Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Orientation via Disorientation

            Figiel’s They Who Do Not Grieve does not seem to have a clear structure that is consistently maintained throughout the work. The chapters shift forms and the transitions between them can be jarring and disorienting. I think that the disorientation that occurs is an intentional literary move on the part of Figiel. She includes sections that have different narrators using the first person, chapters that are actually letters, and she jumps between stories without explanation, but definitely with purpose.
            The chapter that begins on page 144, “Dear Moa,” at first seems as though it may just be a hinting at what will happen next in the chapter, or a descriptor of the following pages. However, when the reader approaches the end of that chapter, what has been building over a few pages becomes clear: this is actually a letter written from Alofa to Moa. The chapter ends with “May the cloud, the cloud of Aolele, stretch towards you with all my love to you and to whoever you see. Your friend, Alofa” (146). The next page then shifts to a chapter called, “The Other Day” which begins very similarly to the previous letter-chapter, but this chapter is more narrative based, not in letter format. This simultaneous similarity and juxtaposition between the two chapters, especially considering their close physical proximity shows how Figiel is intentionally disorienting the reader.
            I think that this is to keep us hooked, doing something very similar to what Lewis did in Voyage of the Dawn Treader, but doing so in an entirely different way. Lewis kept readers hooked into Voyage because of the easy flow and narrative nature of the story. We kept reading because we got into a rhythm with the book, and it was not difficult to follow the story line. Figiel keeps us hooked by doing exactly the opposite of Lewis; she disorients us to the point of distraction through these different techniques, but this drives us forward in the work because we continue to desire this clarity that we think may just be around the corner, or on the next page. Readers tell themselves it will become less disorienting on the next page, okay maybe the next, okay maybe the next, and so on, until before we know it we have read the whole work, and have (joyfully, no less) traveled through this entire text. Figiel intentionally and carefully disorients the reader to mirror the mentalities of some of the characters throughout the work, and uses this tactic to help us form a bond with those in the book and hook us into their stories and their lives. Figiel disorients us to orient us to the work.

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