Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Denizen Memories

In A Distant Shore, Gabriel comes to the realization that he must leave his country. All that has happened to him must be pushed aside as he flees at all cost, trying to get to England. And as he does so, he leaves behind everything, even his memories, to transform.

"Gabriel knows that if he is going to live again then he will have to learn to banish all thoughts of his past existence. There can be no sentiment. Hurtling blindly down this highway, he knows that if he is lucky the past will soon be truly past, and that with every gasp of the acrid air beneath the heavy tarpaulin, life is taking him beyond this nightmare and to a new place and a new beginning."

In effect, Gabriel becomes the exception, leaving everything to enter into the unknown, at once citizen and not citizen, forgetting in order to create new memories, starting life over after having lived too much. He embodies the changes that occur to the traveler, but how does it compare to the England he finds upon arrival? How is the memory of the past in play for both the immigrant and the citizen? Do they both embody the nomadic state? Does the immigrant, as the exception, force the resident of a country to see themself differently?

10 comments:

bgasp said...

Gabriel does not find himself in the England he made so picturesque in his mind. Once he gets to the country where he hopes to be free, he is ironically thrown in jail accused of a crime he did not commit simply because of his race - his race was not recognized of being equally important, or good for that matter. Despite his hopes of escaping his past and moving on he finds himself in essence right where he started.

ahelton said...

Throughout this novel, the physical forces of light and dark are clearly evident. While I have yet to read much past the point when Gabriel and Bright first arrive in England, the abandoned house at which they stay foreshadows the "England" Gabriel will soon discover.

"[Gabriel] looks around the room and can see now that the house looks as though nobody as lived in it for quite some time."--134

"[Gabriel] opens the door and steps outside, and then he looks up at the house. In the morning light, the true extent of its abandonment is now clear. At first he had noticed that only one window was broken, but he can now see that most of the windows are either cracked or have small holes..."--141

The house itself symbolizes both Gabriel's present view of England and the "England" that is to come. During the dusk and night time hours, the house appears in good (relatively) shape and offers protections and comfort. However, under the early morning and afternoon light, its true state is unveiled. At a distant the house appears warm and inviting, but under close inspection the "misery of the place" becomes clear. Similarily, England is place that offers new life, hope, and security, but Gabriel (I believe) will soon realize that this is far from true.

lindsay said...

Gabriel's journey to England was supposed to allow him to become a free man. His outlook upon arriving England is "freedom" until he is allowed a closer look in which he is now skeptical once meeting Denise.

"Bright, the girl will tell her people. Perhaps we should leave and try to reach London before she returns" -137

Gabriel is hesitant about England and what people’s impressions on his race are. When Denise asks" are you from Africa" "are you illegal’s?" Gabriel was unable to speak in a sense he would be looked down upon.

Gabriel's view of past in present England is shown throughout the book, with images of light and dark contrasts. At night the house is a type of silhouette peered through the dark night, while in the morning a new vision is reveled

"Gabriel opens his eyes he can tell that it is dawn. The birds outside are singing and the light is weak." -141
"In the morning the light , the true extent of its abandonment is now clear." -141

Gabriel now has a slight insight to his past life and new life in England. Athough this life of freedom might not be what he has intended.

TexasAggie09 said...

Gabriel does not find the England he once thought of when he was on his journey. Gabriel takes note that "English people look unhappy, and he notices that they walk with their heads down as though determined to avoid one another" (p. 144). This excerpt is a prime example to the attitude citizens have towards each other must less himself, an African. The people in England are no happier than the people in his own country; maybe they are not getting persecuted, but their obvious depression is noticeable. Even a fellow countryman, Emmanuel, tricks him into a drink, but he also expresses his discomfort with England. Unfortunately, the reader gets the feeling that happiness may be just a cliche in this novel, and reality is a cold slap in the face.

tay123 said...

Gabriel is thrown into a world of cruelty that he did not expect upon his arrival in England. In Africa, he was tortured and terrorized so throughout his journey, all he could imagine was some kind of peace from his suffering. Unfortunately, this could not be so. As a Denizen who looks and acts desperately different, Gabriel suffers great amounts in his new country. People aren't able to understand his intelligence. He has to resort to selling magazines on a London street corner, and he is considered guilty until proven innocent.
Gabriel's past not only haunts him, but those who meet him. Katherine feels very sorry for him and risks personal relationships to help him. He makes citizens feel guilty because they know that they should help him but they just can't bring themselves to do so. This guilt in turn makes them unnecessarily angry with Gabriel, which gets him into trouble. He unconsciously forces those who encounter them to look inside themselves and see that their problems aren't as bad and that helping their fellow man could mean positive outcomes.

sikes688 said...

Gabriel leaves a country that is considered uncivilized and looked down upon. The citizens of England treat him as such, not realizing that the actions they have taken against a fellow man, they have only recreated the uncivilized behavior they so despise. This can be tied to the memories he wishes to escape, but there is no way to truly escape persecution.

Recoleta09 said...

The memory of the past is going to forever play a role for the immigrant and the citizen. Recalling past events can be a blessing and a curse. In many, these thoughts may be very painful and trivial to digest but these thoughts are often the fuel that inspires and moves people to strive for a better life. Dwelling on the past is never positive. Moving forward is always more constructive but reminiscing helps us to learn from mistakes and or learn lessons on proper ways to interact with humanity. Gabriel simply fleeing to England is an attempt to obtain a better more fulfilling life. As we have discussed in class, it really makes one second guess the proper way these human beings fleeing from persecution should be treated in their next “home”. Just the fact that these immigrants are living among other citizens solidifies the idea that an immigrant’s life embodies the nomadic state. As a local interacts with a foreigner, the local is subjected to a new way of life. Although unfamiliar and at times uncomfortable , it teaches the immigrant and the citizen to adjust and sometime in the future may be, hopefully... a level of understanding and or solidarity.

lu2009 said...

Gabriel/Solomon does find a new place but the life is really not very different because he is still tormented. The memory of his past haunts him in his dreams, he thought this place was better than where he came from when it is really just as bad for other reasons.
Dorothy lives in the past and cannot bare to move on. I don't think Dorothy sees herself differently because of Solomon, but if she knew his past then maybe she would. She still has troubles and tragedy just like Solomon.

jbpred09 said...

Gabriel's purpose for leaving his own country and trying to leave his past is the pursuit of peace and order in his life of chaos. I think as part of this search for peace, he wishes to be a help to other people and to be kind to them, rather than a burden or an enemy as he had experienced for so long in Africa. His demeanor in the jail, locked up in this new country that he has been desperately seeking, is a sign of this desire to do good and find some peace in this new life. His intense concern for Said, whom he doesn't really know, illustrates that Gabriel wishes the best for those around him. His comment about how no one looks at each other on the streets in England and his assumption that they don't want that to change is another point. The gist I'm getting from his view there is that he thinks that is the absolutely wrong way to go about life, to completely ignore the people around you. One can see why he would hold this view because of the years of fighting and hatred he has experienced in his own home country.

Pellerino87 said...

Gabriel arrives in England unannounced and is discovered very quickly, through the discovery of Denise's safe place from her father. When he finally is free in the streets, he judges England on the basis of what his home is like. He realizes that the women behave quite differently. No one is friendly like everyone says back home, and money does not come as easily as it is said to.

The English see his arrival as an opportunity to make money of of Gabriel, instead of someone in need of some help. It brings out the true qualities of the English when they come across a foreigner.