve a freedom that’s not separate from togetherness.

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