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Eng12.FinalPaper - ANALYSIS OF "THE PRISONER WHO WORE...

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A NALYSIS OF “T HE P RISONER W HO W ORE G LASSES BY B ESSIE H EAD R ESPECTFULLY SUBMITTED M AY 23, 2007 E NGLISH 12B P ROFESSOR S MITH
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Our culture takes tremendous pride in upholding liberty and contempt of oppression. But oppression and liberty are not always as clearly defined as misty-eyed philanthropists would prefer and the worst crimes are only rarely found – not to mention committed – on our shores. Bessie Head explores complexities of freedom in “The Prisoner Who Wore Glasses.” She demonstrates that the obvious agents of oppression are not always the most important, or even as oppressive as other subtler mechanisms within an environment. The story does not make any effort to follow the Freytag pyramid structure. Via narrator, Head delivers exposition then action, then exposition then action again, and then after a series of intermittent conversations between Brille and Warder Hannetjie, the text addresses the following action in the past tense, and continues the description until the story ends abruptly. Attempting to depict the plot of “The Prisoner Who Wore Glasses” in the linear fashion of a Freytag pyramid is to discredit the efforts of the author by applying a general and simplistic theory to a specific and intricate plot design. There is a clear presentation of actions in the present, but latent expository details are interspersed, to drive the story forward and accentuate the current action. The ending is so abrupt that one might feel that a page was missing from the text; the startling truncation of the story forces the reader to reflect on the story and attempt to comprehend the author’s intent. The story is very concise; it retains its effectiveness without verbosity through this structure. To discuss the setting as representative of imprisonment is redundant: the setting is a prison. Obviously, this entails elements of oppression and lost freedom. However, while a prison may be a conventional metaphor for restriction, it need not take on any metaphorical value beyond the most basic understanding. Furthermore, the setting of oppression is most important for the environment it creates. Without the setting of a prison, as well as the apartheid regime, it 2
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would be ineffably more difficult to create in the story the ironic freedom earned by the men who are prisoners. The nature of the freedom and discussion of the irony follows. Head’s eponym character and protagonist is Brille, a bespectacled prisoner in Work Span One. He is the one of only two characters named or described with any detail in the story, and if one were to name a protagonist of the story, it would certainly be Brille. Brille is an older man who utters the first dialogue of the story. He stares at the clouds and the direction they sail, and wonders if it is a sign that he should send a message to his children. It is Brille who looks into the sky blue eyes of Span One’s new warder and warns his comrades ominously, saying “[Hannetjie] is not human.” He does not send the message, as his “shortsightedness” causes
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Eng12.FinalPaper - ANALYSIS OF "THE PRISONER WHO WORE...

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