World Literature in English, Spring, '98

Students' Final Take-Home Exams
Spring, 1998


 
 Not all the teachers are colonizers.  Choose three teachers (from  Annie John, Sugar Cane Alley, and "Rain Child") and analyze their different relationships with the colonized.
Connie Tseng
Faith Yang
Joy
Ruth Wang
Tina Pan
(Connie Tseng:) 
In Annie John, Miss Edward presents dual identities. She is a colonizer and at the same times an educator. Education is one efficient and major way of colonizing. Miss Edward emphasizes her English identity strongly and shows it by demanding the schoolgirls to cultivate the English manner. As a colonizer and also a teacher, Miss Edward¡¦s mission is to make the native children think and act like English. She makes students wear cap with the word ¡§dunce¡¨ on it, if the students can not answer her question. By humiliating students when they can not answer her questions, Miss Edward teaches them that it is shameful and blamable to not know those English-written histories. 

Annie John is not Miss Edward¡¦s favorite student, although she is the brightest one. Annie John¡¦s inner spirit identifies with her own country too much that annoys Miss Edward whose mission is to convert the native children into English. Miss Edward senses Annie John¡¦s strong native nature and instinct, with which she knows that she can never conquer by English education.

In sugar Cane Alley, the two teachers both misunderstand the boy once but through it they discover the boy¡¦s talent and provide him great help. One of the teachers is not a colonizer; he teaches in a smaller school where black students are the majors. He tries his best to help students to study further, however, without the cooperation of parents he can do nothing sometimes. His relationship with the students is natural and harmonious. As a black, he identifies with the students easily and establishes mutual trust easier. 

The second teacher is a colonizer. He misunderstands the boy and accuses him of copying. Fortunately, the teacher is aware of the truth quickly and provides the boy great amount of scholarship. The white teacher has stereotype about the black students. He can not believe that a black student can do such a good job. This kind of colonized judgement may easily deny the value of black men and make them lose opportunities they desert to have. 

In The Rain Child, the narrator and Miss povey are both colonizers. They have deep colonized judgement and prejudice against the colonized. Especially for Miss povey, she thinks all the African parents are illiterate and hard to communicate. The narrator has her unfitness and pride to the colonized as well, despite her caring to the children. The weather annoys Neddy and her clumsy overweight body. When she is all alone, the slight resentment to the place bitters her colonized pride. Neddy¡¦s ebony cane is the symbol of her colonized pride and power. She can not let it drop in front of the colonized to which she has to show the power. In a way she identifies with Mr. Qunsah, so that there is no need to pretend. ¡§My ebony can slipped to the ground just then, and Dr. Quansah stooped and picked it up, automatically and casually, hardly noticing it, and I was startled at myself, for I had felt no awkwardness in the moment either¡¨ (281). 

Generally speaking, Neddy is close to the colonized children. She is caring, loving and fair to her students. Her good nature rarely confronts her colonized pride; therefore, she can open herself more to the native children. 
 

(Faith Yang:)
From the texts, Annie John, Sugar Cane Alley and ¡§Rain Child¡¨, different types of teachers are presented. It is rather arbitrary and unfair to label all the teachers as colonizers. Although none of them are the natives of the colonies, they hold distinctive manners in education and possess different attitude toward their students. Take Miss Edward, the slightly sadistic teacher of Annie John, the teacher in Sugar Cane Alley who doubts that Jose copies his homework from somewhere but afterwards admits his fault, and Violet Nedden, the handicapped teacher in Africa, for instance, each of them have different relationships with their students. By observing the teacher / student relationships the roles these teachers play are manifested.

In Annie John, if the educational system is regarded as the major way to carry out colonization, Miss Edward, the English teacher, is the very abler who employs all colonizers¡¦ ideas to either dominate or humiliate her students. What she renders to her student in the history class is nothing but the English dominated and colonial concepts, such as Christopher Columbus¡¦s being a man who discover Dominica. Moreover, she designs a dunce cap for the students who are unable to answer her questions. The dunce cap which is depicted as ¡§in the shape of a cornet¡¨ (400) and ¡§could fit any head¡¨ (400) symbolizes Miss Edward¡¦s, a colonizer¡¦s, intention to mold the colonized. From the interrelationships among Miss Edward and her students, the process of molding the colonized into a certain ideology is presented. The students are taught to celebrate Queen Victoria¡¦s birthday and that West India is but ¡§new land¡¨ that is found by a white in his voyage. Therefore, these students, or to a broader sense, the colonized, are gradually enslaved and lose the West Indian identity. Different from Miss Edward, who deliberately creates hierarchy in class and enjoys humiliating her students, in Sugar Cane Alley, Jose¡¦s teacher in the white school rather like a benefactor who gives him guidance and knowledge that make him successful. Apparently, Jose does not belong to one of the oppressed and identity losing colonized people. Instead, what he obtains from education and his teacher enables him differ from those uneducated ones. Unlike the students who are exploited and taken off their cultural identity by Miss Edward, Jose receives formal education at school which ¡§opens the second door to freedom¡¨ and even after his success is allowed to take his Black Shack Alley with his, namely, keep his own Caribbean identity. Compared with Miss Edward and Jose¡¦s teacher, Miss Nedden in ¡§Rain Child¡¨ is a teacher taking in-between position who is that dominating like Miss Edward but still keeps her colonizer¡¦s identity. She also differs from the teacher in Sugar Cane Alley who benefits Jose so much but is quite aware of the multiple cultures in a colony. Having more cultural understandings than Miss Edward, Violet, instead of teaching English literature, she ¡§spoke instead of Akan poetry, and read them the drum prelude Anyaneanyance in their own tongue¡K¡¨ (273). Neither does she convey the colonizer-oriented ideas to her students, nor does she devotes herself in the life in Africa, the role Miss Nedden plays is a bystander who perceives the conflicts stemming from multileveled colonial society.

Not all the teachers are colonizers who dump the self-centered ideologies to the colonized. Miss Edward, Jose¡¦s teacher and Violet Nedden can be perceived as playing different roles as a colonizer, a benefactor or a bystander who illustrate not only the subtle relationship among teachers and students but also colonizers and the colonized.

Joy
Although the whole educational system is still governed by the colonizers¡¦ mentality, still teachers can take the stance of supporting the system or going out of themselves to reach out to the colonized. This we can see in "The Rain Child"¨ where the teacher Miss Nedden, an English, has taken the side of the natives. She knows their language. I think this is important since with this tool one can communicate with the people and can understand them more without the natives having difficulty in expressing themselves with a language not their own. She also knows the peoples tradition (rite of passage of Kwaale). Even if she is supposed to teach "affodils"¨ in poetry lesson, she adapted her teaching materials to the natives¡¦"Akan Poetry,"¨ (which I supposed have wild orchids in it, as hinted by Kwaales bringing of them) and translating the poetry into English. She had cried for these poor, outcast children (Ayesha and Ruth) and tried hard to find ways where these children who dont belong will have somebody. Of course, her coming to this place is also tainted with her desire or ambition to be self-fulfilled (hoping for a place where my light could shine forth¡¨). In fact there is an allusion to her having power or clinging to a power with her use of language: calling her cane as 'scepter'¦ and her garden chair as 'throne.¡¦ But the whole tone of her narration is filled with self-consciousness that enabled her to critically see others including herself. I think her experience of being a stranger to this place made her sensitive to how others feel when they are not accepted by the group. She also accepted her own limitation of not being able to understand these children as much as she likes to (Ayesha), and felt helpless as she faced the situation of these outcast children.

In "Annie John,¡¨ Miss Edward has a colonizer attitude especially in her method of teaching. She imposed knowledge on her students, knowledge that comes directly from the book and giving importance to details such as the discoverer of this country. She is also particular with how the girls behave in and out of the class, that even recreation or recess time, is not really recess in the strict sense of the word since they are supposed to learn and talk in the lady-like way (as those to be presented to the Queen, I guess) or play cricket (an English game) instead of playing band or singing calypso music or do their own thing. Annie, the main character though, fought back (by her writing on her textbook of Columbus being unable to get up and go,¡¨) but as a child, she is helpless especially that even her own mother is supporting the system and could not see Annie's rebelling against the system.

In Sugar Cane Alley, there are two types of teachers: the ones at school and among the colonized themselves. The first teacher of Jose at the Black Shack Alley acknowledged Joses intelligence even though if at one point he punished Jose for being late. He was the one who helped Jose to get a scholarship to pursue higher learning. The teacher at Fort-de-France at first accused Jose of plagiarism, but later on changed his mind and helped Jose procure a living allowance. He taught them an important saying that education is a way to be freed from second slavery.¡¨ What he did with Jose at first (that is, his accusation of Jose as plagiarizing and then his change of mind after) is something intriguing in the sense that he has the power to do that. What if he didnt like the person, or he didnt change, that would have been an injustice to Jose. The other informal teachers like the grandmother or Medouze or even Jose himself actually helped in the education of the main character. Joses grandmother wouldnt like him to work in the sugarcane, or let him read anything in order to practice. This is the case of a colonized woman who only wanted a better life for her grandson, even if she has suffered or still suffering. As for Medouze, he taught him about philosophy of life and transmitted his desire of going back to Africa to Jose. Jose himself is teaching Carmen, whose ambition is to be an actor in Hollywood. Anyway, as what an analysis of the film says: colonial education provides no way for someone from the lower rungs of the society to honor their own and their cultures experience of struggle.¡¨ The film portrays this concept through the teachers rejection of Joses essay regarding life in the sugarcane, the grandmothers prohibition on Jose as working in the sugarcane, Ms. Floras hatred against the black (which is just a projection of her self-hatred, as what weve discussed), and to an indirect way, Carmens ambition to be an actor in Hollywood. The film though, ends positively and somehow contradicts this statement with Jose leaving the Black Shack Alley saying he has put this place forever in his heart.

Through these different stories we can see education as something continuing the process of colonization, since they still have the upper hand in terms of materials. At the same time we see that teachers have a great influence on how they impart knowledge to the students, since they can choose which part to emphasize or delete or change, or what methods to use, since in every method, there must be an accompanying ideology. The person of the teacher becomes important, which side he or she is, and what experiences does she/he have.

Ruth Wang
Teachers in these three texts use different ways to teach their students. Students of Miss Edward in Annie John are asked to be ladylike, so their playing in the churchyard is not allowed. Miss Edward doesn¡¦t want them to have their original customs or games belong to people there. Annie says ¡§ . . .but most of us would go to the far end of the school grounds and play band.¡¨ Their teachers and parents disapproved and don¡¦t allow them to play it. Because this game shows their native spirit, it is not an English game. And the texts they read are about English. But in Rain Child, the teacher Miss Nedden encourage her students to keep their native spirit by keeping their own language. She becomes very surprised when she know that Ruth doesn¡¦t speak Twi. Ruth¡¦s being disable tp speak Twi makes her distanced from other students. She is not like teachers in Annie John, who totally deny people¡¦s native culture, instead, she tries to be optimistic in dealing with their native culture and spirit. Besides, Miss Nedden harbors love and patience to her students. Although she is reminded ¡§ not to have too-great-affection,¡¨ because these students were not her children. She is careful at the first, but later she cannot help to love her students. Like when Ruth disappeared, she was anxious and cried for her. When Ruth shows her being uncomfortable of living there, Miss Nedden tries to help her and convince her to accept some thing there. She doesn¡¦t use punishment to her students, nor arise their competitive emotion. The teacher in Sugar Cane Alley are like the combination of the teachers in Annie John and in Rain Child. The younger male teacher (I forgot his name, but he is younger than the second important teacher in this film) teaches his students to be strong for their own country. In order to make the colonizers become strong, they need to learn western culture, but at the same time, they are supposed to keep their own treasure. And the teacher uses both encouragement and punishment to teach his students. So his students respect him and love him.
Tina Pan
In Annie John, we have a very distinct opposition between the protagonist/narrator and the teachers, especially Miss Edward. This one is a mere humiliator from the words of Annie John. She was the history teacher, and her role overlaps symbolically with the ¡§past¡¨ or ¡§history¡¨ of English colonization in Jamaica. I doubt that she was creole without any local blood. There is a passage about the transformation of Miss Edward into a beastly appearance from the point of view of Annie John (404-5). In her own imagination, she was completely free from the oppression of history or its emblem. On the other hand, however, Annie John, being a self-conscious and history-conscious girl, was obsessed with the ¡§past¡¨ as well. Her disparaging the teachers and preference of being with the dumb English girl, Ruth, was all reaction towards the residue of past colonizations. Sometimes, these reactions of self-defense and disparagement are necessary in the reconstruction of national identity or value. The self-awareness of Annie John seems to me too clever to be the true criticism of a young girl. It was so well-thought that it is almost ironic. I wonder if a girl of her age can really have a clear idea as to what should be criticized. She was even conscious of her own role as a criticizer behind all of her playful judgment and comment. Anyway, the teachers were all turned into the oppressed in this text. Whether the tone and the observation are convincing is not important here, but I suppose the reversion counts a lot considering the post-relationship between the colonized and the colonizers. The victimization of the ex-colonizers was purposely depicted that the role or attitude of the ex-colonized was suspect. For example, the mother of Annie John was also turned into a crocodile in the end of the chapter. The Pa Chess was paralleled to Columbus. The father of Annie John was only a husband needing special attention from the wife. The wife herself was a cheater. The authority of parents and teachers was subverted and suspected. From the eyes of a girl, these conducts of adults were belittled and interpreted with reality that any form of colonization can still take place in the post-colonial period. It can be only more complicated. The ex-colonizing power still persisted, as was the fact that Annie John was constantly reminded of the colonizing history and the influence of colonizer¡¦s literature.

In the film of Sugar Cane Valley, we see two teachers: one educated and groomed into the mainstream or sub-mainstream culture; one from the colonial country. These two were positively presented, and this fact contributes to the general optimism of the film. Education was the ultimate salvation of Jose according to the village, the grandmother, and the environment. It holds true in many third-world countries. The expatriates can have a lot of difficulties in their instruction, which was seldom paid attention to. From the story of Annie John, it can all the same happen. Here, the teachers are still the all-power symbol of authority existing in a community where the general belief and hope is education. When education is monopolized by the colonizers, the belief is not to blame. They had to survive with the impeccable command of the language and competence suggested in it. The colonized had to gauge everything according to the standard of the colonizers. The conflict and doubt of the stable relationship was emphasized when discrimination against the local by the local was presented. The teachers then in a way were helpers to Jose in his personal achievement. Actually, the teachers in this film were not given much chance to be discussed. The punishment was exercised in a lenient way so that the way to success was not obstructed and so was the suspicion of the French teacher. He was no longer the stereotypical colonizer/oppressor. He had to have the second thought to admit his own fault to let Jose go on with his growth and success.

The teacher in ¡§The Rain Child¡¨ was accorded much more room to speak for herself. The situation of Ruth and her maladjustment was exactly her own projection. Her being an expatriate for decades did not allow her to examine her possible difficulties after her return to the home country. The doubts produced in these events with the arrival of Ruth enabled her to take a deeper view at her own life and life of all kinds of diaspora. She shared with the other characters a similar sense of loss. That put her in a position more prone to feel empathy for them than her colleague, Hilda. The rain in Africa was similar to the rain back at home of Ruth. To Ruth, being a rain child was the dear records of her life in England; while to Violet, it was the tropical rain of the African country that records the most part of her life. No matter where her home country was, she would always bring this inheritance of rain with her just like her tropical sore.

This is a very moving story. Through the self-conscious narrative, the role of expatriates is demystified. We come to observe the triviality and routines of these foreigners in a colony. The narration is enticing because of the shade of truthfulness to her limitations as a foreigner. She did not pretend to understand everything though she had already lived there for most of her life. The main difference between Violet and Hilda Povey her colleague was that they took quite a different attitude towards the local students. To Hilda, they were simply ¡§locals¡¨ ready for further ¡§enlightenment¡¨ and ¡§edification.¡¨ For Violet, she was able to incorporate herself into the local context. Therefore, when she saw how unfit Wordsworth¡¦s poem could seem to the children there, she was flexible enough to adapt her instruction to the local needs and was totally conscious of the imposition of the ¡§alien speech¡¨ (273).

In a contrast, Ruth represents the double conflicts which would occur in a situation where the local turned to a foreign arena to her and where she looked at the place with the imperial and oppressor¡¦s point of view. Ruth, after her frustration being with the schoolgirls, turned to the English boy David Mackie who seemed to be more familiar and closer to her. Her in-between position was soon exposed to her as a cruel part of reality. This revelation of Ruth was also one to Violet Nedden. She bore the African mark on her once she came to settle in this place (273). The frustration now exploded in the recognition that she was also an in-between. She could not be genuine anymore after all these years of life here. By way of the disappointment, she came to realize that under the surface of her comfortable life and ease, behind her pretension as a queen with power, she was only an individual who had to ultimately deal with her sense of loss and uprooted identity. She, like Ruth, could not be recognized by the locals or could never be part of the locals while she picked the culture and the habits of the place. When she did retire to return home, she would not be considered the same as her own people either.