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Zoe Wicomb Stories

“A Clearing in the Bush?


  • How does she create setting? Is setting important? Why/how? When do you notice it? When is it there, but you don't notice it?
  • Where does the motion come from?
  • Why do we switch perspectives to Tamieta? Why not just make it Frida’s story? Are they counterpointed or compared? Or both?
  • Why Tess of the d’Urbervilles? What does this bring to the narrative, whether or not (assuming not) you've read it?
  • Why “A Clearing in the Bush?? Why does it end with Tamieta and not Frida? (Note that the whole book is a collection of connected stories narrated, in large part, by the writer-character Frida Shenton.)

“Behind the Bougainvillea?


  • In "Behind the Bougainvillea," there is a lot of setting vs. "action"; especially in the first half of the story. What effect does this have on the story? Why might she make this choice, rather than just get into it with Henry right away?
  • How do we move between past and present? Is there a narrative mechanism, such as a line break or cue like, "Ten years ago"? If not, what effect does it have? How does she jump between times?
  • What is the function repeated images, such as various kinds of flowers, and rain?
  • Why does she end with her father, on his ridiculous, naive statement?

"Ash on My Sleeve"


    Note: This is the same Moira from "A Clearing in the Bush."
  • What is the effect of beginning with the pimple?
  • What are the advantages of having a narratror who's out of touch, unfamiliar with what's changed?
  • In the conversations between Frieda and Moira, does either one of them hold all the power, or is it balanced? What would be the effect if one of them held all the cards? What's the effect of a debate/discussion where no one wins?
  • Why end in the "chaste little bed" after all this talk about sex and virginity? What's the effect of landing on this image?

Comments

She is able to create setting by throwing in random bits that you can pick up but also by focusing on specific things. We see her talk about brick walls alot as well as the bush and the sidewalks etc.
The motion of the story comes from the different perspectives of people that we are able to see as well as the setting being moved from place to place. But mostly inner monologues of what is happening around these two main characters.
I think the switch from Tamietta to Frida is definitely a counterpoint. When Frida wants coffee she gets two, but Tamietta gets none. The boys whistle at Frida, but Tamietta wonders if she could be considered a lady and if she is even allowed at a funeral. It was sad to read how Tamietta felt about the world, but shows the difference in "class" between her and Frida.
I didn't really understand the whole Tess thing but maybe it shows how Frida is a procrastinator and Tamieta gets thins done right on time and everything done before sunday.
I think it can end on Tamieta because we care more about her.

Well setting is very important to the story. You remember it from the name of the book and everytime the narrator drops in the name Cape Town. It is important particularly to the story because Tamietta finds herself in a crowd of white people during apartheid. At this point you very aware of setting. I'd say when actual detail of the setting is described. Like the brick wall, or flower pots, or ants, you actualy begin to forget about the overall setting.

Motion for me came from wondering what bad thing was going to happen. The question of who was assassinated? and would narrator finish her essay in time drove the story. Also I wanted to just know the significance of the odd style of narration.

I agree with Nick about the characters being counterpointed. I just felt worse for Tamieta the entire time. I mean the Tamieta just seems so left out compared to Frida, Tamieta is the one that is not warned to not go to the meeting. There would really not be much of a story if it was just Frida's narrative.

I don't know anything about Tess of the d'Urbervilles. I would guess that Tess somehow parallels Tamieta or Frida. I think referencing it just brings more questions and attention to detail.

It ends with Tamieta because that is where the real story is. Frida doesn't end up in the same awkward situation as Tamieta.

Like Nick says, the setting really comes through when seemingly random objects are described for us in detail. It adds a sense of depth and, even though we are explicitly told about the scenery, it does give a feeling that you're there, looking around and survey the place on your own. If that made any sense.

The motion in this story really comes from two things: the change of scenery and the shifting point of views. Every time the scene changes or we find ourselves in someone else's head, there is a sense of movement there.

I was curious to see what the "clearing in the bush was", and it was interesting to see that it was basically a train station. The school seems to be fairly modern and full of intelligent students, yet some of them have to clear a path through the bush to this obscure train station. It added an interesting dynamic of modernism vs. nature.

I think it ends with Tamieta since that was who the real story was happened to. Honestly, Tamieta's story was far more interesting since she interrpreted situations in a very unique way.

I think she uses a more subtle approach to creating setting.
The motion come from wondering if she’s going to finish the paper she’s working on.
I think switching perspectives makes it quite a bit more confusing. However, having two perspectives can add depth to the story.
I haven’t read “Tess of the d’Urbervilles?, and this may be reaching. But I think it's possible that the rape of Tess correlates with the Rape of the native African Tribes in South Africa (the rape of their land, people and culture).
It makes sense to end with Tamieta because “A clearing in the bush? started with Tamieta.

Wiccomb’s setting is inserted discreetly within the naturally progressing thoughts of her characters. For example, we learn about the brick wall through Tamieta’s thoughts on her niece/surrogate daughter’s knitting.
The motion comes from our wanting to see whether Frida can finish her paper on time and whether anyone will show up to the assembly.
Like we discussed in class “Ronnie’s theory? is that the book itself doesn’t really matter; it could be any book. It’s just there as an opportunity for Frida to speak out against and authority figure, bravely with her name attached (unlike the assembly boycott in which she is supported by the whole student body and isn’t really putting anything on the line).

I agree with Artiera, she uses setting in a very subtle way. She adds little descriptors as she tells the story. She doesn’t come right out and describe the scenery you pick it up throughout the story.
The motion for me came from the two characters (Tamieta and Frida). I was wondering how they were related and what would happen between them. I think they are counterpoints. They are similar in the fact that they are both coloured but they are at the school for different reasons. We are able to understand that there are social classes within their race by placing them together in the story. I did find the switching back and forth a bit complicated but once I got the hang of it, it was easy to spot the differences.
The use of Tess of the d’Ubervilles didn’t affect me too much since I was not familiar with the story, but I did get the idea that Frida was an educated woman of higher class.
I think there was a reference made about the school as “a clearing in the bush,? so I pictured a big industrialized building in the middle of the bush. I thought this was a good title for the story because it really creates a visual.
The story ends with Tamieta because I assume she will not be brought up later in the story and if it didn’t end with her we would be wondering what happened to her.

The motion of the story comes from the obvious question of ''Will she finish her essay?'' but also from the language. I felt like every descriptor and sentence structure she uses is stunning—I got a little caught up in it, to be honest, and bits of the plot would slip by me.

If the story didn't switch between perspectives, it would be lacking variety. That statement seems redundant at best, but there it is. Alone, Frida's essay dilemma could have been a couple pages long. Unless there was more time spent on Tess of the d’Urbervilles (and more time spent subtly pointing out similarities between oppressions and questions in Tess and in the world around Frida), a story about Frida and the whistling boys and the avoidance of the memorial service would be without depth.

Ending the story with Tamieta instead of Frida is necessary to tie up Tamieta's plotline. We learn more about Frida throughout the rest of the book, and as a college student (in this particular story), we suppose that her story will move and her life will change and she will see more than the walls of this school and town. Tamieta, on the other hand, probably will not. The ''stationary'' character in this story should be the one to sum everything up.

As others have said, the setting was very subtle. We get details on small things, like the warm brick building, which all seem to add up to a larger, less clear, picture. I got a "feel" for the setting, rather than seeing it exactly, which I think is an interesting and refreshing way to use setting!
The motion of the story, for me, came from the switching between Tamieta and Frida. At first I was a little confused, but upon a re-read, I really enjoyed the switching between the two. I think it really propelled the story forward, by leaving Tamieta at point x, and having Frida pick up at point x. It wasn't just Tamieta going through the actions, which might've dragged on a little too much.
I talked about this in class a little bit, but I think that ending the story with Tamieta is a good way to wrap the story up. If the story ended with Frida, it would've felt a little off-balance to me, being that we didn't begin with Frida. Also, Frida is the main character throughout the entire book, and Tamieta is not, she is "stationary", so ending it with the stationary character seems fitting. It's as if you're ending a mini-plot within a big plot. I don't think it would be logical to tie up ends with the character involved in the main plot early on, and let the mini-plot have loose ends at the end of the mini-plot. (the mini-plot being "A Clearing in the Bush", and the big plot being "You Can't Get Lost in Cape Town".)

Like everybody else said, the motion is really subtle. She doesn't have long descriptive paragraphs of what everything looks like, but bits of scenery get thrown in by what's going on in the story. Characters really propel setting because of their actions or what they are doing. We can understand where somebody is based on action of the story, which can be nice because the author doesn't have to stop and pull the reader out of the moment by explaining something.

Motion comes from Frida trying to get her paper done and then it comes from things happening to her or her witnessing events. She then switches to Tamieta's view and we get motion from what Tamieta is doing. I don't really know the reason for switching to Tamieta though. I guess it just gives a different viewpoint because Frida is really into this certain way of life, but we get a different perspective from Tamieta. And if the whole book is really about Frida's experiences then it seems that the switch to Tamieta is a story that Frida is telling to explain her own circumstances.

I like how she was able to create the setting by letting us know what her characters were doing – Tamieta rubbing her back on a brick wall, the skolli-boys swinging their legs off the train station platform, Tamieta cooking, Frida looking for the heat of the sun as she works on her essay, the girls and boys in the cafeteria, etc.

The movement definitely comes from the change in perspectives. I would also agree with Jamie, I think wondering how Tamieta and Frida are related/connected and wondering what will happen to them also moves the story forward.

I think we switch perspectives to Tamieta because the story was about Tamieta and the way Frida witnessed what happened to her. For me it wasn’t about Frida and her essay. I would say that Frida and Tamieta are both counterpointed and compared. They seem to be two very different characters, but I also feel like Frida sees a part of her in Tamieta – as was said in class, Tamieta’s life might be the life Frida would be living without having an education.

I think this story ends with Tamieta because on the surface it was a story about Tamieta. I also haven’t read the other stories in this collection yet, so this might be a bit out there, but I feel like this story might have been called “A Clearing in the Bush? because what happened to Tamieta clarified (for Frida) some of the things going on in Frida’s life, maybe Frida was able to discover something about herself by witnessing what happened to Tamieta – perhaps she was finally able to see what she couldn’t see before and realized why her education is so important.

It's so hard reading these stories. Really difficult to put things together and figure out the characters and remember which character is who. I got confused with Tamieta and Frieda every now and then, or quite frankly, after the different narratives I got so confused, I didn't really bother figuring out who was who until their names popped up somewhere in their section--but as I read further on, you get a taste of each character and I understood it a little more. However, it's really hard because the characters are given such little background--you have to interpret it all through pieces of dialogue. Zoe Wicomb doesn't tell you right upfront what these girls do or what their ages are or how they look like. It's kind of like these characters will only tell you when they want to. They don't want to take you away from the story. The same goes with setting. Wicomb just puts bits and pieces of setting descriptions here and there and you should map them scene to scene in your head.

Giving Tamieta's perspective gives the reader a wider perspective of the story. I mean, a lot of stories are a first-person narrative. It gets a little boring, it makes the narrator sound a little selfish (if the story is all about him/herself) and doesn't have any other thoughts piping in and saying, "No, life isn't like that." or "No, your life is fine compared to mine." A lot of first-person narratives are like people ranting about life. Making someone else rant about their own life makes the story more...about something else. It's not about the character and his/her life--it's about the surroundings, the culture, the lifestyle in a certain demographic and time zone (which is South Africa in this story).

Wicomb expresses setting, I feel, through the natural progression of the story. The specifics of the setting are discerned when they are necessary, thus giving the reader a general setting that they can imagine as they please, though perhaps a bit blurry, and can focus in more once Wicomb reveals new details.

It's been said before, but the motion comes from the two storylines: Frieda and Tamieta. You want to know where each character's path is taking them.

I was not previously familiar with Tess, but having learned some about it and then looking back at the story, I agree with what we discussed in class (the parallel of sexual politics, etc.). It fits nicely in the storyline.

"A Clearing in the bush" ends appropriately with Tamieta to tie up her story and not leave us wondering what ever happened to her. It is also nice to end with her because she is the character the story starts with.

“Behind the Bougainvillea?

In "behind the Bougainvillea," I felt like the setting Wicomb provides is absolutely essential to the story. We hvae to understand not only the society Frieda and Henry belong to, but exactly where the fit in that society. I think the way she provides the setting helps as well, starting very generally with the scene at the doctors, then moving to the scene with her father and finally her interactions with Henry. When we learn about Frieda's callous comment, it feels inevitable and understandable, without the setting, it would hvae made Frieda a very unlikeable character. And once again, the setting was provided in a very natural way. Although there is more of it, it is still channeled through Frieda, and it is still certainly not setting for setting's sake.
(more later)

In "Behind the Bougainvillea," I think that Wicomb uses more setting than action to emphasize Frieda's true thoughts on Henry. The fact that so much time and energy is spent on the setting tells me that Frieda was more interested in what was happening around her than in Henry himself. While she can clearly remember Henry and her experiences with him, I didn't feel that his involvement was so significant to her that she could remember his specifics as much as the specifics of the moment. And later, when they have sex, this moment that is supposed to be so special is instead anticlimactic. Her neglection to think of Henry as an individual rather than as simply another person in a moment tells me that to Frieda, Henry wasn't all that important to her.

Setting is created by describing the little and random things in detail. Its a bit odd and obscure, but it really works. The scenery is also talked about, but I feel these random things really make the setting come to life, for example if I were to describe the setting I'm in as I type, I could say I'm in a college dorm and describe the aspects of the room and what I see out the window, but I could also talk about the laster pointer to my right, or the coffee mug to my left, if I were to do that, I believe it would make the place feel more realistic.
I feel the majority of the motion in the story comes from the alternating of the points of views. It's a different technique that can be confusing, but it really does add a lot of movement to the story.
I think the perspective changes because as I said it adds a lot of movement to the story, but also it adds depth and makes us realize that that both Tamieta and Frida have stories to tell.
Referencing the Tess story seems to add a new layer of depth. Many people have never read the book, including me, so it seems to add more questions and makes us wonder if there is a relation between the characters and the book.
I think it ended with Tamieta because her story was more compelling and interesting than Frida's.

With a narrator who's unfamiliar of touch with what's changed makes this narrator ask questions and then bring back their knowledge too. They become a little meticulous, more observant of their surroundings. And depending on the character, they might be a little delusional with the change because they might not believe it or don't want to believe it. In this case, Frieda has frequent flashbacks, asking so many questions only to figure out that things have all changed, and will never go back to what it once was before. Our character is given a sense of nostalgia, which gives the reader some sense of nostalgia too (well, at least for me). Nostalgia = Nostalgia.

In terms of Moira and Frieda's conversation, I think Moira holds the power. She knows what's happened over the years and is telling Frieda 'this is the way it is, it cannot change to what it was.' However, Moira's power definitely weakens whenever Desmond is around (for example when Frieda asks about feminism or when Desmond talks about women who have had children). Moira always gains control again though. And in any case, Frieda seems to be the one asking questions just for the sake of clearing out the tension between the two of them. She's not really retorting at all, meaning no real power.

Beginning with the pimple gave me an immediate idea of problems lurking just beneath the surface, things you pick at and end up making worse. "It always feels worse than it looks, he will comfort himself, 'felling its enormity." I felt like this sentence really captures the story. Whether it is the unresolved tensions between Frieda and Moira, or Desmond's drinking problem, or whatever was happening exactly with the hideaways in the backyard, the problems are deeper the they appear.

Moira and Frieda seem to be trading power throughout their conversations, as Lou said. Their power is very different as well. Moira is inside of the society, maybe not rich, but she and Desmond seem to be getting by, they have a maid, lace curtains, an efficient fence. She has a solid position. Frieda is an outsider, which increases her power in some instances, such as her social accountability, but decreases in others, especially given Moira's historical habit of passing suitors along to Frieda.

For me, the ending highlighted the differences between Frieda and Moira. No matter what Moira's husband is like, she does have one, whereas Frieda is still tied to her friend's charity, in a way, though Moira seems to be willing to give to Frieda, the exchange is not even.

I like Sophie's idea of the pimple representing "problems lurking beneath the surface." Reading the story, I continuously felt that Moira and Desmond's marriage seemed a bit fake. I felt they maintained these specific guises with one another and in front of others. I got the idea that beneath the surface things are very different between the two.

The advantage of having a narrator that is out of touch with the changes around is that the reader discovers things as they do. Instead of the story being told as if recollections, this new narrator almost brings the reader into the present with them, and let's them discover and experience the changes around the narrator and the narrator's emotions and reactions as they come. I think this is a good way to create more of a bond between the narrator and reader, since it (in)directly involves the reader in the story.

In "Behind the Bougainvillea," the setting plays a huge roll in the story she's telling. We know all about the people around her and what they are doing. I think by spilling all of the setting out in the first half really gives us an intense set up and I also think, for this particular story, that it was very important for us to get to know our main character before her and Henry had... "relations." Because that scene was a little cryptic and patchy, I think the only reason why it works is because we know her so well from the first half.

On the ending note from the father about the government and spies etc etc, i didn't really get the meaning of that. I thought it fit nicely in with the style of her writing but I guess I just didnt latch on to the significance of the whole thing.

I like what was just talked about in the comment above me, about the pimple being problems under the surface. I also found her looking for flaws on this mans face (not liking him too much and all) and finding comfort in the pimple and how he "brushes his hand to his jaw" creating for attention to it for her. I thought it was an interesting perspective because we all have little things like that to resolute ourselves.

I think having a character thats out of touch with things is perfect because the reader is out of touch too. So when the narrator goes into her narrating schpeel, its more natural and the bond is better as we are learning together, the audience and the narrator. It's a unique and effective style.

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What can I do if I feel some of these policys are unfair. The place would you advocate I voice my considerations to the government? I believe many people could be thinking about hearing what you must say.

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It also puts the audience into some familiar territory and gives an understandable plot with all of its post modern attributes.

A test to see how far she would go and if she would adapt to having only her right arm.

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