Comparing and Contrasting- “A Stench of Kerosene”& “Looking for a Rain God” examine ways the writers create drama and tension and comment on the authors attitudes to the customs they describe. To what extent are the customs responsible for the deaths in the two stories? In this coursework essay I will compare and contrast the following short stories: “A Stench of Kerosene” by Amrita Pritam and “Looking for a Rain God” by Bessie Head. Analysing language I will also comment on the authors attitudes to the customs they describe and how each of the authors create tension and drama within their respective short stories.
Drama and tension are created dramatically in both of the stories by the extreme nature and severity of the deaths. In “A stench of Kerosene” the first we hear of Guleri’s suicide is when Bhavani returns home after his evening at the fair in Chamba. He says in a flat voice “Guleri is dead”. This is a powerful short sentence and it makes the reader anxious to find out how Guleri dies because the death is left in a shroud of mystery.
We are later told Manak’s wife Guleri dramatically takes her life by soaking her clothes in kerosene; burning herself in the ignited flames neighbouring her body.
Drama is created by the sheer extremity of her actions. When Bhavani is describing to Manak how Guleri has committed suicide Bhavani states “she soaked her clothes in kerosene and set fire to them”. This is a rather simple statement but this simplicity is effective as it creates dramatic impact and the reader can understand how Bhavani can only describe the actions simply as he is still emotionally overwhelmed by the incident.
Pritam also describes Bhavani walking towards Manak “His face was sad and grey as a cinder”. The passage is featured before Manak is aware of Guleri’s death.
This sentence though not very ingenious before our understanding of Guleri’s death becomes of importance afterwards. This is as the description of Bhavani’s face is described by Pritam as an indication of what is to follow. The direct similarity is the fire that Guleri ignites herself in and ‘cinder’ a word in the lexical group of fire. Similarly in “Looking for a Rain God” the death(s) within the story are very extreme. The reader is told at the half way point of the story about a certain ritual where lives are given in sacrifice in the promise of the rain. This idea is quickly mentioned and disregarded.
The father Ramadi, Mokgobja, and the two women Tiro and Nesta are then said to be “whispering”. After this Bessie Head reveals that the “children continued to play their game” and the paragraph ends. In the next paragraph we are suddenly told that “the bodies of the two girls had been spread across the land”. This sentence has immense impact. The verb ‘spread’ is usually associated when a certain object is evenly distributed across a surface. This image therefore conjures up certain brutal images within a reader’s mind that would be very disturbing as the deaths of Neo and Boseyong are suddenly pressed upon the reader.
In both stories the authors present the characters that die in similar ways. Firstly in “Looking for a Rain God” the characters that die are Neo and Boseyong. The young children are presented by the author Bessie Head in away that creates an emotional engagement between the reader and the fictional characters. The girls “chattered to each other in light, soft tones”. ‘Light and soft tones’ make the girls seem very content and also represent a sense of peacefulness and innocence. Equally in “A Stench of Kerosene” Guleri is described as “Her heart glowing with pride” this would purvey her as a warm and affectionate person.
This sentence follows Guleri’s thoughts of her home village ‘Chamba’. The word Heart shows that she has a deep passion for Chamba which is admired by the reader and makes us feel that Guleri is a charming person. Also attached to this sentence is the word glowing. ‘Glowing’ usually represents warmth and warmth is usually connected with well being. This would symbolize Guleri as a naturally warm person. As you can see we image Neo, Boseyong and Guleri as innocent decent characters yet the bonds that are formed between the reader and the characters in both stories are exploited as these characters are killed tragically.
The emotional engagement created by the authors is effective. This is as when the characters die we feel a more emotional reaction as the reader has felt strongly about the individuals for their innocent and loving qualities that have been recognised. Drama is created after the deaths in both of the stories. Firstly in “A Stench of Kerosene” Manak is devastated by the news Guleri is dead. Pritam writes Manak was suddenly “Mute with pain”. This phrase is cunningly clever because mute is a word associated within the lexical field of many musical instruments.
Manak is asked to play his flute by Guleri before she leaves him to attend the fair in Chamba. It states he duly blew an ‘anguished wail’. Drama is created as wail is associated with terror and mourning therefore the word ‘Mute’ links the death of Guleri with a possible presumption of death earlier in the story. In “Looking for a Rain God” after the children are declared ‘spread over the land’ we learn that “A terror extreme and deep, overwhelmed the whole family. ” The word extreme intensifies the situation making it sound even more dramatic.
The word ‘deep’ in my opinion resembles the depth of the action and how they are trapped in their own circle of shame and fear of being caught. This has a considerable effect on the family, they feel they are no longer a family as Neo and Boseyong, who once completed them are dead. They are now people constantly clouded by self pity and disgrace. Tension is created from the start of “A Stench of Kerosene” by the peculiar actions of Manak and the readers view is that he is hiding something behind the closed doors of his mind.
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