Images of Injustice
Is it possible for us to understand the central theme of a story or a poem or any other piece of writing without having images and symbols? We can find them in every piece of writing in English literature. Every author uses symbolism and imagery in their writings in order to make us understand the message that he is trying to convey through words. In other words, symbolism gives us a deeper level of meaning and stronger emotions. Freedom, love, relationship, hate, violence are few central themes represented in many different stories and poems. Idea of vivid mental pictures, or images, by the skilful use of words is what we called imagery. I discovered the use of same image in different works representing different significance to us. Some themes are expressed by using different symbols and images. Unfairness in war among the people is a common theme that can be characterized images by the means of body parts, fire, and humans.
In the story The Things They Carried the author, Tim O Brien uses the image of a human thumb to represent injustice done to the young Vietnamese boy and to the American soldiers. American soldiers were involved in a conflict in Vietnam and were experiencing sufferings without any reason. In the story, reader can discover the significance of a human thumb by the graphical description given by O Brien. He clearly exhibited it in the following line, The thumb was dark brown, rubbery to the touch, and weighted four ounces at most (878). In every aspect, a thumb symbolizes the injustice done to the Vietnamese boy during the war. The physical description of Vietnamese boy given by O Brien in the following lines, They d found him at the bottom of an irrigation ditch, badly burned, flies in his mouth and eyes (878) makes us feel disheartened. Although the thumb represents a victory for a sixteen-year-old Vietnamese boy, the Americans had no other chose other than to follow the instructions, which resulted in the unnecessary deaths in the war. To express the unfairness done during the war, O Brien also uses the fire, which is generally considered as an image of purification or rescue. He uses the fire to represents as an image of destruction, resentment and anger of the American soldiers. In a fit of anger, when one of their companions, Ted Levender was killed, they set the village on fire without knowing or caring what their sense of mission was. The image of fire exemplifies the resentment in the story.
Apart from using images of thumb and fire to reflect injustice and anger, the author Gloria Anzaldua uses animal imagery in her poem horse to exemplify the theme of injustice. Gloria uses image of horse to signify the injustice, which generally associated with a very sexual and passionate image. She uses horse to reveal the cultural differences between white Americans and the Mexicans. The white teenagers tortured the horse very badly, but they did not kill him and made him suffered whole night. After the event happened white Americans never confess their mistake. She expresses injustice not only done to the horse but also shows the helpless Mexicans:
the Mexicans mutter among themselves:
they hobbled the two front legs
the two hinds legs, kids aged sixteen
but they re gringos
and the sheriff won t do a thing
he d just say boys will be boys
just following their instincts.
Image of horse used in poem is very violent from my point of view. The poem clearly reflects the tensions among the Mexicans and the Whites.
Another image of injustice that I came across was that of an ear which was use in the poem The Colonel by Carolyn Forche. Generally the ears represent memory, awaking, personality, but in this poem it represents dead people. In the poem, Carolyn met a Salvadoran Colonel who was totally against human rights and had kept lot of human ears that he had cut during war. Each ear represents a soldier who died in the war. She uses following lines to express Colonel s anger against America and their policies, He took one of them in his hands, shook it in our faces, dropped it into a water glass. (921) I think that Colonel did this to ears to make the people realize that he has nothing to do with human rights. The image of ears used in the poem is very discourage for the readers. She does not only uses ears to represent the injustice done to the ears, but also used it to focus on the image of cruelty done to the soldiers in the wars.
Not only body parts are used to illustrate the theme of injustice in war they are also are used to illustrate that how even the remains of dead Indians are utilized for commercial purpose. It is very clear in the poem, Three Thousand Dollars Death Song by Wendy Rose, where she uses the image of the human bones to express her personal resentment and rage against the people who sell human skeletons (bones) of American Indians in museums. Wendy emphasizes on the image of bones not only to express the injustice but also the suffering American Indians experienced throughout their generation:
it s official how our bones are valued
that stretch out pointing to sunrise
or are flexed into one last foetal bend,
that are removed and tossed about,
catalogued, numbered with black ink
on newly-white foreheads.
In her poem, Wendy strongly affirms that the people of her generation were ending the old religious belief of ancestors by treating the bones American Indians in sinful way. That is not adequate to do with the buried people. She uses the image of bones to associate the treatment given to American Indians in past and in present-day. Addition to that she also uses the image of money to express the authority to sell or buy anything even the body parts of dead. These lines gives an image of money in away that it is use to acquire the stolen things as she mentioned in her poem:
You: who have
priced us, you who have removed us: at what cost?
What price the pits where our bones share
a single bit of memory, how one century
turns our dead into specimen, our history
into dust, our survivors into clowns.
Rose utilizes the image of bones in this poem, which symbolizes the injustice done to the Native American Indians and to their cultural beliefs of past centuries.
All of the symbols and images used by the authors in their stories and poems which, represent the injustice done to the living being in one way or another. Using images of fire, thumb, horse the central theme of their stories and poems make easier for readers to recognize them. Similar images used to express similar theme of injustice, in some stories different images are used to express similar theme. As O Brien and Rose uses similar images of body parts to exhibits the injustice done to humans and animals. These are the fundamental to any piece of writing having deep and different meanings, without them stories and poems would be dull and the reader could not their imaginations as much.