Analyse the language in the written text
Your analysis may include a discussion of one or more of the following topics that are cover in this unit of study:
1. Language in the social context
2. Text and discourse analysis: Genre, gender, identity, ideology, multimodality
3. Conversation analysis
4. Pragmatics and sociocultural awareness
6. Approaches to the literary reading and fictional discourse
7. World Englises, English as an International Language& English as a LIngua Franca
8. Native- speakerism
The story “Sunday in the Park” starts in medias res, like any other narrative; where a so-called happily married couple visits a deserted park on a Sunday evening with their child, Larry, who is three years old. It is an idyllic scene, which was soon disrupted by another three year old boy, who was a bully, who suddenly started throwing sand on this couple’s son, whose name was Larry. The mother tried to stop the child and tried to save her own child, but the father of the bully who was called Joe in the story, was a big muscular man. He allowed his son to carry on with the unethical and harmful act. The couple tried to protest but since it was a deserted park and Joe’s father was much stronger than Larry’s father Morton, Larry and his parents had to leave the park in spite of knowing that they were not wrong. Thus, the story is about only one incident, only one incident takes place in the whole story, and the number of characters in this story are not much. It includes the two children Joe and Larry, and at the same time, it includes the anonymous women, or rather the wife or the mother in the story and the two fathers, Morton and Joe’s father. There are also two women and a girl but they are the silent spectators, and not even spectators but few characters that formed the scene in the park. Therefore, it followed almost all the characteristics of a short story so; it could easily fit in the genre of a short story (Achilles and Bergmann, 2015).
The main theme of the text is that the woman or mother expected a protection from her husband, which her husband had failed to provide and had avoided the whole situation accepting his failure without committing any mistake (Christ and Shostak, 1993). Therefore, the gender question is one of the most important questions that have been raised in this particular short story and language too plays an important role establishing it. In the beginning of the story when the narrator provides a happy and peaceful picture of the park as well as of the family she comments:
“She put her book down on the bench………………………………….Morton was reading the Times Magazine section, one arm flung around her shoulder;”
The above mentioned lines here state that a woman feels secure when she has the protection of the man or rather it is the society who has constructed the gender “Women” in such a way that they should always want a kind of protection from their male partners. Thus, although apparently it seems here that the wife or the mother did not want a fight in this case, but the language used here show what her actual desire was when the narrator says, “How dreadful, how incredible”. There is a feeling of fear in her and thus it was “dreadful” for her but then again, it was an adventurous situation for her and thus it was also an “incredible” situation for her. Moreover, the house or the family is the means and the end for a woman and thus when the couple accepted their defeat moved out of the park, the woman had only one thought in the mind, which was:
“She wanted only to get home and to busy herself with her familiar tasks”
The narrator, with the beautiful and creative use of the language comments that a woman could find her familiar tasks only at home, the home provided the woman with the ultimate protection.
Women are not only constructed as someone who need protection but there is also another construction of a woman and that is of a mother (Hill, 2015). It is the mother, who is always held responsible for all the actions, and thus when Joe throws sand at Larry, the immediate question that came to the mind of Larry’s mother is, “Where was his mother?” Patriarchy has not only constructed the woman but it has also constructed the man as well (Glauber and Gozjolko, 2015). According to certain critics and feminist thinkers, the gender construction is nothing but an ideological construction, where a set of rules had to be followed by both the man and the woman. Thus, the first appearance of Morton is not exactly of a man, who is a protector. Morton is someone who wears spectacles, who had a “fine”, “lean” face, and who is very “shy” and “apologetic”, as compared to Joe’s father who is quite a weak man and thus quickly became the butt of mockery. At first Joe’s father, who mocked Morton’s physical appearance as well as his lack of courage and said “You and who else?” to mock him. His wife again repeated the same phrase when she was disgusted because of her husband’s behavior. She too was constructed by this society as a woman, and as mentioned earlier she believed that her man will protect her from everything and should stand for “justice”, which has also been denied in this story. It is not only Morton, who failed to be a man but, Larry too could not be that man who could make her mother proud. The only fault of the three years old child was that he is someone, who is frail, and for whom his mother feels shame. The narrator used beautiful, yet very simple language to explain the complex construction of gender and the ideology to the readers and thus she comments:
“Always before she had felt a tender pity for his defenseless little body, the frail arms, the narrow shoulders with sharp, wing-like shoulder blades, the thin and unsure legs, but now her mouth tightened in resentment”
The women is either a wife or a mother and therefore throughout the novel Larry’s mother is referred as “She”. The readers do not know the name of the woman, they only that she is the wife of Morton and lives a very contended and a happy life with her husband, and is a carrying mother of Larry. Therefore, throughout the story, the author does not reveal the identity of the woman, she is just a “She” in the whole story and this is quite ironical in terms of Bel Kaufman’s own life. She too, had to take up an androgynous identity to publish her first short story because her own identity, or rather her own name Belle, was never trusted (Rajadhyaksha, Korabik and Aycan, 2015). The publishers never felt that a woman writer could come up with things like short stories even though she was writing at a time when the first wave of Feminism was on the go. Apart from the identity of the woman, the identity of Joe’s father is also not revealed. He is the universal patriarchal father figure, who takes the ultimate decision for the family and at times for the society as well. Patriarchy exists through domination and domination only establishes patriarchy. Therefore Joe’s father does not need any name, he has the power to establish his reign and thus he could very easily comment, “Throw all you want”. After all the powerful can do, all they want to do and for that, they do not need any reason or any kind of permission (Haslam, 2015). Joe too had been constructed in the same way and therefore, he too does not need any kind of permission before physically hurting someone.
Analysis of the Language
Long ago Russian anthropologist and theorist Mikhail Bakhtin commented that in any novel, the readers find not only the speech of the characters but at the same time, there is a speech of the author as well (Maybin and Swann, 2007). Heteroglossia is the term Bakhtin used, when he tried to define the usage of “another’s speech”, to serve the purpose of the author, in “another’s language” (Paton, 2012). The story by Kaufman too, has a same kind of thing when the woman or the mother unintentionally, and to her shock utters the speech of the bully, “You and who else”. The particular speech shocked her but this served the purpose of the author, she with the help of the end line blows a stroke. The author with this particular phrase could very easily explain that due to patriarchy the man too is in a very vulnerable position and if he could not play his part well, then he become a misfit not only for the society but also for the family as well, a subject of mockery and satire.
According to the scholars and the critics Bakhtin’s use of the double voice, refers to the language that is being used in everyday speech where, a less powerful speaker uses the double voice (Schwartz, 2015). The usage of the double voice by the less powerful speaker is there because the less powerful characters want to negotiate threats using double voicing. Here, the dialogue takes place between the bully and the Morton couple, where the bully is more powerful than the Morton couple. The wife, on the other hand is not only less powerful as she is physically weak, but at the same time she is also less powerful because she is a woman without an identity or a name. Therefore, the thoughts in her mind reflected a double consciousness or a double voice when she said, “How dreadful, how incredible”, at the thought of the fight that is going to take place between the bully and her husband. The same kind of split or double voicing is again being reflected in her thoughts when she said:
“She wanted to put her hand on her husband's sleeve, to pull him down, but for some reason she didn't”
Critics and scholars such as Patterson (2015), states that Bakhtin’s theory about dialogy, states the fact that authors of the modernist fictions never comment on anything rather present before the readers a conflict between two different sets of ideas or ideologies. Although the author presents a conflict there is no final resolution that is being offered to the readers. Similar kind of situation is there in this particular story as well. Here a dialogue takes place between the powerful and the less powerful and the one who is less powerful takes the place of the powerful in the course of the story. In the first place, a silent negotiation between the powerful and the less powerful takes place through the action of Joe and Larry. Joe, being the heavier, exercise power over Larry, by throwing sand on her and Larry being the physically feeble and the so-called ‘disciplined’ child could not protest against it. The same conversation between the powerful and the powerless takes place when there is a conversation between the bully father of Joe and Morton takes place. Lastly, the power relation changes when the couple with their child moved out of the park and the conversation takes place between the couple and the feeble Larry, until the end Larry played the role of the less powerful. The conversation analysis, here shows that the mother too exercised a power, when raged with shame and anger she firmly holds the hand of Larry, and Morton exercised his power against his wife, when he got irritated by the chants of her son and snapped at wife with these words, “If you can't discipline this child, I will". Interestingly, though the action was not possible because some how the wife, again expressed power through her last few words when she said, “”Indeed?" she heard herself say.” “You and who else?” The following words not only expressed a power relation, where again, Morton is being shown as someone who is weaker but at the same time a kind of double voicing too takes place in this following conversation. It is as if, not the wife, but another personality, who is strong and can stand up for herself and speak for herself, is speaking on behalf of her. The fact becomes clearer and apparent when the author comments that “She was shocked to hear it”, indeed it was a shock for her because in the beginning the readers witnessed a wife who is very careful, and less powerful than her husband. Although in the last sentence uttered by the wife brings before the picture of a wife who is stronger than her husband. Thus, in the end the author does not offer any kind of resolution, but only the possible dialogues.
Achilles, J. and Bergmann, I. eds., 2015. Liminality and the Short Story: Boundary Crossings in American, Canadian, and British Writing (Vol. 34). Routledge.
Christ, H. and Shostak, J. (1993). More short stories. New York: AMSCO School Publications.
Glauber, R. and Gozjolko, K.L., 2015. Gender Ideology, Race, and Parenthood. Working in America: Continuity, Conflict, and Change in a New Economic Era.
Haslam, J., 2015. Gender, Race, and American Science Fiction: Reflections on Fantastic Identities. Routledge.
Hill, C.E., 2015. Formal Education: Early Children’s Genres, Gender, and the Realist Novel (Doctoral dissertation, The Ohio State University).
Maybin, J. and Swann, J. (2007). Everyday Creativity in Language: Textuality, Contextuality, and Critique. 1st ed.
Paton, D. 2012. Towards a theoretical underpinning of the book arts: Applying Bakhtin’s dialogism and heteroglossia to selected examples of the artist’s book. Literator, 33(1).
Patterson, D., 2015. Literature and spirit: essays on Bakhtin and his contemporaries. University Press of Kentucky.
Rajadhyaksha, U., Korabik, K. and Aycan, Z., 2015. Gender, Gender-Role Ideology, and the Work–Family Interface: A Cross-Cultural Analysis. InGender and the Work-Family Experience (pp. 99-117). Springer International Publishing.
Schwartz, M., 2015. A Bakhtinian Dialogic Interactive Approach: Read-alouds with Spanish-speaking Kindergarteners (Doctoral dissertation, LONG ISLAND UNIVERSITY, CW POST CENTER).