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Mila Feinman

on 21 September 2014

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Sujata Bhatt
The author
• Born in Gujarat, India in 1956.
• Moved to America at twelve years old. • Feels that her language is English but her identity is Indian.
• Must of her poems contain the themes of love, violence, racism and interaction between Asian, European and North American cultures.
• She feels split between two cultures
• Studied in Britain and USA
• Taught in Canada
• Actually lives in Germany.
There are three major themes in this poem
Identity is a major theme of the poem. It is linked to the author's change of identity with oppression. Sujata Bhatt changed identity as soon as she left for America.
Culture is also a main theme of this poem. Sujata Bhatt explore two different cultures throughout the poem: the Indian and the American one.
Related to culture, the language of both countries is also explored. The fact that Sujata Bhatt had to learn English affects her as she speaks of death: "which language truly meant to murder someone", it shows an adaptation of a new language.
By Jade Mahdavi and Mila Feinman
• Rewrites history with poetry
• Start over, new history
• Difference between India and America
• Two different cultures
• Two different languages
• Hi
- Stories of war, politics, conquests
- Sujata wants to rewrite the story from her perspective: an oppressed person

• Dual identity crisis
- Thinks she is made up of two different parts:
• Afraid to lose her mothertongue: Guajarati
Techniques used
• 2 stanzas criticizing both countries:
- 1st stanza India
- 2nd stanza America
• Reference to Pan: half-man half-goat
- Identifies herself in Pan (see definition in "symbols"
• "Unborn children grow to love that strange language": British is not her native language but she loves it
- "Strange language": language of the oppressor

• English stopped India's culture from progressing (colonization)

• Sujata comprehends British did not want to harm but finds that cultural killing is bad

Techniques used
• Shows India's old way of life
- Pressure to conform
• " Which language has not been the oppressor's tongue ?" : origins of language
- All cultures have roots
• Great Pan shows that culture moves around (see "symbols")
• 29 lines
• 2 stanzas
- 2 moods
- Before + After colonization = Dual Identity
- Doesn't know if she is Indian (criticizes India in 1st stanza) or American (criticizes America in 2nd stanza)
• Free verses : make opinion clearer + serious
• Big break between stanza 1 and 2
• Lines cut in two to incite reader to read slowly
• Line 3 : "India" line apart/ centered
- Moving away from where Pan was to where he is now - connects to Sujata

Throughout the poem, language also plays an important theme because of the difference the author makes between the Indian and the American language. In the second stanza, when Sujata speaks about language, she feels that the beauty of Indian language was massacred by the British colonial. This portays the oppressor as a robber. Language has such a great power that it can be a beautiful thing but can also lead to "murder". The importance of language and literature is highlighted in the poem when the author talks about the books.
Techniques used
• Use of rhetorical questions :
"Which language has not been the oppressor's tongue ?"
"Which language truly meant to murder someone ?"

• She uses powerful words to express her hatred for "change" of a language
• Repetition : "sin" ; "language" ; "book"
• Metaphors : "snakes or monkeys" (represent gods)
• Personification : "
to a book" ( "Sin" emphasizes the manner we treat a book - shows a strict side of Indian culture)
• Assonance : "b
k" ; "f
t" ; "r
m" ; "w
d" ; "sw
• Connection between the books read and the trees:
- They're not separated from each other
- It is a connection between the people and the world they live in
• Metaphorical imagery : "after the soul has been cropped with a long scythe swooping out"

The tone changes between the first and the second stanza
First stanza
• The tone is aggressive and violent: it is an evidence to prove that it is critical
- Criticizes India's culture
- Strong point of view on religion
• "You must"
- Addressed to the reader
- Imperative

Second stanza
• Mood changes - angrier tone = outraging tone
• Voice changes from instruction, explanation, to a voice of questioning :
• Begins with rhetorical questions
- Many languages have been altered by oppressor
- represents speaker's opinion on the fact that language is a sort of indentity
• "oppressor" + "murder" + "torture" = negative image of language = crime

Personal Response
We both found this poem very interesting. Throughout the poem, we found the aspects of the story of Britain and India. The poet clearly distinguished the difference between the two countries. Sajuta Bhatt clearly conveyed her ideas in the poem. She used a lot of language and some literary techniques that were very interesting, the power of words was very strong. There was also some important and interesting themes explored. It is interesting how in this poem we see how words form stories, and how these stories form history. The history of the history of the oppressor. To conclude, "A Different History" is a very realistic poem, it explores some real events and thoughts.
• Language reflects who we are
- Identity
• Language is an abstract concept
• Languages have mythologies
• Languages are historical and personal

• (Great) Pan is an important symbol in the poem
- God of freedom, nature
- He is half-goat half-man
• He represents Sujata Bhatt
- She is a combination of
Indian and American language/culture
-Two identities in one
- He also emigrated
• Pan represents culture
- He shows that culture can move, travel around
•"Great Pan is not dead"
-nature in India

•In this poem Books are also a symbol
• They represent religion
•Books are personified

• Sarasvati is the god literature
• She shows that not being involved in literature is bad
• Literature should be respected
- Linked to books
Full transcript