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2nd Quarter Independent Reading Project

Prezi presentation describing how an author's cultural background influences his/her writing.
by

Ruthie Hornbuckle

on 10 January 2013

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Transcript of 2nd Quarter Independent Reading Project

Ruthie Hornbuckle
Law Period 8 Quarter 2 Independent Reading Assignment Cry, the Beloved Country BOOK 1 Conclusion Big Idea Instances in which the characters in a novel repeat the author's past actions are examples that reflect the idea that writers' cultural and historical backgrounds impact the works they create. Several other samples that illustrate this point are psychological and physiological similarities between the author and his characters, parallels connecting the setting of the novel and an author's residence, and common religious or ethical ideals shared by the author and his characters. Writing about what one knows is much easier and more pleasant than writing about what one doesn't know. A person's cultural and historical backgrounds are two of the most acknowledged and influential aspects in their life and in the formation of who they are. Consequently, these backgrounds are topics that are commonly found in an author's works, for they are of a subject that the author knows well. Works Cited GAMAL ABDEL NASSER. 1960. Photograph. Cairo. SNIPPETSANDSNAPPITS.BLOGSPOT.COM. Snippits and Snappits, 29 Nov. 2012. Web. 6 Jan. 2013.

Iannone, Carol. "Alan Paton's Tragic Liberalism." AMERICAN SCHOLAR. Summer 1997: 442-451. SIRS RENAISSANCE. Web. 06 Jan 2013.

Larrabee, Constance S. ALAN PATON TEACHING A CHILD. 1949. Photograph. Natal. AUNTADA.TUMBLR.COM. Feb. 1949. Web. 6 Jan. 2013.

Mafū, Najīb, Gassick Trevor. Le, Muammad Muafá. Badawī, and John Rodenbeck. THE THIEF AND THE DOGS. New York: Anchor, 1989. Print.

Paton, Alan. CRY, THE BELOVED COUNTRY. New York: C. Scribner's Sons, 1948. Print.

"Paton, Alan Stewart (1903-1988)." THE HUTCHINSON DICTIONARY OF THE ARTS. 2004: n.p. SIRS RENAISSANCE. Web. 06 Jan 2013.

REFORMATORY IN ORLANDO, SOWETO. 1947. Photograph. Soweto. SAHISTROY.ORG.ZA. Comp. SAHO. South African History Online, 12 May 2010. Web. 6 Jan. 2013.

Teisch, Jessica. "Naguib Mahfouz (1911-2006)." BOOKMARKS (ISSUE 25). Nov./Dec. 2006: 28-33. SIRS RENAISSANCE. Web. 18 Nov 2012.

THE GOOD AND THE BAD CAIRO. N.d. Photograph. Cairo. URBANPEEK.COM. 13 June 2011. Web. 6 Jan. 2013. By Alan Paton Reformatory in Soweto, South Africa, an Urban Section of the City of Johannesburg. BOOK 2 The Thief and the Dogs By: Naguib Mahfouz Cairo: The Good and the Bad This picture exemplifies the stark differences between the socioeconomic classes of Egyptian citizens created as a result of "the cultures of political [and economic] opportunism cultivated and sanctioned the regime [under Gamal Abdel Nasser's dictatorship]" (Reference). The picture on the left depicts a slum area of Cairo, the renowned capital of Egypt. The inhabitants of these slums are forced to contend with harsh conditions, including malnutrition and filthy living spaces. In comparison, the residents of wealthier areas in Cairo enjoy economic, political, and social luxuries unknown to those less fortunate. South African Author Alan Paton Teaching a Young Native Boy Outside of a Church in Natal. Gamal Abdel Nasser, Former Dictator of Egypt Gamal Abdel Nasser served as the second President of Egypt from 1956 until his death in 1970. Political, economic and social opportunities were awarded only to those people with substantial influence in the nation under Nasser's rule. For instance, newspaper editors were endowed with political and financial advantages as a result of their ability to present the strength of the government through writing. Consequently, the common man in Egypt during the 1950s and 1960s suffered from oppression and inequality. Naguib Mahfouz reflects his "disappointment in Gamal Abdel Nasser's dictatorship in Egypt" and the social hierarchy created under Nasser through his writing. Representation of the Author's Background Historical Background: Current Government The photograph of former Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser demonstrates how the corrupt Egyptian government played an important role in the formation of themes and tone in Naguib Mahfouz's THE THIEF AND THE DOGS. The apprehensive, frustrated and sarcastic tones of the novel reflect Mahfouz's distrust in the Egyptian government and the social class pyramid created under it (displayed also in the following picture of two areas of different social classes in Egypt). These tones are displayed by several passages stated by characters of lower social class in THE THIEF AND THE DOGS. For instance, a friend of Said Mahran, a tortured man recovering from losing his wife to his closest adviser, states after Mahran's plot to take revenge on the betrayers is revealed, "That's how you feel now. But tomorrow, who knows how you'll feel? You'll change your opinion of your own accord. That's the way of the world" (TTATD, C3, pg. 40). Although this quote makes direct reference to Said Mahran's situation, it hints to Naguib Mahfouz's view that the Egyptian government during the 1950s was led by a man whose opinions were ever-changing.
In conclusion, this image of Gamal Abdel Nasser symbolizes the Egyptian leadership during the time in which this novel was written. This piece of historical background is reflected in the novel especially through Mahfouz's concealed slights against Nasser. These insults contribute to the overall tone of the novel. Secondly, the themes of inequality and injustice are developed through the social hierarchy in the Egyptian government under Nasser. The photograph of Nasser represents the injustice under the Egyptian government by which Mahfouz was governed while writing his novel. This aspect of the Naguib Mahfouz's historical background impacts the work he created. Representation of the Impact of the Author's Background on the Novel Corrupt Leadership to Social Injustice The photograph of different areas of Cairo in which unlike social classes live represents the inequality and injustice Egyptian citizens faced under Gamal Abdel Nasser's rule. Nasser implemented a social pyramid while in office. Consequently, those who provided the Egyptian government with a valued service, as Rauf Ilwan, the previous mentor of Said Mahran, had while serving as the editor-in-chief of the "Al-Zahra" newpaper (TTATD, C3, Pg. 34), receive substantial aid and influence in the national government while the poor commoners do not. The dissimilarities between the Egyptian social classes expressed in this photograph are noted again in a passage of Mahfouz's novel. Said Mahran, a former thief that legitimately (with justifiable cause) preyed on the belongings of the rich, attempted to meet with Rauf Ilwan in the newspaper company's building. "Said made for the elevator at once, joining people among whom he looked rather out of place in his blue suit and gym shoes, the oddness emphasized by the glaring eyes on either side of his long aquiline nose" (TTATD, C3, Pg. 35). The unambiguous contrasts in the appearances and demeanor of Said and the other, wealthier passengers on the elevator contribute to the notion that Mahfouz purposefully described the inequality between social classes in reference to a similar social hierarchy instituted by Gamal Abdul Nasser. This photograph also supports this notion, for the apparent distinctions between the living spaces of the wealthy and the poor depict the effects of social inequality felt by both the characters in THE THIEF AND THE DOGS and by the novel's author. Naguib Mahfouz's THE THIEF AND THE DOGS is a thrilling tale that follows Said Mahran on his path for revenge against those who have betrayed him. One of Mahfouz's most successful works, this novel depicts "Egypt's--and his own--social, political, and intellectual evolution during the twentieth century" (Reference 8). Egypt's turbulent history and corrupt politics are mirrored in Mahfouz's THE THIEF AND THE DOGS. Similarly, Mahfouz's harsh opinions on the stark variances between Egyptian social classes are voiced by the protagonist of his book. For example, Said states in the ninth chapter of the novel, ""They'll find it and give it back to its owner, as you'd expect of a government that favors some thieves more than others"" (TTATD, C9, Pg. 85). Mahfouz voices his hatred for the corrupt Egyptian government under President Gamal Abdul Nasser (the leader of Egypt during the time THE THIEF AND THE DOGS was written) through this quotation, as his protagonist makes reference to the idea that the wealthy thieve upon the rights of the poor. Likewise, Said Mahran finds solace in religion, as he lives with a "Sheik" (TTATD, C8, Pg. 77) throughout most of the novel. The fact that Mahfouz found religion in his period of "evolution" (Reference 8), during which he wrote THE THIEF AND THE DOGS, reveals how his cultural background influenced his writing. In this way, the idea that writers' cultural and historical backgrounds impact the works they create is accurately demonstrated through Naguib Mahfouz's THE THIEF AND THE DOGS. In an essay written in 1975, Nadine Gordimer, winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature, declared that Alan Paton's CRY, THE BELOVED COUNTRY ""was a book of lyrical beauty and power that moved the conscience of the outside world over racialism and, what's more, that of white South Africa as no book has done before"" (Ref. 2). The picture of South Africa painted in CRY, THE BELOVED COUNTRY is a reflection of Paton's own cultural and historical backgrounds. His deep Christian values and humanitarian vision find a speaker in Arthur Jarvis. In several of Arthur's writings, some of which being works in progress discovered after his death at the "hands of a young native" (Ref. 2), Paton presents "lengthy version[s] of his own thought, though skillfully tailored to reflect Arthur's younger, more naive understanding" (Ref. 2). For example, Arthur reproaches the idea that South Africa is a Christian nation in the following passage:
"The truth is that our Christian civilization is riddled through and through with dilemma. We believe in the brotherhood of man, but we do not want it in South Africa. We believe that God endows men with diverse gifts, and that human life depends for its fullness on their employment and enjoyment, but we are afraid to explore this belief too deeply....Thus even our God becomes a confused and inconsistent creature, giving gifts and denying them employment.... The truth is that our civilization is not Christian; it is a tragic compound of great ideal and fearful practice, of high assurance and desperate anxiety, of loving charity and fearful clutching of possessions" (CTBC, C21, Pg. 187-188).
The time during which this novel was written contributes to the author's historical background that has also influenced his works. Paton wrote his acclaimed novel during the time period in which "apartheid" (Ref. 6), or the system of racial segregation implemented by legislation, was employed. As a result, Paton's novel hints to the corruption instituted by immoral South African laws. For instance, a judge ruling on a court case in which a black native was tried for murdering a white man stated, "If the law is the law of a society that some feel to be unjust, it is the law and the society that must be changed. In the meantime there is an existing law that must be administered, and it is the sacred duty of a Judge to administer it" (CTBC, C28, Pg. 234). In this quotation, Paton's persuasive cry for action against the unjust South African government appears as well. The numerous passages in which anti-apartheid and Christian views are expressed in CRY, THE BELOVED COUNTRY develop the idea that a writer's cultural and historical backgrounds impact the works they create. Alan Paton explains that religion has imparted unto him "one thing," as he clarifies it, "that life must be used in the service of a cause greater than oneself....This can be done by a Christian for two reasons: one is obedience to his Lord, the other is purely pragmatic, namely that one is going to miss the meaning of life if one doesn't" (Ref. 2). It is this belief that encouraged Paton to accept the position as headmaster of a school in Diepkloof, near Johannesburg in the Transvaal, where he was responsible, at different times, for "from 360 to more than 600 black pupils" (Ref. 6). This picture displays Paton working with one of his students in front of a church. Although a viewer can only faintly see the cross in the background of the photo, the influence of religion on Alan Paton's life is as clear as day. Representation of the Author's Background Cultural Background: Religion The importance of religion to Alan Paton is accurately reflected through the image of him with one of his student's in front of a church. "Christianity was central to Paton's life from first to last" (Ref. 2). As Paton gradually became more involved in religious endeavors, he participated in the church's "repudiation of racialism and separatism" (Ref. 2). This historical detail reveals that Paton's empathy with the oppressed African people first developed as a result of his humanitarian efforts in his church. Therefore, Paton accepted the position of headmaster over the Diepkloof reformatory in order to prepare the boys for their future in a society consumed with injustice and inequality. "Paton instituted daily Bible lessons and encouraged even hymn singing, often conducted by his one black assistant or by Paton himself. He gradually built up his pupils' self-discipline by exposing them to the temptations they would face on the outside, and he granted them more and more freedom as they showed themselves more and more capable of handling it" (Ref. 2). This quotation also notes that Paton's true intent for becoming headmaster was to ensure that the boys would be able and willing to live in a just and equal society. In this way, Paton was priming them for a future not yet earned, but for a future longed for by the true Christians, like Paton, that awaited the day in which each man is allowed to develop his gifts given from God. This hope is shared among several of the characters in Paton's novel. For instance, Arthur Jarvis and the headmaster at the reformatory in which Absalom stays both share a common hope for a righteous and just South Africa. In conclusion, Alan Paton's willingness to instruct the oppressed boys demonstrates his philanthropic character that is also seen in the young man at the reformatory and in Arthur Jarvis in CRY, THE BELOVED COUNTRY. Secondly, Paton's cultural background as an active Christian impacted his novel through the creation of characters that value similar religious principles and share the same hope that South Africa will eventually be governed by laws that treat every man equally and justly. This photograph of a reformatory in Johannesburg, South Africa, represents the institution at which Absalom Kumalo resided in Alan Paton's CRY, THE BELOVED COUNTRY. Although this reformatory does not have a church near it, the same benevolent ideas of equality and justice for all individuals held by Alan Paton are shared by this institution's operators. In this way, Alan Paton's religious beliefs are spoken through Stephen Kumalo while his instructional ideas are shown through this reformatory and the young white man that runs it. Representation of the Impact of the Author's Background on the Novel Transmission of Ideals From the Author to the Characters Parallels between the opinions of Alan Paton and several of the characters in his novel can be drawn. These similarities in ideals revolve primarily around the headmaster of the reformatory in Johannesburg, South Africa, depicted above and Stephen Kumalo. Alan Paton's religious practices are reflected through Stephen Kumalo. However, Alan Paton did not give up his position as headmaster to become a priest. Although Paton could have easily taken this route, he chose instead to continue his charitable work as the main operator of a reformatory for young African boys. Paton's justification for this decision is spoken by the young man that is the headmaster of the reformatory in Johannesburg in CRY, THE BELOVED COUNTRY. The young man states:
""It is my work to reform, to help, to uplift....It is a wonderful work," he says, "a wonderful work, a noble work." He withdraws again, then leans out and talks to Kumalo. "You must not think a parson's work is nobler," he says. Perhaps he is speaking too loudly, for he lowers his voice and speaks through tight and angry lips. "You save souls," he says, "as though it is a grim jest to save souls. But I save souls also. You see people come into the world and you see them go out. And so do I. I saw this Absalom born into a new world and now I shall see him go out" (CTBC, C14, Pg. 134).
The quotation accurately demonstrates Alan Paton's belief that the task of training the uninformed is as justifiable, or even more so, in some cases, than the act of giving one blind hope. Paton feels as if the position as a headmaster allows him to inform individuals about the importance of life while simultaneously giving them optimism and courage. Therefore, Paton's cultural background as a headmaster with strong religious ties impacted the work he created through the voicing of his own opinions on the issues plaguing South Africa through his characters. The notion that a writer's backgrounds influence the works they create is proven correct by Alan Paton's CRY, THE BELOVED COUNTRY and Naguib Mahfouz's THE THIEF AND THE DOGS. Alan Paton expressed his own opinions regarding the collapse of his home country through the characters of his novel. In addition, Paton made it so that several of the characters in his work shared similar ideals with him. In comparison, Naguib Mahfouz revealed his distrust in his own government through the actions and thoughts of his characters. Mahfouz also established similarities between the governmental structure in his time and the effects of that same structure on the characters of his novel. In conclusion, the statement that writers' cultural and historical backgrounds impact the works they create is accurate, for it applies to both Alan Paton's CRY, THE BELOVED COUNTRY and Naguib Mahfouz's THE THIEF AND THE DOGS.
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