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Theme of Oppression in the Barrel of a Pen, Fate of a Cockroach and the Power of a Plate of Rice

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Oppression is a universal struggle that has spanned centuries and it affects a diverse group of individuals. As literature has demonstrated, these people are not always weak women. Men and women of all ages, races, and backgrounds are attempting to cope with this endless struggle. It would be fascinating to unite three unique characters who have each been oppressed in different ways. I envision Rachel from GuguNdlovu’sThe Barrel of a Pen, Adil from Tawfik al-Hakim’s Fate of a Cockroach, and Ifeoma Okoye’s Mrs. ChetaAdu from The Power of a Plate of Rice having a conversation. Their conversation is likely to spark an awakening for each of them.

Mrs. ChetaAduwould be the leader of this conversation. In The Power of a Plate of Rice, Ifeoma Okoye’s writes “he paralyzed his prey with his eyes before dealing a death blow to them” (Okoye 92). This quote epitomizes the power an oppressor has over their victim and compares their words and actions to a physical act of violence. Her act of defiance in the ending of this story proves that oppressed individuals can break through and gain control. Mrs. ChetaAdu says, “Desperation had given me a form of courage I had not experienced before” (Okoye 99). This quote supports the idea that an oppressed woman can overcome her oppressor by channeling her negative energy. She is an inspiration for Rachel and Adil and I envision her urging them to stand up for themselves as well.

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In GuguNdlovu’sThe Barrel of a Pen, Rachel is oppressed by a different force than Mrs. ChetaAdu and Adil—her society. She would benefit greatly from this encounter, and would be reminded of the horrific extreme that her oppression took her to. Sisa says, “We had no money, and we were desperate” (Ndlovu 150). This quote highlights a similarity that the three oppressed characters have in common: desperation. “A trail of blood went from the toilet to the shower door” (Ndlovu 157). Her situation proves that oppression does not only damage one’s psychological well-being, but also their physical being. Sharing her story would help Adil immensely, because he is psychologically oppressed, but it is possible that his wife will begin to hurt him physically as well.

In Tawfik al-Hakim’s Fate of a Cockroach, Adil is severely oppressed by his wife. Unlike Rachel and Mrs. ChetaAdu, he is an oppressed man, being pushed down by his wife. He can bring a different dimension to their conversation, and show the woman that not all men are the oppressors—a few of them are the oppressed. Adil says, “I get up before you and it’s you who get to the bathroom before me” (al-Hakim 24). This quote shows the extent that his struggle goes, as he is not able to achieve basic tasks without being denied. Adil tells his wife, Samia, “You take everything I have” (al-Hakim 26). This quote expresses his struggle both internally and externally—she takes all of his money and happiness simultaneously.

The conversation between these three individuals would prove to be an eye-opening experience for any onlooker, and it would be a healing experience for these three. Through their story sharing, Mrs. ChetaAdu, Rachel, and Adil may recognize the insanity of their situations and leave their job, environment, or spouse. This encounter will spark an awakening in their minds that motivates them to seek a peaceful, equal life.


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