Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Storytelling as Ritual

           The second book opens with the section "Alofa-Tausi." It mirrors the first book's first chapter. A grandmother confides in a grandchild. This, "Alofa-Tausi," is a second iteration of "Malu."

           Hearkening back to "Malu," a dialogue between the title characters ensues. The reader instantly recognizes the voice of Tausi and pairs it with the voice of Lalolagi. The reader instantly recognizes the quietude of Alofa and pairs it with Malu. One feels the text has become very much "ritualized." That is to say, the text seems to progress deliberately and rhymmtically according to a pattern of repetition and reuse. As such, the reader is initiated into the second book in the same way he/she was initiated into the first book. The reader begins to see similar themes of strife and disadvantage emerge in both "Alofa-Tausi" and "Malu." The reader begins to see similar use of tone and voice emerge in both sections as well. As a whole, the text seems bound by a ritual of storytelling, in which these recycled elements seem to recur for a specific purpose. However, it is not just the text that  maintains this ritual of reuse, but also the text's characters, who very much depend on storytelling as a ritual - to express themselves without grieving.

       The section "Alofa-Tausi" refers to the storytelling shared by Alofa and Tausi directly as some "new-found ritual" (Figiel 137). And, very much to its credit, the storytelling that is shared by Alofa and Tausi is very much like a ritual. For one, these storytelling sessions happen every night, in the same room, with the same two people (and only those two people), with the same manners of preparation: "First she [Tausi] would close the door. Then switch out the lights and sit on the mat, which she told me [Alofa] to lay on top of the thick sheepskin carpet floor" (137).

      Then, the stories would be rattled out by Tausi. They'd often be about hard times, grave times and reveal monumental personal particulars, all of which were recalled in a certain secret language that Tausi and Alofa communicated in. The storytelling in this way was especially privatized and, most importantly, ritualized. The storytelling served as a way to emote and express in a very formal and sacred context. Therefore, when Tausi makes seismic confessions, "And now I'm going to have to tell something I've never confessed to anyone" (133), she does so under the sacred and religious shadow of a ritual. She is not grieving, but rather participating in a private ritual between granddaughter and grandmother. Furthermore, this private ritual is embedded in the very public, meta ritual that Figiel devises in the novel itself. That is to say, Alofa and Tausi's ritual of storytelling is enclosed in Figiel and the reader's ritual of storytelling. So, when Alofa and Tausi partake in their storytelling ritual, the reader can partake as well and, therefore, the reader can assume a role much more intimate than observer - he/she is now a participant, a storyteller in their own right. Therefore, this large schema of rituals becomes the linchpin between the three books and the reader.

No comments:

Post a Comment