Thursday, March 9, 2023

Class XII - English - Vistas - Memories of Childhood Summary, Theme, Explanation and FAQs

Class XII - English - Vistas - Memories of Childhood Summary, Theme, Explanation and FAQs

Theme of The Cutting of My Long Hair

"The Cutting of My Long Hair" is an autobiographical story written by Zitkala-Sa, a Native American woman. The story is about her experience as a young girl who is forced to leave her tribe and attend a boarding school, where she is stripped of her long hair, which was a significant symbol of her cultural identity.

At the school, Zitkala-Sa is forced to adopt Western clothing, cut her hair, and learn English. She struggles to adjust to this new way of life, feeling lost and disconnected from her cultural heritage. Zitkala-Sa describes the feeling of having her hair cut as a traumatic experience that symbolizes the loss of her identity and culture.

The story goes on to describe Zitkala-Sa's attempts to resist the assimilation efforts of the school, including sneaking away to participate in traditional tribal ceremonies. Despite her efforts, she eventually realizes that she can never fully return to her old way of life.

"The Cutting of My Long Hair" is a powerful story that sheds light on the harsh realities of cultural oppression and the struggle for self-acceptance. It is a poignant reminder of the importance of cultural identity and the devastating impact of attempts to erase it.

Theme of We Too Are Humans by Bama

The story "We Too Are Humans" is a heart-wrenching tale of caste-based discrimination, written by Bama, a Dalit writer from Tamil Nadu, India. The narrator of the story is a young girl named Bama herself, and the account is autobiographical.

Through her poignant words, Bama describes the harsh reality of the caste system, which separates people based on their birth and denies them equal opportunities. The story revolves around a young girl from the Karuvaachi community who is constantly subjected to humiliation and discrimination by the dominant caste people in the village.

Despite the constant mistreatment, the young girl remains resilient and tries to pursue her dreams of education. However, her dreams are short-lived, and she is ultimately forced to drop out of school due to the caste-based discrimination she faces. The story concludes on a sad note, with the young girl being married off at a young age and losing all hope for a better future.

Bama's powerful portrayal of the harsh reality of caste-based discrimination through the eyes of a young girl is both heart-wrenching and eye-opening. Her writing serves as a reminder of the deep-rooted inequalities that still exist in many parts of the world and the urgent need to address them.

Reading with Insight (Questions and Answers)

  1. The two accounts that you read above are based in two distant cultures. What is the commonality of theme found in both of them?

    Two women from socially marginalized communities in different cultures share their autobiographical accounts in the "Memories of Childhood". One author highlights the evil practice of racial prejudice, while the other talks about the hierarchical Indian caste system and untouchability. In the first account, the author, a Native American, recounts her victimization at the hands of European staff at her boarding school. The second account depicts the hardships and humiliations faced by Indian "Dalits" from the perspective of a third-grade student.

Despite being set in different cultures, both stories share a common theme - the suffering and oppression experienced by their respective communities. Both authors rebuke the practice of social stratification. Zitkala-Sa's hair was forcibly cut by Europeans who believed themselves to be superior to Native Americans. In contrast, Bama witnessed open discrimination against "lower caste" individuals, who were considered impure and prohibited from even touching those from higher castes. From a young age, both Zitkala-Sa and Bama began to protest and resist in their own ways.

  1. It may take a long time for oppression to be resisted, but the seeds of rebellion are sowed early in life. Do you agree that injustice in any form cannot escape being noticed even by children?

    The world is plagued by stratification, oppression, and discrimination at multiple levels. While adults may be accustomed to this, children's innocence cannot comprehend hatred and prejudice. However, their observant eyes can detect any form of injustice and discrimination. When faced with such evil practices, their sensitive minds and hearts are deeply affected. They often resist in their own simple ways.

In their stories, the two girls recount their encounters with inequality. Zitkala-Sa describes her first day at school as "bitter-cold," which not only refers to the weather but also the atmosphere of the boarding school. The overly disciplined students and unfriendly European staff made her feel unwelcome, and the struggle against having her hair cut was a bitter experience. Meanwhile, Bama followed in her brother's footsteps to resist the practice of untouchability through education. She wholeheartedly pursued her studies, hoping to reach a position where people would forget her "caste" and be proud to befriend her.

  1. Bama’s experience is that of a victim of the caste system. What kind of discrimination does Zitkala-Sa’s experience depict? What are their responses to their respective situations?

    Zitkala-Sa experienced racial prejudice, while Bama faced caste discrimination and untouchability. Zitkala-Sa was sent to a European missionary school where she was rejected due to her indigenous background. Her pride, her beautiful, long, and heavy hair, was shorn. Despite her valiant efforts to resist, she eventually had to surrender. On the other hand, Bama, after witnessing untouchability, chose to use education to blur class boundaries. She channeled her anger and rebelliousness to excel in her studies, guided by her older brother. She realized that societal transformation could only occur if the so-called lower castes made an effort to study and progress. Although both heroines attempted to oppose the injustices they faced, their paths diverged significantly. Zitkala-Sa had to give in due to her disobedience, while Bama successfully followed her brother's advice to eventually come first in her class. While Zitkala-Sa continued to resist by condemning the horrors of racial prejudice through her works, Bama chose a more subtle but effective method to express her dissatisfaction.


  1. What is the significance of hair in Native American culture?

In many Native American cultures, hair is seen as a symbol of power, strength, and cultural identity. It is often left long and uncut as a way of honoring one's ancestors and connecting with the spiritual world.

  1. Why was Zitkala-Sa forced to attend a boarding school?

Like many Native American children in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Zitkala-Sa was forced to attend a boarding school as part of the US government's assimilation policies. The schools aimed to erase Native American culture and language by teaching children Western ways of life.

  1. How did Zitkala-Sa feel about her hair being cut?

Zitkala-Sa described the experience of having her hair cut as traumatic and painful. She felt that it symbolized the loss of her cultural identity and connection to her people.

  1. Did Zitkala-Sa ever return to her tribe?

Although Zitkala-Sa tried to resist assimilation and maintain a connection to her tribe, she never fully returned to her old way of life. She continued to work as an activist and writer, advocating for Native American rights and preserving their cultural heritage.

  1. What is the significance of Zitkala-Sa's name?

Zitkala-Sa's name means "Red Bird" in the Dakota language. It was given to her by her mother as a way of connecting her to her Native American heritage.

  1. How did boarding schools impact Native American communities?

Boarding schools had a devastating impact on Native American communities, causing the loss of cultural identity, trauma, and disconnection from traditional ways of life. They also contributed to the spread of diseases, malnutrition, and other health problems.

  1. Was Zitkala-Sa the only Native American child forced to attend a boarding school?

No, Zitkala-Sa was one of thousands of Native American children who were forced to attend boarding schools as part of the US government's assimilation policies. It is estimated that up to 100,000 Native American children attended boarding schools between 1879 and the 1960s.

  1. What is the legacy of boarding schools in Native American communities?

The legacy of boarding schools in Native American communities is one of trauma, loss, and cultural suppression. Many Native Americans today continue to struggle with the effects of these policies, including language loss, health disparities, and intergenerational trauma.

  1. What was Zitkala-Sa's legacy as an activist and writer?

Zitkala-Sa was a trailblazing activist and writer who worked tirelessly to advocate for Native American rights and preserve their cultural heritage. Her work helped to raise awareness of the injustices faced by Native Americans and inspire future generations of activists.

  1. What can we learn from Zitkala-Sa's story?

Zitkala-Sa's story is a powerful reminder of the importance of cultural identity and the devastating impact of attempts to erase it. It also highlights the resilience and strength of those who resist oppression and fight for justice. We can learn from her story by recognizing the ongoing struggles faced by Native American communities and working to support their rights and wellbeing.

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