Monday, February 9, 2009

Literary Analysis of Borderlands

Matt Bochniak
Literary Analysis

A border is a line that separates two objects. In “Borderlands”, by Gloria Anzaldua, she describes borders in a more personal approach. Anzaldua wrote a collection of tales describing her personal issues and conflicts with culture, religion, and sexuality.

Azaldua begins by saying, “Borders are set up to define the places that are safe and unsafe, to distinguish us from them.” (p 25) I thought this was a great way to introduce the reader to the author’s use of symbolism. Throughout “Borderlands”, Anzaldua talks about her own personal cultural strife and how she “crossed” her symbolic border into the world that she lives now.

Being Chicano, Azaldua describes her cultural beliefs as male defined. “Culture is made by those in power-men. Males make the rules and laws; women transmit them.” (p38) She also talks about sexuality in culture, “If a women doesn’t renounce herself in favor of the male, she is selfish. If a woman remains a virgin until she marries, she is a good woman.” (p39) The culture Azaldua grew up with she ultimately rebels from by questioning the role of women in Chicano culture. The border is set in Chicano culture, but Azaldua crosses that border by rebelling and believing in her own role of women in her world.

Throughout “Borderlands” we get glimpses of Anzaldua’s spiritual beliefs. We do know that she was raised catholic (p 41). Anzaldua talks in detail on how the Aztec gods became a part of Roman Catholic religion in chapter 3. “The male-dominated Azteca-Mexica culture drove the powerful female deities underground by giving them monstrous attributes and by substituting male deities in their place, thus splitting the female Self and the female deities.” (p 49) Again, Anzaldua points out that just like culture, religion is male-dominated. Women were symbolized as serpents in Aztec religion. In Protestant and Catholic religion, a serpent is associated with evil. We get deeper insight on Anzaldua’s faith with this comment, “In my own life, the Catholic Church fails to give meaning to my daily acts, to my continuing encounters with the “other world”. It and other institutionalized religions impoverish all life, beauty, pleasure.” (p 59) I get the feeling that just like her culture, Azaldua crossed the border into a new world of spirituality.

Azaldua comes out and clearly states that she is a lesbian. She refers to her sexuality as “Intimate Terrorism”. She is rebelling against the male culture by using her sexuality as a weapon. “No, I do not buy all the myths of the tribes into which I was born.” (p 44) Anzaldua is building a new culture of her beliefs.

In Baltimore, I would make the connections of borders with opposite communities. Last semester, I did a project comparing the Penn Lucy and Guilford communities. These communities are only separated by 20 feet of pavement, but they are totally opposite. This comparison is very symbolic to Azaldua’s beliefs and the culture she grew up in. These are two different worlds. Penn Lucy is a community of poverty where as Guilford is a wealthy community full of Baltimore’s elite. Only a border of pavement separates these two neighborhoods.

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