Prof. Cora Agatucci

Literary Genres

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Student Final Term Projects ~ Historical Fiction, Spring 2003
URL of this webpage:
< http://www.cocc.edu/cagatucci/classes/eng339/finalprojects.htm >
bullet Tami Cheshire: [on Jewel in the Crown]
bullet Ca. D.: The Truth in Historical Fiction [on Braveheart]
bullet Christine Dilworth:  Study Guide and Critical Introduction--A Bildungsroman and Its Link to Postcolonialism in Tsitsi Dangarembga's Novel Nervous Conditions
bullet Tanya Earp: Study Guide for A Pale View of Hills [WR 316 Web]
bullet Amber Kinzer [Anderson]: Comparative Study on the Book Titled Nervous Conditions and the Film Chocolat [WR 316 Web]
bullet Adam Lapierre: Oral History Project [WR 316 Web]
bullet Lisa Lazarescu: The Bluest Eye Study Guide [WR 316 Web]
bullet Lydia Stratton: ["Story" & "History Book" Dialogue - on Ceremony]
bullet Jan Vrbata: Schindler's List [WR 316 Web]

Tami Cheshire
ENG 339 - Literary Genres
Term Project
June 11, 2003

          My first reaction of The Jewel in the Crown was excitement. I was a little worried about the length of it, but I thought maybe it would be quick to read. I like reading books that cause a person to think and this book seemed as though it was going to do just that. However as I started reading the book, there were several questions stirring in my mind that I was not able to answer. It was almost taking away from being able to read the book and enjoy it. I did not understand why the entire first section was written from Miss Crane‘s point of view. I could not figure out why she was given such a large part when she seemed to play such a small part with the actual main characters, Daphne and Hari Kumar. Also the part that she played in the story did not appear to have anything to do with the rape of Daphne Manners. After all “this is the story of a rape" (3). The next thing I noticed while I was reading the book was Ronald Merrick. He was the only character that we were told about and given points of view from other people about him, but we were never given his point of view of things. The reader never goes into the head of Ronald like they do Hari, or Daphne. I thought it would have made more sense to dedicate a part of the book to his thoughts rather than Miss Crane's thoughts since he played a large role in the rape and in Daphne’s life. Another thing I thought about while reading the book was what makes it historical fiction? Since I was reading the book for a historical fiction class, I wondered what made the book be classified as historical fiction. I also wondered if Scott wrote the book intending it to be historical fiction. I believe these three questions make up the main elements of The Jewel in the Crown. These are the questions that most people have when they are reading the book, so these are the questions that are most commonly written about.

Part One: Miss Crane

          While I was reading about Miss Crane’s past, I found myself continually questioning the point of it and why this was important to the story, since “this is the story of a rape (3).” Once I hade finished the section of Miss Crane, I was

intrigued as to why Scott would begin his book this way. I thought perhaps in some way this section was necessary to show the violence that was happening in the country at that time. There seemed to be more violence to people who chose to travel in mixed company. Miss Crane was traveling with an Indian and he was beaten to death because of it. However, Miss Crane was not harmed physically in the least bit.

          According to the critics, part one with Miss Crane, is vital to the story because, the image of Miss Crane sitting in the rain, holding the head of a dead Indian, sums up much of what Scott’s tetra logy offers. This scene supplies us with the sense that the British can no longer protect who they were appointed to protect. The British can longer preserve order, but they are also responsible for the destruction it creates (Gorra). According to Margaret Scanlon, if the rape story fails as history, it can begin to function as a myth with historical significance. Important themes can be drawn into it, such as the relationship between the English Class system and colonial racism.

          It is also necessary to have the section of Miss Crane in the book because it seems to be Scott’s style to tell the reader first what the story is really about, then sideline the reader into another story that conveys the broader mythological context. He tells us the story of a murder. Miss Crane’s story is meant to represent the failure of liberal progressive ideas (Scanlon).

Part 2: Ronald Merrick

          As I was reading The Jewel in the Crown, I noticed I was being introduced to several different main characters and eventually I was given the story from their point of view. I thought this was an effective method of writing by Paul Scott, however, I noticed the reader was never given Ronald Merrick’s point of view. I thought he would be a key character to have spoken and give his side of the story. He played a very key role from the time we are first introduced to Hari Kumar at sister Ludmilla’s, to the night of the rape, and finally the arrest of Hari Kumar, which Ronald seemed to be waiting for throughout the entire story.

          According to Michael Gorra, Scott never writes from Ronald Merrick’s point of view, because Merrick is our dark side. He represents an alluring darkness made visible. If the reader would be allowed to enter in Merrick’s mind, it would reveal something sad about us. Merrick sees India as a chance to climb. He believes in the white mans right to rule, and the contempt of the strong for the weak on which imperialism depends. The reader is also meant to see the persecution of Hari Kumar as Ronald Merrick’s resentment of the Indian’s public school accent (Scanlon). Gorra also points out that Scott connects the nature of Merrick’s power to his sexuality. Merrick has so repressed his own homosexuality that it can emerge only as a sadism sanctioned by his official position. Hari describes the interrogation that took place between Hari and Ronald, “He had his hand between my legs,” and this description is ended with Merrick smearing blood across Hari’s genitals.

Part 3: Historical Fiction 

          Since I was reading this book for my historical fiction class, I stopped and asked myself why this book was considered historical fiction. What elements are in this book that may not be in another that make it historical fiction? I also wondered if Scott actually sat down with the intention of writing a historical fiction novel, or if that is just what happened. To answer my question I decided I should find out what historical fiction is. I turned to the articles we used during the first week of class to try to determine what historical fiction meant.

          According to Brenda Hoffman, historical fiction is stories that take place in the past. Stories that have elements that can’t be proven historically, but suggest a way things did happen. Historical fiction has authentic settings and characters, but some of the things may not be true.  Hoffman also goes on to explain that there are two kinds of historical fiction. With the first kind, there is no historical event or person in the story. With the second kind, both the setting and the supporting characters are factual. After reading these two definitions I decided that The Jewell in the Crown fit best into the second definition.

          According to Orville Prescott, the story of The Jewel in the Crown was inspired by actual events that took place in August of 1942 in the city of May[a]pore in northeastern India. The crime that actually took place was the rape of an English girl in the Bibighar Gardens. The characters names in the story may not be factual but the event the book is modeled after and the characters that took part in the story are factual.

          Margaret Scanlon believes that Scott carries the process of assimilating history to fiction to the point where history seems almost subsumes. Scott is allowed to draw diverse historical elements into a novelistic story and explore an alternative idea of history. Janis Haswell states in her article titled “Images of Rape and Buggery: Paul Scott’s View of the Dual Evils of Empire,” Scott believes that India is the place where the British came to an end of themselves as they were. The English were alive enough to know that they are not living, but pondering, seeking new definitions of almost every aspect of human exchange. Karl Ackerman brings up the image of a girl running in the shadows of the Bibighar Gardens. He states that this represents for Paul Scott the whole feeling of the British in India and the feeling of India itself. An immense flat land, strangely forbidding, somehow incalculable, ugly and beautiful.  

          Even though every critic from the time Scott wrote the book has interpreted it as historical fiction, Scott had another idea. Scott insistently rejected the term “historical fiction.”  His method seemed to rely on intuition and scholarly research. He was blocked in an effort to gain access to files on the Indian National Army. He did not persist because “as a novelist...the reluctance interested me almost as much, if not more, than the archives would have done (Ackerman 2).” Scott has said that “writing is not observation -it is feeling (Ackerman 2).” His creative energy was fired by emotion by such events as encountering a British women during the war who yelled at him for attempting to carry her suitcase, shouting, “No, No. It’s because people like me always had our bags carried for us that what happened to us happened" (Ackerman 2). 


          After reading what Paul Scott has said about his own novel not being historical fiction, is seems to me the only reason it is still able to be called historical fiction is because of his death in 1978. If Scott were alive today, I believe he would fight as much as he could to not have his book classified as historical fiction. However, even though he did not set out to write the book as historical fiction, it may have just ended up that way. Things do not always turn out the way that we want them to.

Works Cited

Ackerman, Karl. “Paul Scott: A Life of the Author of the Raj Quartet.” Smithsonian, Feb93, Vol 23 Issue 11 P 133, 2p, 1bw.

Gorra, Michael. “Paul Scott: A Life of the Author of The Raj Quartet.” New Republic, 5/20/91, Vol. 204 Issue 20, p47, 4p.

Haswell, Janis. “Images of Rape and Buggery: Paul Scott’s View of the Dual Evils of Empire.” Studies in the Novel 33.2 (summer 2001): 202 (22p) Rpt. EBSCOHost Academic Search Elite [Online Subscription Database]: Item No. 4722939. The Gale Group-Thomson Learning, 2003.

Hoffman, Brenda. “Historical Fiction Criticism & Evaluation.” Historical Fiction. Internet School Library Media Center. URL: http://raven.jmu.edu/~ramseyil/histfic.htm.

Mahoney, Blair. [Rev.?]The Raj Quartet: The Jewel in the Crown, by Paul Scott. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1998.

Prescott, Orville. "Empire, Race and `The Cycle of Inevitability.'" The New York Times, July 29, 1966: 29. Rpt. Gale Literature Resource Center [Online Subscription Database]. The Gale Group, 2003.

Scanlon, Margaret. Ch. 6: “Paul Scott’s The Raj Quartet.” Traces of Another Time: History and Politics in Postwar British Fiction. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, [date?].

© 2003, Tami Cheshire
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Ca. D.
ENG 339 - Literary Genres
*Term Project
June 11, 2003

The Truth in Historical Fiction

            “Historical fiction is those stories that take place in the past. The stories have those elements that can't be proven historically, but it suggests a way things did happen. Historical fiction has authentic settings and characters, but some things may not be true. Some writers have written historical fiction but have combined with other genres such as historical fantasy, historical tall tales, and historical mysteries. Some of these stories attempt to reassess or reinterpret the past while others do not. Historical fiction can provide an escape from the present, time travel, or examples of human decisions and their consequences.

-Brenda Hoffman

            William Wallace is a man of great discussion among writers of historical fiction.  In 1996, Mel Gibson directed the movie Braveheart which portrays the life of William Wallace.  There are many discrepancies between the movie and actual history.  This contrast was created because the movie was based upon The Wallace by Harry the minstrel (Blind Harry).  There are many compilations about Wallace’s life, “The Wallace story is not a singular, but a plural.  It is not a book, it is a phenomenon.  The Wallace myth is a collective.  It is a gathering of many stories which overlap and borrow content, style and substance from one another” (Morton 134).  Graeme Morton, Peter Reese, James Mackay, and D.J. Gray all have books written about the life of Wallace.  All examine the role of Blind Harry’s book in contribution to inaccuracies of historical accounts of Wallace.  Through these books, an online summary of Wallace’s life, and an examination of the motion picture Braveheart, the truth about William Wallace can be found.

            Blind Harry’s account of William Wallace was first published almost two hundred years after Wallace’s death.  The story is a four hundred page piece written in rhyming couplets.  Blind Harry meshed popular accounts and hearsay with actual historical events to tell the story of Wallace (Reese 8).  Blind Harry himself is an unknown figure who is supposedly a man blind from birth who wrote.  Some argue, “Whoever wrote The Wallace was clearly educated and well traveled-it is not the product of someone who was either lowly born or who led a sheltered and narrow life, handicapped by the lack of sight.”  Despite the seeming knowledge of the author, the historical context of the book is plagued by confusion and inaccuracy.  Lord Hailes criticized the book, “It would be lost labour to search for the age, name, and condition of an author who either knew not history, or who meant to falsify it” (Morton 36, 43, 48).  Since the movie is based upon this book, the movie itself contains many fallacies. For instance, there is no evidence that the Lords were allowed right to “jus primae noctis.”   The entire scene where the newly married couple’s celebration is interrupted when the English lords take the bride captive for this right is a complete fabrication.  In addition, Wallace is placed in situations and given behaviors that are inherently untrue, but were added to achieve dramatic effect.  At the end of the movie, Princess Isabelle speaks to Longshanks, “A child who is not of your line grows in my belly.”  There is no historical evidence of Wallace ever having an affair with her.  In addition, although there is historical evidence in earlier Scottish history of Pictish warriors painting their faces, the Scotsmen of Wallace’s time would not have done so.  Another example of false custom is the brown tartans worn in the Williams village.  According to John and Linda Anderson, who run the MacBraveHeart website, “The tartans used were specifically developed for the movie.”  All of these discrepancies confuse readers about the true life and character of William Wallace. 

The most accurate and detailed account of the history of Wallace is offered in Mackay’s book and at www.highlanderweb.co.uk/wallace/index.html where a summary of the book can be found.  In the opening chapter of his book Mackay writes, “Much of the history of William Wallace is derived, directly or indirectly, from the epic poem composed by Blind Harry in the fifteenth century, more than a century and a half after Wallace met his death in 1305” (Mackay 14).  According to Mackay, Harry claimed to have used a manuscript composed by Wallace’s friend John Blair as his source for his piece.  The problem is that Blair’s manuscript has never been found and critics question how closely Harry followed Blair’s work.  Mackay does justify the physical description offered by Harry that Wallace was six foot seven inches, “In an age when the average height of a fully grown man was not much over five feet, to judge by the clothing and armour surviving from the period, William was truly a giant of a man” (Mackay 29).

The online summary goes through the history of Wallace and points out the discrepancies of the movie storyline.  In the opening of the movie, Wallace is given the news that his father and brother had died in battle. Part of that is true because Wallace’s father did die during a battle at Loudoun Hill in 1291. The father and brother had fled their home because their names were not on the list of those paying homage to Longshanks.  However, his brother Malcolm did not die then, and Wallace was almost twenty then.  Wallace had no uncle Argyle either.  This character was actually based on the three uncles that Wallace did stay with over the course of his life.  Two of the uncles taught him the skills of the church since it was expected of Wallace, the younger son to make a Career in the Church.  The other uncle was “…blinded, disabled and enfeebled through loss of blood in some previous skirmish he had with the English.”  This untruth also negates the scene in the movie where young Wallace meets Murron at the burial of his father and brother.  Murron is the movie character who is supposed to be Wallace’s love Marion Braidfute.  The move shows the two marrying in secret, but the two “… never married as William believed that romance and war did not mix.”  There is no record of Wallace having children, but some historians argue that Mary gave birth to a daughter.  Marion was murdered shortly after the birth when Englishmen burnt her house down in response to her attempt to slow their pursuit of Wallace (Reese 43).  Other issues within the movie are the facts that Wallace’s mother was not dead and that he had another younger brother named John.  The movie is accurate in portraying Wallace as a man who believed in liberty and freedom, “William’s passion and love of liberty which would become the basis for his glorious career can also be credited to his uncle priest who inculcated the very values and essence of freedom and liberty within his mind.” 

            The movie is also accurate in having Wallace watch years of horrors as the English gradually overtook Scotland.  However, the online summary provides evidence that Wallace did not join the fight against the English until his was gave himself no other choice but to do so.  There were three fights that made Wallace a wanted outlaw.  The first fight was against Selby who made fun of Wallace’s attire.  Wallace responded by stabbing Selby through the heart.  The second fight was when a group of English soldiers tried to take Wallace’s fishing catch.  They attacked him and Wallace responded by beheading one, hacking the collar bone of a second soldier, and striking another soldier so forcefully that his arm fell to the ground.  The third incident was when Wallace accepted the challenge of an English churl who claimed that no one could harm him.  The surrounding Englishmen attacked Wallace, and in response Wallace killed all five men.  By then Wallace was hunted by all due to the high price placed on his head.  He could hide no longer, so he decided to join the fight for Scotland’s freedom. 

            The last and final discrepancy between the movie and actual history is the time frame of the events.  This quickened pace is obviously due to the limited length of the movie.  The first difference is that there was a five year period between the incident at Irvine and the Battle of Stirling.  The summary suggests that Wallace spent this time seeking revenge for his family by ambushing the English whenever he could.  The second difference pertains to The Battle of Stirling which took place in 1314, but did not immediately result in freedom.  In 1328 a treaty was finally signed acknowledging Scotland’s independence.

            One thing the movie did not include, perhaps due to the gruesome nature, was how Wallace’s corpse was spread about the country, “Wallace’s head was placed on a spike and carried to London Bridge . . . His right leg was taken to Berwick, the left to Perth, his left arm to Stirling, and his right arm hung above the bridge at Newcastle-upon-Tyne ‘over the common sewer’” (Gray 152).

            The life of William Wallace is one of myth, legend, and truth.  He was a man of strength and character.  Whether Harry was accurate or not, other historians like Morton, Reese, Mackay, and Gray have found accurate historical information about the true life Wallace led and the heartache he endured.  Wallace set an example for his fellow Scotsmen, “Wallace fought and beat the English, he was betrayed before suffering an unfair trial and a barbaric execution.  He was and is Scotland’s political martyr.  That’s all we need to know, and the historian can tell us where evidence is stronger and where it is not-but that doesn’t alter the story, does it?  Historians just want to spoil the story, but they can’t break it, right” (Morton 134.)  This quote exemplifies the beauty of historical fiction.  The purpose of this genre is to tell the story of history by using fiction while incorporating factual elements.  The main goal is to tell a story, not make the historical details exact.  There has to be truth to some of the historical pieces, but the extent of how many details must be included and how accurate those details must be is left to the discretion of the writer.  Braveheart is a film piece of historical fiction because the movie tells the story of William Wallace with the use of fact and fiction.  By comparing the movie to the actual history of Wallace, one can understand that the movie succssfully told the story of him although all the historical events of his are not portrayed with complete facts. 



Braveheart.  Dir.  Mel Gibson.  Perf.  Mel Gibson.  Paramount Pictures, 1996.

Gray, D.J.  William Wallace:  The King’s Enemy.  London:  R. Hale, 1991.

Mackay, James A.. (James Alexander).  William Wallace:   Brave Heart.  Edinburgh:  Mainstream

            Publishing Co.,  1996.

Morton, Graeme.  William Wallace:  Man and Myth.  Stroud:  Sutton, 2001.

Reese, Peter.  Wallace:  A Biography.  Edinburgh:  Canongate, 1996.

*Term Project included submission of a PowerPoint presentation & a Table of Scottish Kings, which could not be reproduced on this web page. ~ Cora Agatucci

© 2003, Held by student [Ca.D.]
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Christine Dilworth
ENG 339 - Literary Genres
Term Project
June 11, 2003

Study Guide and Critical Introduction—A Bildungsroman and its Link to Postcolonialism
in Tsitsi Dangarembga’s Novel Nervous Conditions


In Tsitsi Dangaremba’s novel, Nervous Conditions, there is a close association between the main character’s bildungsroman and issues of colonialism.  According to Webster’s New World College Dictionary, a bildungsroman is defined as:  “a novel that details the maturation, and specifically the psychological development and moral education, of the principal character.”   Throughout the novel, Nervous Conditions, Tambu’s character undergoes a process of both physical and psychological maturation in the context of a colonized society which is heavily imbued with sexism.  The societal backdrop—which is attempting to replace a native culture with an oppressor’s--influences the development of Tambu’s character.  The colonizing European culture conflicts with Tambu’s native culture creating tensions that serve as lessons for her character.   There are four pivotal moments in this novel that demonstrate the connection between colonization and the bildungsroman.  These are:  Tambu’s educational opportunity, Tambu’s declaration not to ‘forget’ her native culture, Tambu’s interactions with her cousin, Nyasha, and Tambu’s reaction to her parents wedding.  The interplay between Tambu and the postcolonial environment result in her bildungsroman.  These four pivotal moments come together to illustrate a character’s bildungsroman and how it is affected by postcolonial circumstances.

Four Key Pivotal Moments

1.  Tambu’s educational opportunity
(Ch. 3 p. 56; Ch. 4 pp. 58-76; Ch. 5 pp.77-102)

            The death of Tambu’s brother early in the novel Nervous Conditions, her new role, and the opportunity for a formal education are all closely linked.  Before her brother, Nhamo, died he was the one chosen by their uncle, Babamukuru, to be educated.  Tambu was disappointed and envious that she did not have the opportunity her brother had.  Tambu admits, “I think a little jealousy was permissible, even healthy under the circumstances” (Dangarembga 48, ch. 3).  Tambu would not have had the opportunity for an education if it were not for her brother’s death.  In post-colonial Rhodesia, lower class females had prescribed roles and no money to break free from these roles.  Fortunately for Tambu, she has a highly educated uncle who insists on educating at least one member of her family, so she is chosen to replace her brother at the mission.  As the eldest daughter, Tambu was next in line with the potential to eventually support her family.  According to Rebecca Grady, “The death of Tambu’s brother forces her to live with Babamukuru, her uncle who has been educated in the west, and become the provider for her family” (no page).  For Tambu, this is an escape from her home life and from her prescribed role as a poor, lower class Rhodesian female.  Tambu explains how she feels about this opportunity and how her family views her escape:  “It was up to them to learn the important lesson that circumstances were not immutable, no burden so binding that it could not be dropped” (Dangarembga 58, ch. 4).  Even though her position in life presents obstacles such as, race, class, and sex, Tambu has great aspirations for her education and dedicates herself to it fully in order to have a better life. 

            However, Tambu learns through experience that even her education may not let her completely escape.  Nowhere can the reader see this more clearly than in Tambu’s impressions of her educated aunt, Maiguru.  Tambu sees her highly educated aunt dominated by her uncle and begins to learn that education is not a guaranteed road to freedom and independence.  Tambu declares:  “I thought it was a great shame that Maiguru had been deprived of the opportunity to make the most of herself, even if she had accepted that deprivation….I felt sorry for Maiguru because she could not use the money she earned for her own purposes and had been prevented by marriage from doing the things she wanted to do” (Dangarembga 102, ch. 5).  Tambu is disappointed to see that such a highly educated woman had to ‘efface’ herself in front of her husband.  Furthermore, the fact that a woman with such education is deprived of independence leaves a great impression on Tambu.  Tambu begins to understand that there are limits, no matter how educated or how intelligent a woman is—in their culture and society, women still have prescribed roles no matter what their social class.

            There are significant connections between colonization and education.  Education under colonization causes the new culture to take precedence over the native culture.  According to Nair Supriya, “Tambu’s struggle to gain an education is not a woman’s alone, but has been shared by colonized peoples in general who were quick to recognize that being tutored in Western ‘wizardry’ meant access to power, however limited, and improved living standards.  But submitting to an alien system of education also meant a transformation of traditional cultures and a threat to existing structures of power within the family, clan, and community” (5).  Tambu recognizes the sexism in her native culture and realizes that her education is a threat to traditional gender roles, yet she still believes both education and her native culture are important.  She decides to never ‘forget’ where she came from while undertaking an education with the hope of improving her position in life. 

2.  Tambu’s declaration not to ‘forget’ her native Shona culture
(Ch. 4, p. 70; Ch. 9, p. 188)

            Throughout the novel, Tambu declares that she will not ‘forget’ her native Shona culture.  In contrast, neither her brother, Nhamo, nor her cousin, Nyasha, could find the necessity of maintaining links to their native culture until it was too late.  In fact, this insistence not to forget her native culture actually keeps Tambu in a stronger position as she lives her new life.  According to Maurice Taonezvi Vambe, Tambu has “a coherent past experience within which she can root her dreams, aspirations and measure how far she has moved away from the burden of womanhood” (para.5). 

            By remembering her native culture and where she comes from, Tambu is able to keep things in perspective and maintain her mental stability.  Through maintaining an awareness of her culture, Vambe states that Tambu can “overcome the mentally unsettling Nervous Conditions introduced and maintained by the colonial order on the one hand, and the sexual discrimination explicit in the Shona society on the other” (para. 5). 

            Although Tambu is in danger of forgetting her native culture, she is aware of this danger and her awareness keeps her alert to this possibility.  Early in her stay at Babamukuru’s, Tambu acknowledges:  “I was in danger of becoming an angel, or at the very least a saint, and forgetting how ordinary humans existed—from minute to minute and from hand to mouth” (Dangarembga 70, ch. 4).  By being on guard against forgetting her native Shona culture, Tambu is able to maintain ties to it that help stabilize her in her new environment.

            Significantly, it is the female members of her social world who serve as reminders to Tambu not to ‘forget’ her native culture.  Tambu declares:  “If I forgot them, my cousin, my mother, my friends, I might as well forget myself” (Dangarembga 188, ch. 9).  By remembering the female members of her family and her female friends, Tambu maintains ties to her past that help motivate her as she moves into her future.

3.  Tambu’s observation of and interactions with Nyasha
 (Ch. 4, p. 76; Ch. 5, pp. 77-102; Ch. 6, pp. 115-119; Ch.7, pp. 147; Ch. 10, pp. 197-204)

            In a postcolonial environment, forgetting one’s native culture is a risk that can seriously impact those affected by it.  This risk is played out in the character of Nyasha, Tambu’s cousin, who cannot seem to reconcile her lost native culture with the British culture she was raised with.  As Tambu observes, Nyasha is ‘perceptive’ and because of her perception she is obviously quite self-aware of this conflict inside her. 

            At first, Tambu is uncertain that living with Nyasha will be ‘good’ for her.  Tambu points out, “Everything about her spoke of alternatives and possibilities that if considered too deeply would wreak havoc with the neat plan I had laid out for my life” (Dangarembga 76, ch. 4).  Ironically, this very fact about Nyasha is what causes her so many problems in her own life.  Tambu further observes:  “This was the way Nyasha was, persistently seeing and drawing attention to things you would rather not talk about….I did not think that her probing of this and that and everything was good for her either” (Dangarembga 97, ch. 5).  Nyasha is intelligent and thinks about things others would like to ignore.

            Nyasha’s awareness certainly carries over to her perceptions of her forgotten native culture and the British culture that she was raised with-- but which was not truly hers.  Vambe points out that “Nyasha is aware of the psychological damage inflicted on her by the British type of education; ‘I am not one of them, but I am not one of you [this she tells to Tambu]’ [Dangarembga 201, ch. 10].  This two-ness of Nyasha’s experience of being an educated woman in a social environment offering limited choices, irreconcilably dogs her black self” (Vambe para. 5).  Nyasha knows that she cannot have what has been promised to her by her education.  In turn, Tambu also comes to this understanding through her interactions, observations, and conversations with Nyasha.  However, Tambu never lets this issue terrify her to the extent that it does Nyasha because Tambu sees that allowing this has nearly destroyed Nyasha.

4.  Tambu’s reaction to her parents’ wedding 
(Ch. 8, pp. 149-175)

            Through the scene leading up to Tambu’s parents’ wedding, the reader observes Tambu’s struggle to gain her voice and speak out against that which she disapproves of.  It is Babamukuru’s idea that Tambu’s parents have a Christian wedding to end, what he alleges, their ‘living in sin.’  Tambu declares:  “Gradually I was forced to admit to myself that I did not like the idea of my parents performing a wedding” (Dangarembga 150, ch. 8).  Although Tambu is not yet sure why she doesn’t ‘like the idea,’ the reader can infer that it likely has to do with the fact that Babamukuru is superimposing British cultural ideas upon Tambu’s traditional family.

            Up to this point, Tambu has been “a paragon of feminine decorum” (Dangarembga 155, ch. 8)—meaning that she has remained silent about most things.  In fact, Tambu tries to push the idea of her parents’ wedding “to the back of my mind” (Dangarembga 151, ch. 8) in order to avoid having to think about it.  Trying to avoid conflict or confrontation, namely with her dominating uncle, Tambu tries to remain silent about the subject.

            As the wedding approaches, Tambu becomes increasingly confused about how she feels about it.  She states:  “I would listen to Babamukuru even when he told me to laugh at my parents” (Dangarembga 165, ch. 8). Yet, Tambu still feels loyalty towards her parents and so her opposition towards the wedding slowly becomes stronger.  To avoid dealing with the situation, Tambu first runs away for awhile after school.  The morning of the wedding, Tambu finds that she can’t get out of bed, “I tried several times but my muscles simply refused to obey the half-hearted commands I was issuing to them….I knew I could not get out of bed because I did not want to” ( Dangarembga 166, ch. 8).  Because Tambu cannot voice her opposition, she expresses her opposition through her body.  Janice E. Hill states:  “Tambu, who is unable to express disobedience verbally does so through her body.  She refuses, by feigning paralysis, to become complicit in events over which she has little control” (1).  Refusing to get out of bed is the only way Tambu can protest the wedding until she finally gathers enough courage to actually tell her uncle that she does not want to attend the wedding.  This scene is significant to Tambu’s growth and her ability to speak out against matters and events that she disapproves of.


            These four pivotal moments contain elements of oppressions that end up transforming Tambu’s character.  The growing pains of Tambu’s character, the postcolonial society in which she lives, and sexism are significant issues in the novel Nervous Conditions.  Tambu’s character overcomes many of these obstacles-- while also maturing-- by maintaining links to her native culture. 

Works Cited

Dangarembga, Tsitsi.  Nervous Conditions.  Seattle, WA:  Seal Press, 1988.

Grady, Rebecca.  Tsitsi Dangarembga.  13 Jan. 2001.  Emory University.  2 June 2003 <http://www.emory.edu/ENGLISH/Bahri/Dangar.html>. 

Hill, Janice E.  "Purging a Plate Full of Colonial History: The 'Nervous Conditions' of Silent Girls."  College Literature 22.1 (Feb. 1995): 78 (13pp).  Rpt.  InfoTrac College Edition [Online Subscription Database]: Article No. A16989112.  The Gale Group-Thomson Learning, 2002.

Supriya, Nair.  "Melancholic Women:  The Intellectual Hysteric(s) in Nervous Conditions."  Research in African Literatures 26.2 (Summer 1995): 130 (10pp).  Rpt. InfoTrac College Edition [Online Subscription Database]: Article No. A17156438.  The Gale Group-Thomson Learning, 2002.

Vambe, Maurice Taonezvi.  Authorizing Women, Women Authoring.  May 30, 2003.  <http://www.postcolonialweb.org/zimbabwe/gender/mtvambe5.html>

© 2003, Christine Dilworth
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Tanya Earp ~  Home Page
URL: http://www.cocc.edu/tanyae/index.html
Annotated Bibliography for A Pale View of Hills:
URL: http://www.cocc.edu/tanyae/annotatedbib.htm
Term Project: Study Guide for A Pale View of Hills
(Cyber-Rhetorical Analysis):
URL: http://www.cocc.edu/tanyae/introduction.htm
--Chapter Summary & Study Questions for A Pale View of Hills
URL: http://www.cocc.edu/tanyae/study.htm
--Historical Fiction: http://www.cocc.edu/tanyae/fiction.htm

--Symbols in A Pale View of Hills:
--Water Imagery for A Pale View of Hills:

© 2003, Tanya Earp
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Amber Kinzer [Anderson] ~ Home Page
URL: http://www.cocc.edu/amberk/index.html
Annotated Bibliography:
URL: http://www.cocc.edu/amberk/term_project/annotated_bib.htm
Term Project: Comparative Study on the Book Titled Nervous Conditions and the Film Chocolat.
(Introduction & Cyber-Rhetorical Analysis)
URL: http://www.cocc.edu/amberk/term_project/project.htm
--Role of Food: http://www.cocc.edu/amberk/term_project/role_of_food.htm
--Hybrid Identities:
--Idea of Space:
--Damage of Colonialism:

© 2003, Amber Kinzer [Anderson]
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Adam Lapierre ~ Home Page
URL: http://www.cocc.edu/adaml/index.html
ENG 339 & ENG 390 Oral History Project
URL: http://www.cocc.edu/adaml/Oralhistory.htm
[Temporary Link to be deleted at end of Spring 2003 term ~Cora, 6/7/03]

© 2003, Adam Lapierre
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Lisa Lazarescu ~ Home Page
URL: http://www.cocc.edu/lisal/index.html
Web Site Introduction (Cyber-Rhetorical Analysis)
URL: http://www.cocc.edu/lisal/website_introduction.htm
Annotated Bibliography [for The Bluest Eye Study Guide Term Project]
URL: http://www.cocc.edu/lisal/thebluesteye/annotated_bibliography.htm
Term Project: The Bluest Eye Study Guide
URL: http://www.cocc.edu/lisal/thebluesteye/index.html
--About Toni Morrison: http://www.cocc.edu/lisal/thebluesteye/about_toni_morrison.htm
--Historical Fiction & The Bluest Eye
URL: http://www.cocc.edu/lisal/thebluesteye/historical_fiction.htm
--Map of Ohio: http://www.cocc.edu/lisal/thebluesteye/ohio_map.htm
--Setting, Parallels, and Other issues in The Bluest Eye
URL: http://www.cocc.edu/lisal/thebluesteye/setting_&_other_issues.htm

--Works Cited: http://www.cocc.edu/lisal/thebluesteye/works_cited.htm
Literary Terms Index:
URL: http://www.cocc.edu/lisal/literaryterms/index.html
--Literary Terms A-C: http://www.cocc.edu/lisal/literaryterms/a_c.htm
--Literary Terms D-H:
--Literary Terms I-Z:
--Elements of Literature:

© 2003, Lisa Lazarescu
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Lydia Stratton

"I am not sure what you are talking about, but if you look through my pages you will see that none of what you say is true," said history book.

Story replied, "Silly book. All true things can't be found in your pages. Indeed many things are never written down at all. I'm not written down, but I am true just the same."

"I don't believe you. Everything that has ever happened, and everyone who has ever done anything important can be found in my pages, and everything is written down. That is just how we do things.  Furthermore everything in me is fact, otherwise they couldn't teach me in school."

"Wow you really do have a lot to learn about all of this don't you," said story.

"What are you talking about," said history book.

"All the other people and all the other stories that never made it into you. They are still here floating around just waiting to be told."

"Floating around stories? What in the world are you talking about?"

"The people who didn't get to write you. They have stories, and they have a history, and boy is it ever different from what you have to say," said story.

"Well so where are these other history books? I want to meet them to let them know they have been misinformed. Obviously they are inaccurate if they have something different to say than I do."

"Most of them aren't books like you, history books I mean. They are different books. Kind of like novels, but they include history" said story.

"Ha! I knew it they aren't history at all. Novels. Give me a break those are fiction and fiction is made up.  Everyone knows that, gloated history book"

"Well they are in part made up. You are right about that, but they are also historical in nature. They are historical fiction. At least most of them are called that. Some of them fall into other genres I suppose, but they could still be considered historical fiction. I guess those ones fall into more than one category. Some people don't like it. You know everything should just have one label, but it doesn't usually work like that in life so it really shouldn't work that way for novels either. I mean this book I am thinking of it is probably not classified as historical fiction, but it is. Of course it is also probably considered Native American literature or something like that. Who knows it is hard to keep all of this straight."

"You have to stop talking, I have no idea what you just said. Genres and novels and this book and that book. I don't get it," said history book.

"Sorry. I will try and keep it straight, but I am a story what did you expect?"

"I think you are just trying to confuse me because you are wrong about all of this, and I, of course, am right. But go ahead try again," said history book.

"Alright," said story. "Here goes. Let me start with the book I am thinking of. It is called Ceremony, and it was written by a woman named Leslie Marmon Silko in 1977.  She grew up on the Laguna Pueblo reservation, but is also part white and Mexican. I wouldn't normally mention that, but it is important because it relates to the book and the main character. See he is also mixed blood and so…"

"Stop! You are doing it again. Don't get sidetracked," said history book.

"OK. So to continue. Because the author is Native American, and the book is about Native Americans it is called Native American literature. But I think it is also historical fiction. You see according to some man named Jonathan Nield, and this is a famous definition I might add, "'A novel is rendered historical fiction by the introduction of dates, personages, or events, to which identification can be readily given.''' Well there are plenty of dates and events that you can verify. But Silko explains how these events changed this reservation, the people and their culture. She also includes some of their oral history, which of course no one had really seen before.

"What does this have to do with me?" asked history book.

"Well this book tells the story of people who were never given a voice in a book like you. They were oppressed and colonized. I mean you at least know that much don't you?" asked story.

"Yes, I know what happened to the Native Americans. It is all right here in my pages," said history book.

"Well you might know what battles were fought, and what treaties were signed and then broken, what reservations the people were moved to, but that is pretty much it. I mean you don't know how colonization effected their community do you? You don't know what happened to their culture and how their lives changed do you?'

"Not really, but maybe those things are not all that important. Otherwise they would be in me right?"

"You know who wrote you. Do you really think they would include those kinds of things in you? After all that would make them look pretty bad. They were the winners and the winners always look good in history books like you," said story.

"Not always."

"Always. Take another look at yourself."

"So what exactly is in this book, and why is it important, and why should I think it has anything to do with history" asked history book.

"Do you really want to know?"


"It is going to take awhile to tell you. I have a lot to say."

"Just do it. If you start to ramble I'll let you know."

"OK here goes, I will try and make this as clear as possible so don't be surprised if my voice sounds a little different, said story.

Ceremony is the story of a young man named Tayo. He was raised on the Pueblo Laguna reservation by his aunt. His mother was a drunk and a prostitute and Tayo's light skin and hazel eyes are a reminder of her fornication with white men. He brings shame to his aunt and has been convinced that he is a lesser person because he is not a full blood Indian (Mayo, 1). To make matters worse for Tayo he and his cousin Rocky--auntie's pride and joy--enlist in the marines and go off to fight the Japanese in the jungle, but only Tayo returns alive. When he returns home after having been gone for six years he learns that his Uncle Josiah--his grandmother's brother--has died. Tayo was very close to his uncle and was going to help him raise Mexican cattle before Rocky convinced him to enlist. So as the novel opens Tayo is sick and suffering terribly from guilt, as he feels responsible for the deaths of both his cousin and his uncle. As the novel progresses it becomes clear that Tayo needs a healing ceremony to rid himself of the sickness, but Tayo is different, mixed blood, and the old ceremonies do not work on him. Tayo needs a new ceremony. Tayo and his new ceremony come to represent the needs of the reservation. It becomes clear that the people and the land are sick, and Tayo's ceremony offers hope for the future, and represents the need for change (Ruppert, 3).

There are many different degrees to which history is present in the novel. Globally there is WWII. The use of a WWII is a very interesting choice. Clearly Rocky could have died in a multitude of ways that could have involved Tayo, but Silko chose to send them off to war. In turn the war, and circumstances related to the war, become very important to the intimate relationships between the characters in the novel.

Tayo and Rocky were two of many men from the reservation that went off to war. While enlisted the men were treated differently by the outside world. "White women never looked at me until I put on that uniform, and then by God I was a U.S. Marine and they came crowding around. All during the war they'd say to me, "'Hey soldier, you sure are handsome. All that black thick hair"' (Silko, 41). Tayo is remembering this as he sits in the bar while other men talk about the glory days of the war, but Tayo knows the truth. As he describes an encounter with an older white women who wished he and Rocky well he thinks, "it was the uniform, not them, she blessed"' (Silko, 41).  Tayo understands that they were used by the American government. He also understands that now that he is home he is just another Indian, but the others can't see this. They miss the days of the war, and want to once again party with white women and be respected. They drink to remember and then to forget. Of course this was common after the war. Indians did enlist and they did suddenly find themselves treated with a newfound respect, but when the war was over they returned to the reservations with a false hope that things has changed. But things had not changed, and an Indian was still an Indian, and being an Indian was still regrettable.

While fighting in the jungle Tayo is ordered to shoot at a line of Japanese soldiers, but he cannot pull the trigger. One of the soldiers standing in the line has morphed into his Uncle Josiah. He screams as the Americans kill all the soldiers because he knows they have just shot his beloved Uncle. Later in the novel Tayo understands that realistically his Uncle was not in the jungle that day, but his vision has very interesting implications. Tayo, perhaps because of his own mixed ancestry, does not see a difference between himself and the Japanese. As he watches them in the line up he thinks, "That was the first time Tayo had realized that the man's skin was not much different from his own" (Silko, 7). Tayo, unlike so many other characters in the book, does not see the differences between people, but the similarities. He could no more kill a Japanese soldier standing before him defenseless than he could kill his own Uncle.

The Bataan Death March is mentioned specifically as the place where Rocky died. He had been injured and Tayo, with the help of another soldier, tried desperately to carry him along the wet miserably march. Flood waters rush down and Rocky is dropped on the ground and consequently killed by a Japanese soldier. Rather than blame the war or the Japanese for Rocky's death Tayo blames the relentless jungle rains. He curses the rains and wishes them to leave the sky forever. Later this becomes another source of guilt for Tayo because when he returns to the reservation he learns that there has been a severe drought. Tayo blames himself for sending away the rain clouds (Cutchins, 6).

Juxtaposed with the history of the war--mainstream white American history--are oral stories of the immemorial time--a time when people and the animals conversed, according to Laguna legend. These stories parallel the main action in the novel. They often correspond to the passage that they precede. While they are not considered history, but rather myth, they do force the reader to reconsider the history they have learned in textbooks. The mere presentation of the stories reminds us that the novel is not concerned with western ideas of time and arrangement. Nor does Silko seem interested in telling a story by beginning at point A and ending and point B (Brown, 1). The book does not even have conventional chapters. The insertion of these traditional stories combined with the warping of time is reminiscent of storytelling (Barnes, 6). The reader is being told a story, and thus things don't always unfold neatly. We are being talked to and the person doing the talking does not have time to stop and think about the order of things, they are too busy telling the story.

Beyond global history and traditional Laguna stories, Silko tells the history of the people on the Pueblo Laguna reservation in the 1940's. Subtly she introduces very plausible characters. They all work together to paint a picture of the reservation, and demonstrate how it has changed. There are three generations of Laguna Indians represented in the novel the eldest being Tayo's grandmother and the youngest being Tayo--auntie is in-between. Silko uses this multi-generation family to illustrate the transformations of the people. Tayo's grandmother is an old time Laguna. She says very little, but adheres to the traditional ways and has not conformed to Christianity. Tayo's aunt is living in both the traditional Laguna and the white world. While on one had she resents the whites she has conformed to their religion, and she believed that Rocky would have found success away from the reservation out in the white world. Tayo is a new kind of Laguna Indian--a mixed blood Indian. He is a living representation of the destructiveness of whites and alcohol on the reservation, but he is also a sign of things to come (Cutchins, 3). He could be proof that the Lagunas are fading away, but instead he is a demonstration of how the culture will survive.  Beyond survival he symbolizes the need for change

The need for change that Tayo represents is not exclusive to the future. Tayo's new ceremony, not only heals him, but also allows him to create an alternative understanding of history (Cutchins, 1). This new understanding of history is dependent on Laguna, and Navajo, myths. It allows Tayo to see things for what they are. This experience is very empowering for Tayo because it gives him a past and a history that includes his Laguna ancestors. It is a history of the Lagunas not tainted by outside interpretation that makes Tayo aware of his importance. His experience not only changes the way he understands himself, but also how he understands people--all people. He knows that the new ceremony is not just for the Lagunas, but intended to unite all people. All humans are part of the same clan, fighting between them is pointless (Ruppert, 3). Tayo knows now that he can not blame the whites for what has happened to his people. It is the destroyers that seek to make humans suffer--and the destroyers come in all shapes, sizes and colors. Tayo's new rendition of the past will lead his people into the future  because they now have a history that supports their culture. Their story has been told, and the story keeps the people alive.

"Well," said story.

"Well. There didn't seem to be a lot of concrete data in your story," said history book. "I know it is a novel, but surely there are more facts you left out.

"Well I can see that you missed the point. I am going to have to try this all over again," said story.

"Again. No that's alright I mean you must be tired of talking especially after having to change your voice so much. It is fine I understand."

"Oh I'm a story. Talking is what I do best. You need to work on listening. No we will do it again. Until we get it right and you understand," Said story.

"Oh no. Please don't," said history book.

"OK here goes. Get ready I have a lot to say…"

Works Cited

Barnes, Kim. “in an interview.” The Journal of Ethnic Studies 13.4 (Winter 1896):

            83-105. Gale’s Literature Resource.

Brown, Kathleen Alanna. “Pulling Silko’s Threads Through Time: An Exploration of

            Storytelling.” American Indian Quarterly 19.2 (Spring 1995). Ebsco Academic

            Search Elite.

Cutchins, Dennis. “’So That the Nations May Become Genuine Indian’: Nativism and

            Leslie Marmon Silko’s Ceremony.” Journal of American Culture 22.4

            (Winter 1999): 79-92. Ebsco Academic Search Elite.

Mayo, James. "Silko's Ceremony." Explicator 60.1 (Fall 2001). Ebsco Academic Search


Ruppert, Jim. “Story Telling: The Fiction of Leslie Silko.” The Journal of Ethnic Studies

            9.1 53-88 (Spring 1981).

Silko, Leslie Marmon. Ceremony. New York: Penguin Books, 1977.

© 2003, Lydia Stratton
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Jan Vrbata ~ Home Page
URL: http://www.cocc.edu/janv/index.html
Annotated Bibliography - Term Project
URL: http://www.cocc.edu/janv/TermProjectAnnBib.htm
Term Project: Schindler's List
URL: http://www.cocc.edu/janv/termproject.htm
--Introduction (Cyber-Rhetorical Analysis)
URL: http://www.cocc.edu/janv/TERMPROJintro.htm
--Schindler's List (Ark): The Film and the Book
URL: http://www.cocc.edu/janv/TERMPROfilmbook.htm
--Thomas Keneally - Author of the book Schindler's Ark [Schindler's List]
Steven Spielberg - Director of the film Schindler's List
URL: http://www.cocc.edu/janv/Termprojsspielberg.htm
--Literary and Film Critiques
URL: http://www.cocc.edu/janv/TERMPROlitfilmcritiques.htm

© 2003, Jan Vrbata
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