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Lucy's And Howard's Potential To Change In Cleopatra's Sister

2773 words - 11 pages

Lucy and Howard's Potential to Change in Cleopatra's Sister

In Cleopatra's Sister, both Lucy, a journalist, and Howard, a
paleontologist, represent the culture of the West, they function as
cultural authorities of the West. They accept their professions as
their identities, which both enables them and limits them in
understanding the experience that awaits them in Callimbia, when a
newly-founded government takes them hostage. In this essay I will deal
with their changes of perceptions, that challenge Western stereotypes.

Howard, in contrast to those who surround him, is critical, thoughtful
and inteligent. According to the narrator, Lucy, similarly, cannot be
considered to be too much shaped by the forces that surround her.
Although the narrator indicates that her social position plays a part
in determining her life and personality, Lucy by no means falls into
the passive role that her mother plays. Like Howard, Lucy desires
knowledge. They learned in their professions that ordering, naming and
identifying cause and effects grant them knowledge and consequently
power. However, in Callimbia, their faculties of reason fail them as
they search for clues only to realize that naming and ordering the
people and events around them lends them no power to locate their
position or fate in any definite terms.

Their inability to understand and order the events in Callimbia comes
from their unfamiliarity with the cultural and political climate of
Callimbia. They are blinded by their own experiences, failing to see
the full impact of social, political and economic forces of the West
on their identities. The logic they use is not applicable to the
environment of Callimbia. For example, since they experience no severe
civil unrest in Great Britain, the events they witness in Callimbia
seem impossible. They feel a sense of chaos and loss of meaning.

When Lucy and Howard find themselves prisoners of the Callimbian
government, their inability to understand their situation frightens
them more than their physical restrictions. They cannot name who the
soldiers are, identify if the guards are soldiers, or determine why
they are held captive. They systematically ask questions concerning
the identities of the soldiers, but their questions go unanswered,
while their own system of identification fails them. The soldiers
refuse to answer them and have uniforms that carry no meaning that
they can discern. When Lucy tries to find consistency by looking at
the races of the soldiers, she finds only the potential for meaning:

There was a different soldier on guard duty, a pale, thin man with a
face like a Byzantine icon, in utter contrast to the ebony-skinned
broad-featured person who had preceded him. You could get interested
in this, Lucy thought, this jumble of people, which means something,
which...

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