Chocolate by Joanne Harris Essay
Chocolate by Joanne Harris
If we were all to rebel against what we’ve always known to be accepted, if we were to completely ignore the teachings of our elders and do the things we’ve been taught to be “evil” and “sinister”, what would happen? This situation is one which occurs in a small and tranquil French town in the extract from Chocolat. Throughout the extract there are a variety of juxtapositions, polarizations, and much contrast building the subject. Joanne Harris creates a compelling story, but not without exaggerated or overstated situations.
Through reading the extract and analyzing each significant line of literature, we are able to understand the narrator and the young girl’s character to a more advanced degree. In the extract, we first encounter Vianne with her daughter Anouk as they brave the harsh wind and settle into the new village. “We came on the wind of the carnival.” The quoted piece of literature displays the sly exotic wind, a rather unusual one for February. To some extent, the wind presents the characters of Vianne and Anouk as they are independent and wild, the same as the wind that brought in the carnival. Reminiscent of the carnival, the narrator and her daughter are very bright and lively which is ironic as they settled the grey village during the time of the carnival. This piece of text also shows polarization; Light vs. Dark and Lively vs. Dull, as well as contrast between the town’s people and the carnival. The polarization of Lively vs. Dull can be seen in the extract through the mentioning of fanciful tales. “…A dragon’s head on a shield, Rapunzel in a woolen wig, a mermaid with a Cellophane tail, a gingerbread house all icing and gilded cardboard, a witch in the doorway….”
Seeing that most of us have matured with the impression that fairy tales are magic- blissful, bright and fantastic, as we read this passage we can see how Vianne try’s to keep magic alive in Anouk as well as in herself. Their itinerant from town to town represents this burning flame; the magic she is striving to keep alive. Not only does Vianne attempt to keep magic flourishing in herself and Anouk, she also aids the parishioners. The extract is an enchanting brew of confections and humanity. Vianne, a shaman-like woman rides the North wind casting her spell of kindness to those in need; she visits town after town seeking battles with those who would take advantage, and attempt to lord over other poor souls. Carrying on a tradition of lifting the spirits of the downtrodden, with her magical unrefined cocoa and special chili pepper in the form of delicious chocolates. This shows great contrast amongst Vianne and the villagers for the reason that, the personality of Vianne is much different than that of each person in Lansquenet.
We also notice this contrast out of the text through “… Her silk scarf fluttering at her throat; the child in yellow Wellingtons and sky blue mac. Their coloring marks them. Their clothes are exotic..” Unlike the town’s people, Vianne is more insightful and exotic as well as observant but nevertheless logical. This is shown in “..knowledge is currency here..” and “I feel their gaze…” As for Anouk, she is able to see beyond the truth. At first, we witness this during the carnival. “But at six the world retains a special luster.” Then, at the mentioning of a mermaid. “..a mermaid with a Cellophane tail..” She can still see the real witch, the real magic. Joanne Harris used a great juxtaposition here; magic vs. functionality. Not only does Joanne Harris use juxtapositions to build her subjects, she also employs contrast, polarization, connotations, sensuality/austerity (priest, villagers) plus flamboyant passages along with descriptive ones used to paint an image in the reader’s mind that appeals to our senses.
For example, to appeal to our tastes Joanne Harris uses very descriptive words that are enough to make you drool. “..hot greasy scents of frying pancakes and sausages and powdery-sweet waffles..” This also creates wild images in the readers mind, tying in contrast amongst the carnival and town’s people. The fact that Vianne arrives in town on the day of the carnival just prior to lent shows great significance- Contrast to people and village is Lively vs. Grey/Dull, which ironically is seen a lot throughout the passage. The carnival also acts as a connecting thread though means of a new beginning. More precisely, a new beginning between Vianne and the villagers; almost like a “float.”
In addition, the carnival sets mood and personality; the fact that everything is not always as is seen, especially when it comes to Religion where the church is a means of control. This control is used as a juxtaposition, repression, and emphasis throughout the movie as well as the passage. All the factors mentioned in the essay; character, language, connections, significance, tie in to create the subject. The subject of how the town’s people judge Vianne and Anouk which then leads to tolerance- how the author creates the subject.