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20091124-11 The World's Wife (Group 4)

Page history last edited by jedge 10 years, 10 months ago



Today in class we finished our discussion of the Breast-Giver by first asking why the story starts the way it does. In paragraph two Devi includes the story about Jashoda’s son-in-law having sex with the cook. The story shows the son-in-law’s values, and how he’s reflective of the larger household. He is a major catalyst for the story because he run’s over Kangali, forcing Jashoda to work. Because he blames his sexual urges on an “incubus”, the sex with the cook shows his deflection of responsibility, which reflect the views about fate and religion of society as a whole. 

The sex also shows the situation of all women in the story. Free will is not possible for women because the whole society is stuck with 16th century ideals about class, gender, and religion. Because of these ideals, women are taken advantage of. Jashoda is called the “mother of all the world” because of her mistreatment. Kangali doesn’t respect her work, he sees her as a sexual object and he abandons her when she’s dying. Miss Haldar also mistreats Jashoda by trying to shortchange her. 

     Once we finished with Devi’s story we discussed the Caroline Duffy poems. The poems all shared a few things: they talked in the first person, they were written in a simple, easy to read style, and they were from the viewpoint of wives of famous people.  Duffy chose wives from Greek/classical myth, contemporary figures, fairy tale/ folklore, and biblical text. Duffy writes in the style of postmodernism. This style, originating post World War II, points out textual instability, the construction of worldviews and tries to tell the other side of the story. Duffy takes this different approach to these famous stories in order to make the reader contemplate the erasure of these women. 

Words: 298




     Think of the perks, he says.

     what use is a perk, I shriek,

     when you haven't the time to pop open a cork

     or go for so much as a walk in the park?

     He's a dork.  (ll. 6-10, Mrs. Sisyphus)


     This passage out of the collection of poems in The World's Wife, and shows the frustration of wife of Sisyphus has with her husband.  Mrs. Sisyphus is frustrated with her husband because he is constantly pushing a rock up a hill, not because he's being forced to but because he's a workaholic and would rather do the monotonous task than spend time with her. The poet uses words that rhyme with "irk" to create an irritated and annoyed tone.



     One afternoon the boy, driven by lust, attacked the cook and the cook, since her body was heavy with rice, stolen fishheads, and turnip greens, and her body languid with sloth, lay back, saying, "Yah, do what you like." Thus did the incubus of Bagdad get off the boy's shoulders and he wept repentant      tears, mumbling, "Auntie, don't tell." The cook-saying, "What's there to tell?"-went quickly to sleep. She never told anything. (Breast-Giver pg. 1069)


     This passage shows the situation for all women in Breast-Giver. The cook accepts the boy's advances not because she's passionate for him, or totally indifferent towards sex but because she can't really refuse him even if she wants to. As an employee, it wouldn't be wise for her to offend the people who can get her fired (which we find later doesn't matter because the boy framed her for stealing a ring). This passage shows the lack of freewill women have in the story. 



     Mrs. Haldar believes that the more the cow eats, the more milk she gives. Jashoda's place in the house is now above the Mother Cows. The Mistress's sons become incarnate Brahma and create progeny. Jashoda preserves the progeny.  (Breast-Giver p. 1076)


      This passage shows that the role of men in Breast-Giver is to be like Brahma. These roles are assigned by religion since Brahma is the creator god and men were made to create more offspring. Women according to religion are supposed to preserve these roles in which Jashoda does. This further enforces the lack of freewill for women in the story.





  • Epigraph - a quotation to begin a poem
  • Incubus - a male demon that tempts young people to have sex with them (not a crappy rock band).
  • Succubus - a female form of an Incubus
  • Irk - to irritate, annoy, or exasperate
  • Postmodernism - a writing style that points out textual instability and construction of world views, Borges uses this writing style as well, and also tells the other side of the story.


Comments (2)

shaywoo@... said

at 12:49 am on Dec 1, 2009

Hey sorry guys that I didn't contribute to the last Wikinotes, my grandfather passed away that week and I completely forgot about doing them. I tried to contribute more to these... sorry again guys!

Brian Croxall said

at 11:24 am on Dec 7, 2009

Congratulations on writing some very strong notes for your final set. I appreciated how complete your definitions are. You should note that while we can say that Borges does in fact tell the other side of a story (something that Lidell Hart apparently didn't think was worth dignifying in his text) that we discussed this aspect of postmodernism in connection with Duffy. Your definition as it is written doesn't make that perfectly clear. I think the one thing that I would suggest you do a bit differently is that you choose a passage about the "rape" of the cook, but you also talked about it in your summary. That's not necessarily bad--after all, we spent a fair amount of time on this in class. But I think it could have been interesting for you to make it more clear in your summary that while all women are taken advantage of within the culture, that both men and women pick on Jashoda. In other words, you could have spent a little more time clarifying how she is the mother of all the world, since you were going to talk about the cook in the passages.

Otherwise, very well done.

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