response essay to Michael Ondaatje's Running in the Family

response essay to Michael Ondaatje's Running in the Family...

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Kayla Murphy October 14, 2011 Dr. Anderson/Brown-Spiers ENGL 4000 10:10 Assignment 5 In Michael Ondaatje’s Running in the Family , the reading experience is more akin to flipping through a photo album or staring into a pool of memories rather than perusing a traditional novel. Characters jumble together, exiting and re-entering the plot without obvious cues. Although the reader knows that this is a story about Ondaatje’s father, Mervyn Ondaatje, the story is more all-encompassing than a mere biography. Ondaatje uses a variety of narrative styles to achieve this, including first-person perspective prose, third-person perspective prose, and poetry. Ondaatje’s subject matter ranges from historical context, to present-day narration, to long-winded descriptions of characters with little mention of his father. All of these subject matters and narrative styles come together to form a complete picture of the life of his father. Ondaatje’s prose sweeps the reader into the world of his father, even when his father is not explicitly mentioned. By doing so, the reader comes to know Ondaatje’s father through a shared experience rather than a rigid, formulaic recounting of Mervyn’s life events. “After the races they would return to Ambalangoda, pick up the oysters ‘which we swallowed with wine if we lost or champagne if we won.’ Couples then paired off casually or with great complexity and danced in a half-hearted manner to the portable gramophone beside the cards. Ambalangoda was the centre for devil dances and exorcism rites, but this charmed group was part of another lost world. The men leaned their chins
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against the serene necks of women, danced a waltz or two, slid oysters into their partner’s mouths.” (51) This passage, from the vignette “The Babylon Stakes” does not merely describe the frivolous aftermath of the horse races, but shares the experience with the reader. The quoted “‘which we
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response essay to Michael Ondaatje's Running in the Family...

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