Monday, February 14, 2011

Love in exchange

Continuation of an interview with Jaded Sixteen, contributor at Oi With The Poodles Already.

Do you think Bronte saw love as a "space" where power becomes what we choose?

JS: Short answer: Yes and No

Long Answer: If this book was written some 120 years later, and you replace 'love' with merit, then you have All The Works That Ever Came Out Of Ayn Rand's Rectum. But I digress.

Slightly Longer Answer: While the narrative does believe in some twisted way that there can be a 'freedom' and equality in choosing and creating this space where 'love' is more-or-less like a utopia, open and available to all, the protagonists 'Catherine-Heathcliff' or 'Heathcliff-Catherine' are still caught in the bigger, imperial war of possessing-fighting-claiming each other and by extension themselves. Quite similar to the Marxist vision and its outcome, isn't it?

Bronte uses 'love' as an object, that is pawned off, gambled, re-bought many times in the narrative. Going by this reading alone, one can read Wuthering Heights like a stock market assessment and plot it on a graph even -- and they say ladies don't know economics. Heh. -- until we remember who is writing and what her epidermal tissue embodies and carries as an emblem.

Quite predictably it's Heathcliff (the 'gypsy') who has to 'earn' status and class, for being 'an outsider' means class-status can be bought; as for Catherine, Edgar and Hindley, their dwindling class-statuses aren't as big a challenge as it was for Heathcliff, because their Skin affords them more power than Heatcliff can ever 'earn'. Catherine's daughter who is set to marry the 'servant boy' Hareton, is not seen as a person transgressing any boundaries, while Heathcliff was reprimanded for doing the same thing. Insert quip about colonialism here.

The 'love' between Nelly and Catherine can also be seen as an empowering space, only till we see that Nelly (whose real name is Ellen) is a Creole, and she speaks as a narrator only and not the interpreter. Much like Margaret Mitchell's Mammy, Nelly too is the loyal-overbearing-servant-animal-slave who keeps up the order, reprimands Hareton for showing affection for his 'superior' Catherine, and probably whistles praises of her 'masters' while being bogged down by servitude.

So this 'commodity' love becomes a viable medium to 'free' spaces only if we assume everyone is either

• The Default Human i.e. a White Male (Edgar Linton, Hindley Earnshaw)

• The Default Human and Half i.e. White Female (Both Catherine's)

Now, if you're neither of these people -- Heathcliff, Nelly, Zillah, Me (a dusty lady) -- then the narrative pretty much roars "Backlash!"

I have to admit, I feel like I'm out of my element -- but that is something I appreciate about your writing. It is beautiful and challenging at the same time. How much unqualified support for your writing do you get from men as an audience, and men in your life?

JS: I'm not too sure how much 'support' I get from men as an audience, considering about 70% of my trolls are right-wing Indian dudes, unhappy with the idea that someone from India is 'tainting' the 'image' of India. Especially when I speak out something against nationalism or 'national heroes'. This is the most recent troll and probably the least threatening. The remaining troll-ratio is filled with (generally) White dudes who are 'angry' the way only White dudes can be, the moment they see WOC speaking out of the pecking order. Surely, I have had good comments and e-mails from men too, but those are few and far between. Generally women write in and offer support, many feel 'safer' writing e-mails than having their comments out.

Going to the men in my life, my father and uncles see this as a 'silly' hobby that I have -- as we all know Blogging isn't Real Writing. The day I did write in a newspaper under my name, and stated some reverse-capitalist views, "Shit got real" if I were to use Americanese to describe that episode.

What was their response?

JS: Multiple responses. Denial: Most people won't even know who this is so it's not a Big Deal; Anger: that their kid wrote something anti-State and critical of Obama in a leftist newspaper -- and people recognized whose kid I was; and Acceptance: that they can't control what I write whether they like it or not. Mild Annoyance: that I had such 'anti' views to begin with.

I find this whole process amusing because they assumed they did have a say in my opinion or writing in the first place so I'm generally laughing at this presumption. Somehow, they don't like it very much.


Ethan said...

I don't have much to say as far as constructive response goes, but I wanted to let you know I've been enjoying these quite a bit.

Hattie said...

When I read this, things snap into perspective. Yes.