Compare Presents from my Aunts in Pakistan by Moniza Alvi
Compare Presents from my Aunts in Pakistan by Moniza Alvi

Compare Presents from my Aunts in Pakistan by Moniza Alvi

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  • Pages: 4 (2042 words)
  • Published: October 16, 2017
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In ‘Presents from my Aunts in Pakistan’ the speaker is a girl who has one English parent and one parent from Pakistan. As a result she feels torn between the two very different cultures. She does not feel at home in either England or Pakistan. She shows this by saying “I longed for denim and corduroy” When trying on the Saris and Salwar Kameezes. She feels English in Pakistan and Pakistani in England “I could not rise out of its fire half-English” This quote means that she can rise up out of the Pakistani clothes because she is not fully Pakistani or English.

Another quote that shows this is “I tried on each satin-silken top- as alien in the sitting room” This means that wearing the Pakistani clothes made her feel out of place in the English sitting room. She feels similar to Tatankhulu Afrika in ‘Nothings Changed’ because he is also stuck between two cultures the ‘blacks’ and ‘whites’. This is shown by “Whites only inn” This quote demonstrates the metaphorical barrier between the two cultures. The speaker in ‘Nothings Changed’ is a black man who returns to district six.

In this poem the conflict between the two cultures is caused by the decades of apartheid government in South Africa trying to separate the ‘blacks’ and ‘whites’. Guard at the gatepost, Whites only inn” This shows the segregation as although apartheid has officially finished guards stand at the doors of many of the restaurants to prevent ‘blacks’ entering. The poem is set in district six. This was an area of Ca

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petown at the foot of Table Mountain. It was home to many different cultures and peoples from all over the world. But by 1966 the apartheid government classified district six as a ‘whites only’ area. Between 1966 and 1980 60,000 people were forcibly removed and their houses burned to the ground.

This injustice and the separation that still remains makes the poet feel very angry at the situation that he finds himself in. “hands burn for a stone a bomb to shiver down the glass’ This shows his anger as his hands are metaphorically burning with rage. He is so angry he wants to have a bomb to blow up the ‘whites only inn” to shatter the glass that is separating the ‘blacks’ and ‘whites’. He feels a great sense of injustice at the way that the whites are so much better off than the blacks, he shows this by juxtaposing the “up market haute cuisine” From the “whites only inn”

With the “bunny chows” From the “working mans cafe ” This shows the split as the whites receive the nice haute cuisine from a posh restaurant, while the blacks are eating bunny chows on a plastic tabletop. The poets have chosen different objects and events to represent the different cultures and show the clash or conflict between them. In ‘Presents from my aunts in Pakistan’ the poet describes how she is opening her gifts from her Pakistani relatives like “a salwar kameez peacock blue” and juxtaposing them with “… cardigans from marks and Spencer” and “… denim and corduroy”

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difference between the two cultures as the salwar kameez is brightly coloured and highly decorated while the denim and corduroy are less glamorous but more practical. Many things represent the cultures in ‘Nothings Changed’. He used the differences in the foods of the two cultures as I showed earlier in the essay. Another piece of imagery that the poet uses is in the third stanza when the “grass and weeds” Could be used to describe the blacks as they are considered common and continually being trodden down and removed. Whereas he says that the whites as the “Incipient Port Jackson trees”

Which are trees that have been imported from overseas. They are bigger and more beautiful than the surrounding vegetation and so can symbolise the whites that have come from abroad and dominated the native black populations. The two poems have a very different structure. In ‘Presents from my Aunts in Pakistan’ the poet uses a clever structure because it makes you feel that she is writing the poem as she is opening the presents. She does this by going through each gift in turn describing them as they are opened. She the then moves on to later in the day when she is showing her new presents to one of her school friends.

Also things such as “a salwar kameez peacock blue and another” This adds to the readers perception hat she is writing the poem as the presents are opened because the ‘and another’ makes it sound like she is moving between the presents. The way that the spacing of the words is set out is designed to make the poem look deliberately muddled. I believe that this is to show how the poet is feeling undecided confused about her nationality. The poet creates emphisis on certain words and phrases by separating the lines of the poem. There is a different more emotional structure to ‘Nothings Changed’.

As the poet’s rage builds and becomes more involved in the poem, the structure of the poem becomes less defined. For example in the first stanza there is a regular structure but in the final stanza the number of words and syllables changes in each line in no obvious pattern. The fourth stanza is probably the most important stanza in the whole poem. The poet shows this by making it just three lines long “no sign says it is: but we know where we belong” It is so important as it sums up the whole message of the poem. It says that although the apartheid government has left power ‘no sign says it is’.

The black peoples of South Africa are aware that the problem of racism still stands in their way ‘we know where we belong’. This is the theme of the whole poem and those three lines sum it up really well. The poet in ‘Presents from my Aunts in Pakistan’ uses many poetic devices to make the poem more effective. She uses nature to describe many of the clothes in the poem such as “Peacock blue,” “… an orange split open” and “apple-green” She does this so that the reader can picture

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