Monday, September 1, 2008

Collisions of Community

Ann Patchett's Bel Canto forces readers to think about community and the diverse communal nature of our transnational society. This may seem difficult in a book about terrorists taking hostages at a birthday party. But is it just such trauma, the international cast, and the unique foundations on which the cast of characters is brought together that offer the most poignant questions. The uncertainty, the temporary nature of the situation, and the connections across various boundaries add to the mix.

What constitutes a community and binds it together in the contemporary world? What roles/subject positions are most vital to a transnational community? Are fleeting communities always formed out of trauma, temporary and necessary to escape a distinct threat?

15 comments:

sikes688 said...

Fleeting communities are formed out of trauma, but there are other causes as well. Communities form for reasons such as common interests, such as school clubs, locations, such as active apartment complexes, and activities, such as class or work. Many of these communities dissolve when members progress in life. Examples include graduation, promotions, transfers, etc.

Pellerino87 said...

I think a factor that will play a bigger role later in transnational community will be that of Gen. So far, it seems that he has a more diverse knowledge of languages than anyone else. In several instances, he has chosen to leave out some parts of translation. For example, when the terrorist group explains who they are, he leaves out the ending which could possibly be irritating to the situation. It seems like it's not so much leaving out some parts, but the fact that he can do it. Seems like it may play a role later in the story as he tries to facilitate the situation at hand.

TexasAggie09 said...

To answer the first question I would have to say the idea of similar interest binds a community together. Take for example the love for a local sport team, or as Sike promotes school clubs, organizations, living quarters, all have the same relevance to the community which binds people together. The book clearly points out that music connects everyone in the house; as a transnational community, politics and war seem to affect us all. Fleeting communities don't always form through trauma, but I would have to say the majority do form out of difficult situations and dilemmas.

ahelton said...

A community cosists of more than just a few people agreeing on some particular issue, action, or point of view. It goes beyond that. Community relies on the love and passion that stems from unity. True community forms when people believe in something. This belief must result in unified action, with people striving to achieve some particular purpose. One important aspect of this "action" is that the people involved in the community must go out and tell others about it. In Bel Canto I have not seen this type of relationship yet among the hostages. To me, the hostages are still just a group. While they all share the same feeling about Roxane Coss and Opra music, they have not begun moving in unity. However, I feel that the terrorists are a better representation of a community...although this quote on page 85 suggests that this community may be dissolving--"he wasn't certain if the younger members of his army would not shoot in [Roxane's] defense." It will be intriguing to see how this all plays out.

jbpred09 said...

A community of people will usually form out of a common shared interest that will bind them together as they all work towards the improvement and advancement of that particular interest (or interests) as you all have pointed out already. But, communities can also be formed out of trauma such as the one we are delving into in Bel Canto . These people did not really have a common interest in attending Mr. Hosokawa's birthday party aside from trying to impress a major business leader or trying to get included in any business deals that Hosokawa struck with the host country (which he wasn't planning on he mentions at some point.) It would be the hostage taking that forced these people to come together as a community, as they looked first for survival and then later, as Roxane gets her music and finds a new pianist, just to experience Roxane's singing talents. As it seems that the group will be held hostage for longer and longer, a community has formed around everyone's seeming obsession in Roxane Coss, and the interesting part of this is that the community includes the terrorists.
Along with Gen being a key role player in this transnational community as Pellerino said, I would also say that Messner is also a key role player in this story, as he represents the outside world to this group, because he is their source of outside food, news, negotiations, medical supplies and is their only true link to the outside world.

bailarina said...

As sikes688 said, fleeting communities aren't always formed out of trauma. Nationwide or international fleeting communities, however, usually are.

After 9/11 a national fleeting community was immediately formed in support of those in grief. The community quickly grew to international when other countries joined in the relief.

In Bel Canto, a small fleeting community is formed out of trauma. Could this community become international community if the media publicised the hostage situation?

kcortez said...

I think, to answer bailarina's question, that as we go further on in the text, that the news of the kidnapping will indeed be publicized and since there are some important political figures from different countries in the room, the leaders of those contries are going to want to join in and help with the cause to get them safely out. Whether it be by money, food, or supplies, it is only a matter of time until the kidnapping will be publicized in the media internationally and others will step in to help the situation as best they can.

hdgie411 said...

Communities in todays world are constantly changing form and substance. Nothing brings people together more than a truama. For example, look at the American reaction to 9/11, American people all over the world stood completely together for the first time in a very long time. Post 9/11, in my opinion, was the first time since WWII that Americans had stood together on such a large scale. This can be explained by the common link that every American citizen's country had been attacked. In Bel Canto, the hostages had no choice but to form their own community. Even though all the people in the house were from different countries, backgrounds, and interests; they were all bound together by the fact that they had all suffered the same trauma.

These relationships that are being formed are more relationships of convenience than relationships of love or friendship. The community that has been formed is strictly to counteract the status quo. This shows the relative flexibility in regards to the formation of community. All of the hostages have continuously been brought together by the same thing, music. However, so far in the book there has been no in depth conversations or strong bonds built between the various characters.

lu2009 said...

All communities could be formed based on threat even if the threat is not physical as in Bel Canto. The threat of uncertainty could force any group of people to relate to one another and form a community, for the sake of their own sanity. Maybe we form all the communities we're in from the fear of the unknown. The community in Bel Canto could be based on many common interest, such as music, but they were basically forced to find that common interest. Maybe we join clubs and organizations out of the fear of not knowing anyone. Maybe it's instinct to form as many large communities as we can to increase our chance of survival. For a brief time the Germans thought of a revolt, which would be more successful with the support from their newly formed community. The terrorists unintentionally force the party guests to form a community by keeping them locked up together for so long. They can't help but slowly realize the similarities between everyone. Multiple times in the book someone mentions how they are really all the same; they have been staring at the same things and the same people for so long that they no longer see any major distinctions between time, days, weather, and people.

Although I can see this many different ways, I thought I would offer a different point of view instead of go with the norm.

lindsay said...

Things that constitute a community and bind it together are rough or vital time. With in times of need (being lost and needing direction, or whatever) could cause one to reach out of their comfort zone and bind with other in order to create a new community. Some other ways communities form could possibly in ones common interest. we all gather for what we have an interest and can conversant better with in what we are familiar with.

I believe fleeting communities COMPLETELY form out of trauma. Certain dilemmas can push one into understanding others. Yes these might be temporary but perhaps one individual can get more out of these situations

Clay said...

Fleeting communities frequently form as a result of trauma or to escape a threat, but not all communities defined as fleeting are born of adverse circumstances.

The essential components required for the formation of a community are a shared interest coupled with the means to communicate these interests. Additionally, each member of a community must perceive some potential gain from joining to dissuade them from pursuing their interests alone. Community membership is inherently self interested (although other interests may drive the community's activities).

Communication is essential for the formation of communities. The rapid development of network communication has facilitated an explosion of fleeting communities independent of trauma or necessity. The ties that bind these virtual communities together may be minimal, but they are still capable of substantial impact in culture.

hurrayforstuff said...

I agree with ahelton on the idea that they do not resemble a community just yet. I think all the ingredients are there but it is going to take a little more forward action for them to bind together. If they were to be released right now, I doubt they would exchange contact numbers. I think the individuals are still primarily driven by thoughts of Self. They hardly even fear death anymore, and I see that as something that would tear a fleeting community built on trauma apart. Without the fear of death they see themselves leaving the party alive and away from everyone at the party in the same way they would have left had the revolutionaries never shown up. I'm guessing there will be some more rising action that could bring them together more.

tay123 said...

I think that all it takes to truly form a community is to have one common link or bond that passes between all those that are a part of the possibly union. In Bel Canto, the hostages share the obvious bond of fear for their lives and being forced to live in a secluded area by themselves. However, on a more subtle level, each individual shares the common bond of uncertainty. Each character is suffering from some internal struggle, from Gen, who is being torn apart having to be the glue holding the situation together, to the Vice President, who is in constant affliction wondering about Esmerelda and his family. They all have their secrets; the things that are consuming them and eating them away inside, and they all have time to think about these things in higher amounts than necessary. This factor brings them all together as a community that shares the common bond of intense internal suffering.

bgasp said...

A community is a group of people bound together by a common interest. This may be a community of students on a college campus or a community of hostages and terrorists living under the same roof. Although fleeting communities are not always formed out of trauma, they arise almost instantly in such situations. For example, after the September 11th attacks, more American citizens joined together to show their patriotism through a slew of bumper stickers, tshirts, etc. Not that many U.S. citizens were not proud before, but the traumatic event made more citizens proud to be Americans with a real need to prove it to everyone else.

Anonymous said...

MIMI7557

What constitutes a community today is the culture it has in common. people connect with those that are most like them. that is why this book is so great. without their community, these people are at a loss and do not inittially know what to do. because they do not have their own community to connect with they are forced to create their own. without this unfortunate event of being held hostage, these people would never have formed the relationships they did.