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Eurocentrism

In: People

Submitted By ubaidur123
Words 1888
Pages 8
Ubaidur Khan
Ms. Walters
ENG3U
4/17/2016
Eurocentrism; It’s all a Matter of Perspective When it boils down to it, everything in literature is a matter of perspective. If you were to read a book implying a conspiracy about the crises in Palestine and pinning all the blame on Canada, would you believe it? It’s quite likely - because when you read a book, you begin to see things from the perspective of the author, or, the perspective the author wants you to see things through. The author’s passages and vivid imagery would figuratively allow you to see, hear, and feel things from a perspective that ultimately influences your views, beliefs, and values. Eurocentrism is the practice of viewing things from a European perspective and it’s effects are usually subconscious in a way that those affected don’t realize they’re affected. So to what extent exactly does literature force us to consider the long term effects of eurocentrism? Now, as they have taught the next generations, which compose themselves of their own children and immigrated families, these traditions get passed on to them, and so on. However, the key point here is that they aren’t passed on as ‘eurocentric beliefs’, rather, they are passed on as ‘normal’ beliefs and traditions. Literature certainly allows us to consider the long-term effects of eurocentrism to a great extent, and it does this by modelling everyday examples where eurocentrism takes place in a way that allows us to see where and when eurocentrism takes it’s effects. Through the deconstruction of literature, we are able to study the long-term effects of eurocentrism and in turn, take the necessary precautions to prevent the same scenarios modelled in literature from happening in our lives in order to potentially preserve our cultures and our own personal values. Another idea that allows us to understand the long-term effects of eurocentrism to a great extent are the religious/racial, and social generalizations very implicitly and very explicitly shown at times in literature. Literature models eurocentric racism through the use of diction, like when in Mister Pip, Mr. Watts is the only white man amongst the residents of Bougainville, who, including his wife, are all black. Mr. Watts is given a ‘dominant’ and ‘authoritative’ personality, as he takes a role of the ‘teacher taking a stand’. Although it isn’t explicitly shown, Mr. Watts takes a ‘Jesus’ figure in the society when he sacrifices himself near the end by giving himself up as the rebel Pip. Is this a coincidence? Seeing a vast majority of the book is written in a eurocentric perspective, it is not. This reveals how literature tries to change our views on religion and racism by bringing the white population off as more dominant and engraving religious concepts implicitly in plots. This representation of eurocentric racism is a perfect example of why literature forces us to consider the long-term effects of eurocentrism to a great extent. As I read the book and noticed this whole idea, I was subject to this eurocentric influence as I viewed Mr. Watts as an authoritative and dominant figure. It’s a psychological effect also seen in the movie Focus, in which Will Smith, a skillful con man, wins a two million dollar bet simply by playing with the mind of his opponent. He bet two million dollars that if his competitor chose any of the 20 players on the football field, he would be able to guess exactly which one his competitor picked. He knew that his opponent was a notorious gambler, so he had it set up so that his competitor would see the number 55 throughout the day, thereby subconsciously getting him to pick that number when the moment was right. It’s the exact same psychological process; subconsciously, you read, see, and understand eurocentric concepts to the point where you begin to accustom to these ideas without even knowing it. As readers, we deconstruct and analyze literature and ideas like these in order to further comprehend the long-term effects of eurocentrism. When we interpret the meanings of these literature pieces that model eurocentric racism implicitly and explicitly, we are able to understand the long-term effects of eurocentrism to a greater extent.
Eurocentrism also causes us to subconsciously adapt to is the idea of escapism to a great extent. This is shown during the 18th and 19th century, how after the terrors of WWII, one of the most affected continents was Europe. The terrors of the French Revolution of 1789, and the Napoleonic Wars and the Revolution of 1830 in Paris had left European countries disillusioned and war-wearied. This was discussed during book club two, when we talked about just how much escapism affects us. In my book club two post discussion, I described how I like to “watch a movie, TV show, or read a book in order to escape from and forget about the stresses I’m currently facing in my life” (Khan 1). I discussed in my book club discussion how important it is for us to isolate ourselves from the world when we’re stressed out. It’s something that, consistently yet implicitly, Mr. Watts engraved into the minds of the children and parents of the village. Would they have discovered this idea of escapism without eurocentric-led Mr. Watts to show it to them? Most likely not - it’s shown consistently how engraved escapism would be become in the minds of these children, like when Matilda describes that “Mr Watts had given us kids another world to spend the night in.”, “I think Mr. Watts enjoyed the spoken parts. When he spoke them he became the voices. That's another thing that impressed us - for the time he was reading, Mr. Watts had a way of absenting himself. And we forgot all about him being there” (Jones 20, 48). Take note of the emphasis on ‘Mr. Watts’ - implying he is the sole reason they discovered escapism. This reveals that literature engraves a eurocentric idea such as escapism into children in a subconscious way that poses long-term eurocentric effects - like causing them to adapt to the idea of escapism. This is a perfect example of literature modelling a eurocentric concept like escapism and putting
Literature has the ability to influence individuals into seeing through a perspective that emphasizes eurocentric issues and force us to consider the long-term effects of these issues to a great extent. In Mister Pip, Jones uses war imagery and vivid description to accentuate the idea of the brutality of war, which, as discussed earlier, is a very eurocentric idea. However, Jones uses the voice of an innocent little girl to emphasize the brutalities of war and to emphasize her genuineness in all of this. I personally was subject to the effects of this Jones’ innocent girl perspective when I read the book because I saw everything through a perspective that emphasized the brutalities of war which lead me to perceiving the war as more dreadful than it actually may have be. Her innocence and genuineness is clear when Matilda describes how “some of us were too slow to avoid seeing the flash of the machete as it was raised. They chopped Mr. Watts up and threw him in pieces to the pigs” (Jones 202). Jones clearly emphasizes repeatedly throughout the book how much of an innocent little girl Matilda is, as throughout these calamitous events she tries to make sense of things. It’s the simplicity of Matilda’s descriptions that contribute to the emphasized ‘horrors of war’ idea, like when she describes how the soldiers “chopped Mr. Watts up” - her descriptions come off as if they’re trying to paint the idea that she’s dispassionate about these tragedies, when in reality she just isn’t able to comprehend the situations completely. What does this say about literature? It says that when an author want the reader to see a certain issue-oriented perspective (e.g brutalities of war), they use the narrator’s perspective in order to emphasize an issue to a greater or lesser extent. This is a clear example of literature using perspective in order to alter our views; it’s also a clear example of literature using diction and theme in order to force us to consider the long-term effects of eurocentrism.
To a great extent, literature also causes us to slowly lose our cultural traditions and values over time. In my seminar novel, The Golden Boy, Anil (the protagonist), his five kids, and his wife were all raised in an American society and consequently were subject to eurocentrism. Consequently once again, many of his traditions and values were subject to a eurocentric influence as well. He began doing things he would otherwise not have done in India; taking his family out to get ice cream every Sunday in the summer and for hot soup in the winter, distancing himself from most of his relatives (this is the opposite of the Indian tradition which emphasizes strengthening family relations), and hunting deers for leisure. One day, Anil thought to himself "The phone rang 3 or so times before I decided to pull the plug. It was something Anil felt guilt doing, yet felt no remorse in that his aunt deserved the silent treatment every bit. Then something hit him. Not physically, but in his head. A thought struck him: Since when did I ignore my own beloved chachi? Since when did we stop going for biscuits every Sunday? Is this who I have become?" (Gowda 230). It's shown in this particular description and thought process that Anil had become accustomed to eurocentric (or non-Indian) cultural customs without even realizing it. He lost vision of what his own true beliefs and values were, and a few years later he reflected back and saw just how eurocentrism affected him in the long-term. This is an example of the extent literature allows us to consider the long-term effects of eurocentrism to in it’s purest form; it does this to a great extent, in a way that I, personally, was able to connect to. Because I’m Indian and I immigrated to Canada a decade ago, I was able to understand the shift Anil went through and just exactly how he felt when he realized how distant he’d become from his family like how I’d become distant from my international relatives. This connection gave me insight to how literature forces us to consider the long-term effects to a great extent.
Like I said, it’s all a matter of perspective. It simply depends on how the writer weaves his/her words in order to create their perspective on whether our beliefs end up manipulated or not. Things like perspective, setting, and racial prejudice are all engraved in many different literature pieces and it’s safe to say that literature does allow us to understand the long term effects of eurocentrism to a great extent. Perspective is the tool writers use to influence our views, and ultimately, change the values and morals of the entire world.

Works Cited
Jones, Lloyd. Mister Pip. New York, NY: Dial, 2007. Print.
Gowda, Shilpi Somaya. The Golden Son: A Novel. N.p.: n.p., n.d. Print.
Focus. Dir. Glenn Ficarra and John Requa. Perf. Will Smith and Margot Robbie. N.d. Kramer & Sigman Films, 27 Feb. 2015.

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